Temple of Ashwaklanta

On the banks of the mighty Brahmaputra in North Guwahati lies a temple built by the great Ahom king Siva Singha in the 1720 A.D. The temple is known as Ashwaklanta (in Assamese, অশ্বক্লান্ত), and there are various legends that try to justify the existence of this temple at this place. According to one of the legends, Lord Krishna while in search of the evil Narakasur was riding to this particular place to punish him. On his way, his horse felt tired at this particular place where the temple is now situated. As the word ‘Ashwa’ meaning horse and ‘Klanta’ meaning tired, thus the temple came to be known as Ashwa- Klanta.

The other legend speaks of the horses which belonged to Arjuna during the Mahabharata war, where the enemy clan conspired against Abhimanyu and persuaded the horses to stay back away from the battle scene. Thus, this incident is referred to as Abhikranta and the place came to be known as Ashwakranta which later became as Ashwaklanta in popular language.

This temple has historic importance and is situated in a beautiful place with scenic beauty with the view of the Brahmaputra. It is said that earlier there used to be a kunda where sacrificial rituals were practiced. But, the Brahmaputra has eroded the kunda now. The templecomplex is similar to any Ahom temple edifice and is built in similar style. The entrance gate is huge with the image of Vishnu on both the sides with flower motifs on the niche below. The main sabhāmandapa greets the devotees when they enter the gate which is a typical Assam type architectural structure with tinned roof. Crossing that one reaches the main mandapa where devotees offer prayers and enter the antarāla that divides the mandapa and the garbhagriha. There are two separate entries on the both the sides of the mandapa. The antarāla is a do-chala structure typical of the Ahom architectural structure.

The main garbhagriha houses the unique image of the Sheshasayi Vishnu lying on the Ananta snake, the immortal and infinite snake with its thousand hoods protecting Vishnu in service for him. This image is carved out of black stone and is done in relief on a stone slab. The significance of this particular image is that it belongs to the 11th century A.D. The Shikhara of the Garbhagriha is in dome shaped with a kalaśa on the top. The Bada and Jangha part consist of the various images of deities in the niches.

There are images of Lord Vishnu seated on the Sheshnāg with its hoods making a canopy over Lord Vishnu. There is another image of Lord Shiva riding on his bull, Nandi carrying his dambru and trishul. Shiva is typically shown adorning his Jatamukut. Another image in one of the niche shows Indra riding on his vāhana, Airavat, the elephant. Here, Airavat the elephant is shown with only four tusks and only one head, whereas, according to mythology it has more than two heads and six tusks. There are also other images of deities riding on anthropomorphic animals. All the images of the deities are carved out of stone and are done in reliefs and the sculptures portrayed the innate indigenous characteristic of local craftsmanship.

Unlike the Ahom temples at Sivasagar this temple complex is not that refined or extraordinarily ornamented with different motifs and designs, yet it adds beauty and significance to the history of the place. The Temple complex that stands now is actually a partial portion of its original structure as during the year 1897 due to a massive earthquake the temple took a hit and most of its parts were destroyed. Then Lord Curzon, who was the Viceroy of Assam during that period, patronized and repaired the damage done to the temple. Since the temple belongs to Lord Vishnu, therefore, festivals related to Vishnu are all celebrated in the temple with galore. Janmashtami and Ashokashtami are the two important festivals celebrated in the Ashwaklanta Temple. Devotees from all over Guwahati come to visit this temple and asks for blessing to Lord Vishnu, the protector.