The Umananda Temple, a tranquil place of devotion dedicated to Lord Shiva, is situated on Peacock Island, one of the tiniest and most picturesque inhabited islands on the Brahmaputra River. The name 'Umananda' is derived from the Hindi words 'Uma,' which was a moniker for Lord Shiva's wife, and 'Ananda,' which means happiness.
The temple is located atop a hill known as Bhasmakala or Bhasmakuta and was originally constructed in 1694 AD by King Gadadhar Singha. Unfortunately, an earthquake in 1897 caused significant damage to the island, which was later rebuilt by a local wealthy merchant, and the temple was masterfully crafted by skilled Assamese artisans. The temple features idols of Lord Shiva and ten other Hindu gods in separate shrines.
Besides being a place of worship, the Umananda Temple stands out from conventional religious sites as a peaceful refuge, free from the noisy trappings of dogmatism. Its stunning natural surroundings and understated beauty make it a haven for lovers of nature. In fact, visitors are invited to sit and take in the island's enchanting ambiance, making it a pleasure to visit for reasons beyond the religious significance.
The Umananda Temple, originally known as Umananda Devaloi or "the abode of Lord Shiva," was constructed in 1694 by Bar Phukan Gadadhar Singha, under the orders of King Gadadhar Singha, a prominent ruler of the Ahom kingdom. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, who, according to legend, resided on the island as Bhayananda. It is said that during the creation, Lord Shiva imparted supreme knowledge to his wife, Parvati, and sprinkled ashes on the island.
The temple's history is shrouded in many such stories, including one that claims the goddess Urvasi resides on the island and brings nectar to Goddess Kamakhya. This is why the island is also referred to as Urvasi Island. Additionally, the Bhasmakuta hill where the temple is located is said to be where Lord Shiva turned Kamadeva into ashes for disturbing his meditation.
During the Mughal rule in Kamrupa, the Umananda Temple received grants and donations from Jahangir and Aurangzeb. Sadly, the temple was severely damaged in an earthquake in 1897, but it was reconstructed by a wealthy merchant who was a devotee of Lord Shiva.
To visit the Umananda Temple, one must travel by ferry or boat and climb more than 150 steps to reach the temple. Ferry rides can be booked from Uzan Ferry Ghat (Kachari Ghat) through the Inland Water Transport, with a fee of 20/- per person. The official boat service operates from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., after which additional fees apply. Private ferry services are also available but cost more than Rs. 100/- per person. Visitors can also reach Umananda from Shukleswar Ghat and Fancy Bazar Ghat. The ferry ride offers a stunning view of the flowing Brahmaputra River, hills, and greenery, taking only 15 to 20 minutes to reach the foot of the Bhasmakuta hill. While climbing the steps, visitors can enjoy the sight of an abundance of trees and various bird species, including approximately twenty types of birds as reported by bird-watchers. Additionally, the island is home to golden langurs, one of the rarest species of monkeys found only on this island.