Hajo, 32 kms west of Guwahati, in Kamrup district, is an important pilgrimage for Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims alike. Hajo is home to ancient and medieval temples and mosques and is seen by a section of Buddhists as the place where the Buddha attained parinirvana.
Hayagriva Madhab Temple on Manikuta Hill is perhaps the oldest temple in Hajo. Believed to have been originally built by Pala rulers in 6th century AD, the present structure was erected by the Koch king Raghudeva Narayan in 1583 after it was destroyed by an invading army. Made of stone, it houses the images of Hayagriva Madhab, worshipped by Hindus as an incarnation of Vishnu.
The garbhagriha of the temple enshrines the Pancha Madhab, or the five forms of Vishnu. The image of the main deity, Hayagriva Madhab is at the centre and is flanked by Jagannath and Garuda to the right and Radha Govinda and Basudeva to the left.
Some scholars attribute a Buddhist origin to the temple based on the row of caparisoned elephants sculpted along the plinth. These, they say, are reminiscent of the animal figures at the Buddhist caves of Ellora in Maharashtra. Some Buddhists are of the opinion that the temple was the site of the Buddha’s parinirvana.
Another structure adjacent to the main temple is called Doul Griha. It is said to have been built by the Ahom king Pramata Singha in 1750 AD. The festival Doul, similar to the colourful festival of Holi, is celebrated here on a grand scale every year.
The stairway leads from the foot of the hill to a gateway that opens to the temple complex. At the foot of this stone stairway is a large pond inhabited by one of Hajo’s oldest residents- giant turtle. All around of the temple are numerous loose sculptures. Most of these sculptures stand testimony to the sculptural finesse attained by the artisans of Assam.
Though Hayagriva Madhab is the most popular, Hajo has a number of other temples dating back to the 18th century. Ganesh Temple, built on a giant, elephant-shaped rock is also called Deva Bhavana and is traditionally the meeting place of all the deities of the region.
Kedareshwar Temple is located on Madanachala Hill, 2 kms from Ganesh Temple. The shivalinga in the temple is said to be svayambhu or naturally formed and is always kept covered with a big metal bowl. Numerous references.