There were not too many ‘must-do’ things in Guwahati, barring the walk we wanted to do by the mighty Brahmaputra. Kamakhya temple was a reluctant addition—suggested by some web sites and the enthusiastic staff of Baruah Bhavan, where we stayed. Getting around Guwahati was anyway easier with plenty of local buses.
Perched on a hilltop (Nilachal or the Blue Hills), Kamakhya temple is the main temple among a group of temples scattered across the hill. Considered to be a place of Tantric worship, the temple dates back to 10 BC and survived the attack of Mangols and later the Mughals. The current structure is believed to be built in 15th century AD and is an important religious destination of North East.
Generally averse to long queues and more so if it is a temple, we decided to skip the ‘darshan’ and wandered around the temple to see anything else of interest to us. A 50-plus lady playing cards on her Samsung Galaxy tablet while waiting in the queue for ‘darshan’ was certainly amusing. For some time, we sat on the stone steps built along the hill, watching people around and kids playing.
As we were about to leave, we noticed a board pointing to the temple museum. The museum was a small double-storied structure with a collection of swords and knives of various sizes and shapes, all perhaps over thousands of years old, and some interesting pieces of wood. Around the building were several stone sculptures that looked like the remains of ancient temples. Dipu Kalita, the unassuming caretaker of the museum was sitting outside trying to fix an old tool.
Initially employed as a night watchman, Dipu used to wander inside the forests during daytime, collecting wooden pieces with naturally formed designs and shapes, which he handed over to the temple authorities. These were the interesting wood pieces we found at the second floor of the museum. Eventually, he got employed at the museum where he first tried his hand in cement sculptures. He soon moved to experimenting with stone.
With no resources, guidance, or direction, his was a complete self-learning. With some real hard work, patience, and persistence, Dipu started realising his passion for stone sculptures.
Dipu told us that the stone sculptures outside the museum are indeed the remains of the ancient temple, destroyed by Kala Pahad, a Hindu converted to Muslim. Even now, such stones are still discovered whenever someone digs the earth in and around the hill. Whenever he gets plain stones, he applies his creativity and converts them into pieces of art.
He spent some time chatting with us about his story, trying to understand what we do, how do we ‘write’ on the Internet, and how could he find the article on him or the museum. He knew one can search for things on internet but was not sure how he would find the right page when thousands of ‘lines’ show up. We told him one can search for “Dipu Kalita” or “Kamakhya Temple Museum,” which will increase the chances of finding the right page.
An inspiring story of a self-taught man. And like the many Assamese people we met later, he remained unassuming and humble.
Kamakhya temple is in Guwahati. Accessible by local buses, rickshaws, and taxi. Plenty of local buses will help you to reach the base of the hill from where one can get share taxis. There are steps leading up from the base but they are hardly used.