Nabagraha Temple is the only astrological and astronomical centre not only in Assam, but in the entire North-Eastern region of India. It is situated in the south-eastern part of Guwahati city over the Chitrachal hill. Built by King Rajeswar Singha, the temple collapsed during the Great Earthquake of 1897. The King brought a priest named Achyutananda Deb Sarma from Ujjayani. Presently, there are around 60 priests who are the descendents of Achyutananda Deb Sarma. They perform day to day work in the temple by rotation, besides looking after astrological assignments.
It may be recalled that originally there were two narrow roads – one by the side of the veterinary hospital and another by the side of the war cemetery at Silpukhuri, via which to reach the temple. The PWD subsequently widened and rebuilt the road from MC Road to the temple during 2010, which is around 1.5 km. However, women visitors face immense problem due to non-availability of urinals along the entire stretch, which we feel would be addressed by the district administration and the Guwahati Municipal Corporation at an early date. Necessary steps to construct at least 3/4 urinals along with 2/3 drinking water booths for the visitors would go a long way in ameliorating their collective plight. The authority may consider taking the help of Nabagraha Path-Chenikuthi Hillside Nagarik Samiti in this regard.
Though the number of devotees to Nabagraha Temple from outside the State and also from foreign countries, in addition to devotees from outside Guwahati has been increasing every day, unfortunately the State Government has not taken any positive steps to develop the temple complex with the required infrastructure for visiting tourists. The present temple was constructed during 1975-78 with financial help from the State Government and donations from well-wishers. The newly constructed temple was inaugurated on June 27, 1979.
It may be pertinent to add here that the then Chief Minister Hiteswar Saikia and Priya Nath Sarmadoloi, including Late Satis Chandra Kakati, Harendra Nath Barua and Sarat Chandra Goswami, among others, extended their guidance and help to rebuild the temple. The management of the Nabagraha Temple was constituted in 1931. Following gradual increase in the number of devotees to the temple, the post of ‘Doloi’ was instituted to supervise day-to-day worship at the temple.
The first ‘Doloi’ of the temple was Laxmi Kanta Deb Sarma, while Kamini Mohan Sarma was the first elected ‘Doloi’. Consequent upon resignation by Kamini Mohan Sarma, Priya Nath Sarmadoloi was entrusted with the responsibility of ‘Doloi’. During the tenure of Priya Nath Sarma, there was manifold developmental works in the temple. After the demise of Priya Nath Sarmadoloi , Pratap Sarmadoloi was elected as ‘Doloi’ and after him, Bimal Sarmadoloi was elected ‘Doloi’. Bimal Sarmadoloi is still continuing as ‘Doloi’ of the temple.
At present, the management of the temple is looked after by the Nabagraha Temple management committee under the chairmanship of the Kamrup (Metro) Deputy Commissioner. However, due to lack of proper functioning by the committee, the temple is not running smoothly. There are complaints galore from a section of devotees that the priests often charge exorbitant rates for various offerings as there is no fixed rate as such. It would therefore be in the fitness of things for the Nabagraha Temple management committee to consider fixing rates for various offerings in the interest of the devotees.
Further, it may perhaps be suggested to include 2/3 senior citizens of the locality and also representatives of Nabagraha Path-Chenikuthi Hillside Nagarik Samiti members for smooth functioning of the temple. The condition of the temple has deteriorated due to lack of timely maintenance.
It may be recalled that in 2014, the then Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi had announced sanction of Rs one crore for repair and maintenance of the temple through PWD. But it is not known whether the PWD had taken any steps to repair or maintain the temple. Not surprisingly, the temple requires immediate upkeep.
It is indeed unfortunate that due to apathy of the concerned State Government department, the burnt brick pieces, stone etc used for construction of the original temple, are lying scattered here and there. They may soon disappear. We therefore urge the State’s Department of Archaeology to take necessary action to preserve these material and the stone plate (silalipi) fixed on the walls of the temple in the interest of the future generations.
To the right side of the main entrance to the temple, idols of Lord Ganesha, Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu and Laxmi Devi are installed. On the entire outer wall of the temple, 10 avatars of Lord Vishnu along with other idols are beautifully engraved. In the main sanctum of the temple, there are nine Nabagraha lingas (nine planets) arranged in a circle. They are Surya, Chandra, Mangal, Budha, Guru, Sukra, Shani, Rahu and Ketu. Each graha is covered with different coloured cloth in accordance with the requirement of the lingas. As the roof of the temple is dome shaped, hence during chanting of mantras in the sanctum, it resonates and gives a feeling as if the chanting of mantras are coming from every corner of the temple.
Every year, the annual Mahayajna of Nabagraha Temple begins on the Sankranti of Magh-Phagun with a three-day programme. The sacrificial fire-pit is situated on the northern side of the main temple, wherein offerings of sacrifice are performed on the first day of the Mahayajna after obtaining fire from the Sun by virtue of chanting mantras. Each of the nine planets are offered sacrifice every day with cow ghee mixed with paddy, mustard, sesame seeds etc. On the last and final oblation of the Mahayajna, the priest offers sacrifice with the aforementioned items with the chanting of ten thousands slokas. The “Doloi’ on behalf of all the priests of the temple and devotees offers first oblation with the help of the main priest, who performs the yajna.
It may be mentioned that thousands of devotees from outside Guwahati as well as from outside the State throng the temple during this annual Mahayajna performed at the Nabagraha Temple.
May we therefore request Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal along with the State’s Minister for Tourism to consider taking urgent steps to convert Nabagraha Temple into an important tourist destination under the religious tourism category.