Dr. A K Chatterjee is a seasoned writer with more than 330 blogs in English and Bengali and 10 books mostly on travel, trekking and temples.
Petroglyphs of Shukreshwar Rock
Key Words (vernaculars are in italics)
Petroglyph, rock, monolithic, Bishwanath, Bramhaputra, island, Dyutakreera, dice game, Mahabharata, Pandava, Kaurava, Chakravyuha, Ahom, Shakti Pithas, Asura, Dwapara Yuga, Bhaluk.
Petroglyphs are ancient rock carvings, found in many countries of all the continents except Antarctica. There are two terms used by scholars in this context - Petroglyph meaning "Rock carvings or engravings", and Petrographs meaning "Rock Paintings". However, in general terms, both are used synonymously and under a broader term "Rock Art".
In India we have innumerable petroglyphs strewn across this vast country, many of which are very famous and well known like Bhimbethka rock paintings in Madhya Pradesh, Unokoti in Tripura, Kupgal petroglyphs in Kupgal, Karnataka, many rock cut Ganesha in Assam etc (the full list can be seen in Wikipedia).
In this article, a little known petroglyph known as Shukreshwar rock carvings of Bishwanath, Assam is discussed.
Some Rock Arts of India
Where is Shukreshwar rock petroglyphs?
Shukreshwar rock is a huge piece of monolithic rock situated in the river island of Umatumoni in Bramhaputra river. Umatumoni island is located very near to Bishwanath Ghat, also known as "Gupta Kashi" (Hidden Kashi or Varanasi) of Assam. Bishwanath Ghat is about 10 km from Bishwanath town, located in the newly formed (formed on 15th August 2015) Bishwanath district of Assam.
The geographical co-ordinates of Shukreshwar is 26 degrees 39 minutes North, 93 degrees 09 minutes East.
Popularly known as "Gupt Kashi" (the Hidden Kashi) and "Kashi of Assam", Bishwanath Ghat, situated on the northern bank of Bramhaputra is an ancient sacred place with strong mythological and historical connections.
In mythology, it is here that the Asura King Bana in the Dwapara Yuga tried to built a second Kashi or Varanasi, the most sacred place on earth by creating one crore (10 million) Shivalingams but was deceived by the gods who stole one Shivalingam and placed it somewhere else. But Lord Shiva was pleased by this extreme effort of Bana and agreed to stay here, but in a "Gupt" (hidden) form known as "Gupt Bishwanath", and the place came to be known as "Gupt Kashi" or simply "Kashi" of Assam.
Gupt Bishwanath Shivalingam is located in a small rocky island in Bramhaputra, and remains submerged for 6 months in a year.
Historically, the Ahom kings established several temples here dedicated mainly to Lord Shiva but also to other deities like Durga in the form of Chandi and Uma (these two temples are considered as two of the 51 Shakti Pithas by the local people), Ganesha, Surya Narayan or Sun God and an unusual god named "Bhaluk Gossain", often said to be Lord Narayana in the form of a "Bhaluk" or bear.
Umatumoni island is situated in the mighty river Brahmaputra, and can be reached by country-boats which ply regularly between Bishwanath Ghat on the north bank of the river and the island.
This riverine island has several Hindu temples dedicated to deities like Lord Shiva (Nangaleshwar Shiva), Durga (Siddheshwari and Bagheshwari) and Ganesha.
There is no permanent dwellers in Umatumoni, though there is a tourist resort built in an abandoned luxury boat.
Interestingly, there is a camp of the Forest Department of Assam Government where few forest guards live. They are stationed there to protect any wild animal, mostly elephants and Indian Rhinos, which often come in the island from the Kaziranga National Park situated just across the river on the southern bank, especially during floods.
The island, with its pristine natural beauty of virgin forests, huge rocks of different shapes and wildlife like several types of birds and myriad varieties of butterflies, is a nice place to visit.
But the most interesting thing in Umatumoni is the rock carvings or petroglyphs engraved on a huge rock called Shukreshwar Rock (often called Shakreshwar).
Shukreshwar Rock carvings
Shukreshwar is a huge monolithic rock with various types of engravings. These include different geometric patterns, animals, birds and a mythical dragon which was the Royal Emblem of the Ahom kingdom.
The geometric patterns are squares and rectangular patterns, circles, circular lines in concentric disposition, straight and curved lines etc.
These engravings are thought to of late medieval period during the reign of the kings of the Ahom dynasty.
Legends associated with Shukreshwar rock carvings
There is a local belief that this was the place where the infamous "Dyutakreera" or dice game between Pandavas and Kauravas of the Mahabharata fame took place.
The rectangular patterns are believed to be the dice courts.
There is another folklore that tells that the semi-circular maze-like patterns are the plans of "Chakravyuha", a maze-like pattern of arranging soldiers in the battle, where Abhimanyu, the son of the middle Pandava brother Arjuna was killed by the Kaurava generals.
In the story told in the Mahabharata Abhimanyu knew how to enter a Chakravyuha, but not the way out. Kauravas took advantage of this shortcoming of Abhimanyu, lured him inside the maze and killed him.
One particular circular engraving is believed to represent a compass.
However, the official version of these engravings does not mention these mythological legends.
Petroglyphs of Shukreshwar Rock
Whatever the significance of these engraved patterns on the Shukeshwar rock, these are definitely highly interesting, and deserves much more attention, especially of the general tourists.
All photos used in this article are shot by the author.
1. Different internet sites including Wikipedia.
2. Stories collected from local people.
© 2022 Dr A K Chatterjee