Kongali Bihu is celebrated on the first day in the Assamese month of Kati (mid-October) and therefore also called Kati Bihu. This bihu is associated with crop protection and worship of crops and plants. Kati is a season of short supplies and hence no festivities or merriment take place as such. Kongali literally means dearth or poor.
Kati bihu is one of the three bihu celebrated in Assam, the other two being Bohaag bihuand Magh Bihu. The word bihu has been derived from the Deori word “bisu” which means “excessive joy”. And true to its name, bihu is about merriment and feasting. Kati bihu, however, doesn’t involve much feasting but definitely is joyous because of the hope for a better crop.
During the month of Kati the granaries are almost empty, and the paddy in the fields are in the growing stage. On this day of Katibihu earthen lamps are lit at the paddy fields as a worship to the Laxmi (crop) seeking blessings in the form of abundance. The lamps lit on the paddy fields are referred to as “Akash Bonti” literally meaning sky candle because these are lit high up in a bamboo pole. Scientifically it is believed that the light of the lamps attract insects which gets burned in the fire. This helps in getting rid of the insects ensuring the healthy growth of the crops.
Tuloxir tole tole
Mrigo pohu sore
Take dekhi Ramchandrae
Xar dhonu dhore
Kar ghorot logai saki
Guxhai phure dine rati
O Ram, O Ram
Ram Ram Ram
Every Assamese household nurtures a plant of tulsi (ocimum sanctum) in their courtyard which is worshipped as a form of Goddess Laxmi, the Goddess of abundance. On the day of Katibihu earthen lamps are also lit at the altar of the plant and sing this verse as a prayer. In fact some practice lighting this lamp at the altar throughout the month of Kati which is considered auspicious.
Assam is an agrarian state and therefore crops, cows and everything associated with cultivation and agriculture is worshipped. Every traditional Assamese rural household has a granary which stocks the harvest where earthen lamps are lit during katibihu in the evening.
Apart from lighting the earthen lamps in the evening, an offering of maah praxad is made at the main prayer house which is very basic. This includes different types of fruits (usually 5 different types) along with green gram and black chickpeas. The praxad is then served to every family member and guests, if any. The essence of Kati bihu is to keep everything simple and basic because this is not a season of abundance.
Kati Bihu is basically Laxmi puja where we offer prayers to Goddess Laxmi to bless us with abundance. In Assam we consider the crops as our Laxmi, the one who feed us, since Agriculture is the main source of livelihood for the people here. So the rituals revolve around the paddy fields, the granary, the gardens, and the tulsi plant.
Hajo, situated on the banks of the river Brahmaputra, is an ideal pilgrimage center for Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist pilgrims alike. Hajo boasts of a great communal harmony with some very popular temples, mosques and pagodas.
In 1992 the Manikut Utsav was first organized in Hajo to uphold communal brotherhood and since then has been celebrated every year. On the first day of Magh the Manikut Utsav is celebrated with a cultural procession starting from sacred Powa Mecca to Hayagriv Madhav Mandir. People of all religions, all communities take part in this procession performing folk dances and songs. The idea behind this is to uphold universal peace and brotherhood.
Hajo is a destination for those who loves spirituality, archeology and has great religious beliefs. Many myths and history surround this ancient pilgrimage site and is visited by thousands of pilgrims and tourists every year.
Hajo is situated at a distance of only 24 kms from Guwahati. You can book a cab from Guwahati or opt to travel by bus.
Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport is the nearest airport, and Guwahati Railway station the nearest train station.
Places to visit in Hajo:
Sri Sri Hayagriv Madhav Mandir
Sri Sri Hayagriv Madhav Mandir also known as the stone temple is the most popular temple in Hajo. According to some, Lord Vishnu finally established in the hill of Monikut where the present temple is located. A fleet of stairs up the hill will lead you to the temple. The presiding deity in the temple is Lord Vishnu worshipped as an idol carved out of black stone. Some Buddhists also believe that it was in this place that Buddha attained Nirvana. Therefore this is an important place for Buddhist pilgrims as well.
According to some historians, the original Madhav temple was constructed by the king of the Pala Dynasty during the 6th century AD. The present structure, however, was constructed by King Raghudeva Narayan in 1583.
Holi is a very important festival celebrated here every year. Just like the Doul Utsav of Barpeta, Madhav Mandir doul utsav is also very popular and thousands of devotees and tourists visit Hajo during this festival.
Hajo Powa Mecca
Powa Mecca is a very important religious site of the Muslims built by Mir Lutuffulah-i-Shiraji in 1657. The meaning of the assamese word ‘powa’ is quarter. Powa Mecca therefore is figuratively considered to be the mini version of Mecca. Moreover according to rumours the soil on which the foundation of the mosque was laid was brought from Mecca. The burial chamber of Pir Giasuddin Auliya who was a pioneer of Islam is found here.
Kedareshwar temple is located on top of the Madanachala hill in Hajo. This is a Shiva temple and showcases a large Shivalinga made of stone and covered by a large metal bowl. This Shivalinga is called the Svayambhu Linga which is referred to as the Ardhanariswara form of Lord Shiva.
Joy Durga Temple
Joy Durga temple dedicated to Goddess Durga is another important Hindu temple in Hajo. The idol is in the form of a stone. The temple was built in the year 1777 on the orders of the Ahom king Lakshminath Singha.
The Dhoparguri Satra in Barpeta was established in 1587 by the Vaisnavite saint Sri Madhavdeva. The satra has many holy spots such as the Gokrana, Vikrana and the Swargdwar.
Sualkuchi, the Manchester of the East, is located at a distance of around 12 km from Hajo. Sualkuchi is a major silk-producing village in Assam. Something which started with a few cottage industries has today grown into a commercial hub producing quality silk products.
Where to stay:
Since Hajo is very near to Guwahati city so you can opt to stay comfortably at some good hotels in the city. The list below include some budget hotels in Guwahati city at some prime locations. All these hotels are close to the market and has many restaurants in its vicinity.
Hotel Atithi : Hotel Atithi is located at Paltan Bazaar near Nepali Mandir which is a central location in Guwahati city and has easy access to any kind of transport facilities.
Hotel Nandan : Hotel Nandan is located at G.S.Road, Paltan Bazaar which is at a walking distance from Guwahati Railway Station and ASTC bus stand.
Hotel Mayflower : Hotel Mayflower is located at Nehru Road, Panbazar.
Hotel Kiranshree Portico: Hotel Kiranshree Portico is just a few meters away from Guwahati Railway Station and is a very comfortable hotel at a prime location.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 mugaMekhela Sador.
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.
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.
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 Juronceremony 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.
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.
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.
Panimurwaterfall 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
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:
#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.
#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.
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: 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The address of this restaurant is:
Mising Kitchen, House no. 24, 1st floor, Near Public Health Chariali, Hengrabari Road, Ganeshguri, Guwahati, Assam.
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.
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.
The addresses of the 2 units of this restaurant are:
Gam’s Delicacy Restaurant, Betkuchi, Opposite Maniram Dewan Trade Centre, NH 37, Garchuk, Guwahati, Assam.
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.
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.
The address of this restaurant is:
Heritage Khorikaa, GNB Road, Behind Goswami Service Station HP petrol pump, Chandmari, Guwahati, Assam
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 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 address of this restaurant is:
Maihang, Public Health tiniali, Lichubagan, Hengerabari Road, Guwahati, Assam
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”.
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 worship at different months of the 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.
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.
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 is 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 the 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.
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), thokatamul (betel nuts) and earthenlampsetc.
The Dam Phi tradition is also observed at the family level by the Ahom community. Na-Purushor hokaam or Mritokorhokaam 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-khuatradition. 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.
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.
Brahmaputra river has been a witness to the glorious history and culture of Assam for centuries. Assam is a multi-cultural, multi-lingual and multi-ethnic state. Different communities, tribes and ethnic groups have migrated and settled in Assam since the ancient times but have now become a part of the larger community called Assamese.
Rivers are a great natural force with an indomitable spirit and a great life source. The continuous flow of rivers, remaining undaunted in spite of many obstacles on its path to reach its goal, has been a great inspiration to mankind. Life, like the river, has to move on with the same indomitable spirit the river has.
River as a metaphor of life has found beautiful expression in a popular song Mahabahu Brahmaputra by our very own Dr. Bhupen Hazarika.
Koto yug dhori ahise prokashi
~ Dr. Bhupen Hazarika
Assam is the land of Srimanta Sankardev where he preached his doctrine of Ek saran naam dharma ( Neo- Vaishnavism) along with Sri Madhavdev. It is the land where Guru Teg Bahadur and Ajan Fakir spread their teachings of universal brotherhood and built the bridge of solidarity. Because of the confluence of different religions and amalgamation of many ethnic communities Assam has a very rich and varied heritage. The river embraces this rich cultural heritage of the State and flows incessantly as if to continue to enrich its people till eternity.
The Brahmaputra is a trans- boundary river which flows through China, India and Bangladesh. It originates in Tibet as Yarlung Tsangpo, flows through Arunachal Pradesh as Siang or Dihang, and is called Luit in Assam. The Brahmaputra is the ninth largest river in the world in terms of discharge with an average of 700,000 cu ft/s . The river has a total length of about 3080.25 kms and an average depth of 38 m. The river has all the male attributes: fierce, powerful, unpredictable and overflowing with energy and hence the title Mahabahu coined by Dr. Bhupen Hazarika.
Mahabahu Brahmaputra is also the benefactor, the life source of the agricultural community of Assam. Crops depend a lot on water and irrigation, and Brahmaputra along with its tributaries never fails to provide nourishment at such times. Not only agriculture but related livelihood like fishing, wildlife etc. are also dependent on thr river. Periodic flooding is a natural phenomenon which is ecologically important because it helps maintain the lowland grassland and associated wildlife. It also deposits fresh alluvium replenishing the fertile soil of the Brahmaputra River Valley.
During the monsoon season, from June to October, floods are a very common occurrence here in Assam. The river Brahmaputra takes on a frightening look as thousands lose their homes, crops are destroyed, animals are stranded.
Luitor bolia baan
Toi koloi nu dhapoli meliso ?
Hir hir xobde kaalrup dhori nu
Kaak nu barebare khediso ?
Luitor buku henu baam hoi gol
Gobhirota henu kisu nuhua hol
Baan toi heyehe oliya boliya hoi
Duyu pare uposiporiso.
~ Dr. Bhupen Hazarika
The poet addresses the river as Luit and asks the reason behind the madness. What’s the reason for its fury and whom does it plan to destroy ? The poet is understanding of the fact that the river body has gone shallow which results in increased water level. The comparison here appears to be to a young lad whose heart is heavy because of the emptiness within. This emptiness leads him to wander aimlessly indifferent to the feelings and emotions of others. But life has to go on just like the river which flows overcoming all obstacles to meet the ocean one day.
Deforestation over the years have led to increased siltation level, flash flood and soil erosion in critical downstream habitat. The effects of flooding therefore are devastating every year which still remains unsolved. The very benefactor river which gave in abundance also has to power to take back everything in heaps and bounds. This is the power of the river Brahmaputra!
The Brahmaputra has also been a source of inspiration for many during the freedom movement in Assam. Just as the river withstands the fury of time the Assamese youth vowed to overcome the enemy with courage and were willing to sacrifice their lives for the land too.
Ami deka lora
Moriboloi bhoi nai.
~ Jyotiprasad Agarwalla
Luitore paanijaabi o boi
Luitore paani jaabi o boi
Xandhiya luitor paani hunuwali
Sohore nogore jaabi o boi
Joyore kiriti deshe bideshe
Sagore nogore phuribi koi
~ Jyotiprasad Agarwalla
The Brahmaputra has many tales to tell- tales of co-existence, tales of migration, tales of fearless patriotic youth, tales of happy people with simple livelihood, tales of destruction in the face of flood and tales of reconstruction. The people of this land feel one with its mighty river irrespective of its unpredictable nature. The poet Jyotiprasad Agarwalla wishes that as the Brahmaputra flows across borders, it narrates the great stories of this land called Assam for centuries to remember. The mighty Brahmaputra is, in fact, the perfect embodiment of the pilgrimage called life.
Rongali Bihu: The Advent, the previous post, I have mentioned that Bihu is the thread that holds the people of Assam together, irrespective of community, ethnicity, language or religion. Rongali Bihu is the Assamese New Year but people of Assam come together as a state to celebrate this colourful festival.
Rongali is symbolic of youth. Nature bears new leaves during this season, the dullness of winter gives way to new life and Rongali is the celebration of this fresh breath of life. The youth therefore finds a gust of new life and this is the topic of many Bihu geet or songs. The mesmerising sound of the Dhol, pepa and baahi leaves everyone spellbound as young girls dances gracefully to the beats completely oblivious of the surroundings.
Eibeli bihuti romoke jomoke
Nahor phul phulibor botor
Nahor phulor gundhe pai
Nasonir tot e nai
Gosokot bhangi jai jotor
Bihu geet or songs
Bihu geet are the songs sung during Bihu which follow a certain tone, melody and lyrics. They are a very important part of the Assamese culture and the dominant themes being nature, love, friendship and youth. Most bihu songs are a playful expression of love by either a young boy or a girl. Bohaag adds colour to the lives of young boys and girls and love confessions and courtships are an integral part of Rongali Bihu.
In one such song the lover tries to woo his beloved by gifting her the kopou phool. The beloved, on the other hand, secretly goes to meet her lover giving some other excuse to her mother.
Pahar bogai bogai senimai kopou phool ani dim
O senimai khupate
Khupate guji dim buli
Maarok phaki di senimai bihu loi ahili
O senimai sereki
Love is a sweet emotion and has been metaphorically compared to ‘sira doi’ the traditional Assamese jolpaan. Love is like the river which flows incessantly :
Piriti piriti piriti
Piriti mitha sira doi
Piriti piriti piriti
Piriti buwa buwoti noi
Piriti piriti piriti
Ure jibon thakibo boi
These are some very popular Bihu songs on love. The river imagery has been beautifully portrayed to emphasise that love is never-ending but forever growing.
Husori / Jeng Bihu
Husori or courtyard bihu is a form of dance performance done during Bihu by visiting every household. Young boys get together led by an elderly and sing bihu songs followed by bihu dance. When young girls perform in a troupe in the same manner it is called jeng bihu. A husori or a jeng bihu troupe visiting your house during Bihu is considered auspicious. They usher in good luck and prosperity by singing:
Jaya Rama bula
Jaya Hari bula
Bula jai Hari bula
When a husori troupe visits you are suppose to welcome them with a gamucha leading the way to your courtyard. At the end of the husori performance a xoraai is offered to them which usually contains tamul-paan, a gamucha and a certain amount of money. Sometimes jolpaan and pithas are also offered along with tea.
Manuh Bihu is the first day of Bohaag, the Assamese New Year. People have a ceremonial bath with maah-halodhi ( black gram and turmeric paste) and put on new clothes. Prayers are offered by lighting the chaki ( earthen lamps) in the household prayer place. The young ones of the family then seek blessings from the elders and offer the traditional gamuchas woven specially for this occasion. All family members sit together to enjoy the elaborate traditional breakfast of doi-jolpaan and pitha amidst chit-chat and laughter.
It is also a tradition to visit family, relatives and friends on the occasion of bihu. The reason being to spend quality time together over a family meal.
Bihu celebration on stage
In the earlier days, during the Ahom rule Bihu was celebrated with much gaiety and performances were organised for the royals. Swargadeo, the king and the other royals clad in their traditional attire sat majestically to enjoy these performances which took place in theRanghar premises of Sivasagar.
Swargadeo ulale batsorarmukholoi
Duliya e patile dola
Kanot jilikile nora jangfai
Gaat e gumsengor sula
Even today a day long celebration is organised in the premises of historic Ranghar on the occasion of Rongali Bihu keeping in view the grandeur of the tradition.
Other than Ranghar bakori bihu, Bihu stages are organised every year in every nook and corner of the State where the community come together to take part in the celebration. Husori, jeng- bihu, bihu dance, bihu song, and a variety of other cultural competitions are organised. On the first day of Bohaag , mukoli bihu is organised in Latasil field of Guwahati every year. Both Ranghar bakori bihu and Latasil field bihu are very popular and people from around the State witness it with great enthusiasm.
Mukoli Bihu is like an open stage for performances without any makeshift stage. In the earlier days, unlike the makeshift stage now, bihu either meant mukoli or gos tolor bihu.
Rongali Bihu is the main festival of Assam which falls in the Assamese month of Bohaag, hence also called Bohaag Bihu. Bihu ushers in the spring season as we hear the melodious voice of the Cuckoo, the fragrance of nahar, togor and kopou phool. Rongali thus is the celebration of new life.
Bohaag Bihu, the Assamese New Year is the most important festival of Assam. It would be unfair to call it merely a festival because Bihu, in reality, is the thread which binds the people here irrespective of any community, religion or language. Dr. Bhupen Hazarika was a poet of the people and his songs reflect the Assamese life in its core. In this song he clearly expresses the emotions that we as Assamese hold in our heart for Bihu. Bohaag is not a season or a month for us, it is our lifeline, the inspiration for our social life.
Bohaag is the melodious singing of the Cuckoo ushering in a season of greenery. Bohaag is the raw smell of the tilled land as we get ready for another season of cultivation. Bohaag is the mesmerising sound of the pepa and Dhol which echoes in every nook and corner. Bohaag is the fragrance of the kopou and togor that adorns the hair of young Bihu dancers. Bohaag is the aroma that fills every kitchen preparing the tasty pithas. Bohaag is the sound of the loom getting busy weaving gamucha (bihuan) .
In Assam the preparations for Bohaag Bihu starts many days ahead of the actual festival. Women gets busy weaving gamucha and mekhela sador in their looms. Gifting gamuchas to the elderly during Bihu has been a tradition here and when it’s woven rather than bought the value increases.
Gamucha is also used to cover the altar at the prayer hall and the scriptures too. Usually every Bohaag Bihu this is replaced by a new one when family members offer prayers in their prayer halls. Gamucha is the pride of the Assamese people.
Another very important activity is preparation of the pithas or rice cakes and jolpaan. Nowadays everything is readily available in the market but many prepare these at home. Women in the villages use to get together and prepare the chira, hurum, akhoi,hando jolpaan first by grinding in the dheki and then roasting in the fire. Variety of pithas are prepared a few days ahead which includes til pitha, ghila pitha, anguli pitha, tekeli pitha etc. Every kitchen turns into a mini factory before and during the Bihu.
A very popular bihu song by Krishnamoni Nath aptly relates this activity. In this song he teases his beloved to treat him to jolpaan when he comes to her home for husori.
Dheki de dheki de o murelahori
Dhekire sabote kopai tul suburi
Handoh pithaguri, aru tho sira bhaji
Husori gabo ahim jotonai dibi
The entire month of Bohaag is celebrated as Bihu but there are certain traditions which are followed during the two days – goru Bihu and manuh Bihu. Manuh Bihu is the first day of the Assamese New Year and GoruBihu is the last day of the previous year.
On Goru Bihu, the cows are worshipped because Assam being an agrarian State cows in particular and cattles in general are of utmost importance. The cows are gathered early morning and led to a pond or river where they are given a ceremonial bath with turmeric and black gram paste, and vegetables are offered to eat. They are whipped with Makhiloti and Dighloti leaves to keep insects and mosquitoes away. In the evening they are tied with new harnesses, dighloti leaves are burnt along with rice bran to ward off evil in the form of sickness and salted pithas are fed. While bathing the cows the farmers sing a song thereby invoking the divine blessings to bestow good health to their cows.
Dighloti dighol paat
Maakhi maru jaat jaat
Lau kha bengena kha
Bosore bosore barhi ja
Mar xoru baper horu
Toi hobi Bor goru
Koni juj is another popular tradition where family members engage in a friendly match of eggs. One person holds an egg in his palm and another hits it with his, the person whose egg breaks first loses. This is in totality a fun tradition. The broken eggs are later cooked with either amlori tup (weaver ants) or scrambled to be eaten along with poita bhaat( leftover rice). After a hearty exotic meal most people visit the Naamghar and engage in naam praxanga thereby offering prayers in thanksgiving as well as to welcome the new year.
In the evening 101 variety of vegetables are cooked which is believed to keep away illness. 101 haakas we call it, not necessarily includes 101 variety but as many as can be collected. This includes some with very good medicinal values for which the prevalent belief among people. This mixed vegetables delicacy tastes so good inspite of being a weird mixture of sour, bitter, sweet and a lot of other flavours.
The festivities of Bohaag Bihu continue throughout the month although the main traditions are performed during the first two days. There are a lot of related rituals, activities and traditions which will leave you mesmerised. In this post I have included the preparations leading to Bihu and goru Bihu tradition. A lot more other details and manuh Bihu traditions will be included in the next post.