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Travel Guide to Sivasagar, Assam - Awesome Assam

Sivasagar is a small heritage town in the Indian state of Assam. Nestled between the more famous districts of Dibrugarh and Jorhat, Sivasagar used to be the capital of Ahom kingdom which ruled Assam for 600 years. It used to be called Rangpur in those times and is now also referred to as Sibsagar locally. Sivasagar is hence also known as the ‘Heritage Capital of Assam’. Sivasagar literally means ‘Sea of Shiva; Siva means ‘Lord Shiva’, and Sagar means ‘sea’. Even the beautiful lake located in the centre of the town is called Sivasagar. There are quite a few historically significant places and monuments along with some beautiful lakes which makes Sivasagar a good halt while travelling from Jorhat to Dibrugarh or vice-versa.

 

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Note that in this article, we use we use Sivasagar and Sibsagar interchangeably.

 

Sivasagar Location

Sivasagar is located in Upper Assam, about 80 kilometres (2-hour drive) away from Dibrugarh city. From Dibrugarh, we took a shared jeep (INR 150 per person) to get to Sivasagar. The drive to this small town is wonderful, with glimpses of Assamese village life and acres and acres of tea plantations on both sides of the road (NH 2 and NH 27 highway). From Guwahati, the capital city of Assam, Sivasagar is 370 kilometres away.


How to reach Sivasagar, Assam?

By Air

Jorhat Airport, located in Jorhat (65 kilometres away), is the closest airport to Sivasagar, Assam. Dibrugarh Airport (90 kilometres away) is the second nearest airport to Sivasagar.


By Train

Sivasagar Railway Station serves Sibsagar town. The closest railway junction is Simaluguri junction, 15 kilometres away from Sivasagar, Assam. It lies on the Tinsukia-Guwahati line.


By Road

Sivasagar is connected to the rest of the major cities in Assam by good runs. State-run buses connect the town to Jorhat, Dibrugarh, and Guwahati. In addition, shared jeeps also ply on these routes regularly.


Sivasagar History

Formerly known as Rangpur, Sivasagar was the capital of the Ahom Kingdom for 89 years, from 1699 to 1788. The Ahoms, who migrated from China to India in the 1200s, ruled Assam and Arunachal for around six centuries, from 1228 to 1821. This puts Ahoms among the longest ruling Kingdoms in India, longer than Mauryas, Mughals and Guptas. Infact, they are among the few kingdoms that defeated Mughals' attempts to further their kingdom in a strategic war known as Battle of Saraighat and Battle of Itakhuli, both in Guwahati. The rule of the Ahom dynasty ended after the Burmese invaded Assam in 1821.


Under the rule of Ahom Kings, Sivasagar witnessed a glorious period during which giant water tanks, palaces, temples, forts, and several notable monuments were constructed. This construction was influenced by various cultures, traditions, and religions. Hence, you will find domes and arches (Mughal architecture) and characteristic rising towers (Hindu temple architecture) in the monuments at Sivasagar, Assam.


Tourist Places in Sibsagar, Assam

As the former capital of the Ahom Kingdom, Sivasagar is home to several historical ruins. Visiting the monuments will take you back in time to the glory days of the Ahom dynasty. Some remain dilapidated, but many are well-kept and give you a good idea of how striking the structures were centuries ago.


A paste of eggs and rice was used in place of cement in building the monuments of Sivasagar. This has helped to keep the structures strong and intact to date. Here are some of the must-visit tourist places in Sibsagar –


1. Rang Ghar

Rang Ghar is believed to be the oldest surviving amphitheatre and sports pavilion in Asia. It is the most-visited tourist place in Sibsagar. This double-storeyed building was built during the reign of Ahom Kings in 1746 AD. In the local language, Rang Ghar means ‘House of Entertainment’. The Ahom rulers and nobles watched sports like bullfights, buffalo fights, cockfights, dance forms etc., from the first floor of this monument.

Colloseum of the East - Rang ghar in Sivasagar, Assam
Colosseum of the East - Rang ghar in Sivasagar, Assam

Rang Ghar is referred to as the ‘Colosseum of the East’. It displays typical Ahom architecture in its construction, comprising an oval amphitheatre with a ceiling in the shape of a long Ahom boat with crocodile ends. On the main gate, you will find statues of dragons on either side of the gate. Today, the monument serves as a viewing point and is surrounded by a beautiful, well-manicured garden.

Entrance ticket: INR 25 per person

Oldest surviving Amphitheatre in Asia, Rang ghar in Sibasagar, Assam
Oldest surviving Amphitheatre in Asia, Rang ghar in Sibasagar, Assam

2. Talatal Ghar

Located on the bank of River Dikhow, Talatal Ghar is regarded as one of the largest monuments built by the Ahom Kings. The monument served as a palace as well as an army base for the Ahoms back in the 1750s. The seven-storied palace has four storeys above the ground and three storeys underground. In fact, in the Assamese language, Talatal Ghar means ‘Underground Home’ or ‘House having several storeys’.

The top floor of 6 storey palace - Talatal Ghar in Sivasagar, Assam
The top floor of 6 storey palace - Talatal Ghar in Sivasagar, Assam
Strategically designed narrow passageways which allow defending the palace of Talatal ghar in Sibsagar, Assam
Strategically designed narrow passageways which allow defending the palace of Talatal ghar in Sibsagar, Assam

Such was the foresight of the Ahom builders; they made two secret underground tunnels for the royals to escape in case of emergencies. One of the tunnels (3 km) is believed to have direct access to the banks of the Dikhow River, whereas the other (16 km) is said to be connected to another palace named Garhgaon Palace.


Many parts of underground floors of the palace have been closed, and tourists are not allowed to explore the sealed-off storeys. However, you can go around the rooms on the upper floors that are interconnected by narrow passageways.


Ensure you do not get lost in the maze-like passageways at Talatal Ghar. We recommend getting to the topmost floor of this tourist place in Sibsagar to understand the palace layout. You will also see some canons here. We spent slightly more than an hour exploring the nooks and corners of the palace.

Entrance Fees – INR 25 per person


3. Kareng Ghar

Kareng Ghar is located in a town named Garhgaon, about 13 kilometres away from the main town of Sibsagar. Kareng Ghar used to serve as a royal palace when Garhgaon was the Ahom Kingdom’s capital. Hence, it is also called Garhgaon Palace. One of the secret tunnels of Talatal Ghar is believed to connect to this tourist place in Sibsagar.

Palace of Kareng ghar near Sivasagar, Assam
Palace of Kareng ghar near Sivasagar, Assam

Kareng Ghar is a four-storeyed monument with gradually receding floors. The top floor has a dome-shaped roof depicting Mughal architecture. The palace’s ground floor has three halls and several chambers, all interconnected with narrow passageways. These were meant for the servants of the royal family. You can climb up to the top floor of Kareng Ghar, where the King’s chamber is, and admire the beautiful views around the palace. Two out of four watch towers around the monument still stand strong.

Entrance Fee – INR 25 per person


4. Charaideo Maidams

Charaideo is one of the most unique places we have travelled to date. Located about 30 kilometres from Sibsagar town, Charaideo has a burial ground of the Ahom royals. It was believed to be a place of ancestral Gods of the Ahoms. The burial grounds are, however, not the regular ones you see. Instead, these are huge hemispherical earthern mounds covered by greenery. They are called ‘Maidams’.

Burial ground of Ahom royals - Charaideo Maidams near Sivasagar, Assam
Burial ground of Ahom royals - Charaideo Maidams near Sivasagar, Assam

Charaideo was the first capital of Ahom Kingdom in Assam. In the Assamese language, it means ‘Hill on the top of the city’. The tombs or maidams in Charaideo seem to serve same purpose as Pyramids of Egypt. During the burial, the valuables of the royals were also buried with them. These spherical pyramid-style graveyards have drawn researchers from over the world to Assam.

One of the mounds where you can go inside at Charaideo Maidams near Sibsagar, Assam
One of the mounds where you can go inside at Charaideo Maidams near Sibsagar, Assam

Around 31 king maidams and 160 queen maidams are present in Charaideo and adjacent districts of Sivasagar. The burial grounds are well maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India. There are scores of distances between maidams in Charaideo; hence it becomes more like stroll in a garden with mounds. It is undoubtedly a must-visit tourist place in Sibsagar.

Entrance Fee – INR 25 per person

Charaideo Maidams have beautiful gardens
Charaideo Maidams have beautiful gardens

5. Sivadol, Vishnudol, and Devidol

As you set foot in Sivasagar, you will see a tall dome of a temple right from the main road. This is Lord Shiva’s temple, considered the tallest Shiva temple (105 feet) in India. An Ahom King’s wife, a devotee of Lord Shiva, got this temple constructed in 1734. Dol in local language means Temple.

Sivadol temple at Sivasagar, Assam
Sivadol temple at Sivasagar, Assam

The huge dome at the top of Sivadol is called ‘Kosoloi’ and is said to be made of pure gold. The temple attracts thousands of tourists from across the country, especially during Shivratri when a big fair is organised on the temple premises.


Vishnudol and Devidol are the two other temples located adjacent to Sivadol. They are all housed in a large elevated park on the banks of the Sivasagar tank. While Vishnudol is dedicated to Lord Vishnu, Devidol worships Goddess Durga. Visit these temples early in the morning to offer peaceful prayers and find pigeons fluttering around you. All three Dols are the top tourist places to visit in Sibsagar.

Entrance fee – Free of cost

Sivadol, Vishnudol, Devidol are in the same premises in Sivasagar, Assam
Sivadol, Vishnudol, Devidol are in the same premises in Sivasagar, Assam

6. Sivasagar Tank

Sivasagar Tank is a large pond in Sivasagar that was dug by the Ahoms in the 18th Century. It is said that the entire 130 acres of pond area were dug (64 feet) in a single night, that too without the use of the present-day technological support. Interestingly, the tank’s water level never changes, not even in monsoon. As it is entirely manmade, it is referred to as a ‘tank’ instead of a lake. It is also called Borpukhuri in the local Assamese language.

Right behind Sivadol, Vishnudol, Devido temple premises, you would find the artificially created Sivasagar Tank
Right behind Sivadol, Vishnudol, Devidol temple premises, you would find the artificially created Sivasagar Tank

Sivasagar tank is located near the Dols (temples) in the centre of the town. Roads form a circle around the pond. Deities from Indian mythology are sketched and painted on the walls of the tank. During winter, migratory birds visit the Sivasagar tank, making it an ideal place for birdwatchers. A watchtower is built on the eastern bank of this beautiful tourist place in Sibsagar.


7. Joysagar Tank

Joysagar Tank is one tourist place in Sibsagar that is still relatively lesser visited by travellers. This huge artificial pond was built in the year 1697 and covered about 320 acres of area. Interestingly, the water level of the tank remains 14 feet above ground level.

Another beautiful artificially create pond by Ahom kings - Joysagar Tank in Sivasagar, Assam
Another beautiful artificially create pond by Ahom kings - Joysagar Tank in Sivasagar, Assam

There’s a beautiful park with a restaurant on the banks of the Joysagar Tank that you must not miss out on visiting. Several Hindu temples surround the tank, the popular ones being Joydol, Devidol, and Shivadol. You can admire the tank from various vantage points encircling it. It is another place for tourists to watch some migratory birds in winter.


Where to Stay in Sivasagar, Assam

Sivasagar receives quite a handful of tourist footfall every year. However most of these tourists are Assamese and may have family and friends in the city. Many other tourists visit Sivasagar as a day trip preferring to stay at nearby bigger cities of Dibrugarh or Jorhat. We felt the options in terms of hotels are relatively limited and most may not have enough positive reviews online. However our experience was that people in general are good and tried to do their best to make our experience better. There is also a tourist lodge in Sivasagar managed by the government tourism board. You can have your meals at the hotel you are staying at, or get to the town centre that houses several eateries.


Click on below images to see available hotels / homestays in Sivasagar, Assam -



How to get around in Sivasagar, Assam

If you are visiting Sivasagar in a taxi from Dibrugarh or Jorhat, going around various tourist places would be easy. But if you are visiting Sivasagar using public transportation, only a few tourist places in Sibsagar are located at a walkable distance. Therefore, you will need to hire an auto-rickshaw to visit the other places of interest. However, you can easily flag down an auto from the main roads of the town. You can also request your hotel’s helpdesk to arrange an auto.


To visit far-off places like Charaideo and Kareng Ghar, you can either take a bus to these towns or get on a shared jeep. You can also negotiate a full-day fare with an auto driver to take you around all the historical places to visit in Sivasagar. Note that you can get scooters on rent in Jorhat or Dibrugarh but not in Sivasagar.


Is Sivasagar worth visiting?

Certainly! Sivasagar, Assam, is not just a great tourist spot for history lovers but also for those interested in appreciating and understanding magnificent architecture, nature, religion, and culture. So, spend a night in this bustling town and admire this former Kingdom of Ahom.

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Have you been to Sivasagar in Assam? If yes, how did you find it? Have we missed any of your favourite places? Let us know in the comment section below.

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