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Guwahati ( , , previously spelled Gauhati) is a major city in eastern Indiamarker, with a population of 818,809 (2001 census). The largest city in the North-East Region of India, it is considered by some to be the "gateway" to the region. Dispurmarker, the capital of the Indian state of Assammarker, is located within the city. Guwahati is one of the most rapidly growing cities in India; during the past few decades it has experienced expansion and also a steep rise in population. According to a survey done by a UK media outlet, Guwahati is among the 100 fastest growing cities of the world, and is the 5th fastest growing among Indian cities.

The city sits between the southern bank of the Brahmaputramarker river and the foothills of the Shillong plateaumarker, with LGB International Airportmarker to the west, and the town of Narengi to the east. The city is gradually being expanded to the northern bank of the Brahmaputra (see North Guwahatimarker). The Guwahati Municipal Corporation, the city's local government, administers an area of 216 km², while the Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority, the planning and development has for an area of 340 km².

It is a major commercial and educational center of eastern India and is home to world class institutions such as the Indian Institute of Technology Guwahatimarker. The city is also a major center for cultural activities and sports in the North Eastern Region and for the administrative and political activities of Assam. The city is also an important hub for transportation in the North East Region.

As a river port, Guwahati has traditionally been an important administrative and trading center. The name Guwahati is derived from two Assamese words: 'guwa' (areca nut) and 'haat' (market place). The name used to be spelled as Gowhatty (pre-colonial and colonial), standardized to Gauhati (colonial-British), which was then changed to the present form in the late 1980s to conform to the local pronunciation.

History

Guwahati's myths and history go back several thousands of years. Although the date of the city's beginning is unknown, references in the epics, puranas, and other traditional histories, lead many to assume that it is one of the ancient cities of Asia.

Epigraphic sources place the capitals of many ancient kingdoms in Guwahati. It was the capital of the mythological kings Naraka and Bhagadatta according to the Mahabharata. The ancient sakti temple of Kamakhyamarker located in Nilachal hill (also important seat of Tantric and Vajrayana Buddhism), the ancient and unique astrological temple Navagraha located in Chitrachal Hill, and archaeological remains in Basista and other locations support the mythological assertions of the city's ancient past.

The Ambari excavations trace the city to the 6th century AD. The city was known as Pragjyotishpura and Durjoya in different time periods, and was the capital under the Varman and the Pala dynasties of the Kamarupa kingdom. Descriptions by Xuanzang (Hiuen Tsang) reveal that during the greatest Varman king Bhaskaravarma (7th century AD), the city stretched 19 km and was probably the principal base for his strong naval force (30,000 war-boats, with officers who were knowledgeable of the sea-routes from the Indian Ocean to China - Xuanzang). The city remained as the capital of Assam till the 10-11th century AD under the rulers of the Pala dynasty. Excavations in Ambari, and the brick walls and houses excavated during construction of the present Cotton College's auditorium suggest that it was a city of great size with economic and strategic importance until the 9-11th century AD.

Digholy Pukhury, Guwahati
During medieval times between the 12-15th century AD, after the destruction of the Kamata kingdom, the city lost its earlier glory and became mainly a strategic outpost of the Koch Hajo and Ahom Kingdom of western and eastern Assam. When the western part of the Koch Kingdom (Koch Biharmarker) fell to the Mughals, the eastern half (Koch Hajo) eventually became a protectorate of Ahom. Although the actual border between both powers (Ahoms and Mughals) fluctuated between the Kartoya river (now in North Bengal) to the Manas and Barnadi rivers, Guwahati remained an important outpost.

The city was the seat of the Borphukan, the civil and military authority of the lower Assam region appointed by the Ahom kings. The Borphukan's residence was in the present Fansi Bazaar area, and his council-hall, called Dopdar, was situated about to the west of the Bharalu stream. The Majindar Baruah, the personal secretary of the Borphukan, had his residence in the present-day Deputy Commissioner's residence .

The Mughals attacked Assam 17 times and Guwahati was captured many times. The Battle of Saraighat fought close to Guwahati in 1671 is the most well known war, in which the Mughals were over-run due to the strong leadership of Lachit Borphukan and hard work of the Assamese Army.

There are a number of historic features in Guwahati. The Dighali Pukhuri is a rectangular lake that was connected to the Brahmaputra, and was an ancient boat yard probably used by the Ahoms in medieval times. Moreover, there are many tanks, temples, ramparts, etc. in the city. The most important archaeological site is the Ambari excavation site close to Dighali Pukhuri.

Natural Environment

Bor-Sola Beel, Guwahati
Geomorphologically, the city is located in the area where the Shillong Plateau and the Floodplains of the Brahmaputramarker meet. Landforms within the city are therefore unique, with dissected hills (originally part of the Shillong Plateau), plain areas, natural lakes (the beels), swamps, and the mighty river Brahmaputra.

The main city is situated on the southern bank of the Brahmaputra. At places the width of the river is 6 to 8 km, while its narrowest portion (1.8 km) is where the famous bridge of Saraighat is located. There are many permanent and temporary islands and beaches in the river. Umananda, a permanent island situated close to the city-center, provides a unique picturesque environment. The natural drainage system consists of the Bharalu River (a tributary - the Brahmaputra) and its inter-linkages to the beels and to the Brahmaputra river. Apart from Bharalu, many small rivers (Morabharalu, Bahini, and Basista) flow within the city, interconnected with the feeder drains of the city.

There are numerous lakes spread throughout the city, which contribute to the aesthetic and natural environment. Deepor Beelmarker, listed as a wetland of international importance by the Ramsar Convention, is the largest water reserve for Guwahati, as well as an addition to its natural beauty. It became a famous site for bird fans after being declared a bird sanctuary by officials. Other water bodies/wetlands within the city are Soru Sola Beel and Bor Sola Beel. The Bor-Sola Beel, which about four times the length of Dighalipukhuri, stretches from behind the Meghadoot Cinema hall and the Nepali Mandir in the Paltan Bazaar locality of the north end, to Sarabhatti locality in the south end, and is the biggest water body within the city.

There are several hills of different sizes and shapes in Guwahati. The hills in the northern areas (Nilachal or Kamakhya Hill in the north-west, Chitrasala or Kharghuli Hill in the north) lie close to the bank of Brahmaputra. The hills of Guwahati's south-central areas (Narakasur Hill, Kalapahar and Fatasil Hill) and eastern areas (Narengi, Hengerabari, etc) have in fact guided Guwahati's footprint into three elongated corridors of the plain areas. Many of these hills (such as the Nilachal, Chitrachal, Narakasur, etc.) are famous of their legendary, religious and historic importance.

Climate

Guwahati's climate is mildly sub-tropical with warm, dry summers from April to late May, a strong monsoon from June to September and cool, dry winters from late October to March. The city's average yearly temperature is recorded at 24 degree Celsius (76 °F). Average high temperature is recorded at 29 degree Celsius (85 °F), while the average low at 19 degree Celsius (67 °F). The highest recorded yearly temperature is 40 degree Celsius (104 °F), while the lowest recorded yearly temperature is 5 degree Celsius (41 °F). December, January and February are the coldest and June, July, August and September are the hottest. Average yearly precipitation is 161.3 cm (63.5inches) with an average number of 77.3 rainy days. June and July are the wettest months. Extreme high level of humidity, many a times at more than 80/90 percent often creates discomfort during summer.

Urban Morphology

Guwahati's Urban Morphology
Guwahati's 'urban form' is somewhat like a starfish. With a core in the central areas, the city has tentacles extending in the form of growth corridors towards south, east and west. In the past few decades, southern Guwahati areas such as Ganeshguri, Beltola, Panjabari, etc. began forming a southern sub-center surrounding the capital complex at Dispurmarker, principally depending on the GS Road corridor.

The core area consists of the old city with Pan Bazaarmarker, Paltan Bazaar, Fansi Bazaar and Ujan Bazaar, each one facilitating unique urban activities. While Paltan Bazaar is the hub for transportation and hotels, Pan Bazaar is centered around educational, administrative, cultural activities, offices and restaurants. Fansi Bazaar is the hub for retail and wholesale commercial activities, and Ujan Bazaar mainly contains administrative, retail and residential areas. With these bustling areas, the city core is a busy and lively part of the Guwahati. Ulubari, Lachit Nagar, Chandmari and Zoo Road (R.G. Baruah Road), which have a mix of retail-commercial and residential areas, can be considered an additional part of the core.

Among the city corridors, the most important is the corridor formed along the Guwahati-Shillong Road towards the south (almost 15 km from the city-center). The GS Road corridor is an important commercial area with retail, wholesale and offices developed along the main road, and it is also a densely-built residential area in the inner parts. The capital complex of Assam at Dispurmarker is situated in this corridor. This corridor has facilitated the growth of a southern city sub-center at Ganeshguri, along with other residential areas to the south developed during the past few decades.

The corridor extending towards the west (around 30 km from the city-center) contains a rail-road linking not only Guwahati but also other parts of the North Eastern Region east of Guwahati to western Assam and the rest of India. The corridor links residential and historically important areas such as Nilachal Hill (Kamakhya), Pandu, and Maligaon (headquarters of Northeast Frontier Railways) before it separates into two - one towards North Guwahatimarker and the other continuing west towards LGB International Airportmarker via the University of Gauhati (Jalukbari). There are also many river ports/jetties along this corridor.

The third major corridor extends towards the east (around 15 km from the city-center) linking Noonmati (Guwahati Oil Refinery - IOC Ltd.) and Narengi, and has facilitated residential growth along it.

Highway NH 37, which encircles the city's southern parts and links the southern corridor in Nomile to the western corridor in Jalukbari is currently supporting rapid development. Similarly, the VIP Road linking Zoo Road with the eastern corridor and recently completed Hengerabari-Narengi Road are also supporting massive residential development to the east.

In brief, the major components of Guwahati's urban structure are:
  • The core or the 'city center' with Pan Bazaarmarker, Paltan Bazaar, Fansi Bazaar and Ujan Bazaar
  • The extended core with Chandmari, Zoo Road and Ulubari
  • The north-southeast Guwahati-Shillong (GS) Road Corridor
  • The southern sub-center of Ganeshguri
  • The western corridor towards Kamakhya, Jalukbari and LGBI Airport and
  • The eastern corridor towards Noonmati and Narengi


But the city is having notable changes in its morphology with rapid expansion. The Khanapara road is being converted into 4 lanes and it will be extended upto a place called Changsari in near future. Various projects are undertaken on the outskirts like the water park in Rani, which has brought those far flung areas under city reach by continous visit by tourists. Also, two five star hotels are on the verge of being set up, arising hopes that by a decade or so, the city will be twice it's size now.

Governance

Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) is the local body responsible for governing, developing and managing the city. GMC has sub-divided the city into 60 municipal wards. The Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA) is a state parastatal agency currently responsible for planning and development of the greater Guwahati Metropolitan Area, which is currently revising the Guwahati Master Plan and Building Bylaws.

The Guwahati Development Department, a special department of the Government of Assam, has been recently formed for Guwahati's overall development.

Gauhati consists of two assembly constituencies: Gauhati East and Gauhati West, both of which are part of Gauhati .

Demographics

Guwahati is one of the most rapidly growing cities in India. The city's population grew from just two-hundred thousand in 1971 to more than five-hundred thousand in 1991, and in the census of 2001 the city's population was found to be 808,021. By 2011, it is estimated that Guwahati will boast more than a million residents.

In 2001, males constituted 55 percent and females at 45 percent of Guwahati's residents. It was found that 10 percent of the population is under 6 years of age. Guwahati has an average literacy rate of 78 percent, with male literacy at 81 and female literacy at 74 percent.

Economy

Separate income estimates for the city are not yet available as city-level income estimation is not a traditional practice in India, and is not practiced in a systematic and continual manner. However, by looking at the agglomeration of activities and employment patterns it can be easily understandable that the city contributes a lion's share of the state's income.

The major economic activities are trade and commerce, transportation and services. Guwahati is the most important trade hub in the North Eastern Region. It is a major wholesale distribution center, a marketing hub, and also a retail hub of the region. The Guwahati Tea Auction Centre is one of the largest in the world. As in other cities, 'mall culture' is slowly invading Guwahati. Manufacturing is also an important activity, although it is not comparable to those of India's rapidly growing industrial cities. The most important manufacturing industry in the city is the petroleum refinery of IOCL at Noonmati. The city is contains the headquarters or regional offices of several manufacturing and business establishments, e.g. Numaligarh Refinery Limited (NRL). Guwahati is also important for printing and publishing, as well as businesses related to electronic and print media. During the past two decades, businesses such as real estate development, finance, etc. have also intensified.

Tourism and recreation, education, research, cultural activities, etc. are also slowly increasing and contributing to city's economy.

Quality of Life

Although being a medium sized city, ranking around 50th (in terms of population) in India, the city's quality of life is comparatively higher. A recent survey (2006) by a popular Indian magazine - Outlook (Money) ranked Guwahati 17th among all the major and medium sized Indian cities.

The city provides competitive residential and working environments with beautiful landscapes, pleasant climate, modern shopping areas, modern apartments and bungalows, and considerably good social infrastructure.

Yet infrastructure in the city still requires extensive attention, which can increase and revolutionize the city's reputation, investment environment, and overall growth pattern. Major investments in infrastructure are being planned in the city, covering many aspects of the utilities and transportation infrastructures, with financial assistance from the Asian Development Bank (ADB). Guwahati is to also to receive substantial city development funds from JNNURM (Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission) - the Government of India's recently conceived comission for urban development, and a development plan for the city has been recently finalized.

Terrorism and insurgency

There is a fair amount of ethnic and religious diversity in Guwahati, but the city has been plagued by terrorism and insurgency in recent years. Several bombings were carried out in 2008 and 2009, claiming a total of at least 96 lives and wounding around 600 others.

Terrorist groups believed to be active in and around Guwahati and Dispur include:

Utilities and Transportation Infrastructure

The city suffers from the lack of sufficient utilities infrastructure. The existing water supply system is inadequate, depending largely on ground water resources (higher water level). It also lacks a comprehensive underground sewage system. Septic tanks at individual houses are popular. The storm drainage system is comparatively good, although many areas experience water logging due to heavy rainfall in the monsoon season. Extensive soil erosion from the hills and clogging of the drainage system is frequent and expensive for the city. Solid waste is being managed by the local authority with private partners. It lacks modern equipment, methods and practices.

Lack of sufficient road space is also a major problem. The length of surfaced road within the city is presently at 218 km (ARSAC). The major corridor roads suffer from insufficient right of way, illegal construction methods, and improper planning and design. The roads in the residential neighborhoods are extremely narrow (lack of proper regulations) causing problems related to both traffic and infrastructure installations. Cul-de-sacs are neither planned nor designed properly.

Guwahati has a good public transit system. A government agency - ASTC (Assam State Transport Corporation) and many private operators provide a considerably good city-bus system. It requires further modernization and integration with city planning and management initiatives. Guwahati is the first city in northeast where low floored buses were introduced.

Guwahati is serviced by the Lokopriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airportmarker at Borjhar, about 20 km west of the city center. Air connectivity has improved considerably in the last couple of years and all major domestic airlines fly into Guwahati. Helicopter services are operated from Guwahati to Shillongmarker (30 min), Turamarker (50 min), Naharlagunmarker (Itanagarmarker), Tawang (75 min) by Pawan Hans, a helicopter service. Guwahati airport averages about 20 arrivals and departures a day. Guwahati is serviced with direct flights to Delhi, Jaipur, Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bangalore,Chennai and other major cities in India by different airlines. Indian connects Guwahati internationally to Bangkokmarker once a week. A modernization plan is underway at Guwahati airport right now and once it is completed, the AAI plans to make Guwahati a hub of air connectivity.

Guwahati has three railway stations serving it. The major station is Guwahati Junction. Two minor stations are Kamakhya (adjacent to the NF Railways headquarters) and New Guwahati (for freight services) located towards west and east respectively. Major trains serving Guwahati are Guwahati Rajdhani Express, Saraighat Express, North-East Express, Guwahati-Jorhatmarker Town Jan Shatabdi Express.

Guwahati is very well connected with adjoining regions via bus services. Two nodal points, Adabari and Paltan Bazaar, provide bus services to towns and cities in Assam and adjoining states. Some of these services are run by the government agency ASTC, whereas a vast majority of them are run by private companies. "Night supers", or buses that run overnight, and luxury coaches, are very popular.

A huge bus terminus known as ISBT is set up at the outskirts, providing buses for almost all locations possible, and equipped with all the modern facilities one can have.

Educational and Health Infrastructure

IIT Guwahati Academic and Administrative Buildings
The city is home to Gauhati University in Jalukbari. The century-old Cotton College is one of the most reputed colleges in eastern India, and possesses great scholastic and cultural value.

The Indian Institute of Technology Guwahatimarker is the sixth member of the high-profile world's renowned IITs in India. Since its establishment in 1994, IIT-G has proven itself as an excellent institution for research and education, evidenced by its high ranking among the IITs in India as reported by a variety of national surveys such as India Today and Dataquest.

The Assam Engineering College and the Gauhati Medical College and Hospital are the two important institutions for science and technology and medical education.

Among the city's many other institutions of higher learning are the Gauhati Commerce College, College of Veterinary Science, Government Ayurvedic College, Arya Vidyapeeth College,B. Borooah College, Handique Girls College (the latter two have both Arts and Science streams), Assam Engineering Institute (engineering diploma courses), Pandu College, LCB College, West Guwahati Commerce College, and K.C.Das Commerce College (1983).

The city is an important center for health facilities in eastern India, featuring many government and private specialty hospitals. The most important are the Guwahati Medical College and Hospital, Guwahati Neurological Research Centre (GNRC), Down Town Hospital, B. Baruah Cancer Institute, and Sankardev Netralaya. Medical education and research are also important activities.

Guwahati also has branches of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI), and the Institute of Company Secretaries of India (ICSI).

Sports Infrastructure

Guwahati has considerably good sporting facilities, boasting the Nehru Stadium, while the Kanaklata Indoor Stadium in the R.G. Baruah Sport Complex (in the Ulubari locality) is older sports complex of the city.

There are smaller stadiums in Maligaon (the N.F. Railway Stadium) and in Paltan Bazaar area where the SAI Sports complex is located.

Recently completed sporting facilities specially constructed for the 33rd National Games include a large stadium at Sarusajai--the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadiummarker, the Dr. Zakir Hussain Aquatic Complex, and the Karmabir Nabin Chandra Bordoloi A.C. Indoor Hall. Other new sports structures include the Maulana Md. Tayabullah Hockey Stadium in Bhetapara, the Deshbhakta Tarun Ram Phookan Indoor Stadium at Ulubari, Rajib Gandhi Indoor Stadium in Amingaonmarker, and Chachal Tennis Complex.

The other renovated sports complexes include--Ganesh Mandir Indoor Stadium, Khanapara, Rudra Singha Sports Complex, Dispur and Gauhati University sports stadium.

Moreover, along with the Brahmaputramarker river, there are many lakes and rocky hills in the city suitable for various water and adventure sports.

Places of Interests

Guwahati possesses many places of interests with it's lively urban activities, ancient temples, numerous scenic natural features, and the recreational activities they provide. Guwahati is also situated at the center of an attractive region (within 200 km radius) with natural parks, wildlife sanctuaries, hill stations of different types, and a colourful cultural landscape.

Urban Attractions

There are several interesting and lively places in the city. These areas provide the city with hotels, restaurants, shopping and business areas, the most lively being the city center. Momos and chicken rolls are a popular form of fast-food available in almost every restaurant. Moreover, there are several good restaurants offering Indian, South Indian, traditional Assamese, Chinese, and continental food. There are also several good book shops and music stores. A few of these areas are:

Brahmaputra with Ferry; Fancy Bazaar
Pan Bazaarmarker:A lively part of the city center on the southern bank of the Brahmaputra. Cotton College, Digholy Pukhury (Dighali Pukhuri), The State Museum, RBImarker, District Court (Kamrup Districtmarker), etc. are all major landmarks. Moreover, the area also possesses many libraries, major government offices, and a shopping district. Restaurants and bookshops in the area provide a unique environment. It also contains a major wholesale market for drugs and pharmaceutical products, and a hub for printing and publication. Close to Digholy Pukhury, there are many stores with traditional arts and crafts from Assam and other parts of the NER. Kacari Ghat, next to the district court is an important local river port.

Fancy Bazaar:Situated in the western part of the city-center is a busy commercial district for both wholesale and retail. Fancy Bazaar is the hub for various wholesale products ranging from food and beverages, garments, to hardware and building materials. It is also known for its retail shopping areas for clothes and garments.

(Because of the existence of a district jail, hangings used to take place here during the British regime, which is responsible for the prefix 'Phasi', i.e., hanging, which later got mispronounced as 'Fancy.')

Paltan Bazaar:In the central part of the city-center is the hub for transportation and hotels. With Guwahati railway station, the regional bus stand (ASTC), numerous hotels, restaurants and offices and stops of numerous private regional bus service providers, this area is the busiest and most congested. There are also many small shops selling traditional garments from various parts of the NER.

Ganeshguri:A newly developed commercial area in the south, outside of the city-center. Its proximity to the state capital complex and rapidly growing southern residential areas have made it an important city sub-center. Ganeshguri is a busy part of the city with retail shopping areas, hotels and restaurants, and small businesses.

Beltola Bazaar:A traditional weekly fruits and vegetables market with historic importance. The market has existed since its historic past and is an important traditional trading point between the people from the Khasi hillsmarker (Meghalayamarker) and local people. It is a rich market with various types of local food products. It is located in Beltola, a predominantly residential area in the south.

Guwahati War CemeteryA World War II war cemetery, maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Other attractions

The key attractions are:

Urban Attractions Art & Culture Ancient & Historic Others
Fancy Bazaar Shankardev Kalashetra Umananda Temple Accoland
Paltan Bazaar Jyotichitrobon Basistha Temple Guwahati Planetarium
Ganeshguri Guwahati International Annual Book Fair Navagraha Temple Nehru Stadiummarker
Beltola Bazaar NEDFi Haat Sukreswar Temple Digholi Pukhuri
Zoo Road Assam State Zoo Cum Botanical Garden Digheswari Temple Narengi Golf Club
Pandu Guwahati International Annual Trade Fair Rudreswar Temple Pandu Port
G S Road (Multiplex, Malls) Rest Camp Kalibari Ugratara Temple
Loco Colony Hajo
Pandu Balaji Templemarker


Regional attractions

Notes

  1. Assam blast toll rises to 81
  2. Death toll in Guwahati serial bombings rises to six
  3. Terror blasts ahead of PM's visit rock Assam, kill 9
  4. Hewson, Eileen (2007). Guwahati War Cemetery Assam India, ISBN 1906276056 9781906276058


References



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