Located at the confluence of the Brahmaputra and Lohit Rivers in northeast India, 224 miles from Guwahati, is the city of Sivasagar. The city is known for its rich history, which offers tons of things to see and do in Sivasagar. Surrounded by the Dehing Rainforest, Sivasagar was formerly known as Rangpur, and was the capital of the Ahom Kingdom from 1699 to 1788. The Ahom Kingdom ruled the state of Assam for six hundred years until they fell to the Burmese in 1819.
Today, Sivasagar is a smaller city with roughly 51,000 residents. The official language there is Assamese, and the city is home to the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Petroleum Technology. Located around the city are several fantastic eateries where you can try traditional Assamese cuisine. And while Assamese cuisine is characterized by its simple presentations and very little spices, it still manages to explode with exciting and mouthwatering flavors.
As a former capital of the Ahom Kingdom, Sivasagar is home to several historical ruins that still stand today. Visiting them is like taking a trip back in time to the glory days of the Ahoms, and should be the cornerstone to any day trip to the city. These are the top 5 things to do in Sivasagar in Assam, India.
Visit Rang Ghar
You can’t visit the historic city of Sivasagar without checking out Rang Ghar, a two-story royal sports pavilion from the Ahom era. Located less than two miles from the center of the city, the building served as a venue for animal fights and cultural programs. Rang Ghar was first built using wood and bamboo during the reign of Swargadeo Rudra Singha. It was later was rebuilt using brick between 1744 and 1750 by Swargadeo Pramatta Singha.
During my visit to Rang Ghar, I got to view the spot where the king would watch events such as bullfights before heading up to the second level. I noticed that Rang Ghar is more of a viewing point than what we think of as a sporting arena. I couldn’t help but marvel at the stunning architecture, which reminded me of some of the royal tombs I had seen in Delhi. It’s one of the must-see things to do in Sivasagar for any history buff!
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Visit the Sivasagar Sivadol
Standing proudly along the banks of the Sivasagar Tank on the northern side of town is Sivasagar Sivadol. This temple dedicated to Lord Shiva is actually comprised of three Hindu temples for Shiva, Lord Vishnu, and the goddess Durga. The Sivadol is the biggest Shiva temple in all of Asia at 104 feet tall. It’s also the oldest and was built in 1730. It was built in the Shikhara architectural style, which is the main form of Hindu architecture.
My visit to Sivasagar Sivadol was an experience I will never forget. A kind man put some tikka on my forehead and tied a band around my wrist. I tipped him for blessing me and giving me the wristband before ringing the bells inside the temple. You bow as you pass through the doorway to the Shiva Linga, which is a deified representation of Shiva in Shaivism.
At the Shiva Linga, worshippers leave offerings such as flowers, fruit, and milk. It was a beautiful, peaceful cultural experience that I felt privileged and honored to take part in. This is why I love travel. There is nothing quite like immersing yourself in the cultures and religions new places and being welcomed with open arms.
Outside the Sivadol are lit candles, which I learned are offerings to the gods in exchange for more wishes. I noted that it differs from Catholicism, in which you light a candle to make a prayer to someone who has passed.
No trip to Sivasagar is complete without stopping by the Sivasagar Sivadol. Regardless of your religious beliefs, there’s no denying the beauty of this place. It was one of my favorite things to do in Sivasagar and I’m sure it will be one of yours, too.
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Enjoy a Pork Feast at Heritage Jaysagar Restaurant
If you only have one meal during your time in Sivasagar, make sure it’s at Heritage Jaysagar Restaurant along Joysagar-Nasira Road. Set on the northern shore of Joysagar Tank, this phenomenal restaurant is known for its sensational Upper Assamese food.
The restaurant features lots of outdoor seating, and I recommend dining right on the pier. You can’t beat the atmosphere or the view!
Aloo Pitika and Chicken Curry
The aloo pitika (mashed potatoes with chilies, onions, and tomatoes) is both spicy and refreshing at the same time and is a great dish to start with. Be sure to also try the rich-looking chicken curry with tomatoes and potatoes, which was so tasty and cooked to perfection!
Yellow Dal and Fern
Another great dish that makes dining at Heritage Jaysagar Restaurant one of the top things to do in Sivasagar is the yellow dal. This vibrant and colorful dish is full of chilies and herbs and tastes like a delightful lentil mash. It’s incredible with the rice! Don’t miss the fern as well, which is bright green and reminded me of kale, broccoli, and spinach.
But the star of any meal at Heritage Jaysagar Restaurant should be its otherworldly pork dishes. The bamboo pork, which is actually cooked and served in a bamboo shoot, has a deep, rich green color and is fatty and ridiculously tasty. The flavor of the bamboo permeates every bite of the soft and tender meat, which is mixed with vegetables. It’s some of the best pork I’ve ever eaten in my life and has to be tasted to be believed! Try the bamboo pork with some papad to add a nice, crispy element.
Finish off your meal at Heritage Jaysagar Restaurant with the boiled pork with bamboo shoots and chilies. This dish is more of a Chinese-inspired soup. After just one spoonful, it reminded me of a high-quality wonton soup with pork. The meat was tender and delicious, and I couldn’t get enough of the Chinese flavors throughout. Trust me, if you are a pork lover like me, you will be in heaven at Heritage Jaysagar Restaurant. The food is some of the best I had in Assam and is easily one of the top things to do in Sivasagar.
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Visit Joysagar Pukuhri
Just south of the palatial Talatal Ghar complex (more on that below) is a massive, rectangular body of water called Joysagar Pukhuri. Also known as Joysagar Tank, the 318-acre lake is the largest man-made lake in India. It was built by an Ahom king named Swargadeo Rudra Singha in 1697 to honor his mother. Though legend says the tank was dug and filled in one night, it is believed that it actually took about 45 days to complete.
There are also more temples located along the shores such as Kesavarai Visnu Dol, Baidyanath Shiva Dol, Ganesh Mandir, and Ghanashyam Dol, which can be found along its northern shore.
Even though it’s man-made, the tank is quite beautiful. It has become a symbol of the city and is among the top things to do in Sivasagar. Admire it from several different vantage points during your visit for great photo opportunities!
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Visit Talatal Ghar
If you’re visiting Sivasagar for the historical sites, your itinerary must include a stop at Talatal Ghar, the largest Ahom monument in the area. This gorgeous structure, which was built between 1751 and 1769, is actually an underground, 18th-century palace. It was initially constructed to be an army base and is considered one of the most stunning examples of Tai Ahom architecture.
The Grounds and Architecture
On the day I visited Talatal Ghar, there were goats roaming the grounds. There are three massive cannons on display, which were amazing to see up close. I recommend heading up to rooftop to get a view of the entire site before exploring the lower levels. The architecture reminded me a lot of structures I had seen during my time in northern India. I loved the brick structure of the buildings and couldn’t help but marvel at the maze-like passageways lit by candles. There were so many windows and intricate doorways. It would be really easy to get lost there, so take a friend with you!
Talatal Ghar’s tunnels are made from brick and a unique cement mixture made of sticky rice and duck eggs! They have low ceilings, so be prepared to duck down while you’re exploring. As you continue touring the tunnels, you’ll find lots of offerings.
The palace also contains two secret tunnels that were used to escape from enemies, one of which is 16 kilometers long! However, visitors are only allowed to tour the ground floor and the first, second, and third levels. The subterranean levels have been sealed off to tourists.
NOTE: As is the case at many attractions around India, non-Indian tourists will pay quite a bit more than locals to visit Talatal Ghar. It costs 300 rupees/roughly $4.29 USD for foreigners to visit, while Indian residents will only pay 25 rupees/$0.36 USD. You should always expect to pay several times more than locals when you visit Indian attractions.
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BONUS: Visit Kareng Ghar
A little more than 9 miles from Sivasagar is another beautiful Ahom Kingdom palace called Kareng Ghar. This seven-story palace was the first to be built in the area for the capital. It was constructed on the site of the old Garhgaon Palace in 1751 after its destruction. Built of stone and wood (which deteriorated over time), Kareng Ghar consists of four above-ground floors above ground and three subterranean ones.
Layout and Architecture
The palace is comprised of several rooms along a long corridor and smaller wings on the north and south sides of the building. Stables, servants’ quarters, and storerooms made up the ground floor, while the royal apartments were located at the very top.
During my visit to Kareng Ghar, I noted that everything inside had the same pinkish-orange hue. There were some striking pillars inside, and I had never seen any like them before. I couldn’t get enough of the amazing architecture, which went through lots of alterations during the palace’s construction. It was unreal to be able to visit the king’s chambers on the top floor.
Climb to the Top
I highly recommend climbing to the very top of the palace to get some phenomenal views of the surrounding area. It was one of the most breathtaking moments I had in Assam and reminded me, yet again, why I love travel so much.
By visiting historical sites around the world, you get a feel for how people from the past lived, and how the things they went through shaped the people living in those locations today. It’s something that struck me as I stood there atop the palace, looking out at the beautiful surroundings as the sun sank beneath the horizon. You have to visit this place. It’s one of my favorite things to do in Sivasagar for a reason!
Whether you’re a foodie, a seeker of culture, or a history buff, Sivasagar is the perfect place to visit. This small town may not be nearly as well-known as many other Indian cities, but it deserves to be on the same level as them. As someone who seeks out amazing food, unique cultural experiences, historical sites, and wonderful people, Sivasagar delivered again and again.
From my unreal experience at the Sivasagar Sivadol to the friendly locals who simply wanted to shake my hand at Talatal Ghar, this place truly humbled me. I walked away from my time there even more of an appreciation for India and its people and I can’t wait to visit the Subcontinent again. Book a trip to Sivasagar today to check out these amazing places for yourself!
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