Rock Art Tourism of Assam

Rock art is a window to humanity’s earliest creative expressions and many enthusiasts visit such spaces to understand its origins, era, techniques, and significance. And, while rock art in Assam does not enjoy the kind of popularity as in other regions, it holds significant historical value. Notable rock engravings are found near Ganesh Mandir at Sopaidong, 5 km from Bonda-Narengi Road at Guwahati, Mayong in the Morigaon district, Kanai Borosi and Dirgheswari Temple in North Guwahati, and other parts of Assam. The most significant though is Uma Tumoni or Umatumoni—an island on the Brahmaputra that is accessible by country boat—close to Biswanath Ghat near Biswanath Chariali, 50 km from Tezpur.

Thanks to Dr. Dwipen Bezbaruah, Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Gauhati University who has conducted extensive research on Umatumoni, we now know that on the northern edge of this island is adorned with a diverse array of rock carvings. A mix of geometric and non-geometric designs, floral and animal motifs, loops, whorls, birds, and traditional chessboard patterns, it is a site that will take you back in time. Known as Sukhreswar (also Chakreswar), the location features a hanuman figure in flight (albeit the natural elements have taken a toll) and carvings of a dragon, traditional game boards, and numerous intriguing figures.

According to local folklore, Sukhreswar is where dice game was famously played between the Pandavas and Kauravas of the Mahabharata. Rectangular patterns are said to represent the courts where the game took place. A semi-circular maze-like pattern with strategic formation is believed to be the Chakravyuha, the formation inside which Arjuna’s son Abhimanyu met with a tragic end. Along with numerous other images, they enhance the allure of this captivating island with its invaluable treasures. A Forest Department camp is situated on the Umatumoni island with the specific purpose of safeguarding wildlife migrating from Kaziranga National Park, located across the river, especially during periods of flooding. Additionally, near the bank of Biswanath Ghat, there stands a splendid Bordol temple, showcasing the Ahom style of architecture.

Assam is captivating destination with a host of attractions that range from wildlife to tea gardens, river cruises, festivals, communities, archaeological sites, temples and more. Petroglyphs can only take Assam up a notch on the tourism map. Tour operators could include them in their itineraries and experiential tourism worth its while.

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