An Old Charm of Guwahati, Mahamaya Cabin
Guwahati is filled with classy restaurants and other small and big eateries all around. But the charm of the century-old Mahamaya Cabin at Panbazar still holds a special place in the hearts of the Guwahatians.
It all began in 1915, when Naoram Barman of Nalbari, along with two of his friends, Harimal Barman and Jatiram Barman, decided to move to Gauhati from Samata chasing bigger dreams. They reached the mighty Brahmaputra on foot - reportedly barefooted - crossed it on a small boat and travelled the final stretch on bullock cart to reach Panbazar (yes, bullock carts were the means of transport in Gauhati then).
The three friends initially opened a small tea stall, also selling cigarettes, paan-tamul and stationary alongside a few cosmetic items. Their hard work and dedication impressed Ghulam Rahman, a well-established businessman of the times, who gifted the three boys three plots of land at Panbazar.
And a new era of romance began in this beautiful city as three well-known restaurants opened for business. Harimal Barman established the ‘Ashoka Restaurant’ (later Ashoka Restaurant and Bar), Jatiram Barman set up the ‘Suradevi Restaurant’ and Naoram Barman the famous ‘Mahamaya Cabin’.
Naoram was just 14 years old when he established the Mahamaya Cabin in 1918. It started off from a thatched house. The present three storey building was built in 1948.
The restaurant also doubled as a stationary shop, with the stationary being stored in the attic above the dining area. The eatery still holds the original décor and feel. From the sitting arrangements to the vintage menu board on the wood-paneled wall, everything about the place evokes simplicity. An old ceiling fan from way back in 1935 is still in use.
Once a major hub for students of the neighbouring colleges, the walls of the restaurant served as a notice board where results and other notifications were pasted for all students to see.
It has seen many discussions being held and was a location of student leaders of the Assam Agitation and other noble personalities that have shaped the history of Assam.
As for the food it serves, Mahamaya Cabin initially sold tea and typical Assamese favourites like goja and khurma. The milk-based sweets like ‘rasgullas’ were a later addition, after the 1930s, when the Bengali population of the city introduced the use of ‘chana’. Then came the jalebis and the samosas around the 1950s. Much later, in the 1970s, roti-sabji, pulao, rice-thalis and paranthas were added to the menu.
Its affordable pricing yet sophisticated ambience attracted students and the matured generation alike.
The place was an ‘adda’ destination for significant personalities like Bhupen Hazarika, Lakhyadhar Choudhury, Dwipen Baruah, Nibaran Bora, JP Das amongst others.
In 1964, Naoram Barman passed away, but the legacy continued with his son Arjun Chandra Barman. Now his son Indrajit Barman also looks after the family heritage.
Although the old glamour might have waned, the restaurant still has its fair share of customers and admirers who visit it regularly. On occasions, especially on Christmas, Mahamaya Cabin still caters to a huge crowd of festive goers.
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