Historical Links of Assam with Maa Durga

The Northeast Dialogue

Durga Devi, the formidable goddess renowned for her triumph over the demon Mahishasura, occupies a significant place in India's cultural and religious heritage. It can be observed that the city of Guwahati and the broader region of Assam share a profound historical connection with the worship of Devi Durga.

"The worship of Durga, also known as Mahisasuramardini, has a long and ancient history in the Indian subcontinent. This assertion finds support in both archaeological findings and literary sources. The visual representation of Mahishasuramardini-Durga in the form of icons began evolving as early as the 2nd to 1st century BCE." Excavations in Guwahati and across Assam have unearthed idols of Devi Durga. Notable findings were made during excavations at Surya Pahar and Ambari." These idols, dating back to different time periods, provide insights into the enduring legacy of Durga Devi's worship in the region. The fragmented idol found during the Surya Pahar excavation is believed to belong to the 8th to 10th centuries CE and is now housed in the Surya Pahar Site Museum. These artefacts offer glimpses into the artistic and religious heritage of the region, connecting us with the spiritual practices of our ancestors.

Significantly, the idols discovered at Ambari, including the colossal sixteen-handed Durga, date to the 11th to 13th centuries CE. These invaluable artefacts can be explored at the Assam State Museum. The idols of Durga, particularly those from the aforementioned centuries, exhibit differences when compared to contemporary representations, serving as a testament to evolving artistic styles and cultural influences through the ages. The existence of Durga Puja in Guwahati and Assam is well-documented, with historical records suggesting that during the rule of the Ahom dynasty, the festival was celebrated in the royal household. Diving into the historical accounts like the Buranjis, which provide insights into these royal celebrations, we find that, Queen Phuleswari, the wife of Ahom king Siva Singha, notably performed Durga Puja with grandeur during their reign. This cultural influence extended to the Koch, followers of the Saiva and Sakta cults, who also celebrated Durga Puja within their royal household.

We can also find the exchange of cultural practices, with the Ahom king Pratap Singha sending clay artists to Cooch Behar to learn the art of crafting clay idols for the puja. This historical evidence underscores the deep-rooted significance of Durga Puja in Guwahati and Assam, evolving from royal celebrations to the more widespread Sarvajanik Durga Puja in the post-colonial period. The rich historical tapestry of Assam further reveals the connection between Durga Devi and the region. The discovery is made of terracotta sculptures of Goddess Durga, as well as sculptures of various Hindu deities, at various locations throughout Assam. Notable findings include terracotta sculptures from sites in Guwahati, particularly the Ambari site and Cotton College site, dating back to the early medieval period. One of the most striking variations lies in the different findings is the artistic styles. Ancient idols of Durga often feature intricate details and craftsmanship unique to their respective time periods.

As Guwahati and Assam celebrate Durga Puja, the diverse idols, both ancient and modern, collectively form a rich tapestry that tells the story of devotion, creativity, and cultural continuity. Durga Devi remains an enduring symbol of strength, courage, and the victory of good over evil, transcending time and cultural shifts and continuing to be celebrated with fervour and passion in this enchanting region of India.


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