The ancient city of Tezpur known as Sonitpur in the Mahabharat was the kingdom of the mighty Shiva bhakta Banasura. Banasura, an asura had pleased Lord Shiva with his manual dexterity using his thousand arms to play for Lord Shiva as he performed the Tandava (Cosmic Dance). Banasura was at the receiving end of Lord Shiva’s wrath when he impertinently expressed to his beloved Lord that he had no use for his thousand arms.
Lord Shiva had already offered his protection to Banasura in the form of a boon but told Banasura that he would meet his match very soon and pay dearly for his arrogance. Banasura however looked forward to meeting a rival who would be his equal. Years went by and Banasura’s highly accomplished daughter Usha had a dream of a man who had all the auspicious markings of a divine being and looked very much like Lord Krishna and fell hopelessly in love with him. Chitralekha, a confidante and talented artist drew from her imagination handsome men and waited patiently for Usha to identify one of them as her chosen one.
Usha overcome with shyness pointed to the portrait of Aniruddha, grandson of Lord Krishna as the man she saw in her dream. Chitralekha immediately took the aerial route and kidnapped a sleeping Aniruddha and brought him to Sonitpur. Aniruddha woke up from his sleep to see the beautiful Usha waiting by his side and fell in love with her on sight. The two spent many days in each other’s company till a guard reported the entry of Aniruddha to Banasura. Banasura was outraged and stormed into the mansion of Usha and engaged in a fierce battle with Aniruddha.
He used his superior knowledge of Astrashastra (weapons and arms) to restrain Aniruddha. He placed Usha in the fortress of Garh Doul that he had built for her. Narada Devarshi narrated the entire sequence of events to Lord Krishna who immediately left with his son, Pradyumna, Lord Balarama and the entire powerful Vrishni army to secure the release of Aniruddha.
A tumultuous battle ensued between Lord Krishna and Banasura who was also joined by Lord Shiva as he was bound to his word that was witnessed by the entire galaxy of celestial beings from their heavenly worlds. The battle raged on for days with no clear winner. Finally, Lord Krishna released the Jrumbhanaa astra on Lord Shiva rendering him incapacitated for a few moments.
Lord Krishna took advantage of that and launched a deadly attack on Banasura cutting off his arms in quick succession. Lord Shiva then intervened on behalf of Banasura asking Lord Krishna to spare his life which the latter agreed to. Banasura fell at the Lotus Feet of Lord Krishna seeking forgiveness for his arrogance. The marriage of Aniruddha with Usha was conducted in Garh Doul.
Garh Doul is located in Tarajan Kumar Gaon about 7 kms from Tezpur. Archaeological excavations have revealed the existence of an ancient city. The remains of a fortress and ruins of brick temples have been discovered. There is a curious brick structure in the form of two mounds sitting on a brick platform. The archaeological site has ramparts that extend up to 250m in all directions.
It would appear that successive kings who ruled over erstwhile Assam had built structures on this land. Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is still working on the site and some remains dating back to 7th century have also been found.
The entire city of Tezpur has remnants of ancient temples dedicated to Lord Shiva built by Banasura which unfortunately have been lost in modern developments. Garh Doul is an important archaeological site and excavations will reveal the details of the ancient city that has been buried deep in the earth.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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