Silchar is the headquarters of Cachar district in the state of Assam in India. It is the economic gateway to the state of Mizoram and part of Manipur. It is 343 kilometres (213 mt) south east of Guwahati. The city of Silchar is the second largest city of Assam after Guwahati in terms of population and municipal area. Being politically stable in the otherwise disturbed Northeast earned it the bon mot of "Island of Peace" from India's then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
During the British rule, ships were docked at the bank of the "River Barak" so a market developed at the bank and became a major place of economic activity. The bank was covered with stones to help dock ships and vessels, and the market developed at a place which was fully covered with stones. People started to refer to the place as "Shiler Chor", meaning a bank of stone. Gradually "Shiler Chor" became "Silchar" for linguistic simplification and, later on, British officials started to use "Silchar" in their official documents referring to the surrounding area of the market. "Silchar" became the official name of the place.
Approximately 90% residents of Silchar are Bengalis who speak the Sylheti dialect, the rest being Dimasa Kachari (Barman), Manipuri (Meitei), Marwaris, Bishnupriya Manipuris, Assamese and some tribal groups like Nagas. Silchar is situated by the banks of the Barak River in what is popularly known as Barak Valley. Rice is the staple cereal. Fish is also available. Shuţki (the local name for dried fish), shidal chutney, and chunga-r peetha are some of the local delicacies.
Over the past few years, the town is witnessing a huge influx of people from nearby smaller places due to the Silchar's increasing prospects and other developments in the field of education, medical facilities and the more recently booming real estate market and other commercial enterprises, making the town quite over-crowded. Goldighi Mall, the biggest mall in North East India, and Barak Valley's first shopping mall, has opened in Silchar. Big Bazaar, which is located in the mall, opened on November 2012.
Silchar is located in the southern part of Assam. Situated on the banks of the Barak River, it is a trade and processing centre for tea, rice and other agricultural products. There is limited industry, principally papermaking and tea-box manufacturing. The city has an airport and lies on both a rail head and national highways connecting to Guwahati, Assam; Agartala, Tripura; Imphal, Manipur and Aizawl in Mizoram state. The area of Silchar town is 15.75 sq km. It has an average elevation of 22 metres (72 feet). Major localities of Silchar include Central Road, Sadarghat, Tarapur, Malugram, Janiganj, Park Road, Itkhola, Ambikapatty, Shillongpatty, Hospital Road, College Road,Shib Colony, Vivekananda Road, National Highway, Bilpar, Premtala, Nazirpatty, Madhurband, Sonai Road, Public School Road, Rangirkhari, Das Colony, Link Road, Kalibari Chor etc.
At Silchar, the climate is tropical by nature. The wind generally blows from the northeast in the morning and from the southeast in the afternoon. Summer is hot, humid and interspersed with heavy rainfall and thunderstorms. Winter generally starts towards the end of November and lasts till February. Towards the start of the Bengali month of Baishakh (mid-April) rain clouds start covering the skyline. Silchar is inundated frequently due to excessive rainfall and flooding by the River Barak. In the last three decades, Silchar and the Barak Valley have been ravaged by three major floods - one in 1986, followed by 1991 and in 2004.
The connectivity of Silchar to other cities has long been a matter of concern. Silchar is connected by road, railways and air to the rest of the country. It is connected by a meter gauge rail network to Lumding and Agartala which is currently being upgraded to broad gauge lines. Although the plan of up-gradation of the meter gauge network to Lumding had been planned many years back and was scheduled to be completed long back, this is still going on. As per latest updates, Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) says the project will be completed by December, 2013, but in reality it seems doubtful due to too slow work progress. The railway station is in Tarapur, Silchar. Regular bus services connect it with Guwahati, Jorhat, Dibrugarh, Shillong, Aizawl, Agartala and other places.
However during the rainy seasons, heavy rains along the Silchar-Shillong-Guwahati route, particularly the road between Shillong and Silchar, cause frequent landslides which brings communication to a standstill. Although there have been plans to have a permanent solution to this problem, by constructing retaining walls, but nothing much has been done so far. Many believe that the connectivity issues have had a bad impact on the overall development of Silchar. The airport is located at Kumbhirgram, about 22 km from Silchar and there are regular flights connecting Silchar with Kolkata, Guwahati, Tezpur, Jorhat, Agartala and Imphal. The airport is being mordernised and is considered the fourth-busiest in north eastern India after Guwahati, Imphal and Agartala in terms of flight movements. In December 1985, Air India operated the first all-woman crew flight in the World from Kolkata to Silchar which was commanded by Captain Saudamini Deshmukh on a Fokker F-27 Friendship aircraft.
Satindra Mohan Dev Stadium, Silchar - Some Ranji Trophy and Duleep trophy matches have been played in this ground.
- Khaspur: 20 k.m. from Silchar stands the ruin of a great capital of historical time and importance. Khaspur was the capital of the “Kachari Kings” and its construction was completed in 1690 AD. The main attractions are the Lion Gate, the Sun Gate and aged old kings temple. The original palace is in a state of non-existence, but its subsidiaries, the main entrance gate, the `Suryadwar`; `Debalaya` are still there intact. The entrances are of elephant-patterns.
- Bhubaneshwar Temple: It is the most celebrated temple of Lord Shiva in the entire South Assam. The Bhubeneswar temple situates at a distance of about 50 k.m. from Silchar and is located on the top the Bhuvan hill. This is a place of pilgrimage and during the festival of Shivaratri, thousand of Shivayats march towards the hill top to worship Lord Shiva. This temple by its geographical location attracts a lot of hikers as there are no motor roads to reach the hill top. One has to hike at least 17 k.m. from the plains to the temple.
- ISKCON Temple: It is lord krishna temple.
- Kancha Kanti Kali Mandir: Located at a distance of 17 k.m. from Silchar stands the historical & most celebrated temple of South Assam, i.e. the temple of Mother Goddess “Kachakanti”. She is said to be amalgamation of 2 powerful Hindu deity, i.e. mother DURGA & mother KALI. The original temple was built in the year 1806 AD by the then Kachari king. Human sacrifices were offered to the Goddess till 1818 AD. The Old temple however is ruined now, and is replaced by new temple.
- Gandhibag Park: It is located in centre of silchar city.
- Maniharan Tunnel: Maniharan Tunnel is a popular pilgrim spot about 5 km from Bhubaneswar temple. As per legends, this tunnel was once used by Lord Krishna. The holy River Tribeni flows beneath this tunnel. Maniharan temple, dedicated to Lord Krishna, is situated in the premises of this tunnel.