About Peacock Island
Have you ever imagined a place that is both holy and alluring in the middle of the water? If you have, then you must surely know about the existence of such a place. It is the Peacock Island, lying in the heart of Brahmaputra river cascading through Guwahati in the state of Assam.
Do you know that the world’s smallest river island is in India? The Peacock island takes this credit too. This land has so many stories to be known, temples to be visited, rare animal species to be seen, and much more that delights our mind.
The biodiversity of this place is apparent. The Umananda Swamy temple is the biggest attraction of this place. There are five other temples to be visited, namely the Ganesh, Hara Gauri, Chalantika, Chandrasekhar, and Vaidyanathan. The wildering journey in Brahmaputra’s water and the holy shrine of Shiva make this place a must-visit place in a lifetime. People can sit and relax in this sacred place, hearing the fizzling sounds of water and watching nature from the island.
Etymology of Peacock Island
The island has different names such as Umananda Island, Peacock Island, and Urvashi Island. Do you want to realize why this place is called with different names? Here the reasons for the origin of these names.
Umananda island- In Assamese, Uma means “Parvathi Devi” (wife of Lord Shiva), Ananda means “happiness.” Hence, they say that Lord Shiva created this place for the happiness of his wife, Parvathi.
Peacock island- The Britishers had given this name to this island because the plantations of this place resemble a peacock dancing with all its feathers open.
Urvashi Island- Goddess Urvashi, who used to bring the nectar to Kamakhya, resided on the island, so it was called Urvashi island.
Tales and myths associated with Umananda Island
It is believed that Lord Shiva immersed the ashes of Maa Sathi’s corpse and imparted this knowledge to Parvathi Devi on Peacock Island. A myth described in Kalika Purana is that Shiva incinerated Kamadeva, the Lord of love, with his third eye and turned him into ashes. It was a punishment for the offense that Kamadeva committed by disturbing Lord Shiva’s deep meditation. Therefore, this hill on which Lord Shiva’s temple exists is called Bhasmakuta or Bhasmachal(the hill of ashes).
According to popular folklore, the Brahmaputra is a servant of Lord Shiva, and he prevents the island from natural disasters. Some people also believe that this folklore is indeed the reality. Peacock Island was untouched by floods while the whole of Assam was drowning. It is prominently thought that the day this island sinks, Guwahati city would submerge into the depths of water.
Peacock Island’s vegetation is mostly filled with tamarind trees. There are also 146 other species of plants with beautiful flowers seen on the island.
Peacock Island is home to the endangered monkey species called the golden langur. These animals were considered sacred by the Himalayan people. According to popular folklore, two young people left a pair of these langurs on the island around 35 years ago. They survived since then, increasing their number to 13. Later on, they were decreased to 5 in 2015. These species were also seen in certain parts of western Assam and foothills of Bhutan. They are one of the attractions of Peacock Island. Unfortunately, there are reports that the last langur had died in 2020.
“Peacock Island is a place where man and wilderness coexist in peace and serenity. “
The Umananda temple of Guwahati
It is believed that this was where Lord Shiva met Parvathi Devi. It is one of the five pilgrimages of Kamrup, so people tend to visit this place before they visit the Kamakhya temple. The principal deity in the temple is Umananda Swamy. It is on the hill named Bhasmakuta(the hill of ashes). When the Maha Shivaratri festival or, the New moon day, falls on Monday, it is believed to be auspicious. Many people come to take blessings from Umananda Swamy in the temple on these special days.
Umananda Mandir Architecture
Do you know that the Assamese master the art of sculpting and carving? The temple has Ganesha’s sculptures, Vishnu and his ten incarnations, Surya and other Hindu deities worshipped in the region. The temple also has idols and carvings dating back to the early medieval period.
These sculptures are examples of masterly skills and craftsmanship of Assamese people. There are a few steep steps to be climbed to enter the main shrine of the temple. This temple’s architecture mirrors the style of the post- Gupta period.
History of the temple
Umananda Mandir was constructed in 1694 by the Bar Phukan Gadadhar Singha, while the order for construction was given by King Gadadhar Singha, the most ferocious Ahom king. The temple was then called Umananda Devaloi, which implies that is “The Abode of Lord Shiva.”
The Mughal emperors like Jahangir and Aurangzeb sent massive grants and offerings to the temple, during their rule in Kamrup.
However, the temple suffered damage during an earthquake in 1897 and was mended by a wealthy merchant who is believed to have inscribed the Vaishnavism slogans on the temple walls.
Best time to visit
Peacock island of Guwahati visiting should be avoided in monsoons months as there is a threat of the occurrence of floods in Assam. The best time to visit Peacock Island is during winter and spring seasons i.e., from October to May, especially till February. The scenic beauty of the sunset from the temple is a sight to behold.
There is no entry fee; it is free of charge.
Umananda Temple Timings
This mystical temple is open from 5.30 am to 6.00 pm during all the days of the week.
How to reach?
One can reach the island through ferries and jets from different Ghats in Guwahati like Sukreshwar Ghat or Fancy Bazar Ghat, Uzanbazar Ferry Ghat (also known as Kachari Ghat), while the journey from the former Ghat is a bit expensive and suitable for small families and couples, the latter is as cheap. Umananda Temple ferry cost is 20 Rs per head. The journey in the water gives a fantastic feeling, especially if you are a nature lover.
Motorboats are available from 7 am to 5 pm. Guwahati is connected to all major cities through railways, roadways, and airways. So there will be no problem with transport.
By Air: The nearest airport to Peacock Island is Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport, which is around 22 kilometers from the Peacock Island Guwahati.
By Train: Guwahati Railway Station is the most accessible railway station from Peacock Island. It is just 1.4 kilometers away!
There are private taxis or cabs available that run around the city. You can easily reach the Ghats and then take a ferry ride.
Nature carves immensely beautiful places. Come and explore Umananda Island, where nature’s artistic creation blends with spirituality and mythology. Revel in the beauty of the Peacock Island. The shape of a dancing peacock is indeed a wonder. All you have to do is traverse and then take a ferry to Umananda Ghat situated on the banks of River Brahmaputra.
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Banu Prakash provided the Peacock island images used in this Tour Bharat article. We thank him for these fantastic shots! The second peacock island image was produced as a result of his talent.
You can check out his Instagram @banuprakash.k.r