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!!