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.

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.

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.

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.

Destination Bhutan – A happy place to be

Buddhist temple in Samdrup Jongkhar market area

People don’t take trips, trips take people.

John Steinbeck

This was exactly the case with us … Samdrup Jongkhar in Bhutan happened against all odds. Yes, “the entire universe was conspiring” to take me to this happy place… Bhutan!

It was 5th January morning 9 am. We were still in bed cosily under the blanket. It was a perfect cold winter morning with a slight drizzle. I had my sisters and nephews visiting for my son’s first birthday and was planning to take a day trip with them somewhere nearby. But we couldn’t finalise any destination until the previous night because of differences of opinion. Moreover I had an upset stomach with no hope of making a day trip possible. But I just couldn’t let go this beautiful opportunity and was desperately working on a plan to make everything possible.

I summoned everyone to my bed and after a short discussion we decided to go to Samdrup Jongkhar. By then it was 9.30 am already. The beds were made in a hurry, the house was cleaned, the 2 washrooms were queued for shower by 6 people, a quick meal was fixed for us, a cab was booked with call time set at 10.30 am, I prepared my son’s lunch and snacks. Literally the house was on fire! But one problem still remained… my upset stomach! My sister found a Norflox in her medicine kit and I gulped it down. I have to travel no matter what! The day being extra chilly, I packed a few essentials for my one year young baby and we were good to go.

Somewhere in Samdrup Jongkhar

At sharply 11 am we started our journey from our home at Kahilipara, Guwahati in a Toyota Innova. It took us around 3 hours to reach our destination Samdrup Jongkhar, a small border town on the Assam-Bhutan border. We had decided to travel comfortably with no hurry because we had a baby on board for which the travel time was a little more compared to the actual time taken.

Samdrup Jongkhar : Bhutan-Assam border

Samdrup Jongkhar is a small town in Bhutan with very easy access from Guwahati, Assam. This town is located at the south-eastern part of Bhutan and borders with Darranga in Assam. One can enter this town in Bhutan without any passport or Visa. At the border gate we just need to register our entry with an identity proof of a single person in a group. Various Car rentals are available from Guwahati and the range can vary slightly depending on the size of the cab.

As we enter the town after crossing the first security gate, towards the right falls the main market place and the front after crossing the bridge leads to the administrative district and Monastery as well. At some distance from the main gate there’s another check post which gives entry to main Bhutan provided you have your passport and other documents related to immigration.

The prayer bells

On arriving the town we could think of nothing but food as we were so very hungry. There are a few good restaurants which we found out later as we were touring the market area. The one that we ate in was a mediocre one with very less food options. We ordered Chicken momo, Chicken Thukpa and Chicken fried rice along with peach wine which was a local product. Considering the fact that my stomach was not in a very good condition, I decided to play safe with the food. I had watched a few vlogs on YouTube and the information I gathered was that their food tends to be a little spicy.

Chilly and cheese is a very popular dish in Bhutan and judging by the name I bet I made I good decision skipping Bhutanese cuisine for that day. I decided to explore their food the next time I visit.

Me and Nevaan in front of the large prayer bell in the market area

The first glimpse of the town, painted in bright yellow and a unique architecture, gave me a very welcoming vibe. The charm of these small towns lies in the warmth that they effuse… cheerful local people, clean environment, a certain calm and serenity. I was reminded of Shimla mall road upon entering the market area, though the latter is much smaller. The traffic management in Samdrup Jongkhar is very organised. It has one-way traffic and right side parking only because of which the daily influx of tourists doesn’t create much of a problem.

At the centre of the market is a Buddhist temple with a large prayer bell. There’s a surrounding wall with prayer bells rolling which is considered auspicious in Buddhism. These bells have prayers engraved and are mostly rolled clockwise. The market area also has a vegetable market with local produce which attracts tourists a lot because of the availability of different variety of fruits and vegetables.

The one thing, I was told, that is relatively cheaper there was alcohol. I am a novice when it comes to alcohol so I have totally no idea about price also. But lured by the look of these liquor I too bought a few like peach wine ( local product) for Rs 140/ 375 ml and red wine ( local product) for Rs 70/ 375 ml. I just hope I got a good deal!

A foot bridge in Samdrup Jongkhar

Samdrup Jongkhar is a miniature version of the grandeur and charm of Bhutan, it’s like a doorway to this beautiful country. This was just a day trip I enjoyed in the company of my close ones. It definitely was a happy place to be. But my thirsty soul crave for more and I wonder when would I visit the rest of this majestic country called Bhutan!

Deepor Beel – A Haven for Migratory Birds in Winter

Asom amar rupohi

Gunoru nai hekh

Bharotore purba dixhor

Surjya utha dekh

………….

Assam, situated in the east of India, is an agrarian state and is naturally rich with flora and fauna. The perception of this state in the minds of many is that of a ‘jungle’ where animals run wild. But for us the natural beauty of this state, the warm lap of Mother Nature is ever so blissful. We do have wildlife sanctuaries, national parks, wetlands, rainforests which are world heritage sites. We take pride in our One-horned Rhino, Hoolock Gibbon, Pigmi Hog, Wild Buffalo, Foxtail Orchid and the variety of other flora and fauna found in abundance here. We get to breathe fresh air every morning, get up to the chirping of the birds, go fishing all we want and walk barefoot which to many might be a distant dream.

………..

Gutei jibon bisarileu

Olekh dibokh rati

Asom dekhor dore napau

Iman rokhal mati

Siro binondiya tumar

Seuj poribekh

Bharotore purba dixhor

Surjya uthar dekh

Dr. Bhupen Hazarika

Deepor beel, a haven for migratory birds, is one such wetland in the heart of the capital city Guwahati in which we take pride. It is a permanent freshwater lake located on the south-west of Guwahati, Assam on the southern bank of river Brahmaputra. It is about 5 kms from Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport, Guwahati and so is an easy access to tourists. Deepor beel was made a bird’s sanctuary in 1989, and a protected wetland in 2002. The main source of water of this lake are the Basistha and Kalamoni rivers and local monsoon run-off between May and September. In winter part of the beel dries out and the locals convert the exposed part into paddy fields.

Grey Pelican
Source : Surjya Kumar Chetia

During the 33rd National Games of India which was hosted by Assam, Deepor beel was the venue for watersports like rowing, canoeing and kayaking. Amidst much debate, protests by environmentalists and wildlife activists the venue was finalised and necessary measures were adopted to maintain the natural habitat of the fauna while getting it ready for the event. It was during this event that Deepor beel came to the limelight and caught the attention of a larger audience.

Deepor beel is a birdwatcher’s paradise as ornithologists have recorded about 219 species of birds in this area. These include egrets, pond herons, storks, cormorants and pelicans. Several species of red-vented bulbul, sparrows, drongos, hoopoes, woodpeckers are also seen off-shore. In winter Deepor beel turns into a haven for migratory birds as over 70 species of birds come in for breeding, in search of food or warmer climate. Siberian crane, barn swallow, Asian open-billed storks, pied wagtails, yellow wagtails and several varieties of ducks and other birds are recorded to have been seen here. Ruddy Shelduck, common Shelduck, red crested pochard, common pochard, grey leg goose, bareheaded goose, green sandpiper, spotbilled duck, pintailed duck, shoveller, Indian tern etc. have also taken shelter from time to time in Brahmaputra and its islets including Deepor beel.

Ruddy Shelduck
Source: Surjya Kumar Chetia

The migratory birds arrive in India in two batches – winter migrants from October to April, and summer migrants from March to August. They can be seen in both protected and non- protected rural and urban areas. According to sources, the bird species which visit Assam during summer include Asian koel, black crowned night heron, Eurasian golden Oriole, comb duck, blue- cheeked bee eater, cuckoos, scops owl etc.

The migratory birds play a very special role in sustaining the eco-system. When birds swim in the water, the surface film on the water is broken which helps in penetration of sunlight deep into the water. As a result the bottom fauna grows well which are the main food for fishes. The beel is a source of livelihood for the people of the many villages in its precincts. Freshwater fish is the main source of income for these communities but they know their limits too. The beel plays an important role is sustaining the eco-system of the area and so they preserve it well by not over-fishing. The cases of land cutting, waste disposal and the likes have also been put to check by the locals.

Deepor beel gives one the perfect solace from the bustling city life. The one advantage for anyone who wants to visit this place is that you don’t have to plan separately for it. You simply need to pack your camera and a pair of binoculars, and spare a few hours from your set schedule and you are good to go. If you are an ardent birdwatcher then you would love the calm of this place.

Bogibeel Bridge at sunset

Bogibeel Bridge – A Symbol of Hope for a Better Future

Bogibeel Bridge at sunset
Bogibeel Bridge at sunset

This spring I had the pleasure of visiting my hometown Dibrugarh after 13 long months. Spring is very special to us in Assam because with the advent of spring comes Bihu, the Assamese New Year. This Bihu was more special because my 3 months young baby was visiting his paternal as well as maternal grandparents for the first time. I decided to take this opportunity to visit a few tourist destinations with my baby to create memories together. And one destination which was on my list was the recently inaugurated Bogibeel bridge. So while I was at my parents’ place in Dibrugarh I seized the opportunity to take a ride over the bridge.

Bogibeel bridge is built over the mighty river the Brahmaputra and connecting the two major districts of Assam, Dhemaji and Dibrugarh are symbolic of hope for a better future. The other day I came across a poem written by Will Allen Dromgoole, ‘The Bridge Builder’ where an old pilgrim after crossing a river in high tide decides to build a bridge to pave the way for those who have to take that path in the future. His fellow pilgrim was not too positive about this step of his and asked him

“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near,

“You are wasting your strength with building here;

Your journey will end with the ending day,

You never again will pass this way;

You have crossed the chasm, deep and wide,

Why build this bridge at evening tide?”

The old man, the bridge builder replied

“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said

“There followed after me to-day

A youth whose feet must pass this way.

This chasm which has been as naught to me

To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be;

He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;

Good friend, I am building this bridge for him!”

The poem promotes the idea of building links for the future and passing the torch along for the next generation. In the same context the Bogibeel bridge has paved the way for progress and prosperity for the people of the region. Heavy flood during monsoon in the region brings life to a standstill, especially the northern bank. Connectivity is lost and assistance becomes next to impossible. The bridge is like a lifeline from this point of view. It is totally upon the people of this region as to how they use this bridge to overcome their obstacles and hardships.

Bogibeel Bridge from an intersecting line and direction perspective

A photographer’s view of Bogibeel Bridge

Bogibeel bridge is a combined road and rail bridge with a length of 4.94 kms. It is situated at a distance of 17 kms from Dibrugarh town. The rail line is double line broad gauge, and the road way is 3 lane. The Bogibeel bridge is the only bridge in India to be built by Steel-Concrete Composite Girders keeping in view the heavy flood in the region. It provides connectivity to nearly five million people residing in upper Assam and neighbouring Arunachal Pradesh. The bridge also connects NH 37 and NH 52, and has reduced 705 kms by railroad and 150 kms by roadway to Itanagar. Bogibeel bridge is the 6th bridge over the river Brahmaputra after taking into account the new Saraighat bridge. The construction of the bridge started in 2002 which was finally completed on December 2018. One definite advantage the bridge has given to the people of Dhemaji is easy access to Assam Medical College Hospital located in the Dibrugarh district. Earlier the only way to reach Dibrugarh was to take a ferry across the river which took quite sometime considering the commute time to and from the jetty and the travel time on the ferry. In my opinion, the other advantages for the people of Dhemaji are easy commute to Dibrugarh Airport and Dibrugarh University. Majuli, the largest river island in the world is a popular tourist destination in Assam. The Satras in the island and the geography of the place has attracted many researchers from around the world. Earlier it took around 9 hours to reach Majuli via waterways, which has now been reduced to 4 hours via Bogibeel bridge. In the coming years Bogibeel bridge will definitely help promote commerce, trade and tourism.

Author and her child Nevaan on top of Bogibeel Bridge

Me and Nevaan on top of Bogibeel Bridge

For those willing to be mesmerised by the beauty of the tea gardens, the mountains, the rivers, pack your bag and take a flight to Dibrugarh away from the hustle and bustle of city lives. Hotels, lodges and even homestays are available in Dibrugarh. Uber and Ola rides are not in service here but cabs are available for conveyance. Summer in Assam is sweaty and hot, monsoon is humid and experience heavy rainfall. October to April are the best months to visit Assam when the weather is pleasant and the mood is festive.

Pic credit: Swarnav Borgohain

India’s longest bridge – Dhola Sadiya bridge

In Assamese we have a very popular song sung by the exponent of folk and traditional music of Assam, Late Shri Khagen Mahanta:

” Ma ami Sadiyaloi jamei, Ma ami xotphul khamei.

Bandhim ami bandhim Ma kesa patot lun.

Ma sai thaka sun…”

I remember listening to this song in the radio many a times in my childhood. Sun kissed sunday afternoons, we would all sit on the grass anxiously waiting for our special sunday lunch, and the melodious tune in the distant radio would waver our hearts to wander into the wilderness. In the song a child assures his mother that one day he would definitely visit the distant land of Sadiya to satisfy his curiosity about that place. He has heard a lot about the exotic flowers that grow in abundance there, and longs to eat those. He even expresses his desire to go further and bathe in the Tsangpo river which originates in Tibet and create memories of a lifetime. Allegorically the song captures a child’s eternal curiosity to explore for himself the world unknown, something which is distant yet appealing to him. Sadiya is a place located in the farthest border region of Assam and communication was very difficult in the earlier days because of lack of transportation. So to go to Sadiya meant to cross all obstacles and march forward just like the journey of life and reaching it meant achieving success. But in the present scenario it takes hardly a few minutes now to cross the Lohit river to reach Sadiya. The Dhola-Sadiya bridge built across the Lohit river, which is a tributary of the mighty Brahmaputra, has made communication to Sadiya and Arunachal Pradesh much easier now.

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The bridge is 9.15 km in length and is the longest in India till date. It has been named after the music maestro of Assam who had gained worldwide recognition, Late Dr Bhupen Hazarika as ‘Dr Bhupen Hazarika Setu’. It connects Sadiya town in Assam’s Tinsukia district with Dhola village, also in Assam. The bridge has reduced the travel time between Assam and Arunachal Pradesh from six hours to one hour. From Tinsukia town it takes around one and a half hour to cover the 63.7 kms distance to the bridge via NH15 and NH115.

After covering 82 kms from Dhola one would reach Rowing in Arunachal Pradesh which is one of the most attractive destination for tourists. The charm of riding your own bike across the bridge, appreciating the beauty of the green mountains( snow covered in winters) at the distant horizon, the eternal blue of the Lohit river,the kiss of the light breeze on your face is a very refreshing experience in its own way.

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The Dhola Sadiya bridge is a must visit not as a destination but as the beginning of an adventure to the luscious green Mountains, the snow covered lakes, the beauty and simplicity of the local villages. Its people, their food, culture and way of life are worth the experience. The bridge defies all barriers and paves the way for a stronger political, economic, cultural and social Assam.

Pic courtesy: Swarnav Borgohain @ https://www.instagram.com/i_mkaku/