Friday, 20 December 2013

WAR CEMETERIES - mute reminders of courage and sacrifice!

Who would have thought the effects of the II World War could have been felt in this far flung north-eastern state of Assam, in the Indian sub-continent? 
But facts are facts and one cannot change the course of history. 
The Burma Campaign of the Allied forces against the advancing Japanese army and the ensuing battles that followed, ensured that this region be scripted in history as an unwitting participant in the ravages of war.
So, what does one show to prove one's participation in conflicts and war? Yes, nothing more than graves of boys and young men who gave their lives for a cause.
The records available with the Regional Manager (NE - India) of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, states that there are nine war cemeteries in India, out of which five of these are in the north-east of the country! This certainly tells a story, doesn't it?
War Cemeteries in Assam: -
  • Digboi War Cemetery: - Situated quite close to the Burmese border, the town of Digboi was on the communication lines of the Allied advances with a military hospital for treating war casualties. The war cemetery which is about 1.5 km. towards the east of the present town, has around 200 graves of soldiers who lost their lives during the second world war. Every second Saturday in November, a prayer ceremony is held in this cemetery, to pay homage to the brave souls who were laid to rest here. Verses from the Bible, Gurugranth Sahib, Geeta and the Koran are read to commemorate the courage of these victims of war.
  • Guwahati War Cemetery: - This cemetery has 521 graves. It is the only war cemetery, among the other nine in India, that has the graves of 11 Japanese and 24 Chinese soldiers. There was an attempt by a high level Japanese delegation to exhume the graves of the Japanese soldiers and take back the remains to their native country, but no definite results could be ascertained.
There are two other places in the north-east of India that have cemeteries of the second world war. One is in Kohima, the capital city of the state of Nagaland, with more than 1400 graves, and two in Imphal, the capital city of the state of Manipur, with more than 1600 graves.

The one common feature unifying all these war cemeteries, is the immaculate nature with which these resting grounds of the brave souls of yester-years are maintained! 

Shiny brass plaques tell a story of the lost life! Boys and young men are laid to rest in orderly manner amongst beautifully manicured lawns and flowers. It is a place to come and pay obeisance. As a quote in one of the cemeteries rightly sums up everything - "When you go home tell them about us - that for your tomorrow, we gave our today"!

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Colonial Assam and Development - part 3 - RAILWAYS

Development and logistics go hand in hand.

A region maybe richly blessed with an abundance of raw material and even the know-how to utilise the same, but what good would it be,  if the finished product were to remain static?

The British realised this with regards to Assam, especially in upper Assam. To tap the huge potential of the region with the technical know-how at their disposal, they understood the nuances of bulk transport. Although roads were developed, but this certainly did not serve their purpose entirely. The need was to develop a mode of transport that, at a time was capable of carrying huge amounts of goods. This gave rise to the development of the Railway system in upper Assam!

The Assam Railways and Trading Company (ARTC), was set up in 1881, and in the same year, the construction work on the Dibru-Sadiya route was also started. The following year, 1882, witnessed the opening of the tract for goods traffic from Dibrugarh to Dinjan river, for onward transportation by river. This was primarily tea.

However, it was not until July 1883, that the route was opened to passenger traffic. The tract was till Makum,(the last junction on the Indian railways route map!) a 60 odd kilometre journey from Dibrugarh steamer ghat. But the most memorable day for the company (ARTC) was in the year 1884, when the Coal Field in Margherita was officially opened. A special train was run between Dibrugarh and the Dihing bridge, but because the locomotive could not cross the Dihing river, as the bridge was made of timber, the carriages had to be hand-shunted across the bridge to Margherita!

This event marked the successful completion of the Dibru-Sadiya railways by the Assam Railways and Trading Company. Amidst overwhelming odds and the lack of proper equipments, the setting up of the railways in these hostile terrains proved to all and sundry, the engineering capabilities of the British and their thirst for development!

From the humble beginning of the railways in this region, it has come a long way since then. Assured of fast, secured and bulk movement of goods, the railway system set up by the Assam Railways and Trading Company, has been instrumental in the development of this region.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Colonial Assam and Development - part 2 - OIL

The discovery of OIL in Assam was a pure fluke!

Legend has it that, while the engineers of the Assam Railways and Trading company (ARTC) were laying tracts for the Dibru-Sadiya railways up to Ledo in upper Assam in 1882, they noticed oil stains on the mud covered feet of the elephants that were used to haul timber and other machinery parts, as these pachyderms emerged from the dense jungles. Retracing their steps the men came upon a spot where oil was seeping onto the surface layer of mud!

William Lake, the English engineer in charge of tract laying, also an 'oil enthusiast' persuaded the company (ARTC) to undertake drilling for the precious commodity. Giving into 'Lakes' enthusiasm, the Assam Railways and Trading Company, engaged elephants to haul the heavy machinery in the dense jungles along with local labourers to start the drilling process. Thus in September 1889, the first oil - well was dug! Although the first strike at a depth of 178 feet turned out to be only a small pocket, the efforts continued and it was only in November 1890, at a depth of 662 feet, that the company struck it rich!

After the 'accidental' discovery of oil, the British formed the Assam Oil Company (AOC) in 1899 to look after and manage the oil business in the area. Then in the year 1901, the first oil refinery in India as well as Asia, was set up in a town called 'Digboi'.

It is said that the town got its name from the constant encouragement the English engineers shouted at the labourers, as they dug for oil - "Dig, boy, dig"! And that is how the state of Assam got its OIL Industry!

From this rather humble or maybe 'flukish' beginning, the state of Assam now has four oil refineries, one each at Guwahati, Bogaigaon, Numaligarh and of course the father of all - the Digboi refinery!

Friday, 13 December 2013

Colonial Assam and Development - part 1 - TEA

The period between the signing of the Yandaboo Treaty in 1826 and Indian Independence, is referred to as the 'Colonial Period' or 'Colonial Assam'. This marked the end of the Ahom monarchy and the beginning of British sovereignty, thus making the transition from medieval age to modern age in Assam.

The British soon realised that this region possessed rich natural resources and set about in real earnest to make the best use of it. So with the technical know-how, the multifaceted resources available at their disposal, and their administrative prowess, the 'Colonial Powers' put Assam on the global map by developing the two industries that are synonymous with Assam, namely Tea and Oil!

In an attempt to break the Chinese monopoly on Tea, the British launched the 'Tea - Industry' in Assam by offering land to any European who was interested in cultivating the crop, using Chinese seeds, and cultivating techniques. This was of course for the sole purpose of export, but this paved the way for the beginning of this industry!

The British East India Company started large scale tea production in Assam in the early 1820's. This was a traditional variety of tea brewed by the Singpho tribes. But it was only in 1837, that the first English tea garden was established in Chabua (originally known as 'Cha' - 'Buwa' or 'tea-plantation'), in upper Assam. The Assam Tea Company began its commercial production of tea in 1840 with the help of local inhabitants.

The early days of 1850's saw a rapid expansion of the tea industry consuming large tracts of fertile land conducive for the crop to thrive and by the turn of the century, Assam became the leading tea producing region in the world!

What started as a ploy of the British to break the monopoly the Chinese had on tea cultivation and production, ended up as a boon for the land and its inhabitants where it was cultivated! Assam now has more than eight hundred and fifty tea estates and two thousand five hundred plus tea gardens spread across the Brahmaputra and Barak valley. Besides giving meaningful employment, this industry also provides the state exchequer with much needed revenue. With more than fifty percent share in terms of contribution in total tea out put in the country, Assam stands tall today as the Tea Capital of the country!

Thursday, 12 December 2013

The Birth Place of ULFA - Sibsagar

Writing about Sibsagar and the great Ahoms whose presence can still be felt through the remnants of their signature architecture, one cannot leave this place without mentioning another extremely important development that this place witnessed in these modern times.

It was more than three decades ago, on the 7th of April 1979, a few young men gathered on the pristine lawns of the Rang-ghar, the amphitheatre of the bygone Ahom kings, and pledged to create a sovereign socialist Assam through armed struggle. Thus giving birth to United Liberation Front of Asom or ULFA.

This is not the forum to discuss the merits or de-merits of the ULFA, but certain questions keep pricking the conscious. Why choose the Rang - ghar to formulate stratagies for the birth of a revolutionary movement? Was it the historic significance of the place that motivated these young men? Or was it just youthful exuberance that put them on the revolutionary road?

The answers will never be known or correctly understood, but that is not the point. It was the place that warranted the above information.

Have fun till my next post!

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Sivsagar Town - where remnants of Ahom architecture beckons you!

Situated at a distance of about 360 km. northeast of Guwahati, Sivsagar (ocean of "Lord Shiva"), is synonymous for Ahom palaces and monuments. This town was formerly known as Rongpur.

Getting there: -

  • Air: - the closest airport is in Jorhat, which is about an hours drive from this place. Then there is the airport in Dibrugarh, at a distance of about 80 km. There are regular flights to the rest of the country to and from these two airports.
  • Road: - the more adventurous type can opt to drive down from Guwahati, taking in the sights and sounds en route. But in any case, even if one flies down to Jorhat or Dibrugarh to visit this town, the road trip is inevitable. But travelling through lush tea gardens and local populace, is worth the bumps and grinds!
  • Rail: - Not too well connected by rail, the nearest rail-head is located at Simulguri, a thirty minute drive from the town. Here, one can avail long distance trains to Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkatta etc.
Accommodation: - 
There is no dirth of decent places to stay in this monumental town. From hotels to government tourist lodges, one can pick and choose according to one's budget!

Attractions: - 
It is the remnants of bygone Ahom architecture that beckons one to this historic town!

  • Rang-ghar: - the amphitheatre of the Ahom's! This double-storeyd domeshaped structure, said to be the largest of its kind, was where the Ahom kings were regaled by their subjects!

  • Rongpur palace: -this is a beauty of Ahom construction! It is a seven storied structure, where four of those stories are above ground, called the Kareng-ghar and three stories below ground level, known as the Talatal - ghar. The underground structure was built as an army base with two large tunnels as escape routes during invasions and wars, one connecting to a river and the other comming out at another place! The entrance to the Talatal - ghar has since been closed off to visitors for security reasons.
  • Borpukhuri: -
    One of the striking features of this town, this 1.04 water body is situated at a higher elevation than the town, where the water level never goes down.
  • Temples ('Dols' in Assamese): -
    Standing tall at 104 ft. on the banks of the Borpukhuri, the Shivadol is the most prominent of all the temples. Two other temples, namely, Vishnudol and Devidol are also in the same compound. Built in 1734 by Kuwari Ambika, wife of the illustrious Ahom king Swargadeo Siba Singha, the temples are dedicated to Lord Shiva. 
  • Joysagar: - 
    Situated about 5 km. on the egde of the town, this 1.27 sq. km. water body is said to be the biggest man-made lake in the country!  It bears testimony to the architectural prowess of the Ahoms. The brain child of Swargadeo Rudra Singha, this lake was built to honour his mother Joymoti. 
  • Maidams (Vaults): -
    The last resting lace of the Ahom kings. These vaults or Maidams, where the body of the king would be laid to rest are dome shaped mounds that are sealed from the outside. Mostly found around Charaideo, the first capital of the Ahom kingom set up Siu-Ka-Phaa and Jorhat, these Maidams bear mute testimony to the bygone Ahom era!

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

The Rise and Fall of the Ahom Kingdom - in a nutshell.

The Ahoms are the descendants of the Tai people from the Mong Mao kingdom in the present day Yunnan province of China.

It all started when Siu - Ka - Phaa (Sukaphaa), an adventurous Mong Mao prince, along with his followers, decided to expand their territories. The prince and his followers crossed the treacherous Patkai hills and entered the brahmaputra valley in 1228. This marked the beginning of the Ahom rule, the architects of modern day Assam.
Moving from place to place, the marauding army of Prince Siu-Ka-Phaa, befriended the Morans and Borahis, ethnic groups of the brahmaputra valley, instead of attacking them. This paid dividends, as the depleted number of his followers married into these groups and helped in the expansion of his base. Though the Borahis, a Tibeto-Burman people subsumed into the Ahom fold, the Morans maintained their independent ethnicity. Siu-Ka-Phaa finally established his capital at Charaideo (present day Sonari) in 1253, and started the task of state formation.
  • The first casualty in the process of expansion of the Ahom kingdom was the Sutiyas. This kingdom was annexed in 1522. 
  • The next kingdom to fall to the Ahom expansion plan was that of the Dimasa Kacharis. They were uprooted from their capital of Dimapur (presently in the state Nagaland) in 1536. 
  • After the Battle of Itakhuli in 1682, which heralded the end of Ahom - Mughal conflicts, the Koch Hajo fell into the hands of the Ahoms.
By the end of the seventeenth century, the Ahoms were in control of the various tribal groups and regions along the brahmaputra valley. 

Thus by bringing all the various tribal groups and annexed regions under one ruler and one governing policy, the Ahoms ruled for 600 glorious years.
But all good things come to an end and this adage held true for the Ahom Kingdom as well! Rebellions and invasions marked the decline of their rule. The Burmese army invaded their kingdom and uprooted their capital towards the end of the nineteenth century and set up a puppet Ahom king. 
The Burmese were subsequently defeated by the British in the first Anglo-Burmese war and the Treaty of Yandaboo was signed in 1826.
This paved the way for the British to convert the Ahom kingdom into small principalities and thus bring an end to Ahom rule. The final nail in the coffin was when the British, annexed Assam and made it into a province and finally into a state, that the Ahom identity gradually became Assamese.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Jorhat Gymkhana Club - history and beyond!

The Clubhouse
Vying for a place in the prestigious "World Heritage Site", for its lush green golf course, this beautiful colonial architecture, bears testimony to the influence of bygone British era.

Established as a 'watering hole' for British
tea planters, this club was built by the then secretary, D.Slimmon in 1876. The club was out of bounds for Indians till the Annual General Meeting of 1929, where the general body voted to open the doors to Indians as well.

Fact file: -

  • the club has a parkland style 9 hole golf course, a mature treeline, small ponds and water bodies, enough to test anyone's' game. 
  • this golf circuit is considered to be the oldest in Asia and the third oldest in the world!
  • the club offers grass court tennis, swimming pool, billiards and of course, a bar.
  • Since its inception, the club has been the venue for horse races. The Governors Cup, is the major trophy which is awarded every year. The races are scheduled during the fourth week of February.
  • The ponies for the races belong to the Mising people, an indigenous plains tribe of Assam. So in a way, the club acts like a intermediary, in helping the indigenous Mising people to showcase their riding skills and also in upkeep of their ponies. 
  • They are all 'bare-back' riders!

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Assam Tea's first martyr - Maniram Dewan

Cinnamora Tea estate

Maniram Dewan, alias, Maniram Dutta Barua, joined the newly formed 'Assam Company' as a 'Dewan' or land agent after the British deposed the titular monarch, Purander Singha in 1839.

It wasn't for the salary of two hundred rupees per month that he joined the company. He was wealthy. But being an intelligent and far-sighted individual, he realised and understood that, 'Tea' was Assam's industry of the future. He wanted this industry to be indigenous.

During his tenure in the 'Assam Company', he educated himself on all the intricacies and nuances of tea cultivation and manufacturing processes adopted by the British at that time. And after satisfactorily imbibing all the rudiments of the craft, he resigned from the company to set up his own venture.

Undeterred by the rejection for land grants, Maniram purchased land, and in the face of vehement opposition and open hostility, started his own plantation. And it was in 1850, that he established "Cinnamara Tea Estate", the first and oldest tea garden in Assam.

The British waited out their time to teach Maniram a lesson. The opportunity presented itself during the Sepoy Mutiny, when he was arrested and implicated for conspiracy to oust the British from Assam and re-instate the Ahom king to the throne. 

After a semblance of a trial, Maniram Dewan was hanged on the 26th of February, 1858

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Golf among tea bushes? Unbelievable, but true - read on!

The Resort

This is exactly what 'Kaziranga Golf Resort' offers!

The brain child of Late Hemen Prasad Barooah and owned by Barooah and Assiciates, this strip has been carved out of 150 acre of lush tea gardens of Sangsua and Gatoonga tea estates. 

It offers an unique golfing experience.

The first of its kind in the world, this 'Tea and Golf' resort has been designed to offer the very best in golfing and colonial living ambiance.

USP: -
  • 18 hole, Par 71 and 6830 yards Championship Golf Course.
  • The driving range is a unique double sided access design, allows for 72 players to use it at any given time.
  • Fast and true greens.
  • Water in play on 6 holes.
  • Shortest hole from the back tees plays to 185 yards.
  • Large Golf Academy for learners to pick up the game. 
  • A year long golfing destination.

Getting there: -
This unique resort can be reached from Jorhat, which is the nearest city. Jorhat is well connected by air, rail and road to the rest of the country.

  • By Air: - Daily flights operate to and from Jorhat and Kolkatta, and connecting flights are available to Kolkatta from all metros of the country.
  • By Rail: - Jorhat is connected to Guwahati by two long distance trains, Intercity Express, which runs daily and Jan Satabdi Express, on all week days except Sunday.
  • By Road: - One can fly to Guwahati, hire a cab at the airport itself and then drive down straight to the resort. It should take about 5-6 hours to get there.
Accommodation: -
The resort is well equipped with colonial style accommodation in a tea garden environment which is sure to satisfy even the most discerning of guests.

So, come here, holiday and play the game among tea plantations and paddy fields and feel one with nature! 

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Discover Jorhat - the knowledge city of Assam

The name 'JORHAT' means two 'haats' or 'mandis', namely Macharhat and Chowkihat.

This city was the last capital of the great Ahom kingdom. It was in the year 1794 that the Ahom king, Gaurinath Singha shifted his capital from Sibsagar to Jorhat. It was a flourishing town until the Burmese invasions since 1817, which left much of the establishment destroyed. The arrival of  British forces in 1824, stemmed the marauding advances of the Burmese invaders.

Under the British rule, this historical town saw the re-emergence of development, though not free from rebellions and revolutions, the British system of administration was established in 1839.

The famous 'Sepoy Mutiny' during the Indian freedom struggle, witnessed its ripple effects in this remote part of the Indian sub-continent. Maniram Dewan and Piyali Barua, Assamese stalwarts of the  Indian freedom struggle, were hanged in the year 1858 in this very place, when their anti-British plots were foiled.

Through numerous turmoils and upheavals, this historic town continued its steadfast progress to development. The establishment of a narrow gauge train service - Jorhat Provincial Railways, by the British,  in 1885, was a boon to the fledgling tea industry and served as a catalyst to its rapid growth.

In 1911, the British established Jorhat as the administrative headquarters of undivided Sibsagar district and appointed Major A. Playfair as the first Deputy Commissioner.

The modern day Jorhat district came into being in 1983, after it was carved out of the present day Sibsagar district.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Destination Tezpur - the capital of Assamese culture!

Situated on the banks of the river Brahmaputra, this town has a lot to offer in terms of historical sites and natural beauty! The name Tezpur, is derived from Sanskrit, which means 'Teza' - blood and 'Pura' - town or city. Legend has it that the whole place was stained red with blood during the battle between the two armies of Hindu mythological figures, Krishna and Banasura for the rescue of Aniruddha, grandchild of Krishna and hence the name.

Modern day Tezpur was founded by the British colonial administration in 1935 as the district headquarters of Darrang. As of today, this town is the district headquarters of Sonitpur, which has since been carved out of erstwhile Darrang.

How to get there: - 
Tezpur is accessible both by road and air: -
  • By Air : - There are direct flights from Kolkatta thrice a week to Saloni, the airport, which is about 8 km. from the town.
  • By road : - One can drive down from Guwahati, take in the sights and sounds en route and cover the
    190 odd km in about four hours time, to reach this place. Crossing the Brahmaputra over the 3015 meters Koliabhomora Setu (named after the Ahom General Kolia Bhomora Phukanto reach Tezpur, is an experience that should not be missed! 
Accommodation :- 
There are a number of good clean comfortable hotels in the town that offer accommodation at reasonable rates. Besides these hotels, government run tourist lodge is also available.

Things to do : -

  • Stroll around, mingle with the locals, visit the many parks and water bodies strewn around the town
  • Get first hand information about Bishnuprasad Rabha and Jyoti Prasad Agarwala both freedom fighters, social workers and multifaceted artists. 
  • Visit Nameri Eco camp for a 'close to nature' experience and indulge in river rafting, nature walks, angling of the famous 'Golden Mahseer' species and stay in tented accommodations or wooden huts!
  • For orchid lovers, there is Orchid sanctuary in Bhalukpong.
  • Eaglenest for bird lovers.

There's a lot one can do in Tezpur. So let your hair down and indulge yourself in what this place has to offer!

Have fun!

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Hello people - how was it?

In my yesterday's post, I put out precise information regarding the capital city of Assam - Guwahati, about places that one must visit and things that one could do as a traveler to this side of the globe! This should take about 6-7 days.

Now, after the capital city, which direction should I take you along, to continue this splendid journey? - should it be the southern part of Assam, the western side or the north of the river Brahmaputra? Its quite a dilemma, because this state has so much to offer and I really don't want to miss out anything for you all! Guess I'll have to sleep on it to make that decision.

So, see you all tomorrow in a different place with a whole lot of new information!!

Guwahati - the capital city of Assam.

Guwahati city, straddling the Brahmaputra.
Your journey to the north east starts here! Let me be very brief and to the point and tell you all how to get here, what all you can expect to see or must see or where to stay. Getting to Guwahati is no problem at all. Domestic travelers do not need any travel documents, but foreign travelers must carry valid documents. 
  • By Air: - Guwahati is well connected to Kolkatta, Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore with daily flights. The airport, namely, Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi airport is about 25 km. on the city out skirts. Shared cabs ply regularly.
  • By Rail : - All major cities and towns of mainland India are very well linked by mail and express trains that run the circuit regularly. The rail head is in the city.
Movement within the city is easy. One can take hired taxis or shared taxis, but please remember, you need to haggle about the fare!

Accommodation: -
So, where does one stay after arriving here? Don't worry, there are a wide range of accommodations available in Guwahati. From budget hotels, tourist lodges, to high end hotels, they are all there. Planning your trip through a reputed tour operator should take care of everything! But use your own judgement at times.

What to see and do when you are in Guwahati?
  • Kamakhya Temple: - This is a well known and must visit destination for both domestic as well as foreign tourists. It is situated on the Nilachal hills on the western part of the city, en route from the air port. You can find out for your self all the details regarding this temple, when you get here.
  • Sualkuchi: - Situated on the north bank of the Brahmaputra and 32 km. from Guwahati, this is a weavers village, famous for its silk products. Aptly named as the 'Manchester of the East' by the British, silk production here is a cottage industry!
  • Gauhati War Cemetery : - It is a war cemetery with a difference! The only one its kind to have graves of Japanese soldiers.
  • Hajo : - This is an ancient pilgrimage center for three religions - Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims, situated on the north bank of the Brahmaputra at a distance of 24 km. from the city.
  • Barpeta : - Situated on the national highway 31, this town offers a lot to the discerning traveler. Home to the brass - metal  and firecracker industry, among others like, pilgrimage sites as well as wildlife sanctuary. Easily accessible from Guwahati. 
  • Cruise on the Brahmaputra : -  Wind up the days' activities by taking a leisurely evening cruise down the river Brahmaputra!
There are  host of other activities to do in this city. Maybe visit  the planetarium, the zoo, the ISKON temple or just shopping for Assamese handicrafts. But then these are run of the mill activities and can be done without any prior planning!

Have fun!

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Truths and half-baked truths...!

Yes...... that has been the case with this region, and in particular for the state of Assam. One must understand that Assam has a wide diaspora of inhabitants from all walks of life and from all corners of mainland India. There is no denying the fact that problems have existed in the state, but so is the case with any other place. When the will of the powers that be to do something positive is lacking, it is quite obvious that the voices of dissent and self - determination get louder. And this can take on any form. So has been the case with Assam. After years of deprivation and neglect, the time had to come for the string of patient to snap. This had given rise to the famous Assam Agitation - spear-headed by the All Assam Students Union and simultaneously the fertile atmosphere at that point in time, also gave rise to a more sinister force, namely the ULFA, (acronym for United Liberation Front of Axom).
I won't go into the gory details but suffice it to say, the leaders of the Assam Agitation ended up in politics, forming a regional party who were voted to power for two consecutive terms (ten years in total), but had little to show in terms of governance and development. And now, even as oppositions in the state assembly they are a weak lot. 
As for the ULFA, yes they were a lot to reckon with in the past, say twenty - twenty five years back. Rooting out social evils like gambling, illicit liquor dens and the works, this group considered themselves the modern day "Robin Hoods", but with a difference, looting and extorting the rich, they kept everything for themselves! It was only a matter of time that, money would reign supreme. As of today, the ULFA is a spent force, most of the top rung leaders  are no more or have surrendered to live in the main stream of society.
But the Assam Agitation and the ULFA have set in motion an unsavory precedence. Assam being  home to many plains tribes, the foregoing agitation witnessed in the state, are now examples for these groups to follow in the foot steps, for the sake of self-determination and recognition constitutionally. Groups like the Bodos, Koch-Rajbonshis, Muttocks - Morans, Chutias etc do resort to agitations by blocking highways and railroads. But it must be remembered that, this is only in certain pockets and it is not a state-wide phenomena.  
Despite the many turmoils and upheavals faced by the state of Assam in the past, the present atmosphere is generally peaceful. And I can say with a lot of confidence that one must come and see for oneself to really understand the ground realities that is prevailing in the state today. It is quite understandable that the media, both  print and electronic, can play havoc with ones psyche, but take it from a north-easterner, the reality is very different.
Come and enjoy the land of the Red River (Brahmaputra) and take in all the beauty that this state has to offer and go back many times richer in fond memories. And that is why I intend to continue my sharing about all the many other places and destinations that is there to be explored!

Assam - the gateway to the 'Seven Sisters'.

It occupies the central part among the other north east Indian states. Assam was ruled for many centuries by the Ahom kings, whose architectural styles and deft workmanship can still be witnessed from the well preserved monuments. It is absolutely amazing, how by using locally available material, such stupendous works of architecture could be achieved! These can be seen all year round.

Assam is synonymous with the world famous one-horned rhinoceros, found in its natural habitat and world heritage site, the Kaziranga National Park. One might say the Kaziranga National Park is the elder brother when compared to the other equally appealing wildlife sanctuaries namely - Manas National Park, Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary, Nameri National Park and Dibro-Saikhowa National Park. Each of these places have their own distinctive appeal. The park is open from October to March, before the onset of the monsoons.

Besides, the natural beauty of this region, Assam is well known for the tea that is produced from its various tea plantations spread across its numerous tea gardens. This labour intensive industry was introduced and developed by the British and till today,it has served as an important means of sustenance for many and source of revenue for the government. To the curious, the management of the tea gardens are more than eager to give a guided tour of the tea garden as well as the factory where the manufacturing process can be seen first hand. One can take in sweet fragrant aroma of tea here! The best time to visit would be during the manufacturing season.

My writing would be incomplete if I fail to mention about the worlds largest freshwater island in South Asia, on the Brahmaputra river, namely Majuli.  It is the seat of Vaishnavite learning and is dotted with these learning centres across the island. There are six satras on this island, they are - Kamalabari Satra, Dakhinpat Satra, Garamurh Satra, Auniati Satra, Bengennati Satra and Samaguri Satra. The just concluded Raas festival saw many pilgrims, domestic and foreign tourists converge on this riverine island for the extravaganza. This island is safely accessible during the dry season when the river is not in spate. 

The above is just a glimpse of the renowned places that are well known to people of India as well as those staying abroad. Its the tip of the iceberg! There are many lesser known places and destinations that are equally appealing and attractive and about which I intend to share later. 

But before that, I need to clear certain myths surrounding the state of Assam and the region as a whole!!

Monday, 18 November 2013


The North East of India is tucked away in the extreme eastern most region of the Indian sub-continent. The region comprises of seven states, more commonly known as the "Seven Sisters" are Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura. The whole region is bordered by China and Bhutan on the northern side, Myanmar on the eastern side and Bangladesh on the southern side.

The north eastern states presents a diverse kaleidoscope of culture and traditions that are deeply rooted in history.

This region is a travelers paradise. It offers a whole range of attractions that is guaranteed to make one come back for more.
In my coming posts about this region, I will give in-depth information about each state and in the process hope dispel any myths that are linked to this paradise on earth!

See you all soon!!