Often referred to as the Land of “Blue Hills and Red River”, Assam is a land of diverse natural beauty. Assam is the gateway to North East India and has been described as the Sentinel of Northeast India. Seven Indian states and two countries, Bhutan and Bangladesh, surround Assam which is also at close proximity to India’s International borders with China and Myanmar. Surrounded by hills, crisscrossed by major rivers such as the mighty Brahmaputra and Barak and their tributaries, thick forest cover, lush green tea gardens enhance the scenic beauty of Assam. Its rich cultural heritage makes Assam a tourism hotspot in the region.
While the history of Assam goes back deep into the ancient times, the mention of this place is found in various Tantric, Vedic, Buddhist and Puranic literature. Assam figures prominently in the Mahabharata and Ramayana. The earliest study of the planets was supposed to have been carried out here, in Pragjyotishpur, the city of eastern lights as Guwahati used to be once known. Kamarupa on the other hand is said to be the original home of Devi, the Mother Goddess. Several Hindu deities including Lord Shiva and Krishna are said to have frequently visited this land and the relationship is so deep that while Krishna’s wife Rukmini was from a place near Sadiya, the private parts of the Shiva’s wife Parvati fell in Guwahati where the Kamakhya Temple later came up.
Assam has been a highway of migration from the time immemorial. While the earliest human footprints have been traced back to the early Stone Age, the roots of various communities belonging to Assam are linked to Ausric aborigines, pre-Dravidians, Eurasians, Australoids, Mongoloids, Alpines or Armenoids, Mediterraneans, Indo-Aryans and Irano-Scythians as well. Assam now, is home to various ethnic tribes and tribal groups, adding to over 3.3 million, about 12.4 percent of the total population. Each has its own cultural heritage, socio-cultural customs, religious beliefs, language, attire, festivals, culinary tradition, songs and dances. Such diversity attracts and offers opportunities for domestic and international tourists to engage with communities through homestays, participation in festivals, etc. Assam is home to several major tribal communities. Because of sharing borders with many countries, Assam was the gateway to India for many nations; hence the state became the settling ground for many civilizations coming here through different routes at different routes at different points in history. Assam opened its heart to everyone and everyone adopted the land with mind, body and soul! The list of ethnic communities in Assam include Bodo, Rabha, Mishing, Deori, Dimasa, Sonowal, Karbi, Tiwa, Mech, Hajong, Barman, Zemi, Rengma, Kuki, Hmar, Khasi, Jaintia, Garo, Tai-Phake, Tai-Aiton and Tai-Khamyang, some of them also having presence in different adjoining states. Most of them belong to the Mongoloid race; while the Bodo, Dimasa-Kachari, Sonowal-Kachari, Mech, Barman-Kachari, Tiwa and Rabha communities came from the Bodo group of Indo-Mongoloid family, the Jaintias and Khasis are said to be of the Mon-Khmer family, all believed to have entered from the east. The Koch-Rajbongshi community too comes from the Mongoloid stock and is believed to have arrived through the Nepal route. Again, while the Hmars and Kukis belong to the Kuki-Chin group, the Rengmas and Zemes belong to the Naga family. Aryan culture on the other hand was brought to Assam by the Alpines (Kalita community) and Brahmins who had very rapidly mixed up with other racial elements soon after their migration.
Muslims on the other hand first arrived in Assam in the early 13th century, with a series of invasions from adjoining Bengal leading to settlements of people who came as invaders, as well as conversion of local people of Assam. In 1630 came Shah Milan, a muslim saint from far away Baghdad, who not only preached Islam but also created wonderful literature in the form of zikir and zari songs.
Yet another inseparable part of Assamese society and culture is the Tea Tribe community – combination of several groups of people, majority of whom were brought by the British to Assam in the 19th century from the Chotanagpur plateau and adjoining areas of central India to work in the tea plantations. These people today not only belong to Assam, but have also enriched Assamese art, culture, literature and social life.
Fairs and festivals like Bihu (Bhogali bihu in January, Rongali Bihu in April), Ambubachi Mela in June, Jonbeel Mela which brings together various tribes of Assam, Majuli’s Raas festival in November, Kaziranga’s Elephant festival in February, Assam tea festival, Doul Utsav during the festival of colors, Brahmaputra river festival, Ali-Ai-ligang a spring dance festival in february attract tourist from all around the world across the year in Assam. The state is also famous for its music and dance forms like Bihu, Sattriya Nritya, Jhumur dance, Bhortal Nritya, Bagurumba, Deodhani, etc. Food is an integral part of the various festivities of Assam and Assamese cuisine is characterized by the extensive use of exotic herbs and plant products and very less use of spices. Fish, meat and poultry are consumed with rice.
Assam is home to Five National Parks and Eighteen Wildlife Sanctuaries, the highest concentration in India which are host to 25 percent of India’s floristic wealth and enormous faunal diversity including One Horned Rhinoceros, Pygmy Hog, Hoolock Gibbons, Tigers, etc. Manas National Park, also a World Heritage Site, is a constituent unit of the Eastern Himalayan Biodiversity region and is one of the two biodiversity ‘Hotspots’ in the country. With more than 950 species of birds, the state is home to 50% of the total bird species found in the Indian subcontinent. The mystery of Birds’ suicide at Jatinga, is a subject of interest of all nature lovers and researchers. The main rivers of Assam are the mighty Brahmaputra and Barak. Further, there is a network of over 100 large and small tributaries and distributaries that criss cross the State.
Details of National Parks in Assam:
|Name of National Park||Main Attractions||Name of District|
|Kaziranga National Park||One Horned Rhino, Elephant, Tiger, Wild Buffalo, Swamp Deer, Sambar, Wild Boar||Golaghat, Nagaon and Biswanath|
|Manas National Park||Tiger, Leopard, One Horned Rhino, Elephant, Red Panda, Assam Roofed Turtle, Hispid Hare, Golden Langur, Pygmy Hog, Wild Water Buffalo||Baksa|
|Rajiv Gandhi Orang National Park||One Horned Rhino, Tiger, Leopard, Elephant, Barking Deer, Swamp Deer, Hog Deer, Wild Boar||Sonitpur|
|Nameri National Park||Tigers, Asian Elephants, Gaur, Dhole, Himalayan Black Bear, Sloth Bear, Giant Indian Squirrel||Sonitpur|
|Dibru-Saikhowa National Park||Large variety of Birds, Feral Horses, Elephant, Asiatic Water Buffalo, River Dolphin||Tinsukia|
The melting pot that Assam is today, has a culture that again has been enriched of contributions of diverse races, ethnicity and traditions, making the communities here most secular in character. Though a sizeable section of the Assamese people are Vaishnavites – who revere Vishnu and Krishna in the way shown by Srimanta Shankardeva, another major section practice Shaktism, with their rituals also including animal sacrifice. Different tribal communities on the other hand practice their own traditional methods of worship. These practices and traditions in turn have shaped different cultures in Assam, with the most wonderful aspect being that each one of them has also contributes various elements to the others. This has made the culture of various communities of Assam inter-related, and more importantly, inseparable from one another. Majuli is the largest river island in the World and has several Satras – vaishnavite monasteries, some dating back to the 16th century. The Satras of Majuli also offer guest accomodation where devotees and visitors not only take part in the worship of Vishnu and Krishna, but also watch traditional Bhauna performances. Young bhakats – celibates – are wonderful artisans and make masks, musical instruments as well as hand-fans and door frames. These Satras of Assam play an important role in the socio-cultural and literary development of Assam. While it was Srimanta Shankardeva, the 16th century saint-reformer who led the neo-vaishnavite movement of Assam, the Satra institution that he developed no only became religious centers but also the most important cultural epicenter that promoted literature, music, art, dance, drama and other related activities including manufacture of musical instruments, masks and other items required in various performances. Saint reformer Srimanta Shankardeva not only gave a new meaning to Assamese life by propagating the Neo-vaishnavite way of worship and a society free of caste restrictions, but also brought about a renaissance by way of unleashing a whole new tradition of literature, music, dance, drama and related cultural activities. These continue to be the heart and soul of the Assamese society six centuries on. Villagers generally associate with a Satra on the basis of membership of a local center of devotional worship of the Satra called as Namghar – which also functions, whenever necessary, as the village court, meeting place, women’s club and theater for dance, music and plays. Thanks to the socio-cultural movement of Srimanta Shankardeva, the caste system, though it exists, is not as prominent in Assam as in other parts of India. Preecedings in Namghar can be presided over by a member of the so-called ‘lower caste too. Some of the Satras of Assam worth visiting are Auniati, Kamalabari, Dakhinpat, Garamur, Samaguri, Bengenati and Natun Kamalabari. The best time to visit Majuli is during the Raas Festival – a three day festival usually held in mid-November that celebrates the legendary love of Radha and Krishna as well as the devotion of the Gopis to Krishna.
History of Assam ~
Although it is not exactly precise as to how the State derived its name as Assam, some historians believe that it came from the Tai word (A-Cham) and Bodo word (Ha-sam). Some historians relate the name to the Sanskrit word Asama meaning unequaled, peerless, etc. Assam up to the 12th century was called Kamarupa and alternatively Pragjyotisha. Perhaps the first written records about Assam is dated back to 7th century, when Chinese traveler Hiuen Tsang had visited Assam. His visit was during the reign of King Bhaskar Varman whom Hiuen Tsang described as the ‘Aristocratic king of Eastern India’ and devotee of Lord Shiva.
The State of Assam and its adjoining areas have evidences of human settlement from the period of Stone Ages. As per records, earliest ruler of Assam was Maharinge Danav from the Danava dynasty. Later the Gupta Empire under Samudragupta ruled Assam. The medieval era of Assam is marked by the invasion of the Tai Ahoms from Myanmar who ruled continuously over Assam for over 600 years. The culture and heritage of Assam today, is much linked to the practices of the Tai Ahoms.It was finally in the 19th century that the British East India Company arrived in Assam and colonized the region. The British administration merged the plains of the Brahmaputra valley with the surrounding hills and the tribal areas and eventually named the State as Assam, deriving the name from the Ahom word ‘Axom’, meaning ‘the land like no other’.
Geography and Climate of Assam ~
The State of Assam is located in the North East region of India extending from 89 to 96 degree longitude and 24 to 28 degree latitude covering a total area of around 78,500 sq. km. Assam has three of the six physiographic divisions of India viz. the Northern Himalayas (Eastern Hills), Northern Plains (Brahmaputra Plain) and Deccan Plateau (Karbi Anglong). The river Brahmaputra is the lifeline of Assam flowing in from Arunachal Pradesh and eventually merging with the River Ganges to flow into the Bay of Bengal. Apart from the Brahmaputra, some 60 other of its tributaries and rivers flow across Assam. The Brahmaputra river is among the widest rivers in the World and owing to this, Assam is home to India’s longest bridges both road and rail cum road at the Dr. Bhupen Hazarika Bridge and the Bogibeel Bridge. This characteristic of the river Brahmaputra in Assam has allowed the growth of many river islands in the State of Assam. Majuli Island in Assam is the largest river island in the World and the Umananda Island is the smallest river island in the World.
Assam has some of the densest forests in the World owing to its location in the tropics with abundant rainfall. These forests of Assam are home to a wide variety of Flora, Fauna and Avifauna. The grasslands of the river Brahmaputra of Assam form part of the major National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries of Assam. The tropical forests of Assam are mostly filled with broadleaf evergreen trees and a wide variety of orchids.
Assam has a moderate climate around the year apart from a few hot and humid days across July and August. Assam’s climate has four seasons viz. Summer from June to September where temperatures are hot and humid but accompanied by abundant rainfall especially across July to September. The winters in Assam sets in from November to March characterized by sunny and dry days with cold nights. The spring season is from April to May with a favorable climate in April which is also the month where we celebrate the Assamese New Year – the Rongali Bihu festival. The spring season in Assam sees a varied growth of beautiful flowers across the State. The autumn in Assam sets in October and extends to mid November characterized with pleasant day and night temperatures along with occasional post monsoon showers.
Culture of Assam ~
Owing to the fact that many indigenous tribes and communities inhabit Assam, their culture, traditions and practices make Assam a land of diverse culture. To be seen historically, the roots of the culture of the State of Assam dates back to almost 200 years when the first cultural assimilation took place among the Tibeto-Burman tribes, Indo-Aryans and the Ahoms who contributed greatly to the culture and traditions of Assam today. Assamese culture can be said to be an integration of various kingdoms that ruled powerfully over the ages with prime importance of the Ahom Kingdom who ruled continuously for 600 years and gave Assam the colorful Bihu Festival and the Bihu Dance. The Vaishnavite movement led by the great Saint and reformer Srimanta Shankardeva also contributed a great value to the culture of Assam. Supported greatly by the Koch and Ahom Kingdom of Assam, the movement resulted in adding social institutions like the Namghar and Satras to the Assamese way of life. Festivals and Fairs form an integral part of the communities of Assam with a majority of them being linked to the agrarian practices of Assam as agriculture is the primary occupation of the people of Assam. The three major festivals of Assam viz. the Rongali Bihu, the Magh Bihu and the Kati Bihu are based upon the harvest seasons of Assam. The Bihu dance performed during the traditional new year celebration is one of the most colorful dance forms of India. Coupled with the classical Sattriya dance of the Vaishnavite Monks and the mystical Deodhani dance make the culture of Assam an unforgettable experience to any visitor to the State!
Some of the prominent indigenous tribes of Assam are the Bodo tribe in western Assam, the Mishing tribe in Majuli Island, the Tai Ahoms, Tai Khamyangs, Tai Phakes, Tai Turungs, Tai Khamtis and the Tai Aitons tribes of Upper Assam, the Karbi tribe of Karbi Anglong, the Dimasa Kachari tribe of Dimasa Hasao Hills, the Sonowal Kachari and the Moran tribes of Upper Assam. Other tribes of Assam are the Rabha tribe, the Tiwa tribe, the Hajong tribe and the Tea Garden tribes.
Each of these tribes of Assam have their own eating habits and traditional liquor. The cuisine might taste different but the major ingredient across the recipes of each of the tribes of Assam are very similar. A traditional Assamese meal comprises of rice, lentils, fish and meat curry with vegetables and herbs. The two main characteristics of a traditional meal in Assam are ‘Khar’ (an alkaline made from dried out banana stem) and a sour dish called as ‘Tenga’. Another important ingredient of an Assamese meal is fermented bamboo shoots known as ‘Khorisa’. Many tribal households of Assam brew their traditional liquor variously called as Laupani, Apong, Sai Mod, Xaaj, Zudima, etc. The sumptuous Assamese cuisine if often served in Bell metal dishes and in platters like ‘Kahi’ and ‘Maihang’.
Economy of Assam ~
The economy of Assam is primarily dependent on Agriculture, Tea and Oil. The heritage Tea gardens are a pride of Assam and Assam is the largest exporter of Tea in India. Crude Oil is another important contributor to the economy of Assam owing to the fact that the first Oil well in Asia was drilled at Digboi in Assam. Agriculture still remains a primary occupation of the people of Assam accounting to more than a third of Assam’s income and employing 69% of the workforce of Assam.
Other contributors to the economy of Assam are tourism, minerals, handicrafts and handlooms. The people of the tribes of Assam are expert craftsmen and weavers. The traditional bamboo/cane crafts and handlooms of Assam are renowned across the World. The people of Assam are well known for their excellence in weaving clearly to be seen in the Muga silk ‘Mekhela Chadors’ of Assam. A traditional loom can be spotted at most tribal households of Assam and these weave out exclusive silk costumes and the traditional towel of Assam called the ‘Gamusa’. The decorative farmer hat called as ‘Jaapi’ is found in all Assamese households. Bell metal crafts is also an important handicraft of western Assam where the craftsmen prepare the Xorai utensil, Bell metal plates, Bell metal saucers, etc. The island of Majuli has been able to preserve one of the classical crafts of Assam viz. the lost art of traditional mask making.
Tourism in Assam is a fast evolving economy and visitors from India and across the World visit Assam every year to spot the varied Wildlife at the National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries of Assam. The Island of Majuli in Assam is a place of prime historical importance and the hub of the Neo Vaishnavite movement of Assam. The culture and traditions of the tribes of Assam also make Assam a must visit place that awaits to make its mark as a global tourist destination. We welcome you the State of Awesome Assam and strive to ensure that “Once you visit Assam, it stays with you forever”!
Tourism in Assam can be categorized under the following diverse verticals ~
Ethnicity and Culture:
Assam is home to various ethnic tribes and groups, adding to over 3.3 million people, about 12.4 % of the total population of Assam. Each tribe has its own cultural heritage, socio-cultural customs, religious beliefs, language, attire, festivals, culinary tradition, songs and dances. Such diversity attracts and offers opportunities for domestic and international tourists to engage with communities through homestays, participation in festivals, etc.
Wildlife and Ecotourism:
Assam’s five National Parks and 18 Wildlife Sanctuaries, the highest concentration in India, are host to over 25 % of India’s floristic wealth and enormous faunal diversity including the One horned Rhinoceros, pygmy hog, hoolock gibbon, tigers, etc. Manas National Park in Assam, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a constituent unit of the Eastern Himalayan Biodiversity region – one of the two biodiversity “Hot Spots” in India. The mystery of birds’ suicide at Jatinga, is a subject of all nature lover and researchers.
Spiritual and Pilgrimage:
Focussing on Kamakhya Temple (most famous Shakti-peeth) in Guwahati city, its four day annually held Ambubachi Mela (also known as Mahakumbh of the East) and mysticism of Mayong, the religious/spiritual tourism gives Assam a significant place in spiritual tourism destination in the country. Hajo is another spiritual center where people from three religions; Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims congregate for pilgrimage.
The mighty Brahmaputra river decorates the geography of the State of Assam and one can take a cruise along this river with A class facilities experiencing marine life and wildlife, tradition and adventure tourism on the way. Immense opportunities to experience water sports, river safari and leisure activities encompassing canal barges, taxi services between banks, boating, luxury cruisers, motor boats, dolphin shows, underwater exploration, parasailing, river rafting and other amusements can be experienced here in Assam.
The challenging terrain, valleys, pristine hill and lush green forests and fast rivers offer ideal opportunities for tourists interested in experiencing an adrenaline rush here in Assam. Visitors to Assam can experience adventure sports like mountaineering, trekking, bike safari, rock climbing, rafting, camping, etc.
Tea and Golf Tourism:
Tea gardens are an integral segment of Assam’s landscape. Around 20 tea gardens across Assam have developed and maintained golf courses within the tea garden areas of Assam while some even have polo fields. Further, there are at least 30 tea garden managed airstrips and helipads which are near the golf courses. Assam also boasts of Jorhat Gymkhana, Asia’s oldest and World’s third oldest Golf Course.
Medical and Health Tourism:
The rapidly growing healthcare sector in Assam’s main city of Guwahati has gradually started to attract international patients from neighbouring countries of Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, etc. Assam is home to over 300 types of medicinal herbs and plants which are found in abundance with the Brahmaputra valley alone having 150 varieties of herbs and plants of commercial value.
The State of Awesome Assam is the central state in the North-East Region of India and serves as the gateway to North East India and is a jewel in the crown of the Seven Sister States. The land of red river, blue hills & lush green tea gardens, Assam comprises of three main geographical areas: the Brahmaputra Valley, the Barak Valley and the intervening Karbi Plateau and North Cachar Hills. Assam is bounded on the north by the eastern section of the great Himalayan range, the frontier tribes front west to cast being Daflas, Miris, Abors and Mishmis on the east by the Patkai Hills, inhabited by the various ‘Naga Warrior’ tribes and the Burmese frontier; on the south by the Chin hills and the frontier of Bangladesh; and on the west by the Jalpaiguri District of West Bengal. From east to west stretches the fertile valley of the Brahmaputra, an alluvial plain about 450 miles long with an average breadth of 50 miles interrupted halfway by the Mikir hills and by low hills on both sides of the river in the neighborhood of Guwahati and Goalpara. South of the valley are the Garo and Khasi hills. From east to west stretches the fertile valley of the Brahmaputra, an alluvial plain about 450 miles long with an average breadth of 50 miles interrupted halfway by the Mikir hills and by low hills on both sides of the river in the neighborhood of Guwahati and Goalpara. South of the valley are the Garo and Khasi hills. Assam is renowned across the World for its fine quality of Tea, indigenous Silk products of Muga, Eri and Pat and varied Wildlife across the National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries of Assam. The first oil well in Asia was drilled at the town of Digboi in Assam. Assam has played a key role in the conservation of many fauna species from extinction of the likes of the Indian one horned rhinoceros, tigers, wild water buffaloes, river dolphins, golden langur and varied species of Asiatic birds. Assam is home to the most number of indigenous tribes of North East India who have a rich culture and heritage. India’s longest bridges viz. road and rail cum road are located in Assam. A visit to Assam should be in the list of every traveler interested in wildlife, culture, history and food! Quoting from the Assam tourism campaign of ‘Awesome Assam’, “Once you visit Assam, it stays with you forever!“
Dispur is the capital of Awesome Assam and the largest city of the state is Guwahati, which is also one of the fastest growing cities of the world. Famous for its freshening world class tea, the Muga (Golden) and Eri (Ahimsa) silk, Natural resources like Coal, Petroleum products and minerals, Assam can truly be described as a state bestowed with breathtaking natural beauty, vast reserves of natural resources and a rich bio diversity. Assam is also home to the endangered one horned rhino species and the Kaziranga National Park is home to two-third of this species in the world. The river Brahmaputra (the only male river in India) flow across the heart of the state and is a lifeline to the people of Assam just as Nile is to Egypt. The Brahmaputra river in Assam is also host to the World’s largest inhabited river island ‘Majuli’ and the World’s smallest inhabited river island ‘Umananda’. The second hottest pepper in the world, the ‘Bhut Jolokia’ is also native to Assam and is grown extensively by the village folks across the State.
The State of Assam is also becoming a hot spot for Eco tourism across North East India. From Tourist villages to Eco Cottages and homestays, you will find a variety of retreats to experience the culture of the Indigenous Tribes of Assam. And being home to many tribes the festivities across the State refuse to cease throughout the year. The various Festivals of Assam in North East India are the Magh Bihu, the Namami Brahmaputra Festival, the Jonbeel Mela Festival, the Rongali Bihu, the Ambubachi Mela, the Kati Bihu, the Raas Leela Festival, etc. And across these festivals, you will get to savor delicious local cuisines and drink locally brewed alcohol from natural ingredients. Your homestays with these tribes will allow you to indulge in their traditional practices and witness their culture and traditions that they have been preserving from times immemorial.
The State of Assam is located in the North Eastern region of India and is one among the Eight Sister States of India. Assam covers a total area of around 78,500 sq. km. The mighty river Brahmaputra flows across the State and is the lifeline to the State of Assam entering through Arunachal Pradesh and finally merging with the river Ganges to flow into the Bay of Bengal. River Brahmaputra is home to the largest and smallest river islands in the World at Majuli and Umananda respectively. The longest bridges in India i.e. road and road cum rail span over the river Brahmaputra. Assam has some of the densest forests in the World which harbour a varied flora, fauna and avifauna species. Geographically, Assam is in close proximity with countries such as Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia. Owing to its locational advantage, Assam is popularly termed as the Gateway to the Northeast and also to ASEAN and the South East Asian nations. The state of Assam is covered by approximately 69,000 kms of roads including 3096 kms of national highways connecting all major towns. Railway lines traverse a length of 2435 kms across Assam and navigable waterways of 4065 kms on the two major rivers of Brahmaputra and Barak.
Assam enjoys a moderate climate around the year spread across four seasons viz. Summers from June to September, Winters from November to March, Spring from April to May and Autumn from October to mid November. Assam has an early onset of monsoon, generally beginning from 15th May, compared to most other parts of India where monsoon arrives only in late June or early July. Maximum day temperatures remain around a comfortable 27-34 degrees Centigrade with plenty of rain when large part of western India simmers under successive heat waves with temperatures soaring as high as 38-45 degrees. ‘The Monsoon County’ tag and proximity to Cherrapunji, the second wettest place on planet Earth obliterates seasonality of tourism in Assam.
Assam has a varied and diverse culture owing to the various tribes of the State. The Ahoms kingdom that ruled Assam for over 600 years played a major role in shaping the culture of present day Assam. Festivals and fairs form an integral part of the communities of Assam. The three principal festivals of Assam are the Rongali Bihu, Magh Bihu and the Kaati Bihu. The Bihu dance of Assam is one of the most colorful dance forms in India. Assam is home to many tribes of North East India with the principal ones being the Bodo tribe, the Mishing tribe, the Tai Ahoms, the Karbi tribes, the Sonowal Kachari and many more. These tribes have their own distinct culture and traditions and each can be observed at the traditional festival of these tribes which are mostly based upon their agrarian practices. They also have their own distinct cuisine and traditional liquor. Although however, the ingredients across the recipes remains the same mostly of Rice, Lentils, Meat, Fish, Vegetables and Herbs. The tribal liquor of Assam are variously called as Laupani, Apong, Sai Mod, Zudima, etc.
The primary economy of Assam is based on Agriculture, Tea and Oil. Assam is the largest exporter of Tea in India and the first Oil well in Asia was dug at Digboi in Assam. Agriculture still remains a primary occupation of the workforce of Assam employing 69% of the workforce and contributing to more than a third of the economy of Assam. Handicrafts and Handlooms are also an important occupation of the people of Assam and the tribes of Assam are well renowned across the World for their exquisite Bamboo and Cane Handicrafts and traditional handlooms of the silks of Assam viz. the Muga, the Eri and the Pat silks of Assam.
Tourist hot-spots in the State of Awesome Assam are:
Guwahati: The largest and the fastest growing city of Assam ‘Guwahati’ is also a popular tourist attraction. The city is host to many tourist attractions in the region the like of:
Kamakhya Temple: The holy shrine of Goddess Kamakhya, this place is one of the most sacred Hindu shrine in India. The Ambubachi Mela, hosted in the month of June to celebrate the end of the Goddesses’ menstrual cycle, attracts devotees from across India and abroad.
Umananda Temple: Situated in Umananda, the World’s Smallest River Island, this is the place where people believe that Lord Shiva by using his third eye burnt Kamdeva
Balaji Temple, Assam: Balaji temple is situated at Betkuchi in Guwahati. The Balaji Temple with its striking South Indian architecture, is unlike the other temples
Doul Govinda Temple: One of the most Revered Shrines of Lord Krishna, the Doul Govinda Temple is located by the banks of the River Brahmaputra at North Guwahati
Dipor Bil and Chandubi Lake: Bird lovers paradise as hundreds of birds species local and migratory can be spotted at these places during the winter season.
North East Crafts Museum and Showroom of Handicrafts & Handlooms: An undertaking of North Eastern Handicrafts and Handlooms Development Corporation Limited (A Govt. of India Enterprise) this showroom has a wide variety of Bamboo & Cane handicrafts from across the North East India. Visitors can buy these indigenous handicraft products from the showroom. The showroom is situated at Garchuk in Guwahati
Mayong: The Black Magic Capital of India during earlier times where the ‘Bezes’ or the Sorcerers had the magical powers of converting a man to a sheep or a tiger, transforming leaves into fishes, hypnotizing a tiger, converting bullets of a gun into water, etc.
In addition, the other tourist spots in Guwahati are Assam State Museum, the Srimanta Shankardev Kalakshetra, Nehru Park, Sukreswar Temple, Navagraha Temple, the Guwahati War Cemetery, the Basistha Temple, River Cruise, Fancy Bazaar and the many Malls & Shopping centers across the city.
The National Parks & Wildlife Sanctuaries of Awesome Assam:
The State of Awesome Assam is home to five (5) National Parks of India namely Kaziranga National Park, Manas National Park, Nameri National Park, Dibru-Saikhowa National Park and Orang National Park. There are also a total of fourteen (14) Wildlife Sanctuaries click here to see the list. Each of these National Parks boasts of wide variety of Flora, Fauna and Avifauna. One horned Rhino of Assam, Royal Bengal Tiger, Hoolock Gibbon, Elephants, Capped Langur, Pig-tailed Macaque, Slow Loris and Rhesus Macaque, Leopard, Clouded leopard, Barking deer, Pygmy hog, Golden langur, etc. have made these National Parks and Wildlife Sanctaries their home in the state of Assam. The bird species include the likes of Peafowl, Hornbill, Swamp partridge, Bengal florican, Kingfisher, Woodpecker, White-backed vulture, Slender-billed vulture, Partridge, Pheasant, etc.
Other important cities and towns of the State of Assam with specific interests are:
Sivasagar – the Land of the mighty ‘Ahom Kings’ of Assam, Sivasagar has many ancient monuments built during the reign of the Ahom Kings of the likes of the Rang Ghar – Asia’s first Amphitheater, Talatal Ghar, Kareng Ghar, Siva Dol and the Joysagar Pukhuri
Sualkuchi – Better known as the ‘Manchester of the East‘, Sualkuchi is famous for its production of the three (3) varieties of the indigenous Silks of Assam i.e. MUGA (Golden Silk), ERI (Warm Silk) and PAT (White Silk). It is said that in this tinsel village sericulture flourished 400 years before the birth of Christ! Sualkuchi, the beautiful village of silk weavers and traders, is also called as the Manchester of Assam. Sualkuchi has been weaving magic from ancient times when it was called Swarnakuchi, which means golden zone because of the golden muga silk woven here. While weaving comes naturally to the natives of Sualkuchi village, artisans from other districts also flock here for a livelihood in weaving. It is ingrained in their lifestyle. The women weavers outnumber the male weavers. A paradise for shoppers, visitors to Sualkuchi can go for the exquisite golden Muga, or silvery white Paat or light beige Eri silk. Each has its own magic, with its own patterns. The Eri Silk is also known as the ‘Ahimsa Silk’ as its production allows the development of the pupae into adults and then only the open-ended cocoon is utilized for silk manufacturing. When Mahatma Gandhi visited Sualkuchi, he was so touched by the expertise of women here that he said “Assamese women can weave dreams on their looms!”
Jorhat & Dibrugarh – the Major tea growing towns of Assam. Jorhat is also known as the Tea Capital of the World as it produces the highest quantity of Tea in the World. Jorhat is also home to the Oldest Burning Oil Lamp in the World at the Dhekiakhowa Bornamghar. A Tribute to the founder of the Ahom Dynasty ‘Swargadeo Sukapha’ is also located at Jorhat. The town of Dibrugarh has the first X-Ray setup of India and is also home to India’s longest Rail-cum-Road Bridge the Bogibeel Bridge
Tezpur – Located at 175 kilometers northeast of Guwahati is the Town of Tezpur (sometimes referred to as the City of Blood due to the mythological belief that once a war ensued between the Hari (Lord Krishna and his followers) and the Hars (Lord Shiva and his followers) where rivers of blood flowed). Tezpur at present, is considered to be the “Cultural Capital of Assam”. Tezpur is also known as the Most Clean City of Assam because of its clean and green view. Tezpur attracts every visitor who comes here with its beautiful parks, hillocks, the flow of River Brahmaputra and Scenic beauty.
Tezpur is famous for the Agnigarh – ‘the Fortress of Fire’
Tourism in Dima Hasao district of Assam provides a beautiful voyage around the mesmerizing natural beauty. The exquisite hues of nature in the district blend beautifully with the hospitality of the local folks and makes the tourist experience highly alluring in Assam. Lush greenery, majestic hills and wandering clouds obscuring the mountains are a treat to the eyes. The rich cultural heritage of the district and its colorful festivals add to the essence of tourism and makes the place immensely inviting.
The Karbi Anglong hills of Dima Hasao in Assam are divided into two districts and is home to the colorful Karbi tribe, with ka denoting light or radiance and bi means work; as Bhupen Hazarika (the legendary singer of Assam) had sung – Karbi means work is worship! The Karbis of Assam belong to the Mongoloid stock and visitors are not only struck by their wonderful way of life, but also their food, music, handloom and handicraft. The Jirkedam or bachelors’ dormitory in the heart of every Karbi village is worth visiting. Very rich in folklore and oral literature, the Karbi Ramayana is said to be the first tribal Ramayana in the world. As already mentioned, Hacha-kekan and Rongker are their most important festivals.
While Diphu – headquarter of Karbi Anglong itself is a town worth visiting, tourists are generally attracted by the village lifestyle, food, music and handicraft. The low hills, meandering streams and the Koka fall at Panimur – where an angling festival is held in November – are other attractions. The Taralangso Youth Festival takes place in February, while those interested in adventure can go trekking to the Singhason Peak in December. The Buddhist villages of Silonijan and Balipathar right on the National highway from Kazirnagato Bokajan are also worth visiting.
Places of interest
Haflong – Haflong is a town and headquarters of Dima Hasao in Awesome Assam. Haflong is the only hill station in Assam. Garland like Barail hills, extending from north to east build up an impervious wall almost around Haflong and the serpentine like the Diyung river flows down below with two majestic railway bridges towering over it.
Jatinga Valley – The Jatinga valley is a quaint village in the district of Dima Hasao. It is here that we get to observe one of the most curious subject that has been a mystery to ornithologists from across the world – the phenomenon of birds committing mass ‘suicide’. At the end of the monsoons during the months of September and October, during moonless and foggy dark nights between 7pm and 10pm, drawn by some mysterious alchemy of the earth and sky, flying birds come crashing to the ground with no prior warning whatsoever. This phenomenon is not confined to a single species, with Tiger Bittern, Black Bittern, Little Egret, Pond Heron, Indian Pitta and Kingfishers all being affected.
Doiheng – A relatively new destination for the mysterious bird’s phenomenon in Assam. It is located on a hilltop, higher in altitude than Jatinga and about 15 km from it and can be reached by a Jeppable road from NH-54 (E) at Retzawl.
Maibang – 53 km from Haflong, Maibang once flourished as the capital of the Dimasa Kingdom. Stone house, stone sculptures and a heritage museum are major attractions to have a glance at the history and culture of the Dimasa people of Assam.
Semkhor – Semkhor is a combination of two words, ‘Sem’ and ‘Dikhor’ which mean salt and well. About 29 km from Maibang, Semkhor is the only Dimasa village situated on a hilltop and not near a river like other villages. As legend goes, a Dimasa King had stationed his elite warriors at this vantage point to guard the saline water wells here. By boiling the brine of these wells, salt could be made. The people of Semkhor are known as ‘Semsa’ which mean ‘Son of Salt’ or the salt people. After the fall of Maibang and the subsequent departure of the Dimasa kingdom to Cachar, the Semkhor people continue to live in this self contained village without much contact with the outside world. Even today things haven’t changed much although saline water wells have fallen to disuse. The village administration of Semkhor is interesting and a truly democratic. Semkhor has not only historical importance, but it also provides scope of studying the structure of the Dimasa society of Assam.
Laisong – Largest Zeme Naga village cultural center, located at 110 km from Haflong with the biggest traditional bachelor’s dormitory ‘Hangseuki’ – symbol of their culture and heritage. Preservation of the culture and tradition is the sole objective of the dormitory.
Umrongso – 112 km from Haflong, famous for its huge hydel plant – North East Electric Power Corporation with dams over the Kopili river as well as for its Amur Falcon Roosting hub where these birds of prey make a brief stopover during their long flight from Siberia to South Africa in October-November. Also known forits 18 hole natural golf course and fantastic lake view.
Tinsukia – the Commercial capital of Assam and home to India’s Longest Bridge (the Dhola-Sadiya Bridge). Tinsukia also is home to the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park, the Heritage Railway Park and Museum and the Tilinga Mandir or the Bell Temple where it is believed your wishes are granted true!
Digboi – Digboi is the Legendary Oil town of Assam. Digboi has Asia’s Oldest Oil Refinery and the Oldest Operational Oil well in the World. The Centenary Oil Museum at Digboi illustrates the detailed history of the Oil Industry in India. The World War II Cemetery at Digboi has burials of over 200 soldiers of the British Army. The Digboi Golf Course is one the finest Golf Courses in the Country and the many Heritage Bungalows of British Era at Digboi speaks of its glorious past during the British Regime.
Margherita – The Coal Queen of Assam, Margherita is surrounded by hills, tea gardens, forest and the Dihing River. It has a beautiful golf course at the foot of the hills and a small stream running through. Margherita was named after Queen Margherita, the reigning Queen Consort of Italy. Margherita is home to India’s only Coal Museum, Asia’s Oldest Plywood Factory, the Oldest Operational Coal Mines in India, the Major Tribes of Assam, the Singpho Eco-Lodge and the remains of the Finest Hospitals of the American Army – the 20th General Hospital from World War II
Ledo – The Town of Ledo is the Land of the Historic Stilwell Road. Built by the American Army during World War II, the Stilwell Road aka the Ledo Road played a pivotal role for the victory of the Allied Forces over the Imperial Japanese Army. Ledo is also home to the Historic Ledo Airstrip, the International Meditation Center at the Mounglang Buddhist Monastery of Bhante Baba’s fame and the Legend of the Dehing-Patkai. Little away from Ledo is the Lekhapani Railway Station– Indian Railway’s Final Frontier. Tipong Colliery near Ledo has the oldest Operational Steam Locomotives in the World of the likes of DAVID and & 796. Tipong is also home to the Sumi Naga Tribes
So why wait?! Plan your visit to the Land of the Red Rivers and Blue Hills, a State whose beauty will mesmerize you and leave you awestruck! We welcome you to our Homeland, the State of Awesome Assam, Incredible India!
Recommended Itinerary to cover major Tourist Hotspots and Unexplored destinations of Awesome Assam: The Grand Tour of Awesome Assam!
Phone: +91 7086009708
The majestic bird species of Assam – the great Indian Hornbill. Image – Diganta Talukdar
Sample Itinerary Details to cover the major Tourist Hotspots in Assam – North East India
Day 1 ~
Arrive at Guwahati Airport. On arrival you will be received by our representative at the airport offering a warm welcome in traditional Assamese style. From the Airport drive the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary to spot the One Horned Rhinoceros of Assam, an endangered rhino breed indigenous to Assam. The Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary has the highest density of one horned rhinoceros population anywhere in the world. Also, visit the Mayong Museum. Mayong is the famous land of black magic in India. Although black magic is no longer practiced, you will find relics in the museum showcasing these practices that were prevalent earlier. Also visit the Stone inscription at Burha-Mayong. This stone inscription is the longest in Asia at a length of 3.85 meters.
Night Stay: Jungle Resort at Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary
Meals Included: Dinner
Day 2 ~
Early morning go for a thrilling Jeep Safari into the interiors of the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary to spot the flora and fauna at Pobitora. Later in the day we will visit the ancient temples and Satras of North Guwahati. At first, we will visit the Dol Govinda temple that is one of the most revered shrines of Lord Krishna. Historical reference to this temple dates back to more than two centuries ago. Later we will visit the Assamese Vaishnavite Monestary ‘the Auniati Satra’. In the afternoon we will visit the Architectural Marvel of the Mighty Ahom Dynasty under the regime of King Shiva Singha – the ‘Aswaklanta Temple’ built in 1720 AD. Our visit will end at the Dirgheswari Temple that has rock cut images that can be traced to 11th to 12th century AD. Return to Guwahati.
Night Stay: Comfortable Hotel/Homestay at Guwahati
Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 3 ~
Early morning we will visit the Holy Shrine of Goddess Kamakhya on the revered Shakti Peetha on the Nilachal Hills – the Kamakhya Temple. Offer your worship at the holiest Temple Shrine of North East India. After breakfast we will depart to the Holy Land of Hajo where we will visit the Hayagriva Madhava Temple and the Poa Makka shrine. After lunch we will drive to Suwalkuchi – ‘The Manchester of the East’ and the Silk Town of Assam. Appreciate the Grandeur of the Assam Silk at Suwalkuchi.
Night Stay: Comfortable Hotel/Homestay at Guwahati
Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 4 ~
Today we will embark on our journey to Barpeta to visit the Neo Vaishnavite Monastery of the Barpeta Satra and then will halt at the Manas National Park. Evening will be free at Leisure to visit the nearby Tea gardens.
Night Stay: Jungle Resort/Cottages at Manas National Park
Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 5 ~
Early morning take a ride into the dense jungles of the Manas National Park aboard an Elephant Safari. Later in the day we will depart to the Nameri National Park.
Night Stay: Jungle Resort/Cottages at Nameri National Park
Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 6 ~
Early morning trek to the interiors of the Nameri National Park along with a forest gaurd to admire the varied avi fauna of the National Park. Later in the day depart to the Kaziranga National Park.
Night Stay: Bonroja Motel at Kaziranga National Park
Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 7 ~
Early morning we will go for an Elephant Safari into the interiors of the Kaziranga National Park . A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Kaziranga National Park is home to the highest population of one horned Rhinoceros anywhere in the world. Later visit the Orchid park at Kaziranga. Depart to Majuli Island.
Night Stay: Eco Resort/Homestay at Majuli Island
Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 8 ~
Spend the day at Majuli visiting the Neo-Vaishnavite Satras of Majuli Island. Spend time birdwatching and also learn about the lost art of Mask making. Return to Jorhat and on the way visit the ‘Dhekiakhua Bornamghor – home to the oldest burning oil lamp in the World’.
Night Stay: Hotel MDs Continental at Jorhat
Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 9 ~
After breakfast depart to Sivasagar – the land of the Mighty Ahom Kings. Spend your day admiring the Engineering marvels of the Talatal Ghar and the Rang Ghar at Sibasagar. Later depart to Naharkatia to the Tai Phake Ecotourism Camp.
Night Stay: Tai Phake Eco tourism Camp at Naharakatia
Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 10 ~
Spend your day with the tribal community of the Tai Phake people and learn about their age old traditional practices. Trek along the forests and the beautiful countryside of the Ecocamp. Later in the afternoon we will depart to Tinsukia. In the evening we will visit the Railway Heritage Park and Museum at Tinsukia. Arrive at the Dibru Saikhowa National Park.
Night Stay: Banashree Eco Camp at Dibru Saikhowa National Park
Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 11 ~
Early morning we will take a tour of the Dibru Saikhowa National Park aboard a River Cruise. Breakfast/Lunch will be served aboard the River Cruise. After the River Cruise we will visit the Nao Pukhuri at Tinsukia and depart to the Legendary Oil town of Assam at Digboi .
Night Stay: Namdang Guest House at Digboi
Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 12 ~
After breakfast visit the War Cemetery at Digboi and visit Digboi Oil town – ‘Home to the oldest operational oil refinery in the World’. Later Depart to Tipong Colliery to see the Steam Locomotives here. We will visit the historic Lekhapani Railway Station and tread along the Stilwell Road to visit the border of the State of Arunachal Pradesh. Later we will return to Margherita.
Night Stay: Singpho Eco Lodge at Margherita
Meals Included: Breakfast and Dinner
Day 13 ~
Today we will visit the Histoic Ledo Airstrip and the International Meditation Center at the Mounglang Buddhist Monestary. Later experience open cast coal mining at Tirap Colliery. Afternon we will visit the Namdang Bibi Majhar and discover the exotic tea gardens at Namdang. The day will end with your visit to Asia’s oldest plywood factory at Margherita.
Night Stay: Singpho Eco Lodge at Margherita
Meals Included: Breakfast and Dinner
Day 14 ~
In the morning we will visit the Singpho village near the Eco Lodge and learn about the practices and culture of the Singpho tribal people of Assam. Indulge in their daily activities of live like weaving on the Loom. Afternoon enjoy a traditonal cuisine at the Singpho Villa Restaurant in Baragolai and visit India’s only Coal Museum at Margherita. This museum has many historical artefacts from the Second World War. Night halt at the Singpho Eco Lodge at Margherita.
Night Stay: Singpho Eco Lodge at Margherita
Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 15 ~
Early morning visit the Buddhist Monastery near the Eco Lodge and after breakfast we will enjoy a short trek across the nearby tea gardens. Later you will depart to Dibrugarh Airport for your onward destination. Trip Ends. Bid Adieu.
Meals Included: Breakfast
Exploring Assam ~
I spent my entire childhood and teenage years in the beautiful valleys of the Dehing Patkai mountain ranges and by the banks of the river Dehing at the Margherita area of Upper Assam. My father had worked as a government employee at NECF (CIL) after graduating as a mining engineer from BHU (IIT) upto his retirement as the CGM of NECF in the year 2013. He started from a trainee engineer to heading the entire operations of the places which was one of the leading subsidiaries of CIL from negative revenues to over 200 crores profit across his years of tenure as CGM. So during his tenure I had the opportunity to explore the major underground coal mines at Baragolai, Namdang, Ledo and Tipong located in Upper Assam as he was posted across each of these coalfields during his tenure. As a tennager I did not happen to like a place that did not have much of a happening life and I often thought of leaving Assam and heading on to some other state where life would be fast and there would be ample amount of money and resources to party (might have been an influence of the countless hours spent on TV watching bollywood movies).
I did my schooling at Digboi which was the place where oil was first discovered in Asia during the British era and the refinery here is the oldest in Asia and the oldest operational oil well in the World is located here at Digboi in Assam. I studied in the same school upto my standard X and so is I knew most of Digboi as I spent time travelling across the place with my friends. Across my academics I was a bright student scoring good marks in most of my subjects apart from mathematics that was one of my weak subjects. Yet, however I was still managing to score good ranks across my academics. During my times here I got the opportunity to explore much of the places in Upper Assam as my father used to talk to me about the rich history of the place we were staying as I was always complaining of staying in a remote area and not being a part of a major growing city. He always tried to make it up by taking us out on sundays to explore naturally beautiful places like the river banks, the Namdapha National Park, Deban, Miao, the Stilwell Road, the Dibru Saikhowa National Park, the historic tea city of Dibrugarh, etc. but these places were not of interest to me as I was growing up. I always wanted to be a part of a big metro city and live the glamorous life there.
Nature to me was a waste of time and only thing that would intrigue me were the tall skyscrapers and modern cars that whiz across the city streets. Assam was like a chapter in my life I wished to forget and never return to and fill my life with the pleasures that money could buy. Finally my time to leave the gift of nature, its bounties, fresh pure air to breathe in, lovely weather of Upper Assam perched in the Dehing Patkai mountain ranges came to an end as to pursue my Std XI and Std Xii my parents agreed to send me to Guwahati in Assam. The largest city of Assam, Guwahati is the fastest growing cities in the World at present but it was not the case in the early 2000s when it could be considered as a town only. The fat govt. pay structure was not yet in place and the city did not appeal much to me apart from the fact that I now stayed away from home and could easily buy booze and cigarettes without having to worry about my parents finding out about it. After 2 years my opportunity finally came calling and I got a chance to leave Assam to travel to Bangalore in Karnataka to pursue my degree in Engineering. The excitement showed up clearly on my face and I finally bid goodbye to Assam to pursue my studies and career in the fastest growing metro cities in India – Bangalore.
Engineering turned out to be a nightmare to me as I already dreaded mathematics and also I was least bothered in my studies during the first 2 years of my course spending most of my time enjoying the life in Bangalore. The college was located a little outside of the city in the outskirts and so the fun of riding on a bike visiting Bangalore and enjoying the life here, wasting money on booze and unhealthy food had become a routine. It was all fun until I had failed in 2 of my subjects in the 3rd semester and it was time I realized I had to concentrate on my studies. Somehow I managed to clear my backlogs and the city life was gradually getting to my nerves. The same drive across the heavy traffic, the same booze, the same burgers and pizzas, I felt this decision of mine to come here was not a total wise one after all. I started focussing on my studies and gradually emerged top in my college scoring a first class degree with distinction scoring campus placements at 2 companies at a time when half of my college mates couldn’t unfortunately make it to the campus placements. The joy was there in my heart but then I realized if this was a life I had to choose to study hard, get a job, work my life paying my bills, have a family and later die then why the hell did I leave my home place of Assam. I could have done everything there without choking my lungs with the traffic pollution.
I was now stuck in a place where I was not local and termed as an outsider, I did not properly understand nor speak the language, didn’t like the food and I started hating the noise, pollution, traffic and pretty much there was nothing at all I liked about the place and this kept constantly reminding of my life in Assam and how peaceful it was there. Shortly I joined a huge MNC – a software company from US where I worked as a network engineer and my job was to ensure I kept the network up and running and also help the project members with technical issues they would incur during their day to day activities. Life got busy and as I was into a support function I had to work on 24/7 shifts to attend to the needs of the project. Time passed away quickly as I was very much engrossed in my work trying to make a name for myself earning accolades life best employee awards and the so called corporate culture was deeply into me. The friday nights would be spent at pubs and bars where we would gulp down liquor and crib about our lives and curse our bosses and after spending the weekend mostly in a drunken stupor we would get back to work on Mondays eagerly waiting for the friday again.
I though that this would be my life until I started a family but one day I realized that my life my going nowhere. Promotions were hard to come by and climbing up the corporate ladder was possible with a lot of internal politics and the boss decided who would go up. Switching jobs was an option but then again this would mean shifting your place of stay as well. I did not want to wait for long and then finally be on top of the ladder at an older age so I decided to leave all this and pursue my Masters in Business Administration. I quit my job and started preparations for the competitive examinations like CAT, MAT, XAT that was the first step towards your admission to the management colleges across India followed by group discussion, personal interviews rounds that help the colleges to select the right candidates for these courses. I managed to clear the exams and get through few business schools but I chose to stay close to Bangalore and avoid the trouble and hassles of having to travel to a new city and adjust to the new conditions there. Also I was much happier staying closer to Bangalore to where I had adjusted and was sure that I would need to return back here to start my corporate life again. Also the location of the college I choose to study was very scenic at the foothills of a Chamundi Hills in Mysore and also on the outskirts of the city. The days passed and I finally became a post graduate and landed a job as a Business Development Manager at premier IT sales company in Bangalore.
To be frank I was not looking out for a sales profile and I wanted to work as a consultant instead. But as luck would have it I couldn’t get through job openings for consultant roles and so I went ahead to join my new profile as a Business Development Manager Life is tough working in a sales environment – everyday you travel from home to office in the morning and then after logging in you need to go out into the field hunting for new sales opportunities. Then come back in the evening and report to your office and prepare the reports. I hated my job but as it paid my bills in a city like Bangalore so I had to continue to work here. There was also the pressure of closing sales and getting revenue for the company and also follow up on the payment process as well. The constant follow up by my bosses and superiors was enough for me to get into a stage of hypertension. I switched to another sales company and life got a little easier here as I had to work with existing accounts and also acquire new accounts as well. The new boss was very supportive ans work was a bit of pleasure here.
Across these years I kept travelling back home to Assam once a year for about 10 days and I would take this opportunity to explore more of the beautiful places in Assam. From now on the places I had earlier hated transformed to my dream destinations. From visiting the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Kaziranga National Park in Assam to the second UNESCO site of Manas National Park in Lower Assam, from visiting to the historic land of Sivasagar of the fame of the mighty Ahom Kingdom of Assam to the majestic tea estates of Dibrugarh and Jorhat districts. From visiting the largest and the smallest river islands of the World spanning across the mighty Brahmaputra river at Majuli and Umanand and to the bustling Maa Kamakhya temple in Guwahati, I dreamed of coming back home to Assam again because it is rightly said “Once you visit Assam, it stays with you forever.” The longing to return back to my state was always at the back of my mind but I never got the right opportunity to return. Then as luck would favour me I was called for an interview with a leading computer hardware and distributor of India and upon appearing for the interview I was offered a role to work in Assa, based out of Guwahati. The position was actually for bangalore but the HR team looking at my profile offered me a position in Assam and I gladly accepted it.
I thanked my good fortune and after serving a notice of 15 days in my present company I packed my belongings and headed back to Assam to start my life here. My corporate sales life started now in Guwahati and I got the opportunity to travel and visit many other places in Assam and North East India during this time. For example across these years I had never been to Cherrapunji, Dawki, Jowai in Meghalaya and while working I visited these places some on business calls while some during leisure. I visited Ziro Valley in Arunachal Pradesh along with it many other beautiful destinations in Assam and Nagaland as well. I started to think as to why God sent me back to Assam and it was surely not an opportunity to serve my life working in a corporate and definitely not in the sales profile of a company for sure. There was a divine message in this transition in my career and I had to pay advice to it. I used to wonder while travelling and looking at the visitors especially in Kaziranga National Park as to who were arranging for their tours in assam and North East India. There were certain tour companies operating tours and I wanted to know how many of them belonged to Assam.
I took the help of the internet and search engines to find out more about these companies and after some research I was able to find that most of these companies were big conglomerates based out of Delhi, Gurgaon, Noida, Mumbai, etc. While some were International travel companies based out of UK and USA but from Assam there were only a handful of travel companies. It took me to a surprise that local people were not exploiting this opportunity of helping people from outside see their own place. Just a handful of travel companies from Assam were successful in making a name for themselves in the tour and travel industry of Assam and it stuck me as to why are people not being able to run a better travel company. I then thought of one day being able to run a travel company of my own that would provide personal attention to visitors to Assam and North East India where one knowledgeable individual would be travelling along with the guests and showing them the places of interest and not leaving the visitors who come from far across India and across the World in the apathy of the drivers only. I wanted visitors to explore my land that is blessed with the bounties of nature and is home to the top biodiversity hotspots in the World. A place that is renowned for its abundance of flora, fauna and avifauna and indigenous people who have a rich and glorious past and system of cultures and traditions that is sure to leave any visitor here spellbound.
But I belong to a family that has no history of business and entrepreneurship. Each and every member of my family have always worked in jobs and mostly under the central and state governments. To my family members business is not supposed to be done by people who educated and instead people who do not get jobs end up setting up their business. Business to them is like a grocery store or a small scale restaurant. Little do they know and understand the people or members of my family who are working in private firms drawing a fat salary are in turn working for a successful business enterprise that was established by some thoughtful person. Can’t blame them because that is how they were taught and no wonder the only career option I was allowed to pursue was either engineering or a medical course. It was in the back of my mind that my parents would never approve my decision of quitting a job to start my own business but I had to find a way of conveying them that I was processing an idea to start a company and not just a brick and mortar shop.
While I was researching to start my own travel company but I had not quit my job yet. I hated the work culture in this new organization where people did not respect time. While the office hours started at 9 AM no one came on time and they used to happily arrive at leisure during 10 AM and the only sight that irritated me the most was that people had no real ambitions in life here. For them life was to come to office, spend the day at leisure doing least work possible, no thinking or using of their mind, wait for their salary, go back home to their families, eat, drink, sleep. This was not only the occurrence in this organization, but many of the people here are lazy and they don’t think of getting to big positions in life and all they want is a secure life with a monthly salary and do not want to take any risks in life. They are happy with their government jobs and other jobs and no wonder that there are no major industries in the state run by the local people because the lack of generating ideas are quite evident. The major industries are mostly from outside of the state or businesses being handled buy the Marwari community. I realized that this was not why God sent me all the way from Bangalore to Guwahati. If it was a job I was supposed to work for then I could have stayed in Bangalore and got myself into higher positions across various MNCs and earn a big fat salary. But in my life money haven’t always been the priority. It was about being able to do things on my own and at my will successfully not having to seek constant approval of my boss that mattered to me.
Keeping all this in mind one fine day I decided to quit my life as a corporate slave and finally start a small establishment of my own here in Assam. The day finally arrived when I spoke to my parents about it who literally went into a state of shock on hearing my decision. It was so hard for them to accept the fact that I would not be drawing a salary home any further and how would I manage to attend to my expenses. To be frank my family is well to do and they have sufficient monetary reserves so that even I didn’t work a day in my life yet I could lead a comfortable life but to them the social stigma is always a problem as it is across India and the dialogue of “Log kya kahenge – what are people going to day” bothers them a lot which frankly doesn’t bother me at all. So here started my entrepreneurship journey to begin my own travel company based out of Assam and help promote responsible tourism across Assam and North East India. The day of the last working day at my company everyone wished me success in my endeavours and I walked out of the office to begin with a fresh start.
My friend had joined me at the parking lot to celebrate my freedom from corporate life and we bought booze and pork to be cooked back home and to celebrate this moment. It was the last day in the month of August and the temperature was soaring high in Assam but thankfully it had rained that evening and so it was a pleasant evening. Another reason for my friend to join me was because once he had discussed about the black magic powers of the sorcerers of Mayong with me and I was so enthralled by these tales that I had requested him to accompany me to Mayong and help me look around the place so that I could start my travel blog and build content for my travel website and also it would help me to travel with visitors around the place and show them around. My friend had agreed to accompany me to Mayong and Pobitora and so he joined me today as he was free the next day. He also cooked the pork back home with a certain sour herb and it tasted delicious. We sat down and over our drinks we discussed my travel company further as to what I would name it and how would I go about building the website and blog and other social media related activities.
Explorign Mayong and Pobitora in Assam ~
My friend was not into travel much and had his own enterprise of running stalls at exhibitions that earned him a good revenue to sustain himself. He agreed to help me set up my venture and so the next day we started on our work of exploring Assam to help build my travel company. We started at 8 AM to drive to Mayong at Morigaon district in Assam. It is beautiful drive across the city of Guwahati then reaching Narengi area and further driving to Mayong. In addition to being the cradle of the black magic capital of India, the area around Mayong in Assam is home to the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary – Home to the Highest Population Density of the Indian One Horned Rhinoceros anywhere in the World. Often dubbed as the mini Kaziranga National Park, Pobitora is gradually becoming an important tourist area near Guwahati and for people who do not want to travel all the way to Kaziranga National Park from Guwahati. Pobitora becomes a place of interest if you are planning to visit the natural beauty of Meghalaya and also want a chance to sight the famed One Horned Rhinoceros of Assam.
We refuelled on our way at Panikhaiti and then continued to drive to Mayong and Pobitora. As the monsoon season was not yet over we could see the waters of the Brahmaputra river flooding the area along the roads and the paddy fields were looking lush green. we admired the beauty of Assam along the way and finally reached Mayong at around 9.30 AM. The soulful touch of the mountains covering the area is a peace to the one’s eyes, My friend called his friend who is basically a resident of Guwahati but has an ancestral home in Mayong and keeps coming here. He asked us to meet him at a shop on the way and we reached the spot where he greeted us. He took us home and offered us tea while we discussed our plan of visit to Mayong and Pobitora. He asked his uncle to join us who was earlier associated with the magic practice but now is a professor at one of the leading institutions at Guwahati in Assam. As it was a sunday the entire family had gathered at their ancestral home for a lunch feast before they continued to Guwahati to get back to their jobs the next day. Uncle spoke to us about the rich history and past of Mayong and as to why it came to be termed as the Black Magic capital of India here in Assam.
During the earlier times, sorcerers of Mayong were very powerful people patronized by the kings of Assam who spent their time in deep meditation in the dense forests of the area practicing the black magic art. They had powers to convert men to goats, tame wild beasts, make army of men disappear, etc. They could harm someone with the black magic and even cure various ailments of the human body with their powers of magic. They were revered among the people of Assam as well and no one dared to speak against them. But gradually the practices faded away with time and people did not have the time and resources to continue practice this art and over time the led to the complete abolishment of black magic. Today there are only a few sorcerers left who practice magic but most of their powers are to help people with body ailments like back pain, arthritis, etc. They use their powers only to heal and not to cause any harm to anyone. We listened to him with patience and eagerness and asked him if we could visit some place to witness this magic in action. He informed us that he knew people who practice such healing practices but they do not do it everyday. People seeking their assistance need to inform them much priorly and then they would arrange these healing sessions for a small fee and as we had come unplanned it would be tough to witness this practice in action.
However, if we wanted to explore the history of Mayong and its black magic practices then we could visit the Mayong museum of Black magic at Pobitora where the various relics used in the black magic art are now preserved here. We though this to be a good opportunity and we went out to explore the museum as well as the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary in Assam. The family asked us to join them for lunch and we happily agreed. We set out to explore the Mayong museum of magic. It is a small house where the artefacts are preserved and the new museum building was being built nearby. We went to a small shop where an old man guided us to the place and he was the caretaker of this place. The Mayong museum was not in a proper shape when we had visited with the artefacts just kept here and yet there was a certain awe factor in the place. Once you enter you can see there are various artefacts kept from the ancient era used in black magic practices. there were also various pictures hung on the walls of the museum displaying the sorcerers in practice and also the King of Morigaon.
The system of governance in the Morigaon district in Assam is a modern one but to preserve the ancient traditions they do have a nominated King. The King of Morigaon presides over some matters of daily governance and is mostly seen during special occasions and festivals when the entire villages gather to celebrate the festival and pay their respects to the King of Morigaon. One notable festival is that of the Jonbeel Mela – the festival of Barter trade that is held every year in the month of January at Morigaon district in Assam. This festival preserves the ancient form of barter trade that was practiced across the World where instead of paying money to buy goods the people used to exchange goods in return for other goods. At the Jonbeel Mela festival of Assam this tradition has been kept alive and across the 3 days of this festival the local people engage in barter trade while the King of Morigaon comes and visits the festival along with his courtiers to collect taxes from the local traders who happily oblige and pay the taxes to the king. It was really interesting to see this practice of Monarchy still existing in mayong and we kept exploring the Mayong musuem furhter.
Towards the end of the room there is a nice display case that has on display the artefacts which were of most importance of the black magic era. These were the scriptures of black magic written on ‘Sachi Pat’ – a bark of a special tree where ancient scriptures were written. In the earlier times most of the ancient Hindu scriptures were written in this form itself as there was no pen and paper then. The paper was the bark of the tree used while the pen used to be the feather of a peacock that would be used as a felt tip and dipped in ink and then scriptures written. There is a good collection of this ancient black magic scriptures at the Mayong museum of magic at Mayong in Assam. There are also elephant tusks and bones preserved at the museum along with various ancient fish traps and other artefacts as well. We thanked the caretaker for allowing us to visit the museum of magic and then came out to visit few of the resorts at the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary in Assam. During our time of visit as it was the monsoon season, the safaris (both Elephant and Jeep) into the interiors of the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary was closed and so we did not have much of an option to go inside the Sanctuary.
Since we had come all the way we thought of visiting the resorts and homestays around here so that we could guide our visitors here as well. The caretaker of the Mayong museum informed us that if we went a little ahead there was a viewpoint there from where we might have chances of sighting the Indian One Horned Rhinoceros of Pobitora in Assam. It was a not a very long drive from the museum so we thought we would try our luck and visit the place. The roads had broken because of the torrential downpour during the monsoons of Assam so we had to drive our small car carefully to avoid landing into potholes. We reached the viewpoint and at first we couldn’t see anything more than the paddy fields and the rain cover around it. But then upon close observation we found a highland where we could spot four rhinoceros standing on this highland. It was a like a dream sight in front of our eyes watching this endangered species in the wild especially during the monsoon season when they generally travel to higher grounds deep into the mountains. We stood there admiring this magnificent beast and clicked our pictures for a while and later moved back to visit the various Resorts and Homestays at Pobitora in Assam.
We first headed to the Prashanti Tourist Lodge at Pobitora to check out the place. This is a Government run tourist lodge under PPP scheme and it is spread across a sprawling campus. There are two complexes built here that can accommodate around 40 – 50 guests at a time. The rooms are classified into Deluxe A/C and Non A/C Rooms and are very huge and spacious with King size double beds for the comfortable stay of the guests here at Pobitora in Assam. A huge lawn area is also present at the Prashanti tourist lodge where various get togethers and group meets can be organized. We interacted with the staff of the Prashanti tourist lodge at Pobitora enquired about the tariffs of the rooms, the details of the Safari timings into the interiors of the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary and they were very eager to help us out with the details. We finished visiting the place and then headed to check out the most luxurious resort for stay at Pobitora in Assam – the Zizina resort. The Zizina resort is located next to the Prashanti Tourist lodge at Pobitora and offers various accommodation options from Deluxe Swiss tents to concrete rooms. All rooms are air conditioned and have luxurious interiors. Unfortunately as it was the offseason here at Pobitora we couldn’t check out the place from inside as the entrance gate at the Zizina resort was locked. So we moved on ahead to visit the next place the Maibong Eco Resort at Pobitora in Assam.
Maibong Eco Resort is the first resort that welcomes you once you are at Pobitora in Assam. The entrance gate to the interior is located from this area itself. But before going there we visited the Maibong Eco Resort to check out the place. This is one of the most reasonably priced accomodation options at Pobitora in Assam and offers accommodation under two categories – Deluxe individual cottages and standard concrete rooms. The owner of the place Mr. Nripen nath was at the premises of the Maibong Eco Resort and he welcomed us to his place. At the front there is a small reception area cum souvenir rooms where various handicrafts are put up on display and sale and behind is the resort located. On one side of the small road there are the Deluxe cottages while on the other side of the road there is the restaurant, the concrete rooms and a small pond as well where there are fishes and the restaurant freshly catches fish from here and churns out delicious fish curry recipes for the guests. Mr. Nath showed us around the place and the cottages were really quaint with TV sets, nice beds and bath attached. Just behind the place there is a bird observation site as well and Mr. Nath told us that during the migratory season of winters in Assam various birds from across the World would come to Pobitora and they came to feed here at the bird observatory site at the Maibong Eco Resort at Pobitora in Assam. He offered us tea at the restaurant and we looked around the place. There were numerous accolades awarded to Mr. Nath and the Maibong Eco Resort by the Tourism Department (Govt. of Assam) for helping to promote the tourism industry at Pobitora and Mayong. He spoke to us about the various tourists from countries from across the World who had come to visit Pobitora and Assam as well. We thanked Mr. Nath for the tea and then headed to the Arya Eco Resort at Pobitora.
Located just a little distance ahead of the Maibong Eco Resort, the Arya Eco Resort is the closest accommodation option at the entrance of the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary. There are four deluxe cottages here that can accommodate upto 12 guests comfortably here at the Arya Eco Resort at Pobitora in Assam. Mr. Pankaj the manager greeted us and helped us look around the place. Along with the deluxe accommodation options, the Arya Eco Resort also has an inhouse restaurant that offers visitors delicious traditional cuisine. Each of the rooms are fitted with A/C, TV sets with cable, King size beds and an attached bathroom with elegant bath fittings as well. Being at the proximity of the forest office of Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary, the Arya Eco Resort is just a minute’s walk from the Jeep and Elephant safari ride points of Pobitora in Assam.
After visiting the Arya Eco Resort we headed to the forest office at Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary where the jungle safaris are booked and operated. At the entrance of the forest office there is a board that details the prices of Elephant and Jeep safari rides into Pobitora. Also there is a separate counter from where visitors to Pobitora in Assam can book boat safari rides that will take you to a location near the Brahmaputra river where you can so some exciting river dolphin sighting. We noted down the safari timings and rates and then bid goodbye to the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary to head to the friend’s home for lunch. It was around 1.30 PM and the lunch was almost ready. More family members had gathered and it was nice to see the family bonding together this way which is hard to find in a city life. The family members had come from Jagiroad, Guwahati, Morigaon and nearby places and all of them either had their business establishments or jobs at these places in Assam. It was a traditional Assamese meal being prepared for the family with the menu having pork cooked with black lentils, fish cooked with a sour herb, pork sticks roasted, local herbs fried, country chicken for the members who did not eat pork, salad, rice, etc.
Some of the adults were having rice beer and my friend offered us some of it as well. It tasted really good and we asked for a refill as well. As we had to drive back we restricted the quantity to only 2 glasses while the others continued. Nice discussions happened where people spoke about business, politics, developments, rising pollution levels in the city, etc. We listened quietly and them were called for lunch. All the ladies got busy serving lunch to the children and guests and the meal was indeed very delicious. The pork had a smoky flavour to it as it was cooked over fire and so did the fish and chicken. Traditional cooking over fire is a custom followed by many families in Assam and this imparts a flavorful tate to the curry. After our lunch we thanked the entire family for their love and help and bid goodbye to them and started on our drive back to Guwahati to arrive by evening. I dropped my friend at Narengi and came back home thereby ending a fruitful day of exploring Pobitora and Mayong in Assam.
It was a fruitful visit to Pobitora and Mayong and sighting the One Horned Rhinoceros was a fruitful moment for me and my friend as well. After reaching back to Guwahati I took time to write about the visit to Pobitora and set up my blog and website after this. It was a tough time trying to figure out what to name my travel company as it had to relate to the travel across Assam and as well have a connection with the place. I thought as to what is the main service we are trying to sell to our customers and it was mostly the beautiful bounties of nature, unadulterated landscapes, natural waterfalls, caves, living root bridges, the beautiful National Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries, abundant and diverse flora and fauna. So I thought as most of the service we provided would be related to jungles therefore I would name my venture as Jungleideas. So I started the blog and website and started looking out for content to be put up. I had pictures and videos from my earlier visits to various places in Assam and North East India so I started to build content and arrange my pictures to be put up on the website. Next up I planned on exploring Guwahati and get to write about the experiences of travelling across the fastest growing city of North East India.
Exploring the Maa Kamakhya Temple in Assam ~
I started my exploration of Guwahati in Assam by first visiting the Holy temple shrine of Maa Kamakhya temple and seeking the blessings of Goddess Kamakhya on starting my new venture. It so happened that my parents had also visited Guwahati during this time and they too wanted to visit the Maa Kamakhya Temple in Guwahati so one sunday we decided to visit the temple. My father when he was serving as the CGM of NECF (CIL) he had spoken to the Temple management committee and as a part of the CSR activities of NECF CIL) had offered to build a well structured place in the Temple premises where the devotees could sit and eat the prasadam that is served at the Holy temple everyday here at Guwahati in Assam. So most of the temple priests who are referred to ‘Pandas’ knew him and entry to the temple to seek the blessings of Goddess Kamakhya wouldn’t be much of a challenge to us as during sundays thousands of devotees come to the temple shrine to seek the blessings of the holy goddess of Maa Kamakhya. People reach as early as 4 AM to get into the queue that leads to the entrance doors of the Kamakhya temple.
There are two ways fo entrance to the main entry doors of Kamakhya temple – one is to get into the long queue of the Temple while the other is the VIP entrance where devotees need to pay INR 500 per head and purchase the tickets to the entry into the temple. We reached the foothills of the Nilachal hills where on top the Kamakhya Temple is situated at Guwahati in Assam. The drive is uphill and it’s a two way road so the drive is a little challenging as you need to keep vigil to the cars coming towards you and also the cars behind. I managed to drive easily as I am used to driving in the mountain conditions during my numerous tripe to Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh. We came to a viewpoint from where we can get a bird’s eye view of the entire city of Guwahati overlooking the river Brahmaputra and we halted here for a while. Next up we reached the parking spot where I parked my car and we went into the temple premises of the Maa Kamakhya temple. My father led us to the Bhog Ghar that was constructed during his tenure as CGM of NECF and there we saw his name written on the temple walls along with the NECF family. The Panda who was supposed to help us with the temple darshan came to meet us and led us to the main temple shrine entrance of the Maa Kamakhya Temple at Guwahati in Assam.
The Panda led us on top to the entry gate where at first we had to remove our footwear/slippers befores stepping into the main premises of the Holy Maa Kamakhya Temple at Guwahati in Assam. One of the important temple priest who generally guides around VIPs and VVIPs around the temple came to meet my father as he was earlier entrusted with showing around top officials from CIL who used to visit the Kamakhya Temple. They exchanged their greetings and then we were taken to the counter where we had to purchase our entrance tickets to go inside the Kamakhya Temple shrine. Next we had to go to the water tank at the Kamakhya Temple premises where the water is brought in from the Brahmaputra river and the water is considered as a purifier and cleaner and people use this water to cleanse their hands and feet before stepping into the Kamakhya Temple. The ‘Panda’ bought us a Puja Thali that had flowers, garlands, sweets, and a full coconut to be served as an offering to the deity here and then we were guided to the VIP entrance from where we had to make our entry to the temple shrine. We could see hundreds of visitors waiting in the queue to get their turn to enter inside the temple shrine.
The entry for us was from a seperate entrance gate and we bypassed the queue and reached a little ahead of the main entrance to the temple shrine. Here we had to wait as both the queues converge together and there is only one entrance to the temple shrine. It took us about 20 minutes to enter the shrine. The main temple shrine is carved out of a single rock and it leads down to the shrine of Goddess Kamakhya that is a stone on which continuous water is seeping naturally and the devotees are offered this water by the temple priests. It is quite dark inside here and the earthen lamps that are lit here provides a source of light. When we entered there were hundreds of devotees already inside the place and awaiting their turn to sprinkle the holy water on them. It is a really interesting sight to see the devotion among the people towards Goddess Kamakhya. The Kamakhya Temple at Guwahati in Assam is one of among the most revered temple shrines in India and is one among the 51 Shakti Peethas across the Subcontinent. The Shakti Peethas are holy spots where it is believed that Goddess Sati’s body parts fell when Lord Shiva was carrying her.
The legend goes that Goddess Parvati’s father did not like Lord Shiva and often rebuked him in front of his daughter. Once he had arranged for a maha Yagya at his place and did not invite Lord Shiva for the prayers. Goddess Parvati confronted him and asked him the reason for not inviting Lord Shiva. Her father rebuked him again and Parvati was furious and she jumped into the fire performing a Sati. Lord Shiva came to hear about this and he rushed to the place and picked up Goddess Sati’s body from the fire in his hands and started performing the Tandav nritya. All the Gods and devotees gathered to control Lord Shiva’s temper but couldn’t do it. This is when Lord Vishnu used his sudarshan chakra to cut down Goddess Sati’s body into 51 pieces hoping this would bring down Lord Shiva’s under control. Lord Shiva not knowing what to do in a fit of rage carried the parts of her body and started to travel across the World. One by one the parts of Goddess Sati’s body fell on the ground and the 51 parts fell on seperate location.
Today all these places are called as Shakti Peethas and have a temple shrine constructed over them. At the Kamakhya Temple it is said that the female genitals/womb of Goddess Sati fell and hence this temple celebrates the spirit of womanhood every year during the month of June the Temple hosts the Ambubachi Mela at Guwahati in Assam. In the month of Asad (June) it is believed that the Goddess menstruates and during the 3 days of the month the temple doors are closed for it devotees. It is believed that the goddess menstruate during this time and the waters of the Brahmaputra river near the temple turns red symbolizing it. This spirit of womanhood is celebrated and lakhs of devotees come to the Maa Kamakhya Temple in Assam to witness this phenomenon. The congregation attracts the holy sadhus who travel from far and near to witness the Ambubachi Mela that is often referred to as the ‘Mahakumbh of the East’. Kamakhya Temple is a spirit of celebration of the mother’s ability to give birth to a child.
I made my mind to visit the Kamakhya Temple during the Ambubachi Mela to witness the festivities here. We managed to enter the shrine and it was very crowded with people taking turns to collect the holy water in their hands and then sprinkle it on top of their heads thereby seeking the blessings of Goddess Kamakhya. We too finished our turn and then came out of the main temple shrine. Our Panda came to us and he took the offerings and took us to the place where we had to light the diyas and incense sticks and along with it break the coconut and pour the fruit water on the idol. He advised me to do 10 rounds around the temple and I obliged. The temple walls have beautifully sculpted idols of Gods and Goddess and other fine art as well. After completing the 10 rounds our darshan was finally over. We thanked the Panda and contributed some dakshina to him and came out of the Temple shrine. As we were supposed to visit the temple on an empty stomach so we didn’t have our breakfast and we halted at a small restaurant in the complex that served hot puri sabji and tea. It is a very well known shop near the Kamakhya temple and people visit the place just to enjoy the hot puris served with a mix vegetable and dal sabji they make here. The place was empty today and we thanked our luck and went in to have our breakfast. We finished our breakfast and then came out to the parking area to continue to drive to my aunt’s place at Zoo Road Tiniali at Guwahati in Assam. She is my mother’s elder sister and she had invited our family over for lunch. My aunt stays alone as children stay in other parts of the country due to their jobs and my Uncle passed away some years ago so whenever my family is in Guwahati they ensure to take out time to visit my aunt’s place to spend time with her. My aunt had prepared an elaborate lunch that had chicken and fish and we enjoyed the meal and spent the rest of the day at her place. We returned back to our home in the evening and I spent the next few days writing about my experience visiting the Maa Kamakhya Temple in Assam and my fruitful visit to this sacred place.
Exploring Chandubi Lake in Assam ~
The next Wednesday I decided to go and explore the Chandubi lake area near Guwahati in Assam. Along the way I would be crossing the Deepor Beel lake and Wildlife Sanctuary as well. I started home early as I had never visited the place before and didn’t know the time needed to the place and the road conditions. I had decided to take my bike along and leave the car behind for this drive. I started at 7 AM from my home at Lokhra in Guwahati (Assam) and decided to have breakfast along the way to the pristine and picturesque Chandubi lake. I reached Gorchuk area in Guwahati from where I took a left to drive further to Pamohi and then arrive soon at the Deepor Beel lake and Wildlife Sanctuary. The Deepor Beel is a natural lake on the outskirts of Guwahati city in Assam and is a beautiful location overlooking the hills of Guwahati. During winters this place is flooded with migratory birds and it is a good destination for bird watching near Guwahati city in Assam. However the groups of people who come here during the months of December and January for family picnics on saturdays and sundays makes the place a little noisy and crowded thereby scaring away the birds who come here to feed. Fortunately it was a wednesday when I had visited so the place was calm.
The entire place was looking green and beautiful but owing to the winter season the water level in the lake had gone down. During the monsoons of Assam, the water level goes up quite a bit and the lake becomes a paradise for the local fishermen who can be seen plying the lake waters with their country boats trying to catch the fish for sale at the nearby markets iat azara area in Guwahati. I got down to watch the waters of the Deepor Beel and the birds that were here. Beautiful birds were to be seen all across the lake and there were also fishermen who were catching fish at the Deepor Beel. There is also a watch tower here from where visitors can get a bird’s eye views of the lake as well as the outskirts of Guwahati city. I spent some time admiring the natural beauty of the place and breathing in the fresh air of the place and as I was getting hungry I decided to continue on my drive to Rani and further to Chandubi near Guwahati in Assam. I arrived at Rani shortly sand this road is along the Assam Meghalaya road and is known to be a developing area near Guwahati in Assam. The proximity to the airport is making local residents from Guwahati buy land in this area and therefore it has a developing market today.
I stopped at a small restaurant here and ordered my breakfast. They had roti sabji and along with it I ordered an egg omelette and black tea to go along. It was a basic place and the food was alright. After this I started on my drive to Chandubi. I had to cross a reserve forest here and thankfully it was during the daytime because there were stories of Wild elephant herds crossing the roads across these forests during dark and so I was a little scared while crossing the place. I finally reached a place where I could start to see human habitation and so I felt safe after this. Although there were people around but the area is sparsely populated. The Chandubi area is inhabited by the Rabha tribes of Assam who are adept hunters and expert craftsmen in bamboo and handlooms. I reached a big market area here and from here it was another 20 minute drive to Chandubi lake. The beautiful countryside of Assam was like a feast to my eyes after coming from a crowded city like Guwahati and no wonder people from the city flock to this place during the weekends to enjoy a time of calm amidst nature.
Chandubi lake is another popular tourist spot near Guwahati city and during the winter months of December and January thousands of people from the city and other parts of Assam come here to celebrate a day of picnic. I finally reached the Chandubi lake and it was long drive indeed. My back started to hurt a bit but the beauty of the place made me forget it and I walked towards the lake to admire the natural landscape. Chandubi lake is natural lagoon formed during the earthquake of 1897 and the lake borders the states of Assam and Meghalaya and has a scenic backdrop of the Rani Reserve forest and high rise mountains. The forests here are abundant in flora, fauna and avifauna and species like tigers, leopards, wild elephants, hoolock gibbons, slow loris, pythons, etc inhabit the pristine forests of Chandubi. While I was standing there I could hear the cries of the hoolock gibbons of Assam and the various other bird species. At a point I even heard the roar of the wild elephants herd from the forests. I stood there admiring the beauty of the Chandubi lake and as it was a weekday not many visitors were around and mostly the local people were present.
Chandubi lake is a popular place in the music industry of Assam and many music videos have been shot here with the Chandubi lake as the backdrop. Next I went to visit the tourist lodges and eco camps around the area to help me send tourists to this wonderful place. Located very close to the Chandubi lake in Assam is the Government run Assam Tourism lodge at Chandubi. A nicely built place it had around 8 deluxe rooms and 2 deluxe Swiss tents for visitors who come for night halt to admire the natural beauty of the place. All the rooms are fitted with air conditioning and deluxe bathrooms but a little more maintenance was necessary to make the place more attractive. I spoke to the caretaker of the place who guided me with the room tariffs and whom to contact for the room bookings. After this I hired a boat to cross the lake and go to the Chandubi Jungle Camp whose co owner later became a close friend and accompanied me on several trips across North East India. The Chandubi Jungle Camp is an eco friendly property built with mud houses with thatch roofs, cottages with attached bathrooms and Dome tents for stay of the guests. The entire place doesn’t allow the use of plastics and food is cooked in a traditional way making use of firewood. As it was a weekday there weren’t many guests around here but weekends here see a lot of footfalls from guests from Guwahati and other parts of Assam.
Another of the co owner of the place Mr. Diganta Rabha was at the premises and the land where the camp was set up belonged to him. He welcomed me to his place and helped me to look around. A beautiful and green campus the front half of the place is where the camp is set up while behind was Diganta’s house where he lived with his family. He told me that there was a trekking route behind the village from where one could climb up to the mountains to admire the forest reserves of Chandubi and sight various flora, fauna and avifauna. There are also two beautiful waterfalls in the Chandubi area near Guwahati in Assam as well. At their kitchen the family members were preparing an ethnic rabha cuisine lunch for the visitors who were at the camp and Diganta asked me if I would like to have lunch at their place. The meal costed INR 300 for non veg meal and I was hungry as well so I agreed to have lunch at the place. It was an elaborate lunch that had chicken cooked with banana flower, fish curry with sour herb, dal, mashed potato chutney, roasted brinjal chutney, some other variety of chutney, salad, papad, pickle, etc. The meal was very delicious and rabha cuisine of Assam tasted quite good as I had it for the first time. I thanked Diganta for offering me the lunch and then bid farewell to the Chandubi Jungle Camp and Chandubi lake to start on my drive back to Guwahati.
By the time I reached Garchuk area it was 3.30 PM and so I decided to make another stop at the North East Museum of Handicrafts and handlooms before heading back home. This museum is owned and operated by the Government and has on display the various arts and craft forms of the people if Assam and North East India. There are manufacturing units here as well where the weavers weave out exquisite handlooms and bamboo crafts as well. There is a huge display hall where there are models depicting the rural life of Assam. There are model villages that have a complete home setup of a village of Assam and demonstrate how people lead a life in their village. In one of these models it even depicts a typical Assam village kitchen, a storehouse for grains called as Bhoral, etc. Also there are models of the tribal folks of the region dressed in their traditional attires. I admired the rich culture and heritage of the people of Assam and North East India and then visited the handloom production unit and there were women weavers engaged in the traditional looms of Assam weaving out exquisite traditional handlooms of Assam. They were weaving ‘Gamochas’ that are the traditional towels of Assam and along with it traditional clothes that are adorned by the tribal people of Assam.
There was another manufacturing unit here that prepared sticks out of bamboo for incense sticks manufacturing. Assam is known to have a good resource of bamboo plantations and bamboo is an integral part of the lives of the people of Assam mostly in the rural areas where people use bamboo to build homes, to construct bridges over streams, as fences for their houses, as an alternative to wood, to light fire in theri kitchen and even use the bamboo shoot for preparations in the kitchen. It was a wonderful sight to visit the place and I really enjoyed my time here visiting the glory of the indigenous people of Assam and how they used natural resources to sustain themselves. After finishing my visit at the museum at Garchuk area in Assam I headed back home thereby ending another eventful day in Assam exploring the Deepor beel, Chandubi lake and North East Museum of Handicrafts and handlooms at Guwahati in Assam.
Exploring Hajo and Suwalkuchi in Assam ~
On the next Saturday I made a plan to visit the Hajo and Suwalkuchi areas of Assam. My parents were still in Guwahati and so they accompanied me along as they had never been to the holy land of Hajo earlier. Therefore we started from home after breakfast to at first visit Hajo and then come to Sualkuchi in Assam to witness the glory of the indigenous silks of Assam at the largest silk weaving village in the World here in Assam. We crossed the Brahmaputra river over the Saraighat bridge to drive towards Amingaon area near Guwahati and from here we took a left diversion to head to Hajo in Assam. On the way we reached the Saraighat war memorial and my father wanted to stop here to take a look at the place. Saraighat is the place where the great battle between the Ahoms and the mughals was fought. The Ahoms were brave kings who ruled the entire region of North East India that was collectively Assam then. And Assam was the only part of India that the Mughals couldn’t conquer. The resiliency of the Ahom army and its brave generals made the mighty Mughals retreat from Assam and it was mostly the interesting war tactics used by the Ahoms that helped them to stop the Mughals from invading and conquering Assam.
Saraighat was the place chosen for war as it was a tactical grounds surrounded by the Brahmaputra river and the rolling mountains of Assam so the Mughals had to first cross the Brahmaputra and then face the smaller Ahom army who strategically placed themselves along the mountains and waded war on the mighty Mughal army who couldn’t work with these war tactics as long range guns were not present during that time. It is also believed that the Ahoms made use of the powers of the Black magic sorcerers of Mayong who made an entire army of men disappear. Today a war memorial has been constructed here to commemorate this battle of the Ahoms of Assam. Inside the Saraighat War Memorial there are beautifully sculpted sculpture of the Ahom General Lachit Borphukan commanding the soldiers of the Ahom army in battle and one can feel proud being a part of this legacy of the brave Ahoms of Assam. We admired the place and later started on our drive again to Hajo in Assam.
We reached a junction from where we had to head straight towards Hajo while a left would take us to Suwalkuchi. We continued further and the beautiful countryside of Assam greeted us at the outskirts of the Hajo town. Hajo holds a sacred place among the people of three faiths of Assam – Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists. The muslims of Hajo are descendants of the Mughal dynasty. When the Mughals had come to invade Assam although they couldn’t conquer the region but many of the mughals generals and soldiers fell in love with Assam and decided to stay back here. However as they couldn’t go past Saraighat they decided to settle in the places around the Hajo. They gradually started to mingle with the local people and settled themselves here in Assam. Hajo today is the place where you can see the Hindus and Muslims living in total harmony. The Hindus attend Muslim rituals and festivals while the muslims can be seen attending the Assamese functions and singing praises of the Lord along with the Hindus. The Hayagriva Madhava temple at Hajo in Assam holds a special place in the faiths of the Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists while the Poa Makka shrine at Hajo in Assam is visited both by the Muslims and Hindus.
We arrived at Hajo town shortly and much of the town is settled along the highway and one can find various shops across each side of the highway of Assam. At first we made a stop to have tea at the Hajo market before proceeding to visit the Hayagriva Madhava temple at Hajo in Assam. We reached the temple shrine at 9.30 AM and there were many devotees today at the Temple as it was a weekend. Outside the temple premises is a huge pond and this place holds a very important significance in the Wildlife story of Assam and the World as in this pond many species of turtles are kept alive that has helped these species from the brink of extinction. As these turtles when in the rivers fell in the hands of excessive hunting and breeding was reduced to nil thereby bringing their numbers to almost zero. With the active work of an NGO today the temple pond of Hayagriva Madhava temple is home to numerous turtles including the very rare Assam Roofed top turtle species as well. Devotees come to the temple pond to provide turtle friendly food to the animals and they happily come to feed. The pond is also home to various freshwater fishes as well.
We cleansed our hands and feet with the waters of this pond and then bought a puja thali and started our walk to the top of the fleet of stairs leading to the Hayagriva Madhava temple at Hajo in Assam. We managed to climb the stairway with ease and the temple priest later informed us that there is a divine power that attracts you to the temple thereby making the climb easier. The smae priest helped us offer our prayers at the temple and he took us into the deity room where we could see the idols of the Gods kept inside the Hayagriva Madhava temple. He showed us around the temple at first by taking us to a point from where it is said that this place is facing the Jagannath temple at puri in Orissa. The priest told us that the visit and pilgrimage to the Jagannath temple is complete only after you come to the Hayagriva Madhava temple at Hajo in Assam and offer your worship. He also took us to the grounds where informed us that during the Magh Bihu festival of Assam in January a huge congregation is held here and cock fights are arranged here which is now abolished as per directions of the Hon. Supreme Court of India.
We offered our prayers at the temple and the pujari took our donation for the temple at the end. After this we bid goodbye to the Hayagriva Madhava Temple at Hajo in Assam to go to the Poa Makka shrine is Hajo. The Poa Makka shrine at hajo is the holiest muslim shrine across Assam and North East India. It is said that Pir Gias Uddin Aulia a muslim saint decided to bring back 250 gms of soil (1 Pua) from the holy land of Mecca as many poor people couldn’t afford to go to Mecca on Hajj. So by bringing in the soil he would allow such people to have a chance to perform their holy rites of praying on the soil of Mecca here at Hajo in Assam. His thoughts seemed to be a blessing in disguise for the people of Assam and neighboring areas and today thousands of pilgrims come here every year to pay their worship. In the years a Dargah was constructed at this place and muslims and hindus both come here to offer their prayers and offer a chadar on the Dargah as a sign of worship. We too bought the holy chadar outside at the shops that are present and then went in to offer our prayers at the Poa Makka shrine at hajo in Assam. After winding up our visit here we bid farewell to Hajo when we saw a local market here selling fishes caught from the nearby lakes and fisheries. There were a variety of fish from Rohu, Borali, Sital, etc of Assam at the market.
We bought a big Sital fish for INR 500 per kg and the fish weighed around 3 kgs so it costed us INR 1500 and the vendor packed the fish to be carried in the car. After this we left Hajo to drive to Suwalkuchi in Assam. It was noon and we had to eat lunch so we first stepped at a roadside dhaba for lunch. Across Assam one can find numerous roadside food outlets called as Dhabas that serve the Assamese staple meal of rice,d al, sabji, salad, an ethnic curry, fish curry, chicken curry, mutton curry, a spicy chutney, etc. along with carious other Chinese and North Indian dishes. This dhaba culture is popular across the entire state of Assam and many youths of the state are engaged in this food business. While some of the Dhabas are very very popular like the ones in Nagaon Bypass, Numaligarh, Jhanji, Makum, etc. some of them do not catch up with the guests and eventually close shop. One way of identifying a popular dhaba is to look at the parking area of the place. The more number of cars would mean the food is good and hence the full parking place. The place we went to along the Hajo Guwahati road although didn’t have many cars waiting outside yet the cleanliness of the place tempted us to have our food here.
The food was nice and the thali had various offerings along with it. We ordered fish curry for us along with the vegetarian thali. After lunch we started on our drive to Suwalkuchi in Assam. We took a right diversion from the road to drive to Suwalkuchi and reached the market area here in sometime. Suwalkuchi is known across Assam as the village weaving the finest quality silk fabrics of Assam and there are numerous weaving installments and showrooms across the small town. Often referred to as the ‘Manchester of the East’ – Suwalkuchi is the largest silk weaving village in the World. We went to visit a silk showroom here at Suwalkuchi in Assam and it belonged to a person named Gautam Da. He is one of the influential businessmen of Suwalkuchi town and the silks woven at his establishment is sent across Assam to various places where they are sold. He welcomed us to his showroom and his employees showed us the various materials weaved out of the silks of Assam.
There were fabrics woven from the various silk varieties of Assam like Muga, Eri and Pat. There were also another variety called as Tassar that is a varied silk because the silk worms in this type of silk doesn’t feed on the mulberry leaves and instead on some jungle leaves. While the Muga silk mekhela chadors were very expensive with prices starting from INR 20,000 the Pat and Tassar silk were slightly in budget with prices starting from INR 2,500 based on the quality of handwork done on the mekhela chadors. There were also various handbags and purses also made with silk and these items were looking very attractive. My mother bought a pat silk mekhela chador from the shop and Gautam Da invited us to come to see how these silk fabrics are woven at his factory. We wanted to witness this silk weaving of Assam in person at Suwalkuchi. Although we had witnessed it several times across various village homes in Assam but witnessing this here at Suwalkuchi would be a once in a lifetime opportunity. But as my parents had to attend to a dinner event at one of their friends place so we decided to come over some other time to Suwalkuchi in Assam and witness the intricate process of silk weaving here.
We thanked Gautam Da for his eagerness to help us see the various silks of Assam here at Suwalkuchi and finally bid farewell to Suwalkuchi to head back to Guwahati in Assam. On the way back we came across a market area where vendors were selling organically grown vegetables along the Guwahati road and we stopped here to pick up some vegetables. These vegetables are brought in from the nearby villages by the vendors and we could identify the vegetables have not been grown with the use of fertilizers and pesticides. This is a good sign because in today’s world adulterated food being a growing concern and a cause for many diseases in humans. Alongside there were few more vendors who were selling various rice varieties of Assam like Bora Saul, Joha Saul, Aijong Saul, etc and another vendor was selling eggs of duck and county chicken. We couldn’t resist buying such healthy food to take home and so we picked up all such items in less quantities and finally started on our drive to our home in Guwahati. We reached back at 4,30 PM and my parents took rest for sometime and in the evening at 7 PM they went to Beltola area at Guwahati in Assam to attend to a dinner while I sat back pondering about the visit to Hajo and Sualkuchi and wondering as to why these beautiful places of Assam have not yet gained popularity in the tourist circuit of Assam.
Exploring Umananda & Sukreswar Temple in Assam ~
The next morning as it was a Sunday my family and I decided to visit the Umananda Temple and the Sukreswar temple in Guwahati. Umananda Temple is located at the Umananda Island – the smallest inhabited river island in the World and is situated in the midst of the mighty Brahmaputra river located near the Uzan Bazar Ghat in Guwahati. As it was a sunday there was less traffic on the roads of Guwahati and we reached the Uzan Bazar Ghat at around 9 AM. From the Uzan Bazar ghat at Guwahati in Assam we had to take a ferry boat to cross the Brahmaputra river to go to the Umananda Island. There are options of private and govt. operated ferries to take you to the Umananda Island. While the govt. ferry starts operating at 9 AM and before that the private boats take you to the Umananda Island in Guwahati in Assam. The govt. ferry charges INR 20 per head for a to and fro ride while the private ones charge INR 50 and it is fair enough based on the operating costs. As we had reached after 9 AM we had to take the govt. ferry to Umananda. We had to wait until the ferry was full and by the time we started it was around 9.45 AM. It is a short 15 minute ferry ride to reach the Umananda Island at Guwahati in Assam.
The Umananda island is known for the presence of the Umananda Temple and also for the surviving population of the highly endangered Golden Langur primate species. Once we reached the island we had to climb a fleet of 150 stairs to go to the top of the small hillock called as the Bhasmachal hills where the Umananda Temple is located here in Assam. As per historic legends, Lord Shiva and Parvati stayed here at the Umananda Island where Lord Shiva taught discourses to Parvati. Once when Lord Shiva was in deep meditation, Kamadeva was trying to interrupt his meditation by distracting him. Lord Shiva had gotten so furious at Kamadeva that he opened his third eye and burnt Kamadeva into ashes. In Sanskrit this is called as ‘Bhasma’ and hence the hillock came to be known as the Bhasmachal hills. Upon entry the temple premises there is a huge tree here and at our time of visit we got lucky to sight many golden langur species (around 5 of them) perched atop the tree. But across the years, this population has dwindled and during my recent visit I came to know that only 1 of the members are now present here at the Umananda Island in Assam.
It was beautiful sight to watch these beautiful primate species here at the Umananda Island. After this we bought a puja thali and went inside the premises of the Umananda temple to offer our worship. the main temple shrine is located down from the main temple top and once we have finished offering our worship on top we have to walk down a small stairway where the temple deity are kept and pujaris site here offering worship on behalf of the devotees. The puja thali was offered to the temple priest here at the Umananda temple who took some of the items from the thali mostly the flowers and offered it to the Gods while returned the other items back to us. The temple priest offered prayers on our behalf and showed us two small idols that were sculpted on the stone of Lord Shiva and Parvati. He also told us that the Umananda temple was built by an Ahom king who was a devoted follower of Lord Shiva and the temple was damaged in the great Assam earthquake of 1897 and was later rebuilt by a local businessman.
He also told us that here Lord Shiva and Parvati used to have ‘Ananda’ and hence the named ‘Umananda’. We listened to his discourses with interest and then after paying a little donation in the place we came out of the temple shine of the umananda temple at Guwahati in Assam. we took a walk around the temple premises and also offered worship at the Kali temple that is located close to the main temple shrine. After this we came put to go to the Hanuman mandir that is located downstairs. As the ferry was approaching again we walked down the stairs to board it and return back to the Uzan bazar ghat thereby completing our visit to the Umananda temple and the smallest river island in the World of Umanada at Guwahati in Assam. Next we continued on our drive to the Sukreswar temple at Panbazar area in Assam. On the way we crossed the Assam State Museum and my father is an ardent fan of history and museums. Although it was a sunday and the Assam State Museum at Guwahati in generally closed but it was open today as there was some event being organized.
I parked my car and went to enquire is the place was open and the guard replied in positive and so I purchased my tickets and called my family to start exploring the Assam State Museum. My mother was not very much interested to explore the place but as my father was very keen to visit and explore the Assam State Museum she did not disapprove of it. We started by exploring the first floor on the left hand side of the Assam State Museum where there is a huge display room of various legendary freedom fighters of Assam and India as well. My father and mother got to discussing about the role each of these freedom fighters played during the freedom struggle of India. As I was educated in an english medium school our text books did not contain much about the freedom fighters of Assam so I took interest in what my parents were discussing about the history of Assam. Next up we went to another display hall that illustrated the life and traditions of the indigenous people of Assam. Upon entrance there was the depiction of the sattriya culture of Majuli Island – the largest river island on the World in Assam. The place depicted a Satra and its Namghar premises and these were also kept on display the various traditional masks created by the artisans of the Samaguri Satra in Majuli that are mostly used in the Bhaona performances.
Then came a section of the indigenous people of Assam like Mishings, Bodos, karbis, etc and models of how they lead their lives in the villages of Assam. There were depiction of how these indigenous people of Assam indulge in silk weaving right from weaving out the silk yarn from the cocoon of the silk worms upto the final process of weaving. There were models adorned with the traditional attires and jewellery as well. There was a construction of a model village home of Assam as well that elaborates how people lead their life in a village environment. There was a model kitchen with various traditional utensils of Assam as well. The Assam State Museum is a perfect place to be for visitors who are interested in culture and are intrigued by the life of the indigenous people.
Next up we visited the statue gallery at the ground floor of the Assam State Museum. This place has a beautiful collection of stone sculptures all dating back to the medieval era several hundred years ago from areas across Assam mostly Kamarupa providing an insight that the ancient Kamrupa was known as a hub of religious and educational preachings. All of these statues have been preserved carefully by the Archeological Survey of India here at the Assam State Museum. These statues are so intricately designed speaking highly of the craftsmanship of the artisans of Assam and no wonder these can still be found in the bamboo handicrafts across the State. After admiring these statues and stone sculptures we continued towards the right building of the Assam State Museum where we were first greeted by various artillery used during the World War II. As the Burma Campaign of the World War II was fought in the areas in Assam and neighboring states the Allied forces and the Japanese Army abandoned various artillery used during warfare and these are now preserved at the Assam State Museum in Guwahati.
The next display hall here had several relics and artefacts from the Aryan civilization of India. Various coins dating back to this era, statues, relics used in calculations, the details of Mohenjodaro and Harappa are to be found in this section of the Assam State Museum and finally the section of handloom is there where various traditional handlooms of Assam like the silk mekhela chadors are put up on display. There are also other traditional clothings of the indigenous people of Assam put on display like the Bodo – Dokhona, Mishing – Gales, etc. There are also robes adorned earlier by the Ahom kings here at the Assam State Museum as well. With this our visit to the Assam State Museum at Guwahati came to an end and we came out of the place to head to the Panbazar area at Guwahati in Assam to visit the Sukreswar Temple. The Sukreswar temple is a holy temple shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva and is renowned for the presence of a Shiva Linga here that is considered to one of the largest in India. As it was a sunday there was ample space available for parking the car here and we went inside the premises of the Sukreswar temple in Guwahati. The temple is located by the banks of the Brahmaputra river and a cool breeze keeps blowing from the riverside across the Sukreswar temple. There are two temple shrines here at the Sukreswar temple in Assam one on the right hand side is the main temple shrine where the Shiva Linga is located. This temple holds an important place among the business community of Assam and the local businessmen consider this place very holy and they come to seek the blessings of Lord Shiva for their business to prosper and grow. A unique way of offering their worship here is by pouring milk over the Shiva Linga. Also women consider this place sacred and seek blessings of the Lord to help them find a good life partner.
We did not have anything in mind to seek blessings but we offered our worship seekings blessings for a healthy and happy family. Lots of milk was being poured on the Shiva Linga and the milk gets collected in a place near the temple where later it is sterilized and then distributed to the needy people as per the local person who informed us. This finished our worship at the Sukreswar temple and we moved on to drive back towards our home area. As it was lunch time I decided to take my family to the Maa Manasha restaurant at Maligaon area in Assam. While I was pursuing my 11th and 12th at Guwahati I used to stay in the Maligaon area of Assam as the school was at North Guwahati so commuting was easier from here. During that time almost 15 years ago we used to visit this place called as the Maa Manasha hotel that is located near the Maligaon market area and is known to serve the best variety of bengali cuisine especially the fish and mutton items. At that time it was a small hotel with an open seating area and plastic tables set to the guests who could sit and eat here. I still remember the first time we had visited the place along with my father and his colleague and son who was my roommate during my times here at Maligaon in Assam way back in 2001. The uncle had ordered Sital fish and the fish piece was so huge that it couldn’t be accommodated in one plate and the entire tail area of the fish slice was protruding out of the plate.
From then on whenever I ordered or had Sital fish this was the only sight that came to my mind. I asked my father about this an interesting he too remembered the scene and so we agreed to have our lunch here today. Once we entered the place to our surprise it had turned into a big restaurant now although the small open space still is present where the owner keeps a record of the orders and collects the payments while there are around 5 chairs and tables that can accommodate around 15 guests here and upstairs there is a huge A/C dining hall and people were lined up to have their lunch here. We got our seats at the A/C cabin and placed our order of thalis along with Sital fish and ilish fish. The food arrived soon and the thali was a true bengali delight with the likes of rice, dal, brinjal fry, potato fry, mixed sabji, dry fish chutney, salad, pickle, etc. And came along the Sital fish and it reminded me of the earlier times. The food quality is still the same and this has led to the rise in their business. After completing our lunch we headed back home to relive our memories of the Umananda temple, Assam State Museum, Sukreswar temple and the wonderful lunch at the Maa Manasha Hotel.
Exploring Orang National Park & Madan Kamdev Temple in Assam ~
Today I set out to explore the lovely Orang National Park near Mangaldoi in Assam. Orang National Park is one of the 5 national parks in Assam and is lesser known compared to the famous Kaziranga National Park, Manas National Park and Nameri National Park of Assam and hence draws lesser visitors compared to them. But Orang National Park in Assam has a terrain very similar to the Kaziranga National Park and is often dubbed as the mini Kaziranga and has flora and fauna similar to Kaziranga. So I started my drive from Guwahati to travel to Orang National Park via Baihata Chariali and Mangaldoi in Assam. There are two ways of approaching the Orang National Park in Assam one from Mangaldai and the other from the Tezpur route via Mission Chariali. the later route is slightly longer and also the road conditions were not good during my time of visit as a 4 way lane was being constructed and driving a smaller car on this route was not advisable. So I took the route from Mangaldoi and planned on visiting the Madan Kamdev temple shrine on my way back.
The roads are fine to drive on the first half upto Mangaldoi and I was in for a surprise once I reached Mangaldoi. This place literally felt like I was in some place in Bangladesh. Immigration of illegal migrants from Bangladesh has been a major problem in Assam since many years and many of these people have now settled in Assam holding the major national ID proofs like PAN cards, Voter ID cards, etc calling them citizens of India. The earlier governments couldn’t play a major role in stalling this immigration and now they can be seen everywhere across Assam where they come and settle themselves. Bengali muslims are they are referred to as now a major part of the population of the state. I kept driving and finally reached a place where I had to take a right diversion to travel to Orang National Park in Assam. I had to stop here to ask for directions and the people were kind enough to guide me to the place. Interestingly the major population along the roads are those of the indigenous people of Assam but once you start moving towards the interiors the huge bengali muslim population can be found. These people have identified pockets in the state where they cannot be noticed easily from the mainstream population of the state and have settled themselves here so that people travelling across the state cannot find them easily.
Tey carry on their activities here and many of them are mostly into agriculture and day labor and they settle themselves near the river banks so that they have adequate water for irrigation purposes. Once I went deeper inside approaching the Orang National Park could see their settlements again and a sense of rage filled my heart against these outsiders who rapidly multiply and cover the entire region. With education not being of prime importance in their lives they do not know about family planning and to them an extra child is another helping hand to feed the family. I felt disgusted for not being able to so anything and with no options I kept driving towards the Orang National Park in Assam. It gave me a scare in my own state and being in such a place where people were trying to stop my car and asking me to give them a lift. I quickly drove past them to finally arrive at the entrance gate of the Orang National Park.
At the Orang National Park there is a government operated Prashanti Tourist Lodge for the lodging and fooding option for its guests. during my time of visit the place was not in the best condition. There was no one around as well to guide me across and so I parked my car here and went towards the entrance of the Orang National Park in Assam. There was a forest office here and I was fortunate to have met a forest guard here who welcomed me at the office and guided me with the information needed to explore Orang National Park for our future visits. The Orang National Park in Assam is similar to Kaziranga National park in terms of terrain and the flora and fauna. The river Brahmaputra also borders one end of the Orang National Park and the dominant fauna here is that of the Indian One Horned Rhinoceros, Royal bengal tigers, Elephants, birds, primates, reptiles. etc. For visiting the interiors of Orang National Park there is an option of a Jeep Safari ride and to my utter dismay there was only one jeep at the disposal owned by one Mr. Abdul who operated the safaris here. I spoke to him and it turned out that he also is the caretaker of the Prashanti Lodge and helps to accommodate and prepare food the guests who come here.
The forest guard took me little into the interiors as he had spotted a bird here and showed it to me. However to spot the wild animals of Orang National Park one has to travel to the interiors of the park on a Jeep safari ride. The park has a healthy population of Rhinos and Tigers and visitors who want to catch a glimpse of these animals in the wild can come and stay here at Orang and explore the varied flora and fauna of the place. After winding up my visit at the Orang National Park in Assam I started on my drive back to Mangaldoi and further to Baihata Chariali where I was scheduled to stop at the Madan Kamdev temple in Assam. I reached the place at around 12 Pm and there were not many devotees around and so I started to explore the place on my own. The Madan Kamdev temple in an ancient archeological site dating back to the 9th and 10th century during the reign of the Pala dynasty of ancient Kamrupa. The ruins of the place are scattered on an area of around 500 m and there is a temple of Kamdev here that has the idols of Ganesha and Vidyadhara here in Assam.
The main excavation of the temple ruins happened in 1977 when the archeologists in addition to the main temple found another temple in the area here. On careful examination it was concluded that these were constructed around the 10th and 12th century under the orders of the Kings of the Pala dynasty. The main attraction of mythology here at the Madan Kamdev temple is that after Lord Shiva burnt down Kamdev to ashes with his third eye at the Bhasmachal hills in the Umananda Island at Guwahati in Assam, Lord Kamdev was reborn as Madan in this place. The entire temple architecture is a treat to the eyes where we can see the variou sculptures of the Gods and Goddess present at the Madan Kamdev temple in Assam. I explored this beautiful temple ruins for a while and then started on my drive to Guwahati. Along the way I stopped at a roadside dhaba to have my lunch. As mentioned earlier the Dhabas are very popular across Assam and there one that I stopped was a bihari dhaba mostly used by the heavy truck haulers who carry goods across various states to and from Assam. I could see many trucks parked in the campus of this dhaba and so I decided to give a shot at the food here. Bihari cuisine is known for their rotis, dal, chicken, littis and chokhas so I ordered my food of roti, rice, dal fry, chicken curry and salad.
The food service was very quick and you could see the food being prepared in front of your eyes as the kitchen is open. You cannot keep hygiene as a consideration at such places so I accepted it and the food was served shortly. The food was very delicious although I must say that there was heavy use of spices in the preparation. Our food of Assam is generally very low in oil and powdered spices and therefore it is easy to be digested but the other north indian cuisine makes heavy use of spices like garam masala, chilli powder, dhania powder, etc. Food of Assam is generally flavored with natural ingredients like green chillies, green herbs, ginger, garlic, pepper, etc. But yet as I wouldn’t be having this food regularly I did not mind the spicy flavor. After finishing my lunch I started on my drive back home to Guwahati in Assam thereby ending my day of exploring Orang National Park and the Madan Kamdev Temple at Baihata Chariali and I looked forward to exploring a new destination of Assam soon.
Explorign Jagiroad and Jonbeel Mela in Assam ~
It was the month of Januarye and my aunt had often spoken to me about her desire to visit the Jonbeel Mela – Barter trade festival of Assam. It so happened that this traditional festival of Assam has been organized since ages and as I wrote about it on my note of the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary, the King of Morigaon is the head who presides over the festivities of the Jonbeel Mela festival of Assam. This festival of Assam highlights the age old practice of barter trade that was prevalent earlier and instead of paying money to buy things, the indigenous people of Morigaon district like the Tiwa people of Assam used to exchange (barter) goods in place of money to complete a business transaction. The thought of witnessing the Jonbeel mela of Assam in person intrigued me and I decided to visit Jagiroad from Guwahati to witness this festival. I coordinated with my aunt’s son who was my elder cousin and was working as an executive at the Nagaon paper mill at Jagiroad in Assam. He found time out from his busy schedule and asked me to come over to jagiroad to spend a day here where he would take me to the festival grounds of the Jonbeel mela festival. i had to go to my aunt’s place to pick her up and then we would be going to Jagiroad at first to the Deoshal temple here and then visit the Jonbeel Mela and finally come to my cousin’s home at the HPCL township for lunch to return to Guwahati by evening.
Every year the Jonbeel mela is scheduled during the 18th, 19th and 20th of January and I had planned to visit the festival on the first day itself and it was on a Tuesday. I picked up my aunt and as she is an aged lady and the lift at her apartment doesn’t work I had to lead here carefully down the stairs to go to my car parked downstairs. After allowing her to sit comfortable in the ca I started my drive to Jagiroad from Guwahati crossing Ganeshguri, Khanapara, Jorabat, Sonapur to reach Jagiroad at 9.30 AM. At first we went to the Deosal temple where my cousin would join us. The Deosal temple at Jagiroad in Assam is a temple shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva. This temple shrine is very popular among the Karbi people of Assam who consider this temple to be very sacred. We parked our car and went into a shop to buy some items to offer for worship at this temple. The place is very clean and green and the entire Jagiroad area is filled with forests. We cleansed our hands and feet and went inside the temple premises to offer our worship to Lord Shiva. As it was a weekday not many people were around and it seems on sundays hundreds of devotees from across Assam come here. The temple pujari took the puja thali and offered prayers to the lord on our behalf. After finishing our puja we came out of the temple to travel to the festival grounds of the Jonbeel mela festival.
Once we reached the place it was filled with vehicles and visitors who had come here to witness this age old tradition and festival. People had to park their cars on a field area and then walk towards the festive grounds here at Jagiroad in Assam. We too did the same and walked towards the festival grounds across paddy fields that were now dry due to winters. After walking for 10 min we reached the venue and there were hundreds of stalls set up here by the local traders and indigenous people. Here too as well there were a lot of bengali muslims again all small traders selling their goods in makeshift stalls. The Jonbeel Mela is like a fair where villagers come to spend their day in merriment. There was a huge stage area constructed where the Hon. Chief Minister of Assam had just mader his visit and the King of Morigaon had also finished his visit here for the day. We walked through the stalls admiring the craftsmanship of the indigenous people of Assam who were selling Tiwa, Karbi and Bodo handlooms. We did not get to witness the barter phenomenon as this happens early in the morning when the King had visited. Instead now people had to pay money to buy the goods. Yet it was nice to be part of the festivities of the only barter trade festival in the World here in Assam.
My aunt brought some of the traditional handlooms of the Tiwa people and after sometime we bid farewell to the festive grounds of the Jonbeel Mela festival. Being a part of this ancient practice made us feel at peace in our mind and taking the memories we headed to my cousin’s place at the HPCL township. My cousin had a nice home here at Jagiroad in Assam and his wife had prepared an elaborate lunch for us today. The meal had chicken, dal, fried rice, rice, salad, paneer, mutton, stuffed capsicum, etc. On arrival they offered us tea and snacks too. We took time exploring the home and the HPCL township and then we had our lunch. After lunch we rest for a while and later in the early evening started on our drive back to Guwahati. We reached Guwahati by evening 7 PM and I dropped my aunt at her place and later drove back home thereby ending our memorable visit to Jagiroad where I pondered over my visit to the Deosal temple and the festival of Barter trade – the Jonbeel mela of Assam.
Exploring Basistha and Balaji Temple in Assam ~
My Uncle’s family from Jorhat in Upper Assam had come to visit Guwahati and they were staying at another of my Uncle’s place at the Hatigaon area in Guwahati. They expressed their desire to explore the Basistha and Balaji temple areas in Guwahati and I agreed to help them look around these places. Both these temples are located on the outskirts of the main busy premises of the city near the NH 37 at Basistha and Betkuchi areas of Guwahati in Assam. The Balaji temple looks very beautiful in the evening when the entire temple gets illuminated and devotees come here to spend their evenings in peace and calm on the lawn area of this temple. I planned our visit to the place so that on sundown we reach the Balaji temple. I picked them up from my uncle’s home in at the hatigaon area and then drove towards the Basistha area. This is a busy highway stretch along NH 37 of Assam so one has to careful while driving. I reached Basistha Chariali traffic point and from here I had to take a right diversion to go to the Basistha temple.
This place is so interesting because just when you take the right diversion and after driving a little ahead you leave past a busy and noisy city and enter a forest area. Guwahati city in Assam is endowed with vast natural beauty and is different from other cities in India as there is a typical characteristic in its landscape where on one side there is the mighty Brahmaputra of Assam flowing across and on the other there are the green cover of tall rising mountains. Nestled in between is the busy city and the outskirts all covered by dense forest areas. We reached the Army base of the Basitha in sometime and from here we have to drive right crossing the forest cover to finally reach the Basistha temple in Assam. This is the place where the Holy sage Basistha set up an ashram and spent his time in meditation. Later a temple shrine was constructed by an Ahom King for the people to offer their worship here. We parked our car at the parking area and bought a puja thali and then after opening our shoes we were entered the premises of the Basistha temple in Assam. Once you enter a huge temple shrine greets you and on the left are the houses of the temple priests.
Behind this temple shrine there is a place where there is a confluence of three rivers and the waters merge together and flow down as one. This is the place where one has to cleanse their hands and feet before entering the main temple shrine. We could see devotees bathing on the river down as it it a way to purify oneself as it is believed. We cleansed our hands and feet and then entered the temple shrine of the Basistha temple in Assam. We had to walk down a fleet of stairs to reach the main temple shrine where a pujari was sitting. He took our puja thali and then offered the prayers on our behalf to the god. We offered some donation to the temple shrine and then came out of the shrine to visit the Hanuman temple downstairs. This is a newly constructed temple shrine in the premises of the Basistha temple. There is a huge statues of Lord Hanuman here and these place is filled with monkeys. since Lord Hanuman is often referred to as the monkey God in Hindu mythology it was a coincidence or a strange natural phenomenon that so many monkeys were present here. It was a spectacle to watch this and the monkeys kept coming towards us trying to grab the prasad that was in the Puja thali.
We offered it to the monkeys and then gradually they dispersed away. After offering our prayers to Lord Hanuman here we took leave from the Basitha temple in Assam to travel to the Balaji temple at Guwahati. We crossed the Inter State Bus Terminus (ISBT) in Guwahati to take a U turn to reach the premises of the Balaji temple in Guwahati. It was just beginning to get dark and the temple lights were turned on. The place looked strikingly beautiful and the entire temple building is white in color and is made up of marble. The bright colorful lights adds a more striking view to the entire place. The Balaji temple is a part of the Tirupati Balaji trust of Andhra Pradesh and the temple was constructed here in Assam to spread the message of peace and harmony across the region of North East India. The striking structure of this place is in close resemblance to the Tirupati Balaji temple and devotees come here from across Assam to offer their worship. We entered the temple shrine to offer our prayers and explore the Balaji temple at Guwahati in Assam. Most of the temple priests too were South Indians itself. After finishing our puja we took the prasad that is served here. Today it was payasam served as prasad and it was very good to eat. We also brought the Ghee Ladoos to take back home and distribute to the near and dear ones. After this we called it a day and I dropped my Uncle’s family to the other Uncle’s house at Guwahati. We planned on covering the temples of North Guwahati in Assam the next day.
Exploring North Guwahati in Assam ~
Today was our day of exploring the temples of North Guwahati in Assam. I had been planning to visit these places since a long time but due to certain time constraint I was not being able to do so. So I joined my Uncle and aunt to explore these beautiful temples of Assam. We started in the morning from Hatigaon area to travel to North Guwahati after crossing the Saraighat Bridge that connects Guwahati and North Guwahati in Assam. We reached Amingaon area and took a right to travel to North Guwahati crossing various industries that are present in the Industrial area here in Assam. North Guwahati is gradually becoming an economic hotspot of Assam as it provides proximity to the rest of the country via airways, waterways and roadways. The presence of the city next to it just crossing the Brahmaputra river makes this place an ideal choice for industrialists to set up their manufacturing units here. We crossed this area and then headed further to the countryside along the Brahmaputra river of Assam. Our first stop was at the Sri Sri Doul Govinda Temple in Assam. we parked our car and then bought the items for offering puja and went in to explore the Doul Govinda Temple in Assam.
The holy Doul Govinda temple shrine is dedicated to Lord Krishna and is a famous temple of Assam. The entire temple building is white in color and it is located on a sprawling green campus. The Doul Govinda Temple in Assam is renowned for it scelebrations of the Dol Yatra or the festival of Holki that is celebrated with great pomp and show. The Janmashtami festival or the birth of Lord Krishna is also celebrated with great pomp and show as well. We took our puja thali and entered the temple premises where the temple priests took the thali and offered prayers on our behalf. The idols of the deities at the Doul Govinda temple in Assam are covered with beautiful ornaments and clothing. We spent some time at the temple altar where we made donations in the form of rice and sugar. Everyday the Doul Govinda temple feeds its devotees with a prasadam in the form of a payasam which is a delicious rice pudding so devotees make their contributions in the formds of rice, milk, sugar and other ingredients that are required to prepare this prasad. We offered some money for the temple to be able to serve this prasad to devotees and we were asked to come back in the afternoon when the prasadam would be ready and some of it would be kept for us to take back home.
In the meantime we would explore the other areas of North Guwahati in Assam. Next up we visited the nearby Kanai Barasi rock inscriptions. These rock inscriptions hold a high place in the history of Assam as these inscriptions date back to the time of the Kings of Assam and the Kings used to etch out these rock inscriptions after winning of a major war. There are about six rock inscriptions at this site and these have been preserved and protected by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI).Next up we visited the Sri Sri Dirgheswari temple in Assam and this is another popular temple shrine of Assam dating back several hundreds of years ago. Many people revere this temple shrine of Assam because they consider it to be the second Shakti Peetha of Assam after the Holy Maa Kamakhya Temple. It is said that the right thigh of Goddess Sati fell on the grounds on the Sitachal Hills where this temple shrine is located in Assam. The Dirgheswari temple is known for the Durga Puja celebrations of Assam when thousands of devotees come here to offer animal sacrifice to appease the Gods (a practice I strictly condemn). Anyways we went in to admire the grandeur of the construction of this temple in Assam.
There are beautiful stone sculptures on the walls of the Dirgheswari temple and we need to climb a fleet of stairs to reach the top. Various trees are filled across the area of the Dirgheswari temple in Assam and we walked across this tree cover to reach the top of this temple shrine. The entire temple altar is carved out of a single stone and one needs to climb down a little just like in the Umananda Temple to reach the altar of this temple. Hundreds of pigeons are present in this temple and although the birds are sacrificed here they are not afraid to stay at the temple campus. We had bought a puja thali along and after cleaning our hands and feet at the temple pond here we went to visit the temple altar. not many devotees were present at this time as most people come in the afternoon time at around 2 PM when the temple lunch is served at nominal rates to the devotees at the Dirgheswari temple in Assam. We walked downstairs to the temple altar and it was quite dark inside and a temple priest was sitting there to help us offer our prayers.
We finished our prayers and came out of the temple premises to cover the other destinations of North Guwahati in Assam. My uncle wanted to halt for the special lunch here but then we had lots of time on our hands so we decided to come back later after after exploring some other places. Next up we went to the Sri Sri Auniati Satra in North Guwahati which is a branch of the Auniati Satra in Majuli Island. These Satras are Neo Vaishnavite Institutions that practice and preach the teachings of the Holy Saint reformed of Assam Sri Srimanta Shankardeva. Young boys enter these Satras from a young age and practice the forms of Sadhana and dedicate their lives in worship of the Lord. We walked across the area of the Auniati Satra at North Guwahati in Assam admiring the calm and peaceful atmosphere around us. The Namghar was located at the center of the place surrounded by the huts of the neo vaishnavite monks and the area was overlooking the vast expanse of the mighty Brahmaputra river of Assam. As most of the monks had gone to Majuli Island for some convention the place was kind of empty with only few monks staying at the satra whom we saw engaging in bamboo crafts and attending to the cleanliness of the place of the Auniati Satra in Assam.
One of the monks took us around the place and showed us inside the Namghar premises where the altar shrine did not have any idols of the Gods and Goddesses but only the Bhagavad Gita kept in the center. We explored around the Auniati Satra for a little more time and then went on further to explore the Sri Sri Aswaklanta temple at North Guwahati in Assam. This temple shrine is located by the banks of the river Brahmaputra atop a hillock and is holy temple shrine dedicated to Lord Krishna and it is said that when Lord Krishna was wandering in search of Narakasur to kill him, Lord Krishna’s horse felt tired at the spot of this temple and he took time to rest here by the banks of the Brahmaputra river and hence the name ‘Aswaklanta’ meaning ‘tired horses’. This temple shrine was constructed in around 1720 AD by the great Ahom king Shiva Singha of the Ahom kingdom of Assam. We parked our car and started on our climb across the fleet of stairs that led to the Aswaklanta temple in Assam. From the top we could see the ferry boats carrying passengers across both sides of the river banks of the Brahmaputra river in Assam.
We managed to climb the fleet of stairs and then took a left to walk towards the temple shrine of the Aswaklanta temple. A very beautiful temple structure greeted us and we walked towards it. A caretaker led us to the temple shrine. THe main temple shrine is closed and we could only take a walk along the premises of this temple in Assam. The caretaker led us further to the banks of the Brahmaputra river where we could see some stones kept on a tiny sand shore. These stones resembled the hooves of horses and the caretaker narrated to us that these were the impressions of the hooves of Lord Krishna’s horse that felt tired here. Every year the Brahmaputra river savages this place during the annual floods of Assam but this stone structure has not been damaged a bit thereby symbolizing some holy power. We admired the natural beauty of the place and then walked back to the temple premise where the caretaker offered us a cup a black tea and some biscuits. This temple is not so renowned like the other temple of Assam and so sees lesser footfalls compared to the others. After making a small contribution towards temple donation we left the premises of the Aswaklanta temple and later headed to the Doul Govinda temple to pick up our prasad of payasam that would be kept for us.
My Uncle wanted to go back to the Dirgheswari temple for the lunch but my aunt got tired after all the stair climbing and she did not want to climb the stairs again at the Dirgheswari temple in Assam for lunch. So we opted to skip this and went only to the Doul Govinda temple and then we left North Guwahati to return to Amingaon where we made a stop at the Borluit Dhaba and ethnic Assamese Restaurant for lunch. This place in Amingaon is a very nice restaurant that has a clean and nice ambience and serves authentic Assamese cuisine to its visitors. Food is served on traditional Bell metal plates and saucers and even the water is served on bell metal glasses that speaks of the ancient traditions and customs of Assam dating back to the time of the Ahom kingdom when it is said that having food on bell metal plates and saucers enhances the taste of the food and also keep a person healthy as eating in bell metal plates removes body ailments due to the certain compounds in bell metal that promotes human health. We took our seats at the Borluit Dhaba cum restaurant that is named after a famous river of Assam ‘Borluit’.
We ordered for the vegetarian thali and local chicken curry, borali fish with mustard and duck with gourd along with our meal. The food was very elaborately served in the bell metal plates and along with white rice was a yellow dal, a black dal, a chutney made with local herbs, dhekia herb with potato, omita khar, guti aloo sabji, khar, salad, aloo pitika and payok. The cuisine of Assam as mentioned earlier is very less in oil and powdered spices. All fresh ingredients are used in the food preparation. The most common would be ginger, garlic, green chillies, (sometimes the bhut jolokia), pepper, turmeric, herbs, curry leaves, sesame, etc. Sometimes the curry is made with a mix of various ingredients while in some only a few are used like the aloo pitika which is basically an Assamese version of the mashed potato of the west that has coriander, onions, green chillies, little mustard oil, etc. Assam is bestowed with vast natural beauty and forest cover and these forest pockets are blessed with certain herbs that not only have medicinal properties but also tastes very good as well. Like the Dhekia Xaak is found abundantly in the wild and not only in the dense forests but grows in the jungles nearby people’ home. This herb when properly cleaned and fried with sliced potatoes adds a taste that is unmatchable and packed with nutrition and free from all pesticides because it grows naturally.
But gradually the people in towns and cities owing to their hectic lifestyle and lack of time rely on vegetables sold by vendors that are not only blant in taste but are also containing heavy doses of pesticides and fertilizers. It is time that the people of Assam and the other places in India as well rely on organic foods and lead a healthier life. Coming back to our food at Borluit restaurant it was a delight indeed. The items of the veg thali itself was very tasty and the chicken, fish and duck recipes added to the flavor of the food. The chicken was cooked is a curry with potatoes and lots of pepper that added a slight heat to the curry. The Borali fish was cooked with grounded mustard seeds and a certain herb and it was mostly a boiled curry and gravy and the fish tasted wonderful. The borali fish has a lots of oil in its body and ruing the frying of this fish one has to be careful as the oil keeps spilling out of the kadhai. This is what makes the fish very delicious and costly as well. The duck meat was cooked with a gourd (kumura in Assamese) and this vegetable helps in elimination the oil from the suck meat. The entire presentation of the food at the Borluit restaurant cum dhaba in Assam was a treat to the eyes and the food tasted very good as well. After lunch we drove back to guwahati and I dropped my Uncle and aunt at Hatigaon to return to my home at Lokhra in Assam thereby ending another fruitful day of exploring the divine temples of North Guwahati in Assam.
Exploring Garbhanga in Assam ~
One fine morning some of my local friends planned on a day outing to the Garbhanga Reserve Forest near Guwahati in Assam. This beautiful forest reserve is located just behind my home at Lokhra in Assam and I had never got the opportunity to go deep into the interiors of this forest. Assam, as mentioned earlier has vast expanse of its land covered by forest cover and this one is a perfect example located just adjacent to the city of Guwahati. All of my friends belonged to the Karbi community of Assam who are settled at the Lokra area in Guwahati. They are the indigenous people here and to them forests are a way of life. They know where to step into the forest reserve and where there were chances of having encounters with wild animals. They knew what to pick up from these forests of Assam and prepare for food as well as the medicinal properties of the herbs and plants present in these forests. Deep inside the forest are local villages and one such village is the Garbhanga village of Assam located near the border of Assam and Meghalaya. It is from this village that locals come down every sunday and wednesday carrying fresh organic produce of vegetables and fruits to be sold at the local markets of Lokhra and Sawkuchi at Guwahati in Assam.
Our plan for the day was to drive on our bikes from Lokhra to Garbhanga crossing the mountains and forest cover, spend the day admiring the beautiful natural landscapes, check in the village of Garbhanga in Assam and then have a picnic outing here where we would be cooking a traditional Assamese lunch and later return back by late afternoon to Lokhra in Assam. We were eight of us and another two local guys would be joining us at the Garbhanga village who would show us around the place and help in preparing our traditional lunch. We started in the morning at around 7 AM from Lokhra to drive towards Garbhanga after crossing the forest range office of Lokhra. These forest covers of Assam are protected and there are forest offices that keep track of any illegal activities inside these forest like timber cutting by felling of trees, etc. One of the members of this office was also travelling with us and so we did not have to seek permission to go to the interiors of Garbhanga. There is a narrow road that goes deep into the forest and we had to follow this track to go inside. As we started to ascend the mountains of this forest the soulful chirping of birds welcomed us along with it the occasional roar of wild elephants, leopards and the call of the Hoolock Gibbons of Assam as well.
The place is filled with green forest cover and the air is is pure and no noise reaches your ears. I was surprised because I have been staying close to this forest for almost a year but never did I earlier visit here. Still I thanked my luck for being able to come here now and so we continued on our drive to Garbhanga in Assam. The roads were approachable as it was winter time and the season was dry in Assam. Otherwise during the monsoons the track would be flooded with water and the approach would get muddy. We kept ascending the mountain and our speed was slow yet the beauty of nature all around us made us enjoy our drive. Garbhanga Reserve Forest in Assam is known for its population of birds and butterflies. It is a hidden treasure of Assam that is a paradise for bird watching especially during the winter time when thousands of migratory birds come here from across the World.
Hundreds of species of butterflies are also found in the forest pockets here and we could see them flying all around us. The ascend finally ended and we reached the plain grounds where there was a vast expanse of paddy fields. As the crop was just cut the paddy fields were now empty and we could see the cl;ear sky horizon and the mountain ranges here. We stopped here for a while admiring the nature of Assam and the beauty of mother nature. We had some refreshments that we carried along with us and then started on our drive to Garbhanga in Assam. We now approached a tall canopy of Sal trees and it was no less than a perfect location for a movie shoot. The tree cover was simply breathtaking and we stopped here to click some pictures to show back to the people of how beautiful Assam truly is. After about 15 minutes we finally reached the Garbhanga area. The two local friends of the village welcomed us to their place and even they belonged to the Karbi community of Assam. Garbhanga village is a mix of Karbi community people of Assam and the Garo community of Meghalaya. As Assam and Meghalaya share a strategic border in this village and both these communities have been living here since times immemorial.
Once you are here you are far off from a city life and no longer do you see the rush of fast cars and tall buildings and there is no trace of noise and pollution. The only thing you can see around are cheerful people, lush green vegetation around and children playing around in the natural environment the very way God intended the earth to be. Most of the worldly pleasures are not be found here and you feel the true awe and essence of mother nature here at Garbhanga in Assam. The countryside view is breathtaking and the streams that flow across will give you a surprise as to how clear water can be. We stopped our bikes and took sometime to get a feel of the place in calm and harmony. The friends took us to their home where we met their family who offered us tea and some locally brewed rice wine. It is a tradition in the villages of Assam to welcome guests with rice wine and later offer them some betel nuts and leaves called as ‘Tamul Paan’ of Assam. This natural mouth freshener is believed to aid in digestion.
After this the boys took us across the place to a small market area where they introduced us to the shop owners of Garbhanga in Assam. We walked into the forests where we came across a very beautiful waterfall and also the border of Assam and Meghalaya. It was here that the boys had arranged to prepare our ethnic lunch cooked in bamboo trunks over fire. We had carried along our food to be cooked and the meal would have country chicken, pork cooked with herbs and rice. As it was a picnic outing we also carried with us liquor both IMFL and traditional rice wine as well. We would use the water from the small stream that flows by and the water was sparkling clear. This was a true village style experience we would be enjoying today. All of us got busy with some activity with some cleaning the food, some preparing the drinks, some collecting firewood and other small tasks as well. It was more like a community feasting today in the midst of a forest in Assam. The fire was lit and the meat cleaned and all ready to be cooked. The local boys knew how to cook in the hollowed out bamboo trunks and we were spectators as to how they stuffed the food into the bamboo trunks and they started the preparations. The most important part in this cooking technique of Assam is to control the fre. Too much fire and the bamboo too would start burning leading to the entire dish getting spoilt.
The boys were precise with the fire adding sticks and removing them regularly to control the fire level. At first, the chicken was cooked as the county chicken takes a little more time to cook properly. It was made with tomatoes, coriander, pepper and lots of green chillies. The pork meat was washed thoroughly and mixed with the leafy sdour herbs and then stuffed into the bamboo trunks. The only use of powdered spices was that of turmeric powder and rest all were natural ingredients like ginger, garlic, green chillies, coriander, ginger leaf, etc. After the pork was cooked it was finally time to cook the rice. The rice was a mixture of Joha rice and Aijung rice that was grown locally in the Garbhanga village of Assam and the boys had taken lots of trouble to arrange everything from the local village. We did not have to carry any food items along with us from Guwahati and the only thing we carried with us were the bottles of IMFL.
We enjoyed the meat along with the drinks and the hospitality of the local people of Garbhanga left us amazed. While we were cooking there was someone or the other coming in from the village and asking us if we needed anything. One of the locals even got us some fried pork and fishes to be had along with the drinks. They came and offered us food and got their wine along with them sat with us for a while discussing how their life was different in the village than in the city and also about their problems of accessibility to the city during the monsoon season. The people were so selfless and they were ready to share their things with us and this is indeed the true essence of Assam. Our rice was finally cooked and it was interesting to watch how the boys checked whether the food was done or not. They had a bamboo stick in hand and they kept pushing the stick into the food to mix it as well as to check whether the food had been cooked or not. The rice was finally done and we started out lunch. The food was served on banana leaves and the entire presentation looked so natural and pleasing to the eyes. We had prepared a salad of cucumber, tomato, carrot, chilli and coriander and another of the village person had provided some dry fish chutney that was spicy as well.
The food turned out to be so delicious and the meat was cooked to perfection and all the natural flavors got so perfectly blended. If I had a chance to eat this food everyday I would do so but unfortunately staying in ac ity we can rarely get to eat such healthy and tasty food free from any pesticides, preservatives and all cooked to perfection. One thing about the people of the villages in Assam is that they eat such healthy and natural food that they rarely fall sick. they know how to live in tandem with nature and know what to eat according the the seasons. Say in summers as the temperatures reach around 35 degrees with a real feel of 45 degrees due to the humidity of Assam nature gives us various foods like sour herbs, the bhut jolokia, etc and these food help us to regulate our body temperature by inducing perspiration and hence bring down the body heat. I could hear these locals speaking of various herbs that are medicinal and can cure certain body ailments as well when boiled and had with certain vegetable and meat.
We enjoyed our sumptuous lunch and later cleaned the utensils we had carried along and started on our drive back to Garbhanga village. We stopped by the village where we bid farewell to the warm hearted people of Garbhanga in Assam and later started on our drive to Lokhra in Assam. This time it was a downhill drive and so it was easier. We did not have to use the bike accelerator and gravity did most of the work and we cruised down easily. We made a stop midway where the boys decided to collect some ferns and herbs to be carried home. We did not venture deep into the forest as just along the roads these herbs were growing like the Dhekia Xaak, manimuni plants, etc. We packed the herbs and then started on our drive to Lokhra again to finally reach home at about 4.30 PM. It was a really amazing day exploring the countryside of Assam forgetting the hustle and bustle of the city life. This trip tp Garbhanga in Assam made me realize that money is not the only important thing in life it is all about enjoying the bounties of mother nature and to be able to live in harmony with it.
Exploring Bijoynagar in Assam ~
One of my friend who was into the business of online handicrafts and handlooms selling had once spoken to me of a place called as Bijoynagar near Guwahati and of a person named Mr. Narmohan Das who is engaged in weaving of silk with natural dyes. His Eri silk stoles are renowned across the world and he sends his stoles to countries as far flung as US, Japan, Canada, Australia all from his remote village at Bijoynagar in Assam. His Muga Silk carpet have even found place in the Buckingham Palace in England and he is aman so humble and down to earth that he still stays in a small house at Bijoynagar and doesn’t scale up his business and make it commercial to earn more money. He is a man of virtue and believes in quality and not quantity. My friend showed me some of his creations on his phone and they looked very exquisite. So I agreed to accompany him to Bijoynagar and meet Mr. Narmohan Das in person. My friend had met Mr. Das at the IIE in Guwahati and from then on he was in touch with him as Mr. Das’ products intrigued him and he wanted to see the possibilities of promoting these unique silk variants of Assam across his customer base as well.
Mr Das however did not involve himself much because he already catered to many clients and his demand was so huge that he couldn’t often meet his supply. As all his products are hand woven by the local weavers of the villages surrounding Bijoynagar area in Assam this is very time consuming and a lot depends on the weather as well because with favorable weather the silk worms tend to produce more of silk otherwise they often do not yield a good produce. Anyways we went ahead with our place to visit Bijoynagar just to meet Mr. Narmohan Das in person. We started at 9 AM from Guwahati crossing the Garchuk and Pamohi areas to arrive near the Guwahati airport in Assam and then headed to Azara and kept driving straight. After about an hour and half we reached a left diversion and this was Bijoynagar town. from here we had to take another left that led us to a smaller road across the villages to drive to Mr. Narmohan Das’ house. We had to keep asking for directions and this was the first time we were visiting the place and google maps doesn’t work in remote locations like this.
This was again the countryside of Assam where we could see the thatch homes and people welcoming us by helping us with the directions. we finally reached Mr. Narmohan Das’ home and he welcomed us inside. In the sitting room of his place we could see various silk stoles and other handloom being kept. There were pictures of many foreign guests who had visited his place and Mr. Das explained to us about the various processes involved in weaving and dyeing of the fabrics. One interesting thing is that he uses all natural colors for dyeing like turmeric, onion peels, beetroot, hilikha, etc. This interesting art of Assam is yet to achieve lots of recognition in the World and it not promoted well this art would slowly fade away as the youth today do not want to engage in weaving activities and instead prefer to do a day job. Mr. Narmohan Das is credited in keeping this art form of Assam alive with all his years of hard work and struggles. We thanked him for his support in keeping this art form of Assam alive. My friend bought some stuff for himself and later we returned back to Guwahati in Assam.
Exploring Barpeta & Manas National Park in Assam ~
My younger brother had come down from Bangalore and he was staying for a few days at our home in Guwahati. Both of us never explored the Manas National Park in Assam and so we made a plan to visit the place. I had a colleague working in the Barpeta road area and even he too was inviting me to stay over at his place since long and so I took this opportunity to explore the places in Lower Assam. During my job tenure I had often visited Bongaigaon and Barpeta road areas in lower Assam but never as a tourist only on official work so this would be a perfect opportunity to explore the places of tourist interest in Assam here as well. My friend at Barpeta road was working at a reputed bank and he had a nice room to stay so we wouldn’t be spending money on lodging. He asked us to come over on a saturday so that he would be free on sunday to help us explore Manas National Park and he asked us to explore the Barpeta Satra along our way to Barpeta road in Assam. We took his advice and my brother and I started on our drive to Barpeta in lower Assam on a saturday a around 9 AM from Guwahati.
We had to cross the Saraighat bridge to drive towards amingaon and Changsari further to Baihata Chariali. This was the similar route we had taken during our visit to the Orang National Park in Assam. Instead of taking a right at Baihata Chariali we headed straight this time to go to Rangia and continuing further to Barpeta. From Rangia in Assam if we take a right we can head to Bhutan as well via Tamulpur and Darranga Mela. I had been earlier to Bhutan from Assam at Samdrup Jongkhar and the experience is mentioned in the blog section of this website. Indian Nationals and people especially from Assam do not need any special permit to enter Bhutan via Samdrup Jongkhar. We had to produce a valid ID proof (mostly Voter ID card) to enter the border of India and Bhutan at Assam and we are allowed to explore the Samdrup Jongkhar market and certain areas in Bhutan after which we are not allowed to cross and would need valid documentations. We crossed Rangia and drive further to Barpeta. On the way we stopped at a roadside dhaba for some refreshments.
We planned on just having tea here but once we entered the dhab we could get the aroma of hot rotis being cooked on a charcoal fire stove. I am not a big fan of rotis like the people in North India and being from Assam I mostly prefer rice but the aroma and texture of rotid cooked over charcoal fire altogether is a different experience. A small dab of desi ghee on these rotis along with a dal tadka is one of the most desired of the Indian cuisine. So we ordered for a plate of rotis and dal tadka at this dfbhaa near Nalbari in Assam. The rotis were thin and soft just the way I liked it and the dal tadka even contained egg which enhanced the flavor of the dish. We finished our meal and then headed on our drive to Barpeta. We reached barpeta at around 11.30 AM and from the town we had to take a left diversion to drive to the Barpeta Satra in Assam. We reached the place in sometime and a huge entrance gate greets you at the Barpeta Satra. We had to park our car at a distance and the walk towards the Satra premises. At the entrance there are many shops that sell items that are required to offer prayers in the Satra.
As mentioned earlier these Satras are Assamese Vaishnavite Monasteries that were created under the instructions of the Holy Sain reformere Srimanta Shankardeva and his disciple Sri Madhava Deva. The Barpeta Satra was built under the instructions of the holy guru Madhava Deva. These places came into being at a time when the caste system was very prevalent in India and holy saint guru Srimanta Shankardeva did not like the idea of this system. he introduced the concept of all human beings are alike and initiated teachings that would lead to the abolishment of the caste system in Assam. The holy guru also promoted the idea that God is one and to ensure his discourses reached the masses of Assam he introduced plays called as ‘Bhaonas’ that taught religious discourses of various mythological characters in an art form. To make the plays look more life like he even created the concept of traditional masks that would represent the various mythological characters and this would help the people of Assam relate more closely with the characters. After he received patronization from the Ahom kings Srimanta Shankardeva established himself in Majuli Island in Assam where he promoted his cult of neo vaishnavism.
These Satras of Assam are religious institutions that helped to teach discourses to young children from a very early age who would admit them into these satras and learn about the true meaning of life and spend their lives dedicated in the praise of the Lord. The basic structure of a Satra in Assam is that it contains a big Namghar or prayer hall at the center surrounded by ‘Hutis’ or the huts of the ‘Bhakats’ followed by one or more tempel ponds and a hall to practice the religious discourses and the Sattriya Nritya dance performance. The Barpeta Satra too has the same architecture with a huge ‘Namghar’ premise that greets you upon arrival here. We went into the Namghar premise where we burnt the candles and incense sticks and offered our prayers. In the prayer hall there were ‘Bhakats’ sitting and reciting the praise of the Lord and playing a huge drum beat as well. One of the Bhakats took us and helped us see around the Namghar of the Barpeta Satra in Assam. At the entrance of the Namghar there are two huge tree trunks and the Bhakat told us that these were the trunks of the Tulsi tree that is nowadays to be found only in the form of a shrub and earlier it used to grow in the form of huge trees.
We continued to explore the Barpeta Satra in Assam and then we walked around the namghar and along the walls of the Namghar there were various paintings and art forms that represented various mythological characters. Then there was a small hut where Sri Madhava Deva spent his time during his days at the Barpeta Satra in Assam. Behind the Namghar area there is a courtyard kind of an area where religious discourses used to be held earlier. The entire structure is constructed with wood and there are elevated platforms where people could sit and listen to discourses. Interestingly I could see a signboard here that strictly said that women members are not allowed to enter the premises of this courtyard. Next up we took a walk around the homes of the ‘Bhakats’ surrounding the area of the Barpeta Satra in Assam. These are small quarters where the neo vaishnavite monks stay and spend their time when not engaged in prayers and other activities of the Satra. We took a complete walk around the Barpeta Satra in Assam and after making a small donation at the Namghar of the Satra we left to Barpeta road.
After reaching the highway and driving for a while we reached a huge signage welcoming us to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Manas National Park in Assam. We finally reached barpeta road junction and we had to go straight to Barpeta road because the road left would take us further to Bongaigaon and this is the highway stretch that connects Assam to the rest of India via roadways crossing the border at Srirampur to go to Cooch Behar in West Bengal. This is a busy market area and the roads are narrow as well so we had to drive carefully to avoid any hassles. We reached the premises of my friend’s bank office and he welcomed us in. As it was around lunch time he would take leave for the rest of the day and take us to his place after winding up a little of his pending work. He showed us around his office and it was a government bank and one of the leading banks of Assam and North East India as well. My friend finished his work and then he took leave from his office to take us to his house. As he too was a bachelor most of his food was from outside itself.
He had made arrangements for his food from a restaurant that served home cooked meals and the restaurant boy would deliver his dinner packed in boxes and keep it at my friend’s place at barpeta road in Assam. He took us to this place for our lunch and it was a clean and nice place near his home. The place served thali and along with it the choice of meat or fish. we sat down and the boy brought us rice thalis with dal, potato sabji, chutney, brinjal fry, some salad and a dry fish chutney. Next we ordered a plate of chicken curry and fish curry to be shared. This was a Bengali cuisine restaurant so the meal had adequate oil and spices different from the Assamese cuisine. After lunch we headed to our friend’s place and it was a nice place for a bachelor and as my friend was working in a reputed bank many of the people knew him around. after freshening up my friend took me to the field director’s office of Manas National park in Assam at Barpeta road.
He knew some of the people here so it would be easier to seek information prior to our visit to Manas National park in Assam for our safari rides the next morning. We reached the place and an official welcomed us here. He took us to his office and we could see the various milestones of Manas National Park from being an area infested with terrorism to being declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and now one of the popular National Parks in Assam attracting hundreds of visitors from across the World every year. He spoke to some official at the Park and informed us that our jeep safari would be available tomorrow morning at 8 AM from the park entrance gate of Manas National Park. We thanked him and then left the forest office. My friend took us to a park where we spent some time breathing in the fresh air and discussing about our lives here. There was a tea stall at the market area near the park and we ordered tea and snacks for us. The snacks was dal pakoda which is a famous snack across India where lentils are ground and then mixed with onions, coriander, curry leaves and some spices and made into small balls and deep fried. It is served with a spicy chutney and it tastes very delicious.
After this as we were catching after a long time we decided to have small celebration and cook meat and enjoy it over drinks. We purchased a bottle of scotch and some goat meat from the market area and then headed back home. I prepared a goat meat curry and my brother and my friend got busy serving the drinks. We discussed about our lives and our time during our std XI and XII in Guwahati. As he was in a bank job he was transferred from one location to another every three years as per bank policy and across his tenure he had visited various locations in North East India. As his was a field job so he had to explore places away from his location as well. He had spent time in Nagaland and Mizoram and he commended me on my idea of starting a travel company because Assam and North East India had so many places to explore that tourists are still not yet aware of apart from the prime locations like Kaziranga National Park, Shillong, Cherrapunji, etc. He was speaking of the example of Manas National Park in Assam as well. While Kaziranga National Park the most popular UNESCO World Heritage Site of Assam sees thousands of visitors every year, Manas National Park sees only a fraction of these numbers. We finished our dinner and then walked on the roof for a while before retiring to bed to get up early the next morning as we had about an hours drive time to Manas National Park in Assam from Barpeta road.
The total drive time from Guwahati to Manas National Park is about 4 hours and from the airport it would be around 5 hours so one has to plan accordingly for their visit. We got up at 5.30 AM the next morning and got ready to go to the interiors of the forest reserves of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Manas National Park in Assam. My friend took his SUV vehicle as the road conditions were not very good from the Barpeta road railway crossing upto Manas National Park during our time of visit. We started at 6.15 AM on our drive to Manas. As it was a sunday the weekly market would happen today and so we could see the various vendors coming in to set up shop at the market area before the Barpeta road railway crossing. Here too most of the traders were bengali muslims and they could be identified easily with their beards and lungis that they wear. We crossed the market area knowing that we would be a having a tough time returning because it would be filled with people who come for theo marketing needs every sunday as they remain busy throughout the week and sunday is the day to relax.
We kept driving and the idea of getting along the SUV turned out to be a wise one as the roads indeed needed development. The annual floods of Assam takes a toll on human and animal life as well as the infrastructure of the State as well. As we were visiting during early november just after the monsoon season had ended in Assam and the Manas National Park had just reopened for tourists. We crossed certain small villages and finally arrived at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Manas National Park. We had to take a left diversion to go to the entrance of the Park and along the way a beautiful cover of the tea gardens greeted us. Assam is known for its tea gardens and Assam tea is desired the World over. Founded by the Singpho tribes of Assam as their legend ‘Phalap’ the tea production in Assam was started by the British who found the shrubs of the Assam similar to the ones in China and found that the ones here had more fragrance and flavour as well. So the mass production of tea started and today the tea is one of the most popular cash crops of Assam.
It was around 7 AM by the time we reached at the entrance of Manas National Park and my friend had made arrangements at the Florican Cottages at Manas National Park for our breakfast. We drove across the tea gardens to reach the Florican Cottages that is located on the left of the entrance of the park. Near the entrance of Manas National Park there is the Bansbari Lodge which is very popular stay option here run by the promoters of Jungle Travels India who are one of the oldest and prominent travel companies of Assam. The most luxurious retreat at Manas National Park is that of Musa – the retreat that is located on the right of the entrance here in Manas. We reached the Florican cottages and as the tourist season had just started the place was filled with tourists. There were visitors from various nationalities and the manager of the place welcomed us in he knew my friend and they got to talking. The guests were all in the forest reserve completing their elephant safari rides and by the time they came back we decided to have our breakfast. Our breakfast had puri sabji, fruit salad, boiled eggs, bread toast and bitter. It was a heavy breakfast and after this we left the place to go to the park entrance where we would go for our jeep safari ride into the park interiors.
My friend left his vehicle at the florican cottage and we walked to the park entrance. The official who was informed yesterday of our arrival came to meet us and he took us to the Jeep that would take us to the interiors of the forest reserve of Manas in Assam. One Mr. Bodo was the driver of the jeep and he took us into the park interiors after collecting the fee for the jeep ride. Across the National Parks of Assam where Jeep and Elephant safari rides take place visitors need to pay the money for the safari so that the requisite fees can be paid and then the visitors are taken into the forest reserve. When we were about to start our safari we could see the other tourists coming out of the forest reserve after completing their elephant safari rides. Tourists from across the World were here and it felt nice to see people coming from so far flung areas to visit Assam and admire the natural beauty of the place. Tourism is the largest source of employment in the World and by harvesting the potential of tourism the people of Assam who until now solely relied on jobs as a source of income could replace it by working for their own and create jobs for other people thereby eliminating the cause of idle people in the state.
Mr. Bodo asked one of the forest guards to accompany us and we started on our safari ride into the interiors of Manas National Park. We did not opt for the elephant safari ride as the ride started at 6 AM in the morning and we were not sure whether we could reach the place so early or not. A short while into our safari ride we started to spot various bird species of Manas National Park in Assam. The guard knew the names of certain species of the birds and I too could identify the common ones like hornbills, kingfishers, woodpeckers, adjutant storks, egrets, etc. Our first encounter of the fauna of Manas National Park was a herd of wild elephants bathing in a pool of water. It was an amazing experience watching this scene here in Manas. The forest guard told about his encounters with the wild animals of Manas mostly tigers, leopards, clouded leopards and the other wild cats during his patrolling rounds inside the park. Next we spotted the Golden langur species of Manas perched atop a tree. The Golden color of this primate species looked very beautiful and it was sad to realize that only a few hundred of these species are now left in the World and their numbers limited to the Manas National park in Assam and the Royal Manas National Park of Bhutan.
The ride continued and we spotted Asiatic Wild Water buffaloes, Hog Deers and the pride of Assam – the Indian One Horned Rhinoceros species. Our ride lasted for around 2 hours as we had taken the half day jeep safari ride to Mathanguri and back. There is another option of a full day jeep safari ride as well into the forest reserves of Manas that is often preferred by visitors who want to go for birdwatching and explore more of the fauna of Manas National park. We did not have time and money as well to take the full day option so we ended the ride by 10 AM as we had to return back to Guwahati as well after exploring some of the resorts and hotels here to send across our visitors to Manas National Park on our further tours. We thanked the Jeep driver and the forest guard for accompanying us into the interiors and paid them some money as tips. Then we started to explore the hotels and resorts around Manas in Assam. We had our car at Florican and so we went to pick it up and check out the rooms and tariffs as well. Florican has deluxe cottages for the comfortable stay of their guests at budget prices and they have a complete inhouse restaurant that serves delicious cuisine both traditional Assamese and North Indian as well. The manager helped us see one of the rooms and the place could easily accommodate 4 guests with extra beds. All cottages have attached bathrooms and a huge lawn area is present to accomodate guests during an evening bonfire as well as cultural dances of the Bodo people of Manas in Assam.
The entire area around Manas is inhabited the Bodo tribes of Assam who are arguably the oldest indigenous tribes of Assam who have been settled in the state since times immemorial and have added to the cultural glory and past of Assam. The Bodo people mostly practice agriculture as their primary occupation but with the modern times they have started to take up jobs in towns and cities. Even in Manas once can find them mostly in various hotels and resorts and also operating the jeep rides into the park. The Bodos were earlier pushed into insurgency be certain influencers as they believed that they were being ignored by the local governments. It was during the late 1990s when they had come up with the agenda of creating a seperate state for themselves called as Bodoland separated from Assam. This was when insurgency was at its peak in areas around Kokrajhar and even Manas National Park came under the threat of these terrorist activities. Poaching on animals became rampant to sell their body parts to earn revenue to fuel their agitation and timber felling was recorded in large numbers as well. This was when Manas National Park was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in danger.
But off late the insurgency has come to an end with peace talks between the government and the BLT (Bodo Liberation Tigers). The leaders surrendered and the bodo people too realized that this couldn’t go on for long. This is when they started rebuilding the destruction and today Manas National Park is a very recognized tourist destination of Assam. People even realized that poaching of animals was not worth it and they set up a society called as the Manas Maozigendri Ecotourism Society where most of the poachers have now become protectors and they pledged to save the flora and fauna of Manas National park in Assam. We would be travelling to their camp shortly after exploring the places nearby. Next up we visited Musa – the retreat resort at Manas. This place is the most luxurious stay option here in Mans and is spread across a sprawling campus. Musa is located right along the border fence of the park and visitors here are often reported to spot the fauna of Manas from the resort itself. Often species like rhinoceros and tigers come close to the border fence in search of territory and are often reported to have been sighted here. We made our way into the Musa campus and it was really nice to see such a luxurious retreat in an area that was once marred with terrorism speaking highly of how people can bring change if they are determined to do so.
The reception area is nice with an ethnic touch to the place and the staff here are very welcoming as well. Most of the staff were local bodo people from nearby villages both boys and girls. One of the boys greeted us and asked our purpose of visit and we spoke to him about our travel company and our thoughts of operating further tours here at Manas National Park and preferable keep our visitors at Musa based on their requirements of their stay options across Assam. The sprawling campus here has various accommodation options ranging from cottages, swiss tents and huge banquet halls as well for any major events and corporate parties. The boy took us around the place and we checked out the cottages here at Musa. All the cottages are of a deluxe category and has air conditioning, televisions, mini bars, attached deluxe bathrooms and is one of the most luxurious retreats to stay in the wild. After looking around the place we thanked the staff at Musa and headed to the Bansbari lodge at Manas National Park in Assam.
The Bansbari lodge is located very close to the entrance of the Manas National Park and as mentioned earlier is operated by one of the leading tourism companies of Assam. The bansbari lodge is a true ethnic experience as most of the decor here is done by the local artisans of Manas and are with bamboo. The reception is a large area that has a sitting lounge and a restaurant that serves ethnic assamese cuisine to its guests. Most of the guests here are from abroad and hence various other cuisine is also offered at this restaurant. There is a huge map depicting the details of Manas National Park in Assam near the lounge area. The manager Bikash guided us to one of the rooms and it is a simple room without any television as the owners want the guests to explore more of nature around here rather than staying put in a room and watch television. The rooms here are spacious and have elegant wood and bamboo furnishings. All rooms have attached toilet and bath facilities. We went down to the reception to enquire about the tariff and booking formalities and Bikash let us know the details. Here at the bansbari lodge a lot of attention is paid to promote local jobs and local culture is also promoted so they ensure to have local artisans perform the traditional bihu dance of Assam and the traditional Bodo Bagurumba dance performances to their guests. This way the guests get a chance to witness the local traditional culture of the place and then locals get some of revenue generation as well. The Bansbari lodge is an ideal stay option if you want to enjoy the nature at its best and want to stay in a traditional environment away from a modern city life here in the midst of Manas National Park in Assam.
Next up we explored the Birina cottages at Manas. This is an old tea garden home that is now converted to a tourist place and accommodates guests to Manas National Park. The place is surrounded by tea gardens and one has to drive across a pathway amidst the tea gardens to reach the Birina cottages. The place has a nice warm ambiance and traditional British style homes welcomes you here at Birina. The caretaker here too was a bodo lad and he showed us around the place and asked us to contact another person over phone to enquire about the tariffs and booking procedure at this place. What intrigued me most here was the kitchen area that is a complete colonial era style kitchen and dining area and it reminded me of our old home at Margherita in Assam that was too an old british bungalow that now was converted as homes of the officials of NECF. The kitchen is located a little away from the house and huge iron stove was used for cooking with coal and the dining area used to be inside the premises of the house. We explored the place and then went to our next destination.
Next up we visited the Smiling Tusker Elephant Camp at Manas National park in Assam. This is a camping experience set up in the area of Manas promoted by individuals who wanted to spread awareness about the Indian Elephants of Manas National park. The accommodation options available here are tents as well as jungle cottages and jungle tents. The owner was not present as he had gone to the forest reserves for safari so we did not spend much time here and left to visit the Manas Maozigendri ecotourism society of Assam. This place is another stay option that promoted the volunteers who gave up poaching and now serve as protectors of the fauna species of Manas National Park. Nice quaint cottages greet you here and visitors get a chance to involve themselves in the conservation efforts of Manas National Park in Assam. We explored the cottages and the nice green campus of this place and finally ended our visit to Manas. It was afternoon and we drove to Barpeta road where we had our lunch at a nice ethnic assamese restaurant and bid farewell to my friend and we took our car to drive to Guwahati to arrive in the evening thereby ending our eventful journey of Barpeta Satra, Barpeta road and Manas National Park in Assam.
Explorign Nagaon, Bordowa and Laokhowa W S in Assam
With my explorations of the areas around Guwahati and lower Assam over, I decided it was time to revisit the places around Upper Assam. Though I have explored the major tourist destinations of Upper Assam during my childhood days, the memories were still vague as I was residing outside the state for well over fifteen years now and during my visits to Assam I had spent my days mostly at home in the areas around Margherita. So this would be a good opportunity to explore the beauty of Assam again and to revisit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Kaziranga National Park would be a very good lifetime opportunity for me. Assam is renowned across the World for the Indian One Horned Rhinoceros and its successful conservation story at Kaziranga National Park and I knew very well that operating a travel company in Assam most of the tours would focus around this place clubbing it with other important tourist destinations of North East India as well. I decided to travel from Guwahati with my car upto Margherita exploring the various places of interest in Assam. As I had family members staying at Nagaon, Jorhat, Majuli, Dibrugarh and many other places accomodation wouldn’t be much of a challenge and only at certain places like Nameri and Haflong I would need to book a place for myself to stay and explore around the place.
I had planned my visit across Assam according to the following Itinerary:
Guwahati – Bordowa – Laokhowa W S – Nagaon
Nagaon – Diphu
Diphu – Haflong
Haflong – Nagaon
Nagaon – Tezpur – Nameri National Park
Nameri Naional Park – Kaziranga National Park
Kaziranga – Majuli
Majuli – Jorhat
Jorhat – Sivasagar – Dibrugarh
Dibrugarh – Tipam – Margherita
Margherita – Tinsukia – Sadiya – Doomdooma – Margherita
Margherita – Digboi – Margherita
Margherita – Ledo – Lekhapani – Tipong – Margherita
My father’s ancestral home is at Nagaon so I planned to drive to Nagaon spend my day visiting the Bordowa Satra here and also visit the Laokhowa Wildlife Sanctuary in Nagaon district and them come to my father’s home where my father’s elder sister and younger brother stay, spend the night at Nagaon and the next day head onto Diphu where I would be meeting s friend and stay at his place and explore the places in Dimasa Haso and Haflong and visit the famed Jatinga area of Asam known for the curious phenomenon of bird suicide every year. Though I was visiting during the month of March I would not be able to witness this unique phenomenon as it is recorded only during the months of September every year here at Jatinga in Assam but still being a part of the place so that I could guide tourists further to these amazing natural unexplored paradises of Assam would be of much of an advantage to me.
So I started my journey from Guwahati early in the morning to go to Nagaon in Assam. The roads from Guwahati to Nagaon is a four way highway and is the best road in Assam. Road infrastructure across Assam is being worked upon and four laning of highways connecting other major towns is also an initiative being taken by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI). I crossed Sonapur and Jagiroad to arrive at Nellie. At Nellie I stopped to have breakfast at the Gupta Dhaba which has been one of my favorite stops for breakfast during my tours across Assam during my Corporate life. This is again a roadside dhaba with hygiene not being one of its prime USPs but the food is awesome as they serve hot rotis and dal tadka here.
After completing my breakfast I started on my drive to Nagaon. The beautiful countryside of Assam greets you along the drive with the green paddy fields to be seen all around. One can see locals fishing in the numerous water bodies and once you reach Raha you can find the various small shops selling traditional bamboo handicrafts of Assam. There are numerous small stalls here selling bamboo handicrafts and woodcrafts and along with it this place is renowned for the availability of the coconut water around. People driving across these roads ensure to halt here and drink the coconut water of Raha in Assam. I soon reached the diversion from where I had to take a left to drive to Nagaon town and the straight road would lead to Nagaon bypass and further to the regions in Upper Assam and the right would lead to Diphu and Haflong in Assam. After taking the left the road conditions deteriorate as this route is used by the heavy night buses that ply along from Guwahati to various destinations in Assam ferrying travellers and goods to various destinations in Assam. I kept driving to reach a railway crossing and this area is known as Haibargaon.
From here a right takes you to Nagaon town while a left will lead to Bordowa. I took the left and kept driving further. The hustle and bustle came to an end and the beautiful countryside of Assam came into sight again. I reached Bordowa at around 9 AM and went to explore the Bordowa Satra. Bordowa in Assam is the birthplace of the holy saint reformer Srimanta Shankardeva and it was here that the saint started his discourses and spent a considerable part of his life in meditation and preaching his ideas that all human beings are equal and there should not be a discrimination based on caste. He also initiated the preachings of lord Krishna and took the unique methods of teaching discourses to his masses in the form of plays called as ‘Bhaonas’. The Bordowa Satra was established to promote the teachings of Srimanta Shankardeva here at Nagaon in Assam. I parked my car and went on to explore the Bordowa Satra after buying some items at the nearby shops to offer my prayers here. A beautiful entrance gate welcomes you at the Bordowa Satra in Assam.
There was some religious gathering today and the place was filled with devotees mostly old women who had come here from across Assam to the Bordowa Satra. I kept exploring the place where I saw the Satra namghar and the various homes of the Bhakats here. As mentioned earlier most of the Satras in Assam have a similar setup where there is a Namghar at the center and this place is surrounded by the homes of the Bhakats and there are other Namghars and places for conducting religious discourses and the various temple ponds. The Bordowa Satra is spread across a huge area and there are many huge temple ponds in the campus. The place also has a museum that has on display relics from the ancient time and also certain artefacts from the time of the Ahom Kingdom of Assam as well. I met an old Bhakat who was over 90 years old and he took me to the Namghar of the Bordowa satra. I offered my prayers here and it was interesting to se such and old person carrying out his daily duties with due diligence. I went to explore the museum of the bordowa Satra and saw the various relics kept here.
After exploring the Bordowa Satra I started on my drive to Nagaon back to continue to the Laokhowa Wildlife Sanctuary. The roads are not very good and I was contemplating whether to complete me drive or not. I called up a friend who had visited the Laokhowa Wildlife Sanctuary earlier and asked him whether it would be worth to visit the place in Assam considering the roads and the drive through it. He told me that in case I was visiting the other National Parks of Assam especially Kaziranga and I had already finished exploring Manas it did not make any sense to visit Laokhowa as the place had a terrain and fauna similar to these National Parks in Assam and keeping in mind the drive across the Bengali Muslim dominated areas he strictly advised me not to venture in the areas if men in lungis didn’t appeal to me. I took his advice as I indeed did not want to see more of these people which I was sure to see in Nagaon town that is dominated by such people and I easily dropped my idea of visit the the Laokhowa Wildlife Sanctuary. Instead I went ahead to my father’s home at Chritianpatty area in Nagaon in Assam.
As I hadn’t asked my family to prepare lunch for me and it was around 2 PM, I decided to visit the Hotel Monalisa near the Nagaon bus stand for lunch. During my travel from Guwahati to Margherita via night buses, this was the place where the busses would halt and it seemed some real nice veg thali and fish curry items. Nagaon is famous for its fishes as there are numerous water bodies around this town filled with aquatic life and my father had always boasted about his hometown being the best place in Assam to find fresh fish of various varieties. I stopped at the bus stand and went to Hotel Monalisa to have my lunch. I ordered for rice thali and the local fish curry. The food arrived shortly and the fish was a whole fish served with a tomato gravy. The food tasted good and no wonder this place sees a heavy footfall especially during the evenings when the night busses start to arrive. The chutney served was made with a dal and it was one of the highlights of the meal. After lunch I started to travel to my house at Nagaon in Assam. My aunt and uncle welcomed me here and I got the room that is generally used by my father during his visit here and we got together discussing our lives.
My uncle had planned on a nice dinner for evening and he invited the neighbors to come over as well as I was visiting the place after many years. He had asked for a local cook to come over and prepare an elaborate traditional dinner over wood fire. It is a two storied house with rented homes present below and my father’s family staying on top floor. The terrace was open and it was here that my uncle had planned the evening feast. The cook arrived at 4 PM and he listed the things needed to cook the feast. The meal would contain country chicken and Borali fish cooked with elephant apple, mixed sabji, paneer, chutney, salad and much more. The items were bought from the local market and the cook got to getting the items ready for preparation. The guests started arriving at 7 PM and we all gathered at the rooftop for dinner and talking. Plastic tables and chairs were arranged for all of us. The elders got to enjoying their get together over drinks and I took a glass of beer. I had met the neighbors way back in my teenage days when we used to travel to Nagaon with my family. At 9 PM the dinner was served and I returned to bed early as I had to travel the next day to Diphu in Assam.
Diphu – Haflong – Nagaon
Today morning I was all set to drive to Tezpur and Nameri National Park in Assam from Nagaon. I bid farewell to my family and assured of returning back soon and proceeded on my drive to Tezpur. After Nagaon the roads are no longer a 4 lane highway and it is a 2 way lane with the construction of 4 way lane by NHAI going on. The work is being undertaken by TK Engineering and I had one of my friend’s working here at Naharlagun in Arunachal Pradesh. He was inviting me since long to Arunachal pradesh to explore the beautiful places here and after winding up my tour of Assam I had planned to explore Aruanchal pradesh with him. I crossed Puranigudam and Samaguri to reach amoni. At amoni I made a halt at one of the dhabas for tea and snacks. Amoni is another stoppage for the night busses plying on the roads of Assam and there are numerous restaurants here. I stopped at one of these dhabas and I ordered tea and roti sabji. After this I started on my drive again crossing Kaliabor and then taking a left diversion from the highway to go to Tezpur in Assam.
I crossed the Kaliabhomora bridge over the Brahmaputra river and in some time finally arrived at Tezpur town. Tezpur is known as the knowledge city of Assam owing to the presence of many colleges and the Tezpur University present here. At Tezpur I planned on exploring the Agnigarh fort and then proceed to Nameri National Park in Assam. I took a left from the road to drive to Tezpur town and proceed to the DC office near Tezpur where the Agnigarh is located. Agnigarh is the basically the fortress of fire as per hindu mythology and it is an ancient fort that was built by Banasura to keep his daughter Usha in isolation. A unique history is related to the Agnigarh fort of Assam where it is said that usha had fallen in love with Aniruddha is her dreams and Aniruddha was the grandson of Lord Krishna. But Usha being the daughter of Asura and there was no way the families would consent to this marriage. However Aniruddha was completely in love with Uska and he came to meet her at the Agnigarh even though this fort was always guarded and surrounded by fire. Banasura was very angry at this and he imprisoned Aniruddha and placed him in a prison with snakes.
Lord Krishna had agreed for Aniruddha’s proposal to marry Usha but when he came to know of this he got furious. But Banasura did not care as he had a boon from Lord Shiva to protect the area around Tezpur. A fierce battle broke out between the followers of Lord Krishna and the followers of Lord Shiva and the battle continued at Tezpur in Assam until every member of the both sides perished thereby giving rise to rivers of blood (hence the name Tezpur) until Lord Krishna and Lord Shiva were the only ones left to fight. Seeing this destruction Lord Brahma asked for a meeting of Lord Krishna and Lord Shiva and requested them to put an end to this bloodshed. Banasura was summoned and seeing the Lords together he had no other option but to agree to the marriage of Usha and Aniruddha. This is an interesting mythological story of the Agnigarh in Assam. I bought my entry tickets and started to explore this wonderful fortress that is located atop a hillock. On top here are elaborate sculptures narrating the fierce battle and on top is a huge pillar as well from where we can get a beautiful view of the Brahmaputra river of Assam flowing across Tezpur.
After exploring the Agnigarh at Tezpur I started to go to Nameri National Park. It was afternoon and I decided to halt before balipara for lunch. I stopped at another roadside dhaba for lunch and had the sumptuous thali of Assam with fish curry that was cooked with a sour herb. The sour taste enhanced the flavor of the curry and it was loaded with vitamin C. After the tasty lunch I started to drive to nameri. In about an hours time I reached the Nameri National Park in Assam. My stay was booked at the Nameri Jungle Camp here which is a unique tree house kind of an environment and a new setup to accommodate guests to Nameri in Assam. This place is located just at the entrance of the road that leads to Nameri Tiger Reserve and I checked into the place. The owner greeted and showed me around the place. This place was just completed a few months back and the stup looked new. There were a few other guests staying as well today and the tree houses looked unique. One had to climb a stairway to reach the cottages of the treehouses at the Nameri Jungle Camp in Assam.
After checking into the Nameri Jungle Camp in Assam I decided to visit the area around because this was the first time I was visiting Nameri and I did not have much of an idea about the place so I went to explore around. From the road I had to take a left diversion to go to the Forest range office here at Nameri. I visited the office and enquired about the details on how to explore the Nameri National Park in Assam and the official here helped me on how to make my bookings to go in for a jungle trek across the forest reserves here the next morning. He told me that we would be going in groups escorted by an armed forest guard as Nameri is an open forest reserve and tigers and wild elephants roam about freely inside the forest reserve. No person is allowed to enter the premises of the Nameri National Park in Assam without being escorted by a forest guard who guides travellers on a fixed path across the forest and also ensures the safety of the visiting group as well. I met one of the forest guards here and he spoke to me about his life here at the services of the park and across other National Parks of Assam as well.
He had spent years working at Kaziranga and Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary near Guwahati in Assam as well. He originally hailed from Guwahati and was staying in an area near to my house itself. He agreed to escort the group at which I would be assigned so that he could narrate more of his forest experiences with me as well. I took his leave for the day to meet him next morning and then drove to the banks of the Jia Bhoreli river near Nameri National Park in Assam. This one of the most beautiful rivers of Assam that flows in from Arunachal Pradesh and is known to have many rapids where river rafting is conducted. Crossing the Jia Bhoreli river we reach the entrance of the forest reserves of nameri and from here one has to embark on the trek to explore the flora and fauna of Nameri as well. I explored the banks of the Jia Bhoreli river admiring the calm of the place. I returned to the camp after this and it was around evening time. I took the opportunity to interact with some of the other guests at the camp and placed my order for dinner.
The owner asked me to try the thali item and the fish curry that is cooked with some local herbs. The fish was fresh and was brought in from the market nearby. The area around Nameri where the Jia Bhoreli flows fishing activities are banned to preserve and protect the fauna of the place and so the owner has to purchase the fish from the market at Bhalukpong that is the border of Assam and Aruanchal Pradesh and is closeby the camp and lots of fishes are available in this market. It was a nice Borali fish again and the weight was around 3 kg bound to make the fish tasty as it would have a lot of fat. The people of Assam take pride in their fish preparations and they have various traditional recipes to prepare fish curries with various natural ingredients. The same was the story here at the Nameri Jungle Camp as well and as many of the visitors here were fish lovers the owner ensured to keep the fish catch of the day to provide the guests here. A bonfire was lit and the guests gathered around the place. As this is a budget accomodation place here many of the backpackers prefer to stay here and these were two families form the other areas of Assam as well.
I spoke to the guests some of whom were from Bangalore and were exploring the major National Parks of Assam and they had come over to Nameri as well. The families were from areas of Jorhat and Lakhimpur in Assam. We spoke about our next day experience of jungle trek into the interiors of Nameri National Park and we preferred to go as the same group to explore the flora and fauna of Nameri. I told them that I had already spoken to one of the guards who agreed to escort my group and so all us agreed to go as the same group to explore Nameri in Assam. I had an early dinner and later retired to bed. The next morning we were up at 5 AM as we had to make an entry to go into the forest reserve of Nameri at the forest range office. We reached the place at 6 AM and already visitors from the other camps had gathered to make their entry into the forest reserves of Nameri. The guard was ready and he showed me the way to the forest office to make the entry and pay the requisite fees before our entry into the park.
The formalities were taken care of and the guard led our group to the banks of the Jia Bhoreli river from where we would be transported by a boat to the other bank of the river and then after making another entry at a forest camp here we would start exploring Nameri. Upon our arrival itself we spotted some rare birds by the banks of the river and the guard told us that this was a rare phenomenon as visitors do not get to see these bird species often at Nameri. Once there was a group of foreign tourists who had come to nameri specifically to witness the white winged wood duck and this bird species (the name I don’t recollect) and they spent almost 3 days venturing into the park interiors every day but due to their bad luck they couldn’t spot them but our luck turned out to be different and we sighted them without even having to visit the park interiors just by the river banks of the Jia Bhoreli river in Assam. We thanked the guard for showing us and narrating this incident to us as well. Next up we started hiking to the forest camp. The forest guard was narrating to me of his experiences sighting tigers and wild elephant herds inside the forest reserves.
At times he was very close to these animals along with tourists and one time a tiger leaped on top of his head in search of a prey as well. He told me about how once a wild elephant herd had surrounded him and a few other guards who were patrolling in the forest reserves of Nameri in Assam and a huge herd were about to charge when the guards started thumping on the dead leaves that were fallen on the ground and the noise startled the elephants who ran away. After listening to these stories I had second thoughts as to whether I should venture into the park or not but the guard showed me his gun and assured me that it was nothing to worry about. The gun sound is enough to sacre any dangerous animals that might come close. Keeping my faith in him and his giun I started to walk behind him as he led our group into the forest reserves of Nameri in Assam.
There are huge trees covering the area of the Nameri National Park and just when we were about to enter the forest we spotted two domesticated elephants feeding nearby. The guard led us to the elephants and we felt these animals with our hands. Even though the animals were tied to chains yet it was good to see that they were being well taken care of by providing proper food and the guard told us that proper medical care is provided to the elephants under the supervision of an experienced veterinarian of Nameri in Assam. After this we kept walking further and we saw the various birds of Nameri perched atop the tall trees. Gradually an open horizon greeted us and the place looked so beautiful with the tall trees surrounding the area and the sun kissing the clouds of the open horizon of Nameri in Assam. IN sometime we reached a tall watchtower here from where we could get a bird’s eye view of the forest reserves of Nameri. We climbed the watch tower and from atop it we could see a small pond here. The guard asked us to watch in patience for some time without making any noise and we could spot a deer drinking water from the pool.
In about sometime we even saw a wild boar and a gaur coming close to the pond and drinking water. We expected to see a tiger but we were not fortunate today and even waiting for a while we couldn’t catch a glimpse of it. We climbed down the watchtower and continued on our trek across the forest reserve. We couldn’t spot much more of fauna species but there were indeed a lot of birds to be seen around. Nameri is a bird watcher’s paradise just like the other National Park’s of Assam. We completed the entire trek around the designated route of the forest reserve and finally came back to the forest camp office and we took little while to rest here. After this we boarded the boat and rode across the Jia Bhoreli river to reach the forest office at Nameri in Assam. Here we halted at the entrance of the Nameri Eco Camp where the guard showed us a tall tree with many holes in the tree trunk. Each of these holes were dug out by woodpeckers and now serve as homes to various other colorful bird species. The guard told us that on top of the tree there is a hornbill bird’s nest as well.
Various parakeet species were seen coming out and going into their nests on this tree and the entire tree trunk looked quite unique. We thanked the forest guard for helping us to look around Nameri and paid him some money as our gratitude for helping us see around the beautiful forest reserves of Namerio and we came back to our camp. It was still early and we did not yet have our breakfast so we sat down to have our breakfast of puri sabji, bread toast, boiled eggs and tea. I had not planned on staying over and had planned on driving to Kaziranga National Park today in Assam but the group insisted me to stay over as they had planned to take on a river rafting experience. I told them that my stay and safari rides were booked and arranged by one of my friends at Kaziranga National Park and so I had to leave today. They insisted but finally agreed to let me go. So I cleared by bill and bid farewell to the owner and the staff of the Nameri Jungle Camp and continued on my drive to Tezpur crossing Balipara to finally reach at Kaliabor in Assam.
Before I left Nameri I decided to check out on few of the other camps and stay options here that I could accomodate guests on their tour of Assam. The Nameri Jungle Camp is a good stay option but then again it is basic and if you are seeking comfort during your stay at Nameri National Park and Tiger Reserve in Assam then this might not be the best accommodation option to suit your needs. Its nice if you are seeking something new and staying in tree houses appeals to you. I didn’t have much time in hands so I went near the area of the forest range office to explore the places around here. I started with the Eco Camp Nameri that is the most popular stay option among the guests to Nameri National Park in Assam. The Eco Camp Nameri has various Deluxe Jungle Tent accommodations that are built to look like traditional Assamese cottages with thatch roofs. There is also a dormitory room that can accomodate groups to Nameri as well. All these jungle tents are arranged in a line surrounding the border of the area of the Eco Camp at Nameri in Assam with the center remaining open for bonfire and as a playground for the young guests.
There is a fully functional in house restaurant here that serves traditional assamese cuisine to its guests and other chinese food items as well. A souvenir shop area greets you at the camp and there are on display various handicrafts created by the local people and the money from sales is used for their development. In addition to jungle treks into the interiors of Nameri National Park the Eco Camp also organizes river rafting on the waters of the Jia Bhoreli river of Nameri in Assam. Next up I visited the Jia Bhoreli Wild Resort at Nameri. This is a property of the Dept. of Tourism (Govt. of Assam) leased out to a private company for operations and is spread across a sprawling campus. The place looked very appealing from the outside but once I went in the premises it did not intrigue me much as it was lacking maintenance. The cottages were well built but the lack of maintenance clearly showed with worn out colors and wild grasses growing around the place. I did not venture much here and knew that visitors wouldn’t prefer to stay at this place if this is in this condition during their visit to Nameri in Assam.
Next I went out to travel to one final place before I drove off to Kaziranga in Assam. This place was the Camp Lalimou at Nameri. This place belonged to a friend and his partners and is one of the most beautiful campuses to stay here at Nameri in Assam. Various bamboo cottages are present here to accommodate the guests and the tariff rates are also moderate as well. Each of the cottages are equipped with personal bathroom and a fully furnished restaurant with varieties of cuisine is present at the camp Lalimou at Nameri in Assam. On entrance there is a huge lounge area cum dining area where visitors can get a view of the entire camp and the paddy fields that surround the area. There are local Mishing tribe villages nearby where visitors can travel to and get a glimpse of the rural life of Assam. The camp also has big Jungle tents that can accommodate upto 6 people. The manager Jaddu greeted me and showed me around after which I left Nameri to go to Kaziranga in Assam. I started on my drive to Tezpur crossing Balipara to finally reach at Kaliabor in Assam.
From here I took a left to drive to the National Highway 37 to further reach Jakhalabandha in Assam and from here enter the forest reserves of Kaziranga National Park as the highway stretch cuts across the area of Kaziranga in Assam. At first I reached jaklabadha which is another famous bus halt points in Assam and has numerous roadside dhabas that cater to the food requirements of the people travelling across the roads in Assam. I stopped here for tea and snacks as it was about another hours time left to arrive at the Kohora area in Kaziranga in Assam where I would meet my friend Krishna who had made the arrangements for my visit at Kaziranga National Park. At Jakhalabandha I had a quick cup of tea and some nimkis which is a salty snack and then left to Kaziranga in Assam. After crossing the railway signal at Jakhalabandha one can see the various hoarding welcoming you to Kaziranga National Park in Assam.
Various signages speaking about the fauna of Kaziranga are put up courtesy to India’s No. 1 mobile network Reliance Jio and warnings signages to drive slowly can be seen as these roads are also used by the animals while crossing especially during monsoons when rain waters indunate Kaziranga National Park and animals cross the roads to reach higher grounds in search of respite from the rain waters. At first I reached the Burapahar range of Kaziranga and there is a safari range here as well but very rarely used by the tourists yet some tourists prefer to go inside this range to take the off beaten path and visit the pale to get a glimpse of the fauna of Kaziranga and a place away from the touristy crowd. I crossed the place and continued my drive further to Bagori range in Assam. Bagori is a popular safari zone of Kaziranga as the Elephant Safari rides into the park interiors for Indian Nationals are conducted here and so the place has numerous hotels and resorts around. I stopped along the way to enquire about certain accomodation options near the Bagori safari range so that I could send across guests during their tour of Assam. The Elephant Safari rides at Kaziranga happen early in the morning at 5 AM and the next at 6.30 AM and there is no assurance that you can get a chance at the second slot or not.
So if you end up having to go for the 5 AM elephant safari ride at Kaziranga in Assam it makes sense to stay closer to the safari range than to stay at Kohora area that is easily about half and hours drive from Bagori. So on the way to bagori I stopped at the Landmark Woods which is a luxurious 3 star property at Kaziranga. Promoted by the Landmark group of Hotels based out of Guwahati in Assam this place is a fine stay option in Kaziranga. I had to take a right diversion from the highway to go to the place and it was a bumpy road upto the resort as it is not pitched. Once you reach the place a sprawling campus greets you that can accommodate a huge group of guests at Kaziranga in Assam. I enquired about the details of the place at the reception area and checked out the place. Huge rooms greet you at the Landmark woods with modern furnishings and air conditioning, televisions, etc. The place has a multicuisine restaurant cum bar and the behind there is a huge lake where visitors can enjoy boating facilities. There is also a swimming pool area present at the premises. It was nice to see this place and after this I went further towards the entrance of the Bagori safari range of Kaziranga National Park where I was scheduled to me my friend Krishna.
Along the way I saw many cars parked alongside the road and I wondered what was this place. Normally I travelled across these roads in night busses and by the time I would cross Kaziranga in Assam it would be night and I would be fast asleep so I didn’t know about this place and as to what these cars were doing here. I crossed the place and realized that it was a viewpoint of Bagori and people were all gathered here to catch a glimpse of the Rhinoceros species grazing here at Kaziranga National Park in Assam. I parked my car a little ahead and the view of the place intrigued me completely. From the viewpoint I could easily sight around 6 one horned rhinoceros species grazing in the open area. Along with the rhinoceros there were some Asiatic Wild Water Buffaloes, Hog Deers and Sambar Deers grazing as well. It felt so nice to see these animal species grazing freely in the open not worried about the spectators watching them. they were at a distance no doubt but I could view them clearly with my naked eyes. Also there were two local boys renting out binoculars so that the visitors could get a clearer view of the animals and at just INR 20 it was a steal deal.
I took one of the binoculars and got a close up view of the rhinoceros and the other animals as well. One of the boys even offered to help me click pictures on my cell phone using the binoculars and he clicked an amazing picture of the rhinoceros without the use of a DSLR and I got a zoomed picture of the same. I paid him INR 100 as a token of appreciation and he too was overjoyed with my gesture. Next up I drove to the Bagori safari range where Krishna was waiting for me. it was around 1.30 PM and he had two jeep safari slots for his guests today at this range of Kaziranga in Assam. He met me at the entrance and we were meeting after quite some time. He was into organizing Jeep and Elephant safari as well as tours across Assam and other destinations of North East India under his company and when I had told him about my plans of a travel company he encouraged me and assured me of all help needed to guide and organize tours for visitors to Assam and other states of North East India.
The Jeep driver would be showing the visitors around the Bagori range of Kaziranga National Park so we decided to proceed to have our lunch at the Hornbill restaurant in Kaziranga. While coming out of the place I saw the Bonroja Motel that is located just adjacent to the Bagori safari of Kaziranga in Assam. This would be the perfect place to halt if you are planning on an elephant safari ride in Kaziranga National Park because you can just get up and walk towards the entrance of the range to climb on your elephant ride without the inconvenience of travelling in the early mornings. We checked into the reception area of the Bonroja motel and the place seemed nice with the reception desk on one side and the restaurant on the other side with a large area in between. The rooms are on the first floor and this place has 8 deluxe rooms capable of accomodating 24 guests at a time. Rooms are very spacious with air conditioning, televisions, deluxe bathrooms and a balcony area as well. Visitors can also choose the option of non ac rooms as well then the tariff reduces a little. There is also a huge dormitory area downstairs that can accommodate around 20 guests. There is a huge lawn area outside the motel and this place is used for bonfires and for the children to play as well. This is a nice place to stay and the only problem is that it is just adjacent to the highway and the occasional sound of the busy traffic across the highway might be a little of a problem.
After this we went to have our lunch at the Hornbill restaurant near the Kohora range of Kaziranga in Assam. This is a nice ethnic Assamese restaurant located just at the outskirts of the Kohora safari range. Promoted by a local entrepreneur, the Hornbill restaurant serves some real nice ethnic assamese food to its visitors in the form of the traditional Assamese thali and various other meat, fish and vegetarian recipes as well. The owner Mr. Gogoi welcomed us to the place and he immediately asked one of his bouys to attend to us. We placed our order for veg thali and local chicken curry and the boy went ahead to get our order ready. Mr. Gogoi came to us as he knew Krishna and they spoke about Kaziranga and how things have changed here and the inflow of tourists to Assam has increased to huge numbers over the past few years. I spoke to them of my plans and how I wanted to create a company that would focus on many more beautiful destinations of Assam apart from the well known Kaziranga National Park.
Mr. Gogoi too had explored several destinations across Assam and supported my wish to promote the entire state as a global tourism destination. Our lunch arrived soon and the thali was an elaborate feast with various offerings from dal, sabji, mashed potato chutneys, herbs, salad, pickles and of course the chicken curry. The meal turned out to be very delicious and we thanked the owner of the place and left on our drive to the Kaziranga Orchid and Biodiversity park. The largest Orchid Park in Assam and India this place is founded and promoted by the KMSS association under the flagship of their leader Mr. Akhil Gogoi to preserve the various orchid diversities of Assam and North East India. North East India is home to over 800 species of orchids and proper conservation efforts are needed to protect and preserve these species. A unique step was taken towards this effort here at the Kaziranga Orchid Park and today it has earned the name of being the largest orchid park of Assam and India as well. In addition to being home to the various indigenous species of orchids of Assam, the Kaziranga Orchid Park also has a rice museum that has on display various types of rice of Assam and also a bamboo park as well that nurtures and protects the various bamboo species of Assam as well.
This place is spread across a sprawling campus of around 6 acres of land and an ethnic assamese restaurant is also present here at the Kaziranga Orchid Park that serves the biggest and the most elaborate thali meal of Assam with 28 different items and is priced only at INR 160 for a jumbo thali but the items are all vegetarian. Various herbs like spinach, brahmi, etc are used to prepare the sabji here at the Kaziranga Orchid Park. Also there is a cactus garden where one can find various species of cactus plants and a souvenir shop where visitors to the Kaziranga Orchid Park can buy memoirs to carry back home as a remembrance of their visit to Kaziranga in Assam. We went in to explore the park and we had to purchase entry tickets for our visit. The park charges INR 100 per head (Indian Nationals) and INR 500 per head (Foreign Nationals) for their visit to the place. The place has provided a lot of jobs to the locals of the place and hence this form of revenue is necessary to sustain themselves as they do not take any grants from government institutions. We bought our tickets and went on to visit the Kaziranga Orchid Park.
Krishna at first took me to the open stage area that hosts various traditional dance performances of Assam like the Bihu, Mishing dance, bamboo dance, etc. As the performances keep happening regularly throughout the day they are performed at intervals of about an hour each so a fresh show was just about to start and Krishna took me here so that we needn’t wait for another hour or so to watch the next show and instead we could leave to our place of stay at Kaziranga National Park. The show started with a bamboo dance here at the Kaziranga Orchid Park in Assam where local boys and girls performed this traditional dance where the boys hold each ends of the bamboo stick and moved them in a rhythmic manner while the girls hopped across them to the rhythmic beats of the drum and the flute. The girls looked very pretty in their traditional attire and the quick movements on the bamboo made the dance form of Assam very appealing. Next up was the Bihu dance performance of Assam where a young girl wearing the traditional attire of the Muga Mekhela Chador performs beautiful dance movements to the sounds of the Pepa, Dhul, Bahi and Gogona musical instruments of Assam. The girl danced gracefully to the tunes and the audience members too took to the stage to perform the Bihu dance of Assam including a few foreign tourists as well.
Assam is a land of beautiful people and historic traditions and music and bihu performs a soulful part of the legacy of the state. Visitors to Assam are enthralled by the hospitality of its people especially the villages and they blend in to perfection with the local people of Assam. Next up was the performance of the Mishing tribal dance at the Kaziranga Orchid Park. A group of boys and girls all gathered on the stage wearing traditional attire of the Mishing people of Assam and they started performing a unique mishing dance. The Mishings of Assam dominate the Majuli Island and its nearby areas in Assam. As Kaziranga National Park is close to the Majuli Island the place had a fair population of Mishing people and so witnessing their culture is a must during the stay here at Kaziranga National Park. After the dance performances were over for this slot we went ahead to explore the Kaziranga Orchid Park in Assam. As we were near the cactus garden area so we decided to start with this green room first and then continue and walk downwards towards towards the entrance of the park visiting the other places of interest here. The green room has various species of cactus from Assam and other states mostly Sikkim. One of the cactus plants was almost 7 feet tall and each of the plants had their scientific name written alongside here at the Orchid park in Assam.
Next up we visited the souvenir shop area that has available for purchase various traditional food items and certain souvenirs made by the local people all handmade to be carried home by the visitors as a token of remembrance of their visit to Kaziranga National Park in Assam. There were various items like tea, pickles, medicinal herbs dried up and created into a powder form that could be used to treat certain body ailments. There were two sales girls here and they were explaining the contents of each of the packets to the visitors who were eagerly purchasing these products. As we didn’t plan on buying anything we moved on to visit the next attraction here the rice museum. As we were both from Assam we were hardcore rice lovers and although I have tasted around 6 – 7 varieties of rice of Assam I was surprised to see that there were even more varieties of this unique crop that is yielded by the farmers of Assam. The well known varieties that I have tasted are Joha, Aijung, Bora, Mishing, etc. but here I came to know that there are over 40 varieties of rice from Assam to be found. A local man was present and he showed us the various rice varieties and also explained to us the process of producing rice from planting the rice plants to the clearing of the husk and making the final produce ready.
It was nice to witness the details of the prime agricultural crop of Assam and North East India as well. The entire area of North East and Assam depends on rice as their primary food source from which they derive the energy. Next up we visited the display room that illustrated the various orchids of Assam and North East India in the form of beautiful pictures. All the pictures were framed and put up for public viewing here at the Kaziranga Orchid Park in Assam. A person on a wheelchair guides you across this beautiful gallery and his knowledge about the orchid species is amazing. He could tell us a lot about each of the species that appealed to us and he could even tell where these species of orchids could be found. We thanked him for his eagerness to show us around the place and then walked down to visit the handicrafts and handloom gallery. This gallery is just at the entrance of the park on the left hand side while the actual orchid green room is on the right hand side just opposite to this place. Once we entered this place we were greeted with various traditional handloom machines on which local ladies work and weave out the exquisite products of Assam. As mentioned earlier many of the mIshing people are working at this park and so we could see the women folks weaving out the colorful Mishing Gale here on the traditional looms of Assam.
There were around 5 to 6 looms present and the ladies were busy weaving here. Also there were on display various bamboo handicrafts of Assam used in villages like fish traps, boxes, storage containers, etc. These handicrafts of Assam are a unique art that has been passed down across several generations to the people who still practice this art as a source of their livelihood. These bamboo handicrafts of Assam look exquisite and are used by even modern families who use them to decorate their homes. bamboo handicrafts of Assam are in demand the World across and hence the pleasure to see the old handicrafts brought in from various corners of Assam was an interesting sight to behold. After this we visited the orchid green room where various species of orchids of Assam and North East India were on display under controlled environmental conditions. One important is the Kopou flower orchid that is the state flower of Assam as well. A young guide will show you around the place explaining about the species of orchids available at the Kaziranga Orchid park in Assam.
We finished exploring the place and then came out of the park. Just outside as several small shops that sell various souvenirs as well. I could see miniature rhino souvenirs carved out of wood and various other items here as well. After this Krishna took me to his office at the Kohora area of Kaziranga National Park in Assam before we ended the day. His office was located very close to the entrance of the Kohora safari range and is a nice office that organizes various safari bookings and tours across Kaziranga in Assam. He introduced me to his partners and jeep safari owners who work with them to organize successful trips for visitors. Then we walked to the Pelican Dhaba right across the road for tea and also to meet the owner of the place who is one of the reputed businessman of Kaziranga in Assam. Mr. Gogoi was there and he welcomed us and spoke to us over tea. Pelican Dhaba is one of the very good restaurants of Kaziranga and it takes pride in providing the customers with the fresh fish caught for the day. As there are numerous water bodies found around the the area of Kaziranga in Assam these water bodies are home to varieties of fishes. Although fishing is banned inside the forest reserves of Kaziranga villagers fish outside the boundary of the park and get their catch to the local market for selling.
At the pelican dhaba here at Kaziranga in Assam there are some regular fishermen who come here and sell their fish catch everyday and so visitors can be rest assured to find the best available fishes to eat. We finished having our tea here and then went to the local market to buy some fresh fish of Kaziranga at the Kohora market as the place where we would be staying for he night belonged to Krishna’s friend and we would be cooking our dinner over bonfire and also have a small celebration in the evening. As I had not opted an elephant ride and would explore the forest reserve of Kaziranga in Assam only on a jeep safari so I did not have to get up early in the morning that would give me enough time to savour some fine whisky and then enjoy a sumptuous traditional dinner cooked by Krishna and his friend here at Kaziranga in Assam. We bought a nice big Sital fish and some small fishes to be cooked by wrapping them in banana leaves and then heating it over the fire ashes.
After finishing our marketing we headed to the guesthouse where Krishna had booked our stay for the evening. It was located near the Bonhabi Resort behind Krishna’s office and it belonged to one of his friends who had recently started the place called as the Subhalaya Guest House here at Kaziranga in Assam. The owner knew Krishna and he had spoken to him about this place and if possible to send across guests who come to Kaziranga in Assam. He welcomed us to his place and showed us around the place. The place had 3 rooms with twin beds and the room rates were nominal as compared to the other guest houses around Kaziranga area in Assam. At INR 1,500 per night the rooms provided all basic facilities along with a nice attached western bathroom. Food service was not provided here although the other guests could get the food to their rooms where they would be provided with plates to have their food as there is a caretaker boy who would bring along the food to the guests from the Pelican dhaba if visitors asked him to do so.
As we were not the routine guests and the place did not have any other visitors today so the friend had agreed to cook dinner by a bonfire in the lawn area of the guest house. I went to my room to freshen up first as I had a long day of journey and I needed a shower to cleanup before I started to enjoy the rest of the evening. The boys got to getting the things ready by first lighting the fire and preparing the fish for the curry and the small fishes to be roasted in the banana leaf wrap. As the owner’s home is just behind the guest house his family would be cooking dal, sabji and some spicy chutney for us as well. I had a quick bath and then came out to see that the bonfire was ready and the fish cleaned and being fried to be prepared in a curry with mustard paste. The fish although it is very tasty but it has many bones in it and so one has to be very careful while eating it. One way to reduce the effects of the bone is to cut across the flesh of the fish and this reduces the impact of the sharp bones.
During the month of March Assam has a pleasant climate that is warm during the day and cold in the evenings. The weather across Assam remains favorable across the year apart from the month of August and start of September when it is very hot and humid. Although the temperatures do not cross 36 degree celsius but coupled with the humidity one gets a real feel of around 45 degrees celsius during August and first half of September. All the heavy rainfall from the monsoons spread across June and July starts to evaporate and this is what raises the humidity level in Assam during these months. As my visit was during March it was a very favorable climate ideal to visit the National Parks of Assam and enjoy the day’s safari here. The animals too keep roaming around in search of water as some of the water pools dry up due to the prolonged winter season without rains and so it is ideal to go for safari and see the animals who keep exploring the terrain of Kaziranga National Park in Assam.
I joined them and offered my help in the food preparations but the boys were quite skilled and they had taken care of everything already. The fish wrapped in banana leaves was getting steamed that we would be enjoying over our drinks. As I was tired they started the drinks before the fish was ready and the three of us poured ourselves 3 glasses of the Royal Stag whiskey brand to start our evening celebrations. We tried the fried fish pieces along with our whiskey until the time the small fishes was ready and the fish indeed was quite tasty. When you are in Kaziranga and no matter where you are staying here be it a luxurious resort or a small guesthouse you should try the fish recipes here for sure. Fresh fishes is what Kaziranga boasts of and it is for sure will be a culinary delight during your stay here in Assam. The friend even owned his own Jeeps and conducted jeep safari rides inside the forest reserves of Kaziranga in Assam. We spoke to him about collaborating on our tours here at Kaziranga where we would be using his guest house to accommodate small families and hire his jeep for jeep safari rides as well.
He agreed to extend all possible help to me and Krishna to make my new venture successful and this is the best part about the people in the smaller places in Assam where they are friendly and they extend all possible help to make people successful. They are not jealous of others and put in their hard work and accept the returns they get from it. The small fish was ready and they brought it out from the fire and opened up the wrapped banana leaf. A unique fragrance came out of it as it was opened and I could see that the fish along with onions, green chillies, coriander and the turmeric powder all were mixed together to form a wonderful fish dish. The fish bones were almost grounded after the long cooking process so we could chew through the entire fish. At around 9 PM the dinner was ready and the meal was put out in a table in the lawn area where the entire family got together for dinner here at Kaziranga in Assam. The meal was very delicious and the chutney they had prepared was with dry fish and the Bhut Jolokia of Assam that is one of the hottest peppers in the World. The spicyness added to the flavor of the chutney and the other items too were very delicious.
While having the Sital fish I was very careful as I faced an instance earlier when the fish bone had got stuck on my throat and I had a tough time trying to get rid of it. This fish recipe was a wonder and everyone enjoyed the meal. At around 10 PM I returned to my room while Krishna and and the family had a conversation. Tomorrow morning the jeep safari ride was scheduled at 7.30 AM at the eastern range of Kaziranga National Park at Agoratoli in Assam as I wanted to explore this range because I had already covered the Kohora and Bagori ranges during my earlier visits to Kaziranga in Assam with my family many years ago. I retired to bed and set up my alarm to go at 6 AM in the morning. I was up at 6 Am and after freshening up I came outside to see a Jeep already waiting to take Krishna and me to the Agoratoli range of the park. The driver and Krishna were speaking and the friend’s family had arranged for tea and biscuits and bread butter for us so that we could eat something before our safari ride.
The ride would take about 2 hours and so by the time we returned it would be 10 AM and I had to travel to Jorhat in Upper Assam after winding my visit at Kaziranga National Park. We started at 7.15 AM from the guest house to drive to the Agoratoli range of the park that is near Bokakhat in Assam. Itr was about 30 minutes drive to the entrance of this range and we reached at 7.45 AM. The forest check gate had two of the guards posted who verified our documents of entry charges paid by Krishna at the forest office and they allowed us to enter the range with an armed forest guard as Agoratoli is the range known to have a healthy population of the tigers of Kaziranga in Assam. We started on our jeep ride and went on admiring the various bird species we were sighting along our way. In sometime the forest guard suddenly asked the jeep driver to stop the engine and he asked us to maintain pin drop silence. We wondered to what happened and then he pointed his finger in a direction behind and the our surprise we could see a female tiger crossing the road.
It was one of the most rewarding experiences on my tour of the National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries of Assam and we recorded a video of the animal crossing the road that is available for viewing at the homepage of our website. We thanked the guard for showing us this and he smiled stating that it was his pleasure. We kept exploring to sight various deers, hog deers, asiatic wild water buffaloes, wild boars, jungle fowls, various birds, monitor lizards, wild elephant herd and the pride of Assam – the indian One Horned rhinoceros of Kaziranga National Park. Our safari ended at 9.30 AM and we had come out of the range and it was a wise decision to chose to visit this range for our visit far away from the madding crowd at Kohora and Bagori. The animal sightings were rare and only a few people can get to see so much of fauna in one Jeep ride here at Kaziranga in Assam. Krishna captured some amazing photographs and we thanked the forest guard for accompanying us. After our ride we headed back to our guesthouse where I packed and thanked everyone in Kaziranga and looked forward in working with them soon.
I asked Krishna if he would be free for about an hour or so as I had to visit and checkout some of the Hotels and Resorts at the Kohora area of Kaziranga in Assam. He said he was free and so before the drive to Jorhat we started to visit some of these places so that I could send across the guests at these resorts and hotels at Kaziranga in Assam. We started off with the Bonhabi Resort that is located very near the place we were staying. The Bonhabi resort is an in demand budget resort in the Kohora area of Kaziranga. Individual cottages are present in this resort to suit the travel requirements of the guests here. It is built in a colonial style environment with its classic brick red color on each of the cottage. There is a classic British style dining area here as well with a nice big table and comfortable chairs and adjacent is the reception area and an open large area as well. A nice vibe greets you here at the Bonhabi Resort at Kaziranga in Assam. The cottages are concrete built and has a double bed, televisions, attached western bath, etc. The resort is spread across a huge area and the cottages are all at a distant from each other. We checked out two of these cottages and later visited the reception to speak to the manager who guided us with the tariffs and booking procedures.
Next up we visited the Borgos resort at the Kohora safari range of Kaziranga National Park in Assam. The resort Borgos is the luxurious 4 Star property at Kaziranga National Park favored by all travellers to Kaziranga who seek luxury as a prime choice for their stay here in Assam. A sprawling campus with Executive rooms, a Gym, a Spa, Multicuisine Restaurant, Bar, Lounge, etc. greets you at the Resort Borgos. While entering at the resort there is a huge board that details the tourist track map of Kaziranga. The rooms at the Borgos Resort are of the best standards and has luxurious interiors and an equally delightful bathroom as well. The restaurant is huge and spacious and offers multi cuisine fine dining experience as well. The bar sticks aged wines and premium whiskey along with an array of cocktails as well. We took a stroll around the campus of the Borgos Resort and in the interest of time left the place soon as I had to travel to Jorhat in Assam as well. So we enquired about the tariffs and booking procedure details and Krishna already knew the manager of the Borgos Resort as he has worked with him many times before and so he was aware of the tariffs and booking procedure here. They exchanged their greetings and we went ahead to view the next place at Kohora.
This time we went to a new place that was just about to start to welcome guests and falls under a 3 Star category called as Mandu – the Escape. This is located behind the IORA – the Retreat at Kaziranga in Assam that is one of the most popular resorts in Kaziranga especially among the foreign guests. Spread across a sprawling campus of 50 acres of land and overlooking the Karbi Anglong hills of Assam, Mandu – the Escape will certain be a crowd puller to Kaziranga in Assam. A lush green campus greets you here and when we were there the construction was still going on at the resort. The owner of the place was present there and he knew Krishna as well and welcomed us and showed us around. Along with Deluxe rooms there are Deluxe Swiss tents as well here at Mandu – the Escape. All rooms are filled with King size beds, air conditioning, wine bar and a deluxe bathroom as well. Each of the room is having a balcony and relaxation area from where you can view the entire landscape of the Karbi Anglong hills sipping over a cup of fresh Assam tea. The green tea gardens of Assam are also visible from here. There is a huge open area with a stage where visitors can witness the bihu and other traditional dance performances of Assam that would be scheduled during the evenings here. We spoke to the owner and got the details of when the place would start and the tariffs and booking procedure. It was already 11 AM and I had to rush so after dropping Krishna at his office in Kohora I started on my drive to Jorhat in Upper Assam to my Uncle’s house to visit the other Resorts and Hotels on my next visit to Kaziranga in Assam.
After dropping Krishna at his office I thanked him again for all the arrangements and I paid him my share of the amount due for all the arrangements that he refused but I insisted for him to take it and then I drove further again to Bokakhat. Bokakhat in Assam is another famous bus halt point where the various day busses plying along the routes of Assam halt. This place is renowned for its puri sabji and sweets especially the Bokakhat peda. This place was one of my dad’s favorite places to stop to eat during our travel across Assam during the summer and winter breaks from school when we used to drive all the way from Tipong in Upper Assam to Dibrugarh, Golaghat, Nagaon and finally reach Guwahati and later return back. He ensured to stop at Bokakhat in Assam to have the flavorful puri sabji and peda at one of the famous marwari hotel here. The unique thing about the puri dough made here is that it is made with a red atta and is so soft to bite and the sabji is an assorted one with the main ingredient being potatoes and it is served with a green chilly chutney on banana leaves and the entire natural taste was amazing and fresh. No wonder the owners of this place have been in business over the past so many decades with the simple business concept of serving hot and hygienic and delicious puri sabji and pedas only with other sweets and tea.
So I stopped near the famous Marwari hotel here at Bokakhat in Assam to savour some of the hot puris as I had a very early breakfast and lunch would be a little late as I would be exploring certain places along the way before arriving at Jorhat. The same ambience greeted me here and although I was visiting the place after so many years the quality of the food didn’t change. The puri sabji was hot and served on the banana leaf along with the spicy green chutney served on the signature banana leaf. They also served a homemade mango pickle along with the puri and it was so very delicious. I ordered tea as well and as I am not a sweet lover but still I couldn’t resist the temptation to try the peda here. I even packed a box of these sweets to carry to my Uncle’s home at Jorhat in Assam. I started my drive further to go to Numaligarh from Bokakhat in Assam. Numaligarh is a quaint town area of Assam which is famous for the Numaligarh Refinery Ltd. making it an industrial town of Assam.
But before its setup in 2001 the place used to be completely covered with forests and paddy lands and the road further would lead to Golaghat in Assam. I remember this as my mother’s ancestral home is in Golaghat and we used to go via this route on our journey from my father’s home at Nagaon to Golaghat. But i wouldn’t be going deeper into the area as I would take the straight highway to Jorhat just before making a stop here to visit the remains of the Numaligarh fort that was built by Ahom King Suhungmung when he started living here with a Kachari princess named ‘Numali’ and built a ‘Garh’ fort area around the place where they lived. However today only the ruins of this fort are present that can be viewed from the highway. I parked my car along the road and went in to checkout the remains if anything could be properly seen here at Numaligarh in Assam. I could get the fair idea that this place where I was standing on was a kind of a fort itself as the structure had high walls from the ground and it looked somewhat like an enclosure. These days in between this fort structure there is a local school and a playground.
Just adjacent to the area of the fort there is the Numaligarh market of Assam where every Sunday a huge market is held with various local traders bridging in their produce to be sold here. As there was nothing much to see I moved on to the next place at Numaligarh the Deopahar archeological site. The Deopahar also referred to as the Hill of the God (Deo meaning God and pahar meaning a Hill) is a prominent tourist spot among the people of Assam that falls in the Deopani Reserve Forest area that is a prominent Elephant corridor in Assam. Wild Elephants from the forest reserves of Kaziranga and Deopahar in Assam use this corridor to migrate to the Karbi Anglong hills in search of food and shelter. There is a holy tree here called as the False Hemp tree that is a heritage tree that is used every year by the giant wild migratory bees who travel across the foothills of the himalayas to build their hives here during the months of October through January. Atop the hillock of Deopani there is an ancient stone temple that was constructed during 7th to 9th century and is a Shiva temple.
I didn’t spend much time here and started on my drive to continue to Dergaon in Assam. At Dergaon I stopped for lunch at the Baba Hotel here. This place was introduced to me by my brother when he was studying at the Kaziranga University near Jorhat in Assam. He along with his groups of friends used to come here to enjoy a day off from his hostel mess food and savor on some hot pork recipes here at the Baba Hotel. I liked the pork sticks that they prepare here and so I decided to try the vegetarian thali and the pork stick here. Inside the place there is an air conditioned bar as well and before I knew the place was already filled with people sipping in cold beer here. I just ordered lunch and soon the food arrived. The thali was an assortment of the traditional meal of Assam with rice, dal, various sabjis, mashed pitikas, salad, chutneys, etc. Then came along the pork stick with a mix of fat and meat and the presentation was very nice. As mentioned earlier food is an integral part of the lifestyle of the people of Assam and people here take all measures to prepare an elaborate meal. Hotels and restaurants too offer various items in small quantities to appeal to their customers.
The meat was quite tender and the fats were cooked to perfection. No wonder this place attracts a lot of customers due to the food presentation and quality. I finished my meal and after clearing my bill I set out on my drive to Jorhat in Assam. The roads are not very good now and I had to drive carefully avoiding the occasional pot holes that greeted me along the way. I crossed the Assam police training institute at Dergaon and then a green cover of the lush tea gardens of Assam greeted me along the way. The parts of Upper Assam are known for the tea plantations and as Assam in the highest producer of tea in the World the area of Upper Assam plays a major contribution of these numbers. I could see the construction of the four way lane here in progress and this upon completion will give a major boost to the road infrastructure of Assam leading to trade flourishment. The beautiful blue sky cover along with the backdrop of the Assamese songs playing in my car ensured that I enjoyed every moment of my drive along the beautiful state of Assam. I finally reached the Kaziranga University campus near Jorhat and to its right was the memorial of the founder of the Ahom Kingdom King Swargadeo Sukapha and this place is called the Sukapha Samannay Kshetra.
An initiative of the Govt. of Assam this place aims to preserve the relics of the great Ahom Kingdom of Assam who ruled for over 500 years and did not allow the mighty Mughals to capture Assam. Sukapha was the Ahom King who founded this kingdom after migrating from Mon Mao in China during the 12th century. The Ahoms were brave and fearless people of Assam who used war tactics that were unheard of during their time thereby being successful in keeping invading armies away from Assam. This huge museum and tourist place at Jorhat in Assam plans to keep the legacy of the Ahom kingdom of Assam alive. I parked my car and entered the place crossing a huge gate at the entrance here. It is a sprawling campus area with a library, museum, guest houses, etc. The first thing we get to see here is the huge statue of King Sukapha at the center of the area here. King can be seen seated on a throne and the statue has been designed intricately and it looks life like. Variou tourists were here admiring the grandeur of this statue.
Then I explored the museum area here that had various relics from the time of the Ahom kingdom of Assam. There was a gallery depicting the famous Saraighat Battle that we had seen earlier near Guwahati in Assam at the Saraighat War Memorial. There are huge lawn areas and walking around the place made me digest the entire food I had. I bid farewell to this place to drive to the Kaziranga Golf Resort and the Burra Sahib Bungalow at Jorhat in Assam. This is a luxurious place of stay and I thought of bringing my guests here at the Burra Sahib Bungalow for visitors who wanted to enjoy the colonial environment stay that existed during the British Raj in Assam. The Burra Sahib Bungalow is a luxurious place to stay surrounded by the lush tea gardens and a huge golf course. This place is used a retreat by the doctors of Jorhat who are staying in Jorhat as a weekend retreat as well. After exploring the Kaziranga Golf Resort I finally continued my drive to go to my uncle;;s home in Jorhat, I arrived at 6 PM thereby winding another wonderful day of exploring Assam. My aunt welcomed me to their home as my uncle was still at his chamber as he was one of the prominent doctors of Jorhat.
I went in and my aunt offered me a cup of tea and asked me to check into my room upstairs as she had to go a social event at her friends house and she would be back by evening and then we would talk further. She asked me to come along but I was tired and didn’t want to go along and I excused myself. I went to my room for a shower and by the time I was done my uncle arrived and he called me downstairs to discuss how were things. We spoke for sometime and then my aunt came back home. Another round of tea followed and my aunt told me that they were having a ‘Naam’ or prayer session at the Dhekiakhowa Bornamghar near Jorhat in Assam the next day and she asked me to come along to visit the place and also help her with attending to the people who will be present there. I had always heard of this place and the Dhekiakhowa Bornamghar was built during the time of Sri Madhava Deva and it holds the record of having the oldest burning oil lamp in the World. I was eager to visit the place and as I would be staying for a couple of days in Jorhat I agreed to visit the place which I had planned to visit on my drive from Jorhat to Sivasagar in Assam. Anyways I had the day off tomorrow and was intending to explore the town of Jorhat before continuing on my journey to the Largest river in the World at Majuli in Assam from Jorhat where I was planning to setup a Camp to cater to travellers from across the World who come here. It was already 8.30 PM and my aunt wanted to cook dinner now but I was tired so I asked to order some food from a dine out restaurant. So I ordered for a nice meal of Pizzas and momos for us as all these days I was having various traditional meals and so thought for a change. After dinner we spoke for sometime and later retired to bed.
The next morning I was up and decided to visit the area around the Jorhat Agricultural University as this place has a beautiful campus where I knew a friend who was working as an assistant professor so I went to his home at Jorhat in Assam. It was a sunday so it was an offday for him and we were scheduled to leave to the Dhekiakhowa Bornamghar at 9.30 AM so I had time in hands. I reached at 7.30 AM to his place and he welcomed me to his home in the beautiful Agricultural University campus at Jorhat in Assam. He was a bachelor and so his place of stat was not very well organized. He is a native of Dibrugarh and studied with me during my Standard XI and XII at Guwahati in Assam. Today he is an assistant professor guiding students about the various processes of sustainable farming. My friend prepared tea and we spoke about Jorhat and the fast developments that was taking place in this town. Jorhat too is a knowledge town of Assam as it is home to various educational institutes like Jorhat Engineering College, Jorhat Medical College, North East Institute of Science and Technology, Kaziranga University, National Institute of Design, JB College, etc. Jorhat has a huge number of specialist doctors of Assam as well and this is evident from the numerous Nursing homes and Private Hospitals that are around this area of the town. After speaking for sometime I took his leave and got ready to go to the Dhekiakhowa Bornamghar as well.
My uncle and aunt along with other family members and distant relatives had all gathered and they were preparing the things that had to be carried to the Dhekiakhowa Bornamghar in Assam. Everyone was dressed in nice white mekhela Chadors and the men wore Dhoti and kurtas and I was the only odd one out wearing my signature black t shirt and blue jeans. Everyone was ready to have breakfast and today it would be a traditional assamese breakfast of Sira, Doi, Bora sawl, etc. I tried some of it but decided to avoid it as it was very sweet and I wanted to have roti and sabji on the way to the Namghar near Jorhat in Assam. I took my car along with me and it was stuffed with various offerings that y aunt was about to give at the Namghar. After crossing Jorhat we had to drive on the highway towards Teok and take a left diversion to the Dhekiakhowa Bornamghar in Assam. I made a quick stop here as I had to eat breakfast and there was a small tea shop here. I saw the owner preparing rotis and my luck favored me today as I wanted to eat roti and sabji was a mix of vegetables and boiled peas. The food tasted delicious and I had it quickly as the other guests were all reaching the Namghar. It took me another ten minutes to reach the place and once I reached the Dhekiakhowa Bornamghar the place was filled with devotees who had come here some to offer their prayers while some of them had come to attend the rituals with our family.
The Dhekiakhowa Bornamghar has a unique story behind its formation. It so happened that Sri Madhav Dev during his days of preaching and spreading awareness of the Neo Vaishnavite culture of Assam stumbled upon this place where he took shelter at the home of an old lady. The old lady was poor and she offered the saint guru a meal of rice and dhekia xaak (a very rich nutrient filled herb of Assam but often considered as a poor man’s food). She was utterly embarrassed as she did not have money to buy and prepare an elaborate meal to this holy guru and a already mentioned in the Assamese culture treating guests to a sumptuous meal is of prime importance. But Madhava Dev enjoyed the meal and he thanked the old lady and decided to light a lamp in her home and entrusted the responsibility to the lady of the lamp and to keep it burning. When the locals came to know the next day that the saint guru had visited the old lady’s house they felt blessed and on hearing that the guru had lit a lamp and requested it to burn continuously the entire members of the village in Assam decided to take up the responsibility and they took turns to fill the lamp with oil so that it never stopped burning. Later on the people of this village in Assam built a namghar here when one of the bhakats had in a dream that a piece of Sal tree trunk that was flowing against the nearby river current landed up at this place and the tree trunk was used as a base of the Dhekiakhowa Bornamghar in Assam. Today the earthen lamp here holds the Limca Book of Record of being the oldest burning oil lamp in the World.
I started unloading the goods from my car and some local people helped me to carry the things inside the Dhekiakhowa Bornamghar. The Namghar is spread across a huge area and the entrance gate has a huge stone figures of two elephants. At the entrance of the main Namghar in Assam there are the sculptures of two male monks performing the Sattriya Nritya dance for of Assam as well. Across the walls of the entrance hall there are many exquisite paintings of the life of Lord Krishna reminding me of the walls of the Namghar of the Barpeta Satra in Assam. All of my family members and guests gathered at the main prayer hall of the Namghar and the Bhakats took the offerings we had bought and they started their prayers. I was interested in looking at the oldest burning oil lamp in the World here at the Dhekiakhowa Bornamghar in Assam so I asked a Bhakat if I could see it. He happily obliged and led me into the main Namghar premise where I could finally witness this one of a king oil lamp in person. The oil lamp was indeed big in size and over the hundred years of it burning continuously it had turned completely black.
I guess it was earlier a smaller size lamp when it was lit my Madhav Deva but gradually it was replaced by a larger one (I am not sure about this and it is just my theory as I don’t think the Saint guru at first lit a big huge lamp but it might be the same one as well). The main thing was that the fire in the lamp was burning continuously since the day it was lit. I thanked the Bhakat for showing me the lamp and it was honor to be a part of such ancient history of Assam today. The rituals began and everyone started singing the traditional ‘Naam’ of Assam. The occasion of this ritual today was that my aunt had lit a lamp here seeking for a wish and as that wish was fulfilled so this was a kind of thank you to the Lord for listening and granting her wish true. The male Bhakats were chanting the prayers and I took time to explore the Namghar premises and to interact with the local people who told me various other interesting facts associated with the Dhekiakhowa Bornamghar in Assam.
It was afternoon by the time the prayers ended and people sat down to eat the offering of all the sweet items and the Khichdi that was prepared at the Namghar. After thanking everyone we finally bid goodbye to the Namghar to head back to Jorhat. I took time off to visit the Lachit Borphukan Maidam near Jorhat in Assam while my family members headed back home. A left diversion from the road leads to this ancient ancestral home of the legendary Ahom General of Assam Lachit Borphukan. Lachit Borphukan was a short and yet very brave commander who disliked negligence towards the service of the patriotism to his motherland that was Assam. Once during the Battle of Saraighat he found his own uncle was doing negligence towards his task on protecting Assam and when Lachit found out he confronted his uncle who came out with excuses as to why to work was not done. The brave general was so furious at his uncle that he took out his sword and beheaded his uncle for his grave negligence chanting the words ‘Dekhot ke Mumai Dangor Nohoi’ that translates to ‘My Uncle is not greater than my Motherland’.