Guwahati is Assam's biggest city located besides the impressively wide Brahmaputra River. Once known as Pragjyotishpura (the Eastern City of Light) and mentioned in the Mahabharata, Guwahati has long been the region's most important city. The name is a combination of two words: Guwa meaning areca nut and Haat meaning market. It is now the service centre for the oil industry and tea plantations; the world's largest tea auctions are held here. Its main importance is as the gateway to the North Eastern region of India.
The city is split into two towns lying on either side of the Brahmaputra River, with most places of interest and offices in the southern section, simply known as Guwahati. The northern section is North Guwahati. The busiest shopping areas are the Pan Bazaar and the Fancy Bazaar.