29th May 2024

World’s smallest river island: Umananda



Myth has it that Lord Shiva created for her a place in the bosom of the mighty Brahmaputra to please his wife Goddess Parvati. The island came to be known as Umananda (Uma is another name of Parvati, and ananda in Sanskrit means ‘happiness’). Once, while meditating here, he was interrupted by Kamadeva, the Hindu god of love. This made Shiva angry and he reduced Kamadeva to a heap of ashes. And the little island got its second moniker, Bhasmachal (in Assamese, ‘hill of ashes’).

Towards the end of the 17th century, the Ahom dynasty king Gadadhar Singha built a temple dedicated to Shiva, calling it Umananda devaloi, after the island. Today, with other temples around the Shiva temple, the island features elements of both Shaivism and Vaishnavism.

It was during the British rule that the island earned its third name. A British officer, smitten by how the island resembled a peacock with its feathers open, named Umananda ‘The Peacock Island’.

The island is considered one of the major places of pilgrimage and a major tourist attraction in Assam. Earlier, people who used to visit Kamakhya temple would first offer their prayers at Umananda temple.

And today, Umananda stands as the world’s smallest inhabited river island.

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