Dibru-Saikhowa National Park

Dibru-Saikhowa National Park located in Dibrugarh and Tinsukia districts of Assam is spread across an area of 765 sq kms, including a core area of 340 sq kms and a buffer zone of 425 sq kms. Situated on the south bank of river Brahmaputra the Park was declared a Biosphere Reserve in 1997 and an Important Bird Area in 2004.

Dibru-Saikhowa National Park
Dibru-Saikhowa National Park
Source: https://instagram.com/therizahmed?igshid=1qcsgpbdab603

The Park is bounded by the Mighty Brahmaputra and Lohit rivers in the north, and Dibru river in the south. It is the largest Salix swamp forest in North-eastern India with a tropical monsoon climate. Summers are hot and wet while winters are cool and dry. It mainly consists of moist mixed semi-evergreen forests, moist-mixed deciduous forests, canebrakes and grasslands.

Dibru-Saikhowa
Dibru-Saikhowa
Source: https://instagram.com/the.lost_boy_journey?igshid=rd4lbsnzz7rh

Compared to Kaziranga National Park and Manas National Park, Dibru-Saikhowa is less explored and therefore untouched by the commercial buzz. Guijan ghat and Saikhowa ghat are the two entry points to the Park. There are no roads so elephant and jeep safari are out of question.

Activities available :

Boat rides at Dibru-Saikhowa
Boat rides at Dibru-Saikhowa
Source: https://instagram.com/the_jazzy_land?igshid=6llhj719c4wr

Boat rides and nature trails are the most popular activities here. To take a tour of the park boat rides are the only option, but at places you can explore the trails accompanied by an experienced guide. There’s a huge land mass in the middle of the river which has a gigantic tree with roots and branches spiraling all around. This tree is said to be 120 years old and another major attraction of the park. As your boat meanders along you can view different species of birds, mammals and sometimes river dolphins too.

River dolphin at Dibru-Saikhowa
River dolphin at Dibru-Saikhowa
Source: https://instagram.com/dream.chaser.riku?igshid=1weymey9j0v01

Dibru-Saikhowa is a birdwatcher’s paradise as it is home to many unique species of birds. Bird photographers therefore has a lot of scope here to feed their lenses and ever curious mind. Some species of birds that has recorded over time are Jerdon’s babbler, black-breasted parrotbill, Bengal florican, white bellied heron, black-necked stork, Sarus crane, grey-headed fish eagle, white-winged duck, Indian spot-billed duck, common shelduck etc.

Camping at Dibru-Saikhowa
Camping at Dibru-Saikhowa
Source: https://instagram.com/gori.yashi?igshid=6l9p7sy6oby

Camping and campfire are part of the activities if you stay in the houseboats or eco- lodge. Warming up to the campfire on cold winter nights while enjoying a sumptuous ethnic Assamese meal is an experience you will cherish lifelong. Cultural programs like Bihu dance, husori are sometimes organized too.

Tea plantations
Tea plantations
Source: https://instagram.com/sarmamonoj?igshid=18ocyrce4k22f

While in Assam do not miss the opportunity to visit the tea gardens and Tinsukia and Dibrugarh have plenty of these. Offshore you can visit the tea plantations and explore the nature trails. Take a tour around the factory and see for yourself how your favorite Assam tea is processed and take back a few samples as souvenir.

How to get there :

Dibru-Saikhowa National Park is only 12 kms away from Tinsukia town. If you are traveling from any part of the country then Dibrugarh Mohanbari Airport is the nearest airport. Cabs are available at the airport which can take you to Tinsukia town or directly to Dibru-Saikhowa. Alternatively you can board a bus to Tinsukia town after you reach NH37 in a tempo. From the town you can take a cab to Dibru-Saikhowa.

Sunset at Dibru-Saikhowa
Sunset at Dibru-Saikhowa
Source: https://instagram.com/arpan_zb?igshid=142wth5gp23mf

If you are traveling by train then you can directly get off at Tinsukia Railway Station and book a cab from there.

Where to stay :

Eco camps, homestays and hotels are available to make your stay comfortable while visiting Dibru-Saikhowa National Park. Each of these offer different level of comfort and your choice depends on the type of experience you need.

Houseboats at Dibru-Saikhowa
Houseboats at Dibru-Saikhowa
Source: https://instagram.com/goutam__kashyap?igshid=zj8nqex0awaj

There are a few house boats available for lodging. These boats take you on a day tour over the Brahmaputra to the forest area. On their return these boats are anchored offshore at Guijan ghat and you can stay overnight too. These are like a package tour with complimentary meals available, and you can enjoy a campfire too. Houseboats give you the most charming experience as you wake up to the view of the calm and serene river with birds chirping.

Eco-camps at Dibru-Saikhowa
Eco-camps at Dibru-Saikhowa
Source: https://instagram.com/wanderpitra._?igshid=1jxiflrjj0pwr

Offshore at Guijan ghat a few eco camps and homestays are said to be available for lodging. You can opt to stay there to get the thrill of camping.

While there a quite a few good hotels and resorts available in and around Tinsukia town for lodging. These provide far better facilities and are comfortable too.

A few good hotels highly recommended are:

Padmini Resort
Source: https://instagram.com/padmini_resort?igshid=hu4iykexcvwc
  • Padmini Resort: Nestled amidst the lush green tea gardens, Padmini Resort is eco-friendly and provides modern luxury comfort. It is spread across a 10 acre plot with landscaped garden, private villa, swimming pool with a bar and a restaurant.
  • Wathai Heritage Bungalow: This is a boutique plantation bungalow at Limbuguri Tea Estate in Tinsukia and around Dibru-Saikhowa National Park. Only 3 rooms are available at this heritage bungalow.
  • Hotel Royal Highness: Located at GNB Road, Tinsukia this is a luxurious 3 star hotel approved by Ministry of Tourism, Govt. of India.
  • Aroma Residency: This is a boutique hotel located at Rongagora Road, Tinsukia.
Hotel Royal Highness
Source: tripadvisor.in

Best time to visit :

The Dibru-Saikhowa National Park remains open throughout the year but the best time to visit is from November to March. The season is now, so plan your vacation soon to enjoy the tranquil of Dibru-Saikhowa National Park far from the madding crowd.

Best Authentic Assamese Recipes with Banana Tree

Assamese cuisine is gradually making a mark in the world culinary scene. It is becoming one of the many reasons Assam is attracting tourists worldwide. Assam has great scope in culinary tourism as it is home to many ethnic groups. Each of these ethnic groups has a variety of unique and authentic delicacies to offer. Authentic Assamese cuisine is less about spices and more about natural flavors. Assamese people love to cook dishes from natural or homegrown vegetables and fruits. The cooking involves firewood to get the smoky flavor and minimal use of oil.

Authentic Assamese Thaali
An Assamese thali
Source: https://instagram.com/neemyskitchen?igshid=u6cc55yw7oh9

One such tree or fruit which grows abundantly here in Assam is the Banana tree. In Assam, all parts of the banana tree are used in preparing delicacies which are authentic. In this article, I will take you on a special culinary tour featuring banana trees, along with recipes.

I hope you enjoy this delicious and authentic Assamese platter.

1. Tupula bhaat (steamed rice wrapped in banana leaf)

Rice is the staple food here in Assam and the most important element in an Assamese thali or platter. Our first item is Tupula bhaat or rice wrapped in banana leaf. The aroma of the banana leaf gets infused with the steamed rice giving altogether a different taste to the otherwise simple rice. For this, we need steamed rice (preferably sticky rice) and banana leaf.

tupula bhaat - Steamed rice wrapped in banana leaf
Steamed rice wrapped in banana leaf #tupulabhaat
Source: https://instagram.com/rajsree.rajkonwar?igshid=1k42iw8r5f2j5

First we need to steam the rice instead of pressure cooking. Put water in a big bowl, place washed rice on a steamer above the bowl, cover it with a lid. Bring the water to boil and let the rice cook. Heat the banana leaf over fire to make it tender so that when wrapped the leaf doesn’t tear. A portion of the steamed rice is immediately transferred to the leaf, wrapped and tied with a banana string. Our tupula bhaat is ready! Alternatively you can simply transfer cooked rice to a banana leaf and wrap it while hot.

2. Xoru maas kol patot diya (steamed small fish wrapped in banana leaf)

Our second dish is small fish steamed in banana leaf. For this we prefer mua maas, which is a variety of small fish. But other varieties are good as well.

Small fish steamed over fire
Small fish steamed over fire
Source: https://instagram.com/thenortheastfood2020?igshid=4fi6qq8vxn53

To marinate the cleaned small fish we need to add roughly pound ginger and garlic, split green chillies, turmeric, salt and mustard oil. This mixture is then transferred to a banana leaf. Wrap the banana leaf properly and tie it with a banana string. Barbeque the tied mixture over firewood while flipping sides. Make sure not to keep it for too long else it might burn. (Alternatively you can place the mixture on a tawa and cover it with a lid. Steam it on low flame for about 20 mins while cooking both sides of the wrap).

Steamed small fish wrapped in banana leaf
Steamed small fish wrapped in banana leaf Source: https://instagram.com/hearty_.meals?igshid=1eyvf72683otu

Once the wrap is done let it sit for a few minutes. Add freshly chopped coriander and little lime juice to the steamed fish, mix it properly and you are ready to relish this flavoursome dish infused with the aroma of smoked banana leaf.

3. Kol posola boot anja (banana stem with brown chickpeas)

Kol posola is the stem of the banana tree. We peel off the outer hard layers and eat the tender, moist inner part. The cooking style differs from person to person but what matters is the flavour of the dish.

Banana stem
Banana stem
Source: deccanherald.com

Pour mustard oil into a pan and heat it. Add a bay leaf or two, one whole dry red chilly, finely chopped onions, ginger garlic paste, some green chillies and fry. Add a little cumin powder for taste. After the mixture turns golden brown, add soaked/ boiled brown chickpeas, salt and turmeric and let it cook. After the peas are half cooked add the finely cut banana stem, mix well and cook again in medium flame. Add a little water and allow it to evaporate and moisten the mixture. Your third dish of the platter is ready!

Banana stem with brown chickpeas
Banana stem with brown chickpeas
Source:https://instagram.com/eeh_mojaah?igshid=igdg8uv50ap1

I remember eating the most delicious posola bhaji at our community feasts of Srimanta Sankardeva Sangha. The dish always turned out so hot my tongue used to literally stick out. Why, because the cooks added tons of green chillies inorder to add zing to the all vegetarian meal. But nobody held back from eating this extremely hot and delicious banana stem dish.

4. Kaskol masor anja (fish cooked with raw banana)

Kaskol or raw banana is mostly consumed as chips, or simple fry. Fish with raw banana is also a common dish but what’s authentic about it being Assamese is in cooking style and flavors. And Assamese cooking is mostly about less oil and less spices.

Raw banana
Raw banana
Source: specialtyproduce.com

Start by peeling off the bananas and then cut it into pieces of your choice. Heat mustard oil in a pan, add bay leaf, dry red chilly, paanchphuran ( five basic spices ), onions and ginger garlic paste. After the onion turns golden brown add the raw banana and one potato cut into pieces, add salt and turmeric, mix well and cook on medium flame. Simultaneously, fry a few pieces of fish, any variety you want, and keep aside. Check the mixture, and once it’s cooked add warm water and let it come to boil. Add the fried pieces of fish and let it cook for a few minutes. Mash a few pieces of the raw banana and potato to make the gravy thicker and garnish with freshly chopped coriander.

Raw banana fish curry
Raw banana fish curry
Source: https://instagram.com/ankitakalitacreations?igshid=17vheyozcyi7v

5. Koldil murgi manxho (banana flower with country chicken)

The fifth dish on our plate is the much hyped banana flower with country chicken. Rich in minerals like phosphorus, calcium, potassium, copper, magnesium and iron banana flower is indeed a super food. Let’s learn how to make this dish.

Banana flower
Banana flower
Source: indianexpress.com

After cutting the banana flower, wash in salt water and drain. Heat mustard oil in a pan, add a bay leaf and dry red chilly, a little cumin seeds. Then add the chopped onions and fry, later add the ginger garlic paste, cumin and coriander powder. After a while add the chicken pieces, turmeric, salt and cook for about 3-4 mins in medium flame. Now add the banana flower, mix well and cook in low flame while stirring occasionally. Country chicken takes time to cook and hence you have to keep checking from time to time. You can opt to add water or leave it dry based on your preference.

Banana flower with country chicken
Banana flower with country chicken
Source: traveldiaryparnashree.com

6. Kol khaar

Kol khaar is actually a kind of alkali prepared from the banana peel of the variety called musa bulbisina or bheem kol in Assamese If this variety is not available then you can make use of any other variety. First dry the banana peels properly in sunlight, then burn the peels and soak them in water. Mix properly and then drain the water through a cloth or strainer to strain the ash. The water thus obtained is the alkali khaar. Kol khaar is the organic version of sodium bicarbonate.

Musa bulbisina or Bhim kol
Musa bulbisina or Bhim kol
Source: oluit.com

Let’s learn how to use this kol khaar in cooking. The dish is called omita khaar or raw papaya khaar. Heat mustard oil, then add bay leaf, dry red chilly and paanch phuran or five whole spices ( cumin, fennel, kalonji, mustard and methi). Add the cut pieces of raw papaya, salt and cook. We normally do not use turmeric in khaar. When the papaya is soft and almost cooked add about 2-3 spoonfuls of liquid kol khaar with a little water. Allow the mixture to soak in the khaar and water, omita khaar is ready to serve!

Raw papaya khaar
Raw papaya khaar
Source: recipes18.com

7. Bhapot diya Kol pitha (steamed banana pancake)

The dessert on the platter is steamed banana pitha which is the most simple, healthy and tastiest dessert ever. Mash about 2-3 ripe bananas, add rice flour and jaggery and knead it into a batter. Take banana leaves, cut into pieces and heat it to make it tender. Put a little of the batter into the banana leaves, wrap the leaf and flatten the batter. Tie the wrap and steam it on a pan covering the lid while flipping sides. The flame should be medium. This tastes best with a cup of Asssm black tea alongside jaggery. But this serves as our dessert in our platter featuring banana tree.

Steamed banana pancake
Steamed banana pancake
Source: https://instagram.com/deboshri_rajbongshi?igshid=f9uzzkj66trs

8. Koldil bor (banana blossom fritters)

All the dishes mentioned above have been tried and tasted, and banana flower fritters was the only dish which I had never tasted. But as I started writing this post I knew for sure that I have to taste it before I recommend it to you all. So a few days back I made them and trust me when I say, this snack is “finger licking good”.

Banana blossom fritters
Banana blossom fritters
Source: https://instagram.com/foodstories94?igshid=1bzmi48uom6la

All you need to do is separate the banana flowers but try not to break them. Then boil them in water while adding a little salt. Drain and keep them aside. I had soaked masoor dal for about 5-6 hours and later made a paste out of it. I added salt and chilly powder to the paste and mixed properly. To get the consistency perfect for making fritters I added a little water to the paste. Next I heated mustard oil in a pan, dipped the boiled banana flower into the mixture and deep fried it. Voila! Deep fried banana blossom fritters is the perfect starter to this platter.

Bell metal bowl and spoon

History and Significance of Bell Metal in Assam

The precious bell metal industry is the second-largest handicraft industry of Assam. Sarthebari in Bajali district of Assam is home to this craft. It is a place unheard to many and so is the craft of bell metal. Much astonishing is the fact that 40 percent of the residents in Sarthebari live upon this craft.

Baan bati, a variant of bell metal utensils
Baan bati, a variant of bell metal utensils Source: dsource.in

Bell metal is an alloy of copper and tin with much utilitarian and aesthetic value in Assam. If you visit any household in Assam you will come across a form of bell metal utensil in their home. Every Assamese takes great pride in serving their guests in bell metal utensils. People of Assam use bell metal for various ceremonious occasions and domestic purposes.

The craftsmen of the bell metal industry are referred to as kahar or orja. They still carry through the age-old technique of preparing these utensils by hand which is very tiring and needs great skills. The fact that these utensils are handmade increases their beauty and value.

Bell metal bati ( bowl) and spoon
Bell metal bati ( bowl) and spoon

Bell metal industry as a whole is very huge with thousands of craftsmen plying their trade. But in reality, this is the amalgamation of many small scale industries with very small set ups. The craftsmen get together in these small set ups to prepare various bell metal products.

Nowadays you will find many factories manufacturing bell metals of craftsmanship like handmade. But these craftsmen of Sarthebari continue their hard work undaunted by these challenges.

Craftsmen at Sarthebari Bell Metal industry
Craftsmen at Sarthebari Bell Metal industry Source: abhijna-emuseum.com

History of Bell Metal in Assam

History of bell metal craft dates back to 7th Century AD during the time of Kumarbhaskarvarman, a king of the Varman dynasty. But it was only during the Ahom rule in Assam that the industry got its due exposure. The Ahom kings started taking special interest in this craft. They showered laurels and gave special incentives to artisans excelling in this craft. The industry was given royal patronage which thereby flourished.

Ahom royalty and the common subject as well started using bell metal utensils. The artisans felt inspired by the royal patronage to craft more varieties over time.

Maihang or baan kahi
Maihang or baan kahi
Source: kahibati.com

Many Indians including Assamese people believe in certain medicinal properties of bell metal. It is believed that food consumption in bell metal utensils help in treatment of intestinal conditions and cleanse the body of unwanted minerals.

The Ahom royalty evidently used Maihang kahi and Maihang bati and till date it prove to be invaluable. It is in fact used to serve the most esteemed guests today as a mark of showing respect.

The common products made in Sarthebari are kalah or water pot, sarai (traditional tray or platter), kahi (dish), bati (bowl), lota (water pot) and tal or cymbal.

Traditional sarai
Traditional sarai
Source: kahibati.com

Religious and Social Importance of Bell Metal Utensils

In Assam all religious and social ceremonies are solemnized in proper traditional ways. There are age old customs we have been following till date with the same spirit and bell metal products occupy an important role in these. For example, when a baby takes his/her first solids we hold the Annaprasanna ceremony and this first meal is served in utensils of bell metal which is kind of a tradition. This first set of utensils is gifted by the maternal grandparents with much love and affection. Most of the guests who attend the ceremony also gifts bell metal utensils to the baby.

Bell metal utensils
Bell metal utensils
Source: kahibati.com

Bell metal products also play an important role in our social way of life. We gift a sarai to felicitate a person as a token of love and respect. In religious ceremonies too the sarai is used to make offerings to the gods. Another variation of the sarai called the bota is also an important part of any religious or social function.

Bell metal utensils are used on a daily basis by most households to serve food, especially to elders. And when guests visit it is almost customary to serve food in these utensils.

Bota - A type of tray or platter
Bota ( a type of tray or platter)
Source: mugasilk.in

How to Reach the Home of Bell Metal Industry

Sarthebari is located at around 90 kms from Guwahati city and is well connected by buses and other means of transport. Hiring a cab, however, would be an easier option than travelling by buses or on trains. You can opt for a day tour to this little town. Guwahati to Sarthebari via Hajo is 76 kms away and takes around two and half hours of drive. Tihu in Nalbari district is the nearest railway station to reach Sarthebari from Guwahati railway station. Sarthebari is well connected with Guwahati and just takes a day’s tour from the city. So staying in Guwahati would be the best option.

Baanbati
Baanbati
Source: dsource.in

The Crisis of the Bell Metal Industry in Assam

The craft of making bell metal products has been passed down from one generation to another. Therefore there tends to be a certain lack of interest in the trade by the younger generation of these kahar. It is only because of lack of employment that they stick to the trade. Though this is not the case with all the craftsmen. However, there is urgent need to provide skill based training by the government to develop interest.

Availability and procurement of raw material is another issue faced by these craftsmen. Since there is no fixed market, sales also tends to vary. The amount of investment required can hardly be afforded by them. Further there have been rise in factories manufacturing products of bell metal in large quantities which is much cost effective. Therefore government intervention is of utmost importance inorder to save this craft and the craftsmen.

Bell Metal Craftsmen at Sarthebari
Craftsmen at Sarthebari
Source: telegraphindia.com

The bell metal industry of Sarthebari is striving hard to survive, more so after the pandemic has hit the entire world. So during your tour to Assam this time include Sarthebari in your list of places to visit and buying a bell metal souvenir would be a wise decision.

Assamese Traditional Jewellery: A Tale of the Rich Cultural Legacy

The Assamese traditional jewellery in essence shows the rich cultural legacy of Assam. Drawing inspiration from little things which appears mundane, the early craftsmen created beautiful pieces of art with sheer skill and imagination. The flora and fauna of the region has also been a source of inspiration to these craftsmen.

Thuria earrings
Source: saffronart.com

Brief History of Assamese Traditional Jewellery

During the reign of Swargadeo Pratap Singha in 1611 a lot of people were held captives by Bir Chilarai, the General of the Koch King Nar Narayan. Among them were goldsmiths, blacksmiths and other artisans who were sent to Cooch-Behar. There they learnt new art and craft which they implemented in their work on return to their homeland. King Pratap Singha’s grandson Rudra Singha also brought many artisans from outside the state and established them in his territory. These people adapted and merged with the Assamese people and society and gradually evolved the traditional Assamese jewellery.

Golpota neck piece with earrings

The Ahom kings and queens wore ornaments of different styles and it was under the royal patronage that Assamese traditional jewellery saw a tremendous growth. During the Ahom rule ornaments were worn only by the royalty which was made of gold. Subansiri, a tributary of the river Brahmaputra was abundant with gold dust and became a primary source for the goldsmiths. Jorhat, Sonari, Nagaon and Barpeta became the major manufacturing hubs of Assamese traditional jewellery over the ages.

Designs and Jewellery Making Process

Dugdugi neck piece with earrings

Assamese traditional jewellery can be made of either pure gold ( 24 carat), silver with gold leaf work, silver with gold polish or even silver. However, the base for all jewellery making is extracted from trees and is called ‘lac’. Mina work is done on these jewellery and the most common colors are red and green. Even ruby, pearls and diamonds are used for making these jewellery. The main jewellery piece is then attached to a beaded string in the form of a neck piece. These beads are either small or of medium size and are called bakharua moni, balmoni, desimoni etc.

Junbiri neck piece
Source: getkraft.com

There are roughly three variations to the manufacturing process, particularly the frame of these ornaments. In the first variety the frame is made with gold and the filling is that of silver or lac. This type is called kesa sonar gohona or paat sunor gohona. The second variety contains silver or lac as base metal and the filling is done with gold foils. In the third variety the frame and filling both is of silver finished with a coat of gold polish. In Barpeta the jewellery is made with silver as the base with gold coating which makes it lighter and cheaper. Ranthali, a village in Nagaon district is another hub of jewellery making. The process used here is the second one where gold leaf work is done over silver base.

Jaapi neck piece
Source: ethnicstripes.com

The designs that have been continuing since generations are lokaparo ( twin pigeon) and senpotia ( eagle), inspired from birds. Thuria and dugdugi are inspired from the flora; dhol, japi, mridong inspired from local musical instruments.

Assamese traditional jewellery includes earrings called thuria, keru, lokaparo, jangfai etc. Necklaces include golpota, satsori, junbiri, bena, gejera, dholbiri, dugdugi, birimoni, mukutamoni, poalmoni, silikhamoni and magardana etc. The gamkharu, which is kind of a bangle has the most royal presence when worn with the traditional muga Mekhela Sador.

Gamkharu
Source: mugasilk.in

Modernization and Evolution

There had been certain issues faced by the craftsmen of traditional Assamese jewellery like lack of raw materials, lack of finance and market. But with the intervention of a few talented entrepreneurs in the recent years, Assamese traditional jewellery has seen unprecedented popularity globally. These entrepreneurs invested their creativity, money and time, generated employment and empowered the skilled craftsmen. Today we see several new designs which are creative and modern yet essentially traditional. Further, these new jewellery designers create unique stylish ornaments suited to the taste of the young generation which are easily affordable in a variety of range and trendy too. The popularity has therefore increased manifolds as women of all ages prefer adorning themselves with these jewellery on all occasions, and even on a daily basis.

Modern and stylish version of the traditional Assamese jewellery
Source: https://instagram.com/aparajita_das_baruah?igshid=1dmi4fzl5k7xb

Earlier there were no showrooms or boutiques for Assamese traditional jewellery. You either had to purchase or order at the sonar based on the designs that are available. Much later came the small outlets which displayed the ornaments for customers to choose from. This was convenient and fast. And then came the online boutiques, the modern concept of marketing. This made Assamese traditional jewellery popular worldwide. Popular online sites like Amazon also features Assamese jewellery.

Modified traditional Assamese bangle design
Source: getkraft.com

Significance and Popularity

The Ahom royalty, both men and women used to adorn themselves with these traditional ornaments. Over the ages women adorned these ornaments on special occasions like weddings and especially Rongali Bihu. In fact, it is still customary to present the bride-to-be with a traditional Assamese jewellery set in her Juron ceremony as a part of the wedding trousseau. During bihu celebration the young girls dressed in the traditional attire Mekhela Sador adorn the traditional jewellery too and gracefully dance to the rhythm of the dhol. Young girls and women nowadays gracefully wear these ornaments for casual outings, corporate parties and any special occasion as designers these days create quirky wearable designs out of the traditional ones.

Men’s traditional Assamese jewellery
Source:https://instagram.com/zangfai_assamese_jewelry?igshid=6cvckws6pzhn

Assamese traditional ornaments is gradually getting popular among men too. Though the variety and use is not much but men too can style themselves by wearing these traditional ornaments. There are few designs made specifically for men like madol etc. Designers have modified the available ones to give it a modern quirky style. These modified versions are a style statement in themselves.

Lokaparo neck piece with earrings
Source:https://instagram.com/saatsori_jewellery?igshid=1bdiee8pfdwlh

Assamese traditional jewellery has come a long way, from being restricted to a certain class of people to being accessible to all. The craft had experienced a major setback a few years back because of the lack of a proper market place. The popularity was gradually declining even among Assamese people. Then came the experimentation with designs and colors, contemporary styles were followed to keep with the updated taste of consumers. Carrying forward the legacy, Assamese traditional jewellery today has been able to achieve much popularity, not only in Assam or India, but internationally too.

Weekend getaways from Guwahati

Best Weekend Getaways from Guwahati

Assam is an ideal location for all travel lovers. You can opt from many beautiful locations depending on your preferences. Get ‘far away from the madding crowd’ and spend an idyllic vacation amidst the greenery of the tea gardens. Relax in an eco-resort while enjoying the flavorsome ethnic Assamese cuisine. Take a safari of the Wildlife Sanctuaries. Dance to the rhythm of the Dhol on the sandy beaches of river Brahmaputra. Create a list of the most exotic things you wanted to do on a vacation to the northeast and check off each item.

To help you out, here is a list of some worthy weekend destinations near Guwahati you would want to visit.

1. Kaziranga National Park:

The first on the list is always going to be Kaziranga National Park. It is a UNESCO world heritage site located across Golaghat, Karbi Anglong, and Nagaon districts of Assam. This is home to the great Indian one-horned rhinoceros. Around two-thirds of the world rhino population is found here.

Kaziranga National Park entrance gate
Kaziranga National Park
Source: sentinelassam.com

Kaziranga is an expanse of tall elephant grass, marshland, and dense tropical moist broad-leaf forests. The Brahmaputra and three other rivers criss-cross the park in different areas. Kaziranga is also home to many different species of animals. These include Royal Bengal Tiger, wild Asiatic water buffalo, eastern swamp deer, and Asian elephant. These together with the one-horned rhino are known as ‘Big Five‘ of Kaziranga. Few other animal species found here are the Ganges dolphin, Golden langur, Hoolock gibbon, Leopards, Wild boar, Hog deer, Chinese pangolin, Indian pangolin, Golden jackal, Particolored flying squirrel, etc.

Kaziranga is home to a variety of migratory birds, water birds, predators, scavengers, and game birds. Kaziranga is a favourite amongst wildlife lovers. Researchers spend months here to document their favourite animals and birds.

One horned Rhinoceros inside Kaziranga National Park
The One-horned Rhinoceros
Source: tourmyindia.com

How to reach:

Kaziranga National Park is at a distance of 217 km from Guwahati. You can hire a cab from Guwahati for a comfortable ride, or use self-drive cars and bikes. Take an early morning drive via NH 37 to the central park area located in Kohora, Golaghat district. This drive will take you around 4 to 5 hours, depending on how many stop you are taking to savour the fantastic roadside views.

If you are looking for cheaper options, then board a bus from ISBT, Lokhra towards the Kaziranga route. But, a bus ride might take a little longer than a cab ride.

What to do:

After checking into a hotel or eco-resort as per your preferences, you can opt for a jeep safari in the park. After returning, relax for the day and enjoy the night activities hosted by most hotels there. Early the next morning, you can take an elephant safari of the park. Tours start as early as 5 AM. There are three scheduled elephant safari timings- 5 am, 6 am, and 7 am.

After your tour, freshen up and enjoy a sumptuous ethnic Assamese meal in the nearby Orchid and Bio-diversity park. At the same time, you can enjoy the cultural programs there and take a tour of the park. It is house to a variety of species of orchid. After taking some rest, you can opt to return to Guwahati.

Tourists enjoying elephant safari in Kaziranga National Park
Elephant safari in the park
Source: guwahatiairport.com

The park is open from November to April and closes down during the monsoons.

The entry fee is INR 100 for Indians and INR 650 for foreign nationals. Elephant safari is INR 375 for Indians and around INR 2000 for foreign nationals. These rates, of course, may vary a little.

2. Manas National Park:

Manas Wildlife Sanctuary or Manas National Park is a UNESCO world heritage site located in Chirang and Baksa districts of Assam. It is also a Project Tiger reserve, an Elephant Reserve, and a biosphere reserve. The park is known for it’s rare and endangered endemic wildlife such as the Assam roofed turtle, Hispid hare, Golden langur, and Pygmy hog. Manas is also famous for its Wild water buffalo.

Manas National Park entrance gate
Manas National Park
Source: commons.wikimedia.org

How to reach:

Manas is at a distance of around 180 km from Guwahati from where you can hire cabs. It takes approximately 5 hours of off-road drive. If you are looking for cheaper options, travel via train to Barpeta station from where the park is about 22 km away. Check into a cottage or a lodge for a comfortable stay.

What to do:

You can enjoy river rafting on the quiet waters of the Manas river if you are looking for adventure. You can also engage in birdwatching. Jeep and elephant safari are also available in the park. A local village tour or tea plantation tour, along with a sumptuous meal of the local tribe, is a must.

River rafting in Manas river
River rafting in Manas river
Source: htoindia.com

Manas National Park is open from November to April, which are the best months to visit. Besides, in May and October, the park is open partially. The timings of the park are from 7.30 am to 5.00 pm.

3. Tezpur:

Tezpur in Sonitpur district is an ideal destination for travelers who love history, mythology, and folklore. Tezpur is the birthplace of Dr. Bhupen Hazarika, Jyoti Prasad Agarwala, Kalaguru Bishnu Prasad Rabha, Phani Sharma. If you are wondering, they are all notable personalities of the cultural scene of Assam.

The famous Baan/ Bana theatre was born here in Tezpur. This town has a wealthy cultural heritage, for which it is also known as the cultural capital of Assam.

Tezpur university entrance gate
Tezpur University entrance
Source: en.wikipedia.org

How to reach:

Tezpur is around 175 km away towards the north-east of Guwahati. The cheapest option to travel to Tezpur is via bus, which costs you between INR 250 to INR 550. The second option is via train, which costs you anything between INR 700 to INR 1000, but the travel time is around 5 hours. If you want to hire a cab, it might cost you around INR 4000 and the travel time is about 3 to 4 hours.

What to do :

On your way to Tezpur, you will come across Kolia Bhomora dolong or bridge over the river Brahmaputra. Make a halt there to admire the beautiful scenery of the mighty river. The bridge, which is 3015 meters long, connects Sonitpur on the north bank to Nagaon on the south bank. Named after the famous Ahom general Kolia Bhomora Phukan, this bridge is best visited during dawn or dusk to witness the sunrise or sunset.

Kolia Bhomora bridge with lighting at sunset
Kolia Bhomora bridge Source: xcellholidays.com

The town of Tezpur is 10 km away from the bridge. Once you reach the city, check into a hotel and head out for your local tour. Some important tourist attractions are Agnigarh fort, Chitralekha udyan, Mahabhairab temple, Bamuni hills, Padum pukhuri, Hazarpar lake, Da Parbatia, Ketakeshwar dewal, and Tezpur University, among others.

According to history, Usha, daughter of Bana Raja, the ruler of Tezpur, fell in love with Aniruddha, grandson of Lord Krishna. Bana Raja sternly objected to the relationship and isolated Usha in Agnigarh, which was surrounded by fire at all times. Later, when Anirudhha tried to take Usha away, there was a war between Lord Krishna and Bana Raja, leading to bloodshed. The name Tezpur, meaning town of blood, came because of this legend.

Nameri National Park and Orang National Park are at a distance of 35 km and 31 km from Tezpur. If you are a wildlife lover, you can opt to take a safari of these parks. If you are an adventurous one, then visit Bhalukpong, the border town of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, which is 64 km from Tezpur. Angling is a popular sport here at Jia Bhoroli river. Besides, you can also engage in river rafting. There are many tea estates in and around Tezpur, and you can take a tour of the estates if you like.

Agnigarh fort entrance
Agnigarh fort
Source: en.wikipedia.org

Tezpur is one of the many destinations which has a soothing climate throughout the year. However, between June to September, the region receives moderate to heavy rainfall.

4. Haflong:

Haflong is the only hill station in Assam and is a popular tourist destination. Haflong is a Dimasa word, which means ‘anthill.’ Haflong is located in the Dima Hasao district of Assam and has many offbeat locations that are still less explored.

How to reach:

Haflong is at a distance of 308.5 km from Guwahati, and it takes around seven and a half hours to reach there via roadway. Cheaper options are train and bus services.

Haflong lake overview
Haflong lake
Source: noblehousetours.com

What to do:

After checking into a hotel, visit Jatinga, a site famous for its strange phenomenon of mass bird suicide. It is a 15 mins ride from the main town and also boasts of its orchid diversity. Later take a tour of the city and visit the serene Haflong lake and Haflong hill.

Thuruk, which is 38 km away, is a popular destination for trekking. You can visit this early next morning and do some trekking. After that head straight to Panimur waterfall, another beautiful location 120 km away from Haflong town. This waterfall, formed by the Kopili river, is called the Niagara of Assam. Also, take out time to explore the beautiful valley of Umrangso nearby.

Panimur waterfall in Haflong
Panimur waterfall
Source: theoodlesrainbow.com

The best time to visit Haflong is from October to March. Since it is a hill station, the weather remains pleasant throughout the year, but monsoons are very harsh in Assam.

Panimur Waterfall

Panimur waterfall – The Niagara of Assam

Panimur waterfall is located in Umrangso of Dima Hasao district of Assam in the North Cachar hills. This offbeat tourist destination is called the Niagara of Assam and the resemblance cannot be overlooked. The beautiful Kopili river water hitting the rocks with great force finally gushes down creating the image of a lively and free spirited soul enjoying its youth. The bard of Assam, Late Dr. Bhupen Hazarika in one of his songs calls the Kopili river a young free spirited girl who is unpredictable yet with many qualities.

Kopili Kopili rangdhali suali

Mohima buja ke taan

Kopili Kopili toi hoi baoli

Barixhat marili dhaan

Kopili Kopili gabhoru suali

Chanchala nai tur maan

Kopili Kopili dehar bhaje bhaje

Mitha jowbonore gaan

Dr. Bhupen Hazarika
Panimur waterfall, Dima Hasao
Source: gosahin.com

With youth comes the wavering of the heart, the desire to wander and fall in love and Kopili river too is like a girl who has just become of age. She meanders through the rocky ways creating a bubbling sound just like a girl singing and dancing. The water then cascades down the hills and at this level the water is milky white in colour just like a girl dressed in a wavy white dress. This is the spring of a girl’s life when she is full of vigour and youthfulness.

This exactly is witnessed in the Panimur waterfall part of the Kopili river. But soon Kopili changes colour with the monsoon, she now takes on a devastating look. She levels down the paddy and the plains with her fierce waters creating a havoc.

Panimur waterfall is relatively less explored by tourists but has great tourism potential. It is gradually becoming popular because the beautiful natural surroundings and the ethereal beauty of the fall itself is finally reaching the masses. The picturesque location is favourite among photographers and videographers too. There’s a forest nearby which adds to the beauty and thrill of the place.

The Forest Inspection Bungalow can accomodate few tourists on prior notice but it would be better to stay at nearby Lumding or even Guwahati.

Places to visit near Panimur:

Haflong lake
Source: noblehousetours.com

#1. Haflong: Haflong, which is at an altitude of more than 600 metres above sea level, is the district headquarters of Dima Hasao and is the only hill station in Assam. Dima Hasao means ‘Dimasa hills’ in the local language.

Haflong is a dream destination for nature lovers and camping enthusiasts. One can do trekking in the Haflong hill or do camping among the vibrant green forests. Located at the heart of the city Haflong lake is a major tourist attraction. It has the largest natural water bodies of Assam and much like Deepor Beel, it is a haven for migratory birds in winter.

#2. Maibong: Maibong is a beautifully landscaped small town with mountains, waterfalls and many historical relics. It is located in the hilly region of Mahur river. The main attractions is the two-roofed monolithic temple Ramchandi.

Jatinga river
Source: reddit.com

#3. Jatinga: Jatinga is located at a distance of 9 km from Haflong and is a popular bird watching site. This place is actually famous for its ‘bird suicide ‘ phenomenon. The locals observed that during the months of August and November different species of birds die because of mysterious reasons here. Tourists visit this place during these months to witness this strange phenomenon which later, however, was deciphered by the scientists.

#4. Umrangso: Umrangso in Dima Hasao is an industrial town with projects like NEEPCO (Kopili hydro-electric project) and cement plants of Vinay Cement, Dalmiya Cement etc.

Garampani was a very popular hot spring in this region but the dam water made it disappear completely which is a great loss indeed.

Kopili hydro-electric project (NEEPCO)
Source: neepco.co.in

How to reach:

Panimur waterfall is situated at a distance of 120 kms from Haflong.

It is at a distance of around 217 kms from Guwahati and takes approximately 5 hours to reach the destination via road. You can take a flight to Gopinath Bordoloi International airport, Guwahati and hire a cab directly. You can also opt to board a train to Lumding and then hire a cab.

Lumding is the nearest Railway station from where Panimur is located at a distance of 72.2 kms. From there one can hire a cab to visit this place. Lumding is well connected by the major trains from states around the country.

Where to stay:

Haflong has good lodging options from where you can visit Panimur waterfall and the nearby places as well. You can easily check in at the following hotels in Haflong.

Landmark Hotel, Haflong
Source: tripadvisor.in
  • Landmark Hotel: This hotel overlooks the beautiful Haflong lake and has 49 rooms ranging from luxury suites to standard rooms. A few tourist attractions, other than Panimur waterfall, are at a walking distance from this hotel. The hotel has an in-house fine dining restaurant and bar facilities as well.
  • Eastern Hotel: Located centrally in Haflong the hotel offers comfortable lodging. It also has an in-house restaurant where you can enjoy an Assamese meal.

Best time to visit:

Panimur Waterfall
Source: theoodlesrainbow.com

Autumn is the best time to visit when the fall looks best and so is Spring. In summer the water dries down a little and winter tends to be cold. Monsoon is the worst time since the river Kopili takes a devastating role destroying the nearby paddy fields and villages as well.

The timings to visit this waterfall is from 6AM to 5 PM.

The weather remains comparatively pleasant throughout. But October to March are the most comfortably months to visit Dima Hasao in general.

Sivasagar – Complete City Guide to the Historical Place of Assam

Sivasagar, earlier called Rangpur was the capital of the Ahom dynasty and hence this town bears testimony to the magnificence and grandeur of the Ahom rule. The remnants and for most parts even monuments built by the Ahom kings still stand tall in this small heritage town in Upper Assam. Sivasagar meaning ‘ocean of Shiva’ got its name after Sivasagar tank, or the Borpukhuri excavated by Swargadeo Shiva Singha.

Borpukhuri with Shivdol at the background Source: en.wikipedia.org

Sivasagar, located at a distance of 362.6 kms from Guwahati, the State capital is an important centre for tea, oil and tourism industries. The ONGC runs its operations in Geleky, Rudrasagar and Lakwa in Sivasagar district with their offices in Sivasagar and Nazira town. Sivasagar therefore is a major industrial town in Assam inspite of its size.

There’s a lot to see and experience in Sivasagar. From temples to monuments to local village tour, you can experience everything in just a matter of 2-3 days. Travel agencies offer itinerary suitable to your choices, but you can curate one too with a little help to explore on your own.

Places to visit:

1. RANGHAR: Ranghar during the Ahom rule served as a pavilion for watching outdoor sports and other activities. The King with his Queen and other higher officials sat in all grandeur to enjoy buffalo fights, or other sports and recreational events.

Ranghar bakori Bihu celebration
Source: outlookindia.com

Ranghar comes to life during the Rongali Bihu celebration marking the Assamese new year when keeping with the tradition sports and cultural programmes are organised at the premises.

2. TAI-AHOM MUSEUM: The Tai-Ahom Museum located on the west bank of Sivasagar Tank houses the various antique collections of the Ahom dynasty. Books, Ornaments, Garments, Weaponry and other decorative items are displayed here. The museum also promotes research on Tai language and literature.

3. TALATAL GHAR: Talatal ghar has two underground tunnels which was used during wars as secret passages by Ahom soldiers. There were three floors under the ground level and three above. This initially was built as an army base. The underground three floors, however, has been sealed off for security reasons and only parts remain of the upper floors too. But Talatal Ghar is a great example of Ahom architecture.

Talatal Ghar
Source: Swarnav Borgohain

4. SIVASAGAR PUKHURI: Also known as Borpukhuri, Sivasagar tank was dug by the Ahoms in the 18th century. It is 64 feet deep built in an area of 130 acres and is a major landmark of the town.

5. KARENG GHAR: Kareng ghar or the Garhgaon Palace was the royal palace of the Ahom kings. Situated in Garhgaon, a distance of around 15 kms from Sivasagar town, this palace is a four storeyed building constructed in gradually receding tiers. The top floor had a dome like roof with a chamber, and there’s believed to be a secret underground tunnel from Garhgaon palace to Talatal ghar which has now been sealed off.

6. SHIVDOL: Shivdol is a popular Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva located on the banks of Borpukhuri or Sivasagar tank. There are footfalls around the year but Shivdol comes to life during Mahashivratri when pilgrims from far and wide visit to offer prayers.

Shivdol
Source: tourmyindia.com

7. JOY DOL: Joydol is also known as the Kesavanarayan temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Built by the Ahom king Swargadeo Rudra Singha, the temple is located on the northern bank of Joysagar tank in Joysagar, a distance of 5 kms from Sivasagar town. This tank was excavated in the memory of his mother Joymoti and hence the name Joydol.

8. AJAN PIR DARGAH: Built in the memory of the Muslim reformer Ajan Fakir, this Dargah is located in Saraguri Chapori region, about 22 kms from Sivasagar town. He was a preacher, a saint from Baghdad who came to settle here and played a vital role in unifying the people of the Brahmaputra valley. He reformed, reinforced and stabilized Islam in Assam. Zikr and Zari are two forms of devotional songs popularized by him. Urus is a special day celebrated here in this dargah.

9. CHARAIDEO MAIDAM: Che-rai-doi, a Tai word which means ‘shining city on the hills’, was the first capital of the Ahom kingdom. Charaideo which is 30 kms from Sivasagar town is now known for its collection of maidams or burial mounds of the Ahom royalty. The Ahoms don’t burn the dead bodies but keep it in a box and bury. This burial mound is called maidam

Dichang mukh and Dikhow mukh are two riverine off the river Brahmaputra which can be opted for local village tours.

How to reach:

Dibrugarh Airport
Source: justdial.com
  • 1. Dibrugarh Mohanbari airport: Dibrugarh Mohanbari Airport is one of the nearest airports, a distance of 83.8 kms. From there you can directly hire a cab to Sivasagar. You can also opt boarding a bus from the main town of Dibrugarh which can be quite a hassle for first timers.
  • 2. Jorhat Airport: A distance of 62.1 kms from Sivasagar town, you can hire a cab directly from Jorhat airport. However there are not many flight and airline options to Jorhat.
  • 3. Sivasagar Railway station: Dibrugarh bound Rajdhani Express from New Delhi has a stop at Sivasagar Railway station. Jan Shatabdi Express from Guwahati to Dibrugarh also makes a halt here. These two trains are quite comfortable to travel in.
  • 4. Dibrugarh Railway station: Train connectivity from other major railway stations of the country are available to Dibrugarh only.

Where to stay:

Hotel Piccolo
Source: justdial.com
  • 1. Hotel Brahmaputra: Located in B.G. Road, Sivasagar Hotel Brahmaputra offers comfortable lodging in a town where there are not many lodging options. The hotel offers complimentary breakfast and parking facilities too.
  • 2. Hotel Shiva Palace: Located in the heart of the town, Hotel Shiva Palace is a budget friendly decent place to stay. Their in-house restaurant Sky Chef is very popular among the locals. There’s a gym right behind the hotel which is a good option for fitness enthusiasts.
  • 3. Hotel Piccolo: Another budget hotel located in Boarding Road, Sivasagar is Hotel Piccolo. They have a bar and an in-house restaurant which offers multi-cuisine food.

Where to eat:

Apart from the restaurants mentioned above there are a few food joints which are quite popular among the locals.

Ethnic Assamese thali
Source: Kaberi Gogoi Deka
  1. Zoonskaya: This is a resort located besides NH 37 just before entering the town. This is the first of its kind in Sivasagar and has been able to attract a lot of people recently because of its attractive interiors. The poolside set up is what attracts most of them.
  2. Rasraj Bakery: This is a popular hangout for panipuri lovers over many years. And don’t forget to taste their crunchy kata biscuit, a popular local variety of biscuit.
  3. MFC : This is the local version of the popular restaurant chain KFC which offers fried chicken and other dishes.
  4. Neelkantha Dhaba: The most popular roadside dhaba in Upper Assam, Neelkantha serves the best of Duck and pork meat. Located on the outskirts, a few kilometres from Sivasagar town this dhaba remains packed throughout, but the wait is definitely worthwhile. Enjoy a wholesome ethnic Assamese thali here during your stay in Sivasagar.

Visit these Restaurants in Guwahati for Ethnic Assamese food: My personal favorites!

Assamese cuisine is a burst of different rich flavors which is light on your palate at the same time. For many of you gahori manxho, xhar, aloo pitika might be synonymous to ethnic Assamese cuisine. But the variety which Assamese cuisine offers is unimaginable unless you see and savour it yourself. From locally grown herbs to local produce, local variety of fish and unique cooking techniques, ethnic Assamese cuisine is too good to resist. If you want to taste the flavors of Assam then visit these restaurants in Guwahati which gives you the perfect taste of ethnic Assamese cuisine.

To know more about the popular ethnic Assamese delicacies read my blog post Top 10 most popular ethnic Assamese dish.

Parampara Paradise

This is one of the oldest and most popular restaurants in Guwahati serving authentic ethnic Assamese cuisine. Located in Silpukhuri, the restaurant has a very cozy ambience with great seating arrangements. It can accommodate large groups comfortably, and satisfy your taste buds giving you the best experience of Assamese flavors.

A typical thali in Parampara Paradise
Source: tripadvisor.in

Parampara thali is their meal speciality served in bell metal dishes. You will be served a welcome drink which depends on the seasonal availability of fruits or vegetables. Gooseberry or local lime soft drink is served as a welcome drink with this thali along with 13 other food items which includes Assamese speciality like khar, pitika, kharoli, khorisa, kuhudi, fish tenga, steamed fish, pigeon or duck curry, dal, rice, mixed vegetables, mahor guri and traditional dessert of hurum (puffed rice) with thick cream and jaggery.

The restaurant offers not only thali or meal but also a-la-carte menu. The ethnic Assamese menu ranges from duck, pork, chicken and pigeon to a variety of locally available fish and a variety of vegetarian options as well.

Parampara Paradise
Source: tripadvisor.in

The restaurant is currently following all protocols as directed by the government. While maintaining social distancing the restaurant is temporarily offering self-service and food is being served in disposable plates. Tables are being set 6 feet apart, staff is properly equipped with masks, face shields and sanitizers, the premise is sanitized everyday before opening and after closing.

The address of this restaurant is:

Parampara Paradise, Maniram Dewan Road, Krishna Nagar, Silpukhuri, Guwahati- 781003, Assam.

Mising Kitchen

Located in the heart of the city at Hengerabari, Mising Kitchen offers ethnic Assamese cuisine along with Mising cuisine. The restaurant is not very spacious but certainly is guest-friendly and homely. In fact, this is my personal favourite when it comes to taste and value for money.

Interior of Mising Kitchen
Source: magicpin.in

The few times I went there to dine I have witnessed full house of diners who come hungry and leave content. The restaurant offers ethnic Assamese as well as Mising cuisine which gives food lovers different options to choose from. They even serve thali specially for kids catering to their small appetite and choice of food.

The restaurant offers Normal thali with a choice of chicken, pork, duck, fish and even paneer. Like all Assamese thalis, the platter includes a variety of dishes from khar, pitika to curry and dessert.

Mising Kitchen
Source: justdial.com

The address of this restaurant is:

Mising Kitchen, House no. 24, 1st floor, Near Public Health Chariali, Hengrabari Road, Ganeshguri, Guwahati, Assam.

Gam’s Delicacy

Talk about beautiful interiors, spacious dining, awesome flavors, Gam’s Delicacy has it all. The first thing that caught my eyes on entering this restaurant for the first time was their unique furniture and bamboo decor. Located just below the Ganeshguri flyover in the heart of the city, this restaurant attracts a lot of customers. They also operate another unit located just opposite the ISBT and Balaji temple in Garchuk, Guwahati. One can easily arrange any kind of family functions or social meetings here given the space the restaurant offers.

Gam’s Delicacy, Garchuk unit
Source: tripadvisor.in

The restaurant offers Fish, Pork and Chicken thali with a variety of 14 items. For example, a typical pork thali will include Joha rice, yellow dal, Green veg/herbs fry, Pork curry, Pork with black dal, Pork boil, Pork patot diya (wrapped in banana or Tora leaf), Pork khorika, aloo pitika ( mashed potatoes), kheer, green salad, pickle, mint chutney and lentil chutney served in brass metal dishes and bowls.

Duck, pigeon and mutton varieties are available as part of their a-la-carte menu along with a variety of other ethnic Assamese dishes. Local varieties of fish and vegetables are available cooked with different local ingredients and herbs.

Gam’s Delicacy city unit
Source: sentinelassam.com

The addresses of the 2 units of this restaurant are:

Gam’s Delicacy, Krishna Market, GMC ward no. 44, G.S.Road, Ganeshguri, Guwahati, Assam.

Gam’s Delicacy Restaurant, Betkuchi, Opposite Maniram Dewan Trade Centre, NH 37, Garchuk, Guwahati, Assam.

Heritage Khorikaa

Heritage Khorikaa is the brainchild of Assam’s celebrity chef Atul Lahkar. He is a self-made and self-taught man, learning authentic cuisines directly from the locals over the years. He is a curious mind, always experimenting with ingredients and flavors. His restaurant is very popular because of his proud association with celebrity chefs like Gordon Ramsay, Sanjeev Kapoor among others as well as for his great culinary skills.

Chef Atul Lahkar and Chef Sanjeev Kapoor in front of Heritage Khorikaa
Source: quicklisting.in

Located at Chandmari, the restaurant serves flavoursome authentic ethnic Assamese food. The restaurant offers a Vegetarian thali or meal with around 10 to 12 items and a choice of different meat and fish to choose from. Pork, Duck, Pigeon, Chicken and different varieties of fish are available on the menu. Khorikaa meaning barbeque, among other popular dishes, is their speciality as the name suggests.

The only time I tasted their flavoursome food left me craving for more. Their highlight seems to be the a-la-carte menu rather than the thali, which leaves a lingering taste on your palate of that special dish you savoured. I hope to visit this restaurant soon for another gastronomic experience.

Interiors of Heritage Khorikaa
Source: justdial.com

The address of this restaurant is:

Heritage Khorikaa, GNB Road, Behind Goswami Service Station HP petrol pump, Chandmari, Guwahati, Assam

Maihang

Maihang, I guess, is the largest operating restaurant chain in Assam with two branches in the city, and a few are outside Guwahati. The new outlet of Maihang was recently opened in Hengerabari in the city, which gives a very traditional vibe on entering because of their unique decor and plush interiors.

The table with Maihang, the traditional serving dish on display.
Source: maihang.in

The restaurant offers 2 thali or meal options- Maihang veg thali and Maihang non-veg thali. The rest are in their a-la-carte menu. The vegetarian meal includes 11 items like Joha rice, yellow dal, black dal, aloo pitika/bengena pitika, seasonal mixed vegetables, green vegetables fry, xhar/bor tenga, green veg boil, kharoli, baby potato fry, herbal chutney. In the non-veg thali a few of the veg items have been replaced by the non-veg varieties. For example, if you choose a fish thali you will get fish pitika, murighonto, fish tenga curry and fish fry.

The usual delicacies of duck, fish, pigeon and pork are available cooked with a variety of different ingredients and different styles. The restaurant gives utmost importance to healthy food and hygiene. They boast of their til chicken ( chicken cooked with black sesame seeds) as their signature and most popular dish.

The interior of Maihang
Source: maihang.in

The address of this restaurant is:

Maihang, Public Health tiniali, Lichubagan, Hengerabari Road, Guwahati, Assam

Me-Dam-Me-Phi: AHOM’S Ancestor worship

The life of the dead is set in the memory of the living

Marcus Tullius Cicero

The Ahom community of Assam practices their own unique customs and rituals. Me-Dam-Me-Phi is one of such ceremonies, in-fact it is the most important socio-religious ceremony of the Ahoms performed to show respect to the departed souls and remember their contribution to society. It is the proper ancestor worship conducted as a community by the Ahoms every year on 31st January. The Tai words ‘me‘ means offerings, ‘dam‘ means ancestors and ‘phi‘ means Gods; collectively meaning “offerings to the ancestors and Gods”.

Ancestor worship
Source: happenings.lpu.in

Origin:

According to the Ahom Chronicles, Lengdon, the king of Mong Phi ( the heavenly kingdom) sent two of his grandsons Khun-Lung and Khun-Lai to Mong Ri ( present day Xishuangbanna, China). They were advised by the God of Knowledge to perform Umpha, Phuralong, Me-dum-me-phi, and Rik-khwan worships at different months of a year on different occasions to pay respect to the ancestors. This was like seeking blessings from the ancestors to help maintain their political hold over the masses.

History:

Charaideo, about 30 kms from Sivasagar town, was the first capital of the Ahom kingdom and later became their religious centre. There is a huge burial ground here with many mounds or maidams of Ahom kings, queens and Ahom royalty. The Ahoms don’t burn the dead bodies but keep it in a box and bury. This burial mound is called maidam.

Charaideo Maidam.
Source: mapsofindia.com

Me-Dam-Me-Phi was celebrated here in Charaideo first by Swargadeo Siu-ka-pha to seek blessings of his forefathers after establishing the new capital there. His successors continued performing this ceremony thereafter, which was attended by the king, his ministers and other higher officials, as well as a great number of people. There are historical evidence of the Ahom kings performing this socio-religious ceremony every year. Swargadeo Siu-huim-mong to commemorate his victory over the Kacharis in 1563 performed Me-Dam-Me-Phi and Rikhwan festival in his capital. Swargadeo Pratap Singha performed this worship thrice, in 1606 AD and 1615 AD to celebrate his victory against the Mughals, third time was when he was defeated by the Mughals.

Swargadeo Gadadhar Singha, Swargadeo Chakradwaj Singha, Swargadeo Pramatta Singha, Swargadeo Rajeswar Singha also performed the ceremony and offered sacrifices during their reign. The ceremony is still performed at Charaideo maidam every year.

The Ceremony and its significance:

The Ahoms believe that a man is not reborn after his death but becomes God. After death he remains as Dam (ancestor) only for a few days and soon he becomes Phi (God). They also believe that the soul of a man which is immortal unites with the supreme soul, possesses the qualities of a spiritual being and always blesses the family. Therefore the extended family and the society as a whole worship the dead ones, particularly the parents and grandparents because they firmly believe that it is the ancestors who protect the family and give peace and prosperity to their offspring.

Me-Dam-Me-Phi observed as a community offers worship to Chaufi and Dam Chaufi who are regarded as gods of heaven. Dam Chaufi is associated with the belief of some natural powers like creation and destruction, water, lightning and storm, sun, moon, learning, diseases, earth etc. The Ahom priestly classes Deodhai, Mohan and Bailung perform the rituals by chanting verses in Tai Language.

Community ancestor worship or Me-Dam-Me-Phi
Source: festivalsoflife.blogspot.com

On the day of Me-Dam-Me-Phi seven Gods are worshipped namely Lengdon (God of heaven), Zasingfa (Goddess of learning), Khaokham (God of waters), Ai-Leng-Din (God of the earth), Chit Lam Cham (seven sons of Lengdon), Mut-Kum-Tai-Kum (God of the moon and sun), and Zansaihung (the preceptor of Gods). It is customary for three priests to be present to perform the rituals.

When the Ahom kings arranged this worship sacrifices and offerings were made of white buffalo, white cow, white pig, and white hen. These days offerings of only hen and eggs are made. For the rituals the things required are: 30 hen, 30 eggs, 2 duck eggs, Xajpani, Aroi chaul (a type of rice), mustard oil, ginger, salt, Black gram, Akhoi (a kind of puffed rice), Kesa mithoi, Ukhua kesa kol, poka kol (ripe banana), kuhiar (sugarcane), bora bhat (sticky rice), thoka tamul (betel nuts) and earthen lamps etc.

The Dam Phi tradition is also observed at the family level by the Ahom community. Na-Purushor hokaam or Mritokor hokaam as it is widely known is done by the family members every year during kati month when they offer the first meal after the harvest of the Ahu rice to them. Grihadam, the ancestor God upto the fourth generation of a family, is worshipped in this Dam-Phi or Na-khua tradition. Five gods are worshipped excluding Chit-Lam-Cham and Mut-kum-tai-kum when the worship is done by the extended family. However, the worship is sometimes restricted to only Lengdon, Zasingfa and Ai-Leng-Din when conducted by a family. During Magh bihu and Rongali bihu, as well as other important occasions Mritokor hokaam is performed.

Offerings to Dam Phi.
Source: Self

Most Ahom households establish a damkhuta on the opposite side of the kitchen to worship the dead. Whenever during any special occasion na-purushor hokaam is arranged, the ancestors are worshipped by offering xajpani and various other delicacies, including meat and fish in an elaborate ritualistic affair.

Chale nerakhe, bere nerakhe

Nerakhe tridasar deo

Ghar deo e nerakhile rakhuta e aru keo

This hymn in Assamese means “neither the roof nor the walls nor the gods in heaven can protect the family, if not protected by their ancestors. ” The love and respect which is the basis of any happy and successful family is duly offered to the family members even after death by the Ahoms. Me-Dam-Me-Phi is just a day for the entire community to come together bonded by brotherhood, and express love and gratitude to their ancestors and seek their blessings.

Popular Hindu Temples to visit in Guwahati

The ongoing pandemic and the lockdown has brought life to a standstill. Here in Assam too there has been several phases of lockdown and unlock from time to time keeping in view the active cases of COVID-19 positive cases. All religious institutions were requested to close down. But unlock phases did allow them to open at times with minimum entry so as to avoid any community transfer. Devotees are looking forward with earnest to pay a visit to the temples of their faith and offer prayers. Post 15th August the lockdown will undergo several relaxation and we can’t wait enough.

Guwahati city in Assam is known as the city of temples. The city witnesses the footfalls of many devotees and pilgrims all the year round. There are many temples, both big and small, in and around the city. In this post I would like to mention a few most popular temples among the locals as well as tourists.

1. Maa Kamakhya Temple

Maa Kamakhya temple

Situated atop the Neelachal hills in the city of Guwahati is the most visited Hindu temple, the Kamakhya temple. Devotees, mainly from the Shakti cult, from around the country visit this temple to offer prayers to Maa Kamakhya. The Ambubachi mela and Durga puja are celebrated every year here in the temple premises which witness the most number of devotees and pilgrims.

This year, however, the Ambubachi mela didn’t see any kind of gathering except for the ceremonial rituals performed by the priests.

Maligaon Railway Station is the nearest station, from where you can take a cab, or bus, or trekker to the temple.

2. Umananda Temple

The gate to Umananda temple
Source: trawell.in

Umananda temple is located in an island off the river Brahmaputra. This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and was built by the Ahom king Gadadhar Singha in 1694. This island known as the Peacock island is the smallest inhabited riverine island in the world. Shiva Chaturdashi is the most colourful festival held here on an annual basis.

Ferry and steamer services to this island are available from Sukleshwar ghat or Fancy Bazar ghat for hire. One can also board the Inland Water Transport ferry services from Uzan Bazar ghat which costs you around Rs. 20 per person.

3. Ugratora Temple

Ugratora devalaya
Source: TripAdvisor.in

Ugratora devalaya or temple is located at the heart of the city of Guwahati, and on the western side of Jor pukhuri . Dedicated to the first partner of Lord Shiva, Sati Devi the temple is an important Shakti temple built by the Ahom king Shiva Singha in the year 1725.

There is no idol in this temple but a ditch of water which is considered to be the great form of Goddess Ugratora. Devotees offer prayers and sacrifices to show their devotion and thereby seek the blessings of the Goddess. The best time to visit this temple would be around Durga puja when in fact, the entire city lightens up with festivities.

4. Nabagraha Temple

Nabagraha temple
Source: tripinvites.com

Located atop the Chitrasal hill the Nabagraha temple was built by the Ahom king Rajeshwar Singha in the late 18th century. Nine Shivalingams representing the nine celestial bodies are enshrined in this temple and each of them is covered with a coloured garment symbolic of that particular celestial bodies namely Surya, Chandra, Mangala, Budha, Brihaspati, Sukra, Shani, Rahu and Ketu. In the centre is a Shivalingam symbolizing the Sun.

The temple is known to be the only temple performing grihapujan. The temple is also a research centre of both Astronomy and Astrology.

5. Basistha Temple

Basistha temple
Source: travelspeak.in

Basistha temple, a Shiva Temple is located on the outskirts of Garbhanga Reserve Forest , about 10-12 kms from Guwahati city. This was originally an ashram, home to the famous sage Vashistha. This site has evidence of a stone temple which was later remade with bricks by the Ahom king Rajeshwar Singha in the mid 18th century.

The temple in the ashram stands on the bank of the mountain streams originating from the hills of Meghalaya which becomes the river Basistha and Bharalu flowing through the city.

6. Balaji Temple

Balaji temple
Source: trawell.in

Purva Tirupati Balaji temple is located at Ahom gaon just next to the Inter State Bus Terminus (ISBT). So needless to say it has really easy access from all the north-eastern States. Moreover Guwahati Railway station is just 9 kms away from the temple.

This temple built in 1998 was dedicated to Lord Venkateshwara. The white coloured temple is built in the similar architectural style of the South Indian temples, and is considered to be a replica of the original Tirupati Balaji temple. The temple has a Rajagopuram (70 feet in height), a Maha Mandapam, an Ardha Mandapam and the Sanctorum.

7. Doul Gobinda Temple

Doul Govinda temple
Source: incredibleindia.org

Located on the foothills of Chandrabati hills in North Guwahati, this temple is dedicated to Lord Krishna. Every year around Holi this temple witnesses the largest footfalls of tourists. Lord Krishna’s birthday Janmashtami is also celebrated here.

The fastest way to reach is by boarding a ferry from Fancy Bazar ghat to Rajaduar from where it’s a five minutes walk. Trekkers are also available to the temple via the Saraighat bridge. The best time to visit is from November to April when one can enjoy a river cruise and walk on the white sands of river Brahmaputra.

Cab Services in Guwahati

Local Cab services as well as Uber and Ola are available in the city which can give you a tour of most of these temples on a single day provided you wish to cover them all in a day. Different packages are available for booking a cab, details of which are available on their respective apps. Post lockdown several safety measures have been adopted by the cab companies, restricting capacity to 50% to maintain social distancing among other measures. Personal and car hygiene are maintained by the drivers promising you a safe and comfortable ride.

The alternate means of transport to these temples once you have reached Guwahati is to either board the city bus services, or ride an auto or trekker if available on that particular route.