Mesmerising Majuli: The Land of Satras

Majuli is the riverine island in the mighty Brahmaputra and is the largest river island in the world. The beauty of the landscape, the green paddy fields, the meandering kutcha roads, the blue water of the Brahmaputra, the humble village life will leave you mesmerized once you set foot on the island. Majuli will give you the much needed calm and serene vacation which we all deserve after the stress and anxiety 2020 gave us.

Ferry ride to Majuli
Source: timesofindia.indiatimes.com

Majuli Island has 144 villages and is the first island to be made into a district in India. Initially it had an area of 880 sq kms but due to erosion the island now is shrinking with each passing year. The island is multi-ethnic and hence boasts of a rich and colorful cultural heritage.

Majuli
Source: theculturetrip.com

Satras of Majuli and the Satra Culture:

Majuli was one of the nerve centres of the Neo-Vaishnavite movements during the heydays. It was here that Mahapurush Srimanta Sankardeva met his foremost disciple and apostolic successor Madhavdeva for the very first time. This event is referred in the history of Neo-Vaishnavite movement as Manikanchan Sanyog.

Young disciple at the satra
Source: easternvoyages.com

Satras are actually temples as well as cultural centres of Neo-Vaishnavism culture. In these Satras which are actually institutions, young boys are taught to lead a disciplined life in the praise and dedication of the Lord Krishna. They are also taught art and literature as a part of making a scholar out of them. The songs and dances initiated by Srimanta Sankardeva such as Borgeet, Bhatima, Jumora, Chali, Palnaam, Sattriya etc. are taught and promoted here in the Satras. The Satras consist of a large prayer hall facing the simple shrine, surrounded by dormitories and bathing tanks for monks. Guests can stay over if they want where they can take part in the worship rituals and witness the traditional bhaona and other cultural performances.

Sattriya dance performance
Source: indusscrolls.com

The first satra was established by Srimanta Sankardev here in Majuli in the 15th century. Since then sixty-five satras have come up for the propagation of ethics and socio-cultural ideals. Out of all only twenty-two remain now, while others have been shifted to different places. The main reason being flood and erosion which takes a devastating toll during monsoon.

Gayan Bayan performance
Source: adventurerivercruises.com

The main existing satras in Majuli now are:

  • Auniati Satra
  • Dakhinpat Satra
  • Garamurh Satra
  • Kamalabari Satra
  • Bengena-ati Satra
  • Shamaguri Satra

The Craft of Mask Making:

The art of Mask making of Majuli
Source: photocontest.smithsonianmag.com

During the bhaona performances if the artists wore masks of the concerned character they are portraying, people could relate more easily. So taking this into consideration Srimanta Sankardeva started the art of mask making. But over time this art was losing its popularity until the Satradhikar of Samaguri Satra revived this art and took it to the global stage. Today this mask making art of Majuli is renowned worldwide and people come especially to study and document this.

Masks used for bhaona performances
Source: discovernortheast.in

Hemchandra Goswami, a master of the craft, added a new dimension to this mask. He introduced the movement of the jaws of these masks which moved in tandem to the movement of the jaws of the artists. This made the masks look more life-like. These masks are made of bamboo and a special type of clay. First the structure is made out of bamboo which is later filled with clay and then painted.

Raas Purnima and the Raas Mahotsav of Majuli:

Traditional bhaona performance
Source: vajiramias.com

Raas is an Autumnal festival celebrated in the Satras of Majuli on the full moon day of Aghon or Kartik month. Hence this day is popularly called Raas Purnima in Assam. Raas-leela, according to Hindu scriptures is actually the tandava dance of Lord Krishna performed with Radha and 1600 gopis. During this festival a host of cultural programs are arranged, along with dance and symposium, prayer sessions etc. but the main attraction being the Ankiya Naat, a type of one act play performed through dance. This festival attracts a lot of domestic as well as International tourists every year. Raas Mahotsav is the main festival of Majuli.

How to reach there:

Nimati ghat, Jorhat
Source: https://instagram.com/devanga.nath?igshid=mgzvl1eumkq

Majuli is accessible from Jorhat via Neemati ghat. Ferry services are available from Neemati ghat, which is 14 kms from Jorhat Town and takes around 40 mins to reach. Take a bus or hire a taxi to reach the ghat and then board a ferry from Neemati ghat to Kamalabari ghat in Majuli Island. The ferry ride takes around 3-4 hours.

Bogibeel Bridge, Dibrugarh
Source: https://instagram.com/pransu.bharali?igshid=q7wlot11hfye

Majuli is accessible from Dibrugarh via Bogibeel Bridge which takes around 5 hours. Bus services are available from ASTC bus stand in Dibrugarh town directly to Majuli.

You can also book a cab from Dibrugarh to Majuli and the travel time would be almost same.

Where to stay:

All accommodation available in Majuli are eco-friendly, meaning they are either bamboo cottages or thatched houses. There are quite a few options to choose from. These accommodations are decent and comfortable but one should not expect the luxury of a hotel or a resort.

Okegiga Homes, Majuli
Source: tripadvisor.in
  • La Maison de Ananda
  • Okegiga Homes
  • Enchanting Majuli Resort
  • Dekasang Resort
  • Hotel Srimanta Sankardev
  • Ayang Okum River Bank bamboo cottage
  • Ygdrasill Bamboo Cottage
  • Risong Guest House
  • Jonki Panoi Bamboo Cottage by WCH
  • Mahabahu Bamboo Cottage
  • Majuli Eco Camp
  • River View Bamboo Cottage
Mahabahu Bamboo Cottage, Majuli
Source: booking.com

Best time to visit:

October to March are the best months to visit Majuli. Most of the festivals and drama performances are organized during this time, especially the famous Raas Mahotsav of Majuli. The climate during these months are mild and moderate with temperatures ranging below 20°C.

Rongali Bihu: The Assamese New Year

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.

Togor phool blooms in Bohaag
Source: lowes.com

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.

Bihua playing the pepa
Source: thehindu.com

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

Sereki anugoi buli

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

Grihosthor kusholarthe

Bula jai Hari bula

Bihu husori troupe
Source: topyaps.com

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

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.

Bihu jolpaan and pitha
Source: indraniskitchenflavours.com

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 the Ranghar premises of Sivasagar.

Swargadeo ulale batsorar mukholoi

Duliya e patile dola

Kanot jilikile nora jangfai

Gaat e gumsengor sula

Ranghar bakori Bihu celebration
Source : outlookindia.com

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.

Rongali Bihu: The Advent

Bohaag mathu eti ritu nohoi

Nohoi Bohaag eti maah

Axomiya jaatir e ayukh rekha

Gonojiyonor e xakh

Dr. Bhupen Hazarika

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.

Kopou phool ( Foxtail Orchid)
Source: commons.wikimedia.org

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 in the handloom
Source: thenortheastwindow.com

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 mure lahori

Dhekire sabote kopai tul suburi

Handoh pithaguri, aru tho sira bhaji

Husori gabo ahim jotonai dibi

Krishnamoni Nath
Bihu pitha and jolpaan
Source: indraniskitchenflavours.com

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 Goru Bihu is the last day of the previous year.

Goru Bihu

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

The goru Bihu special traditions
Source: Runjun Konwar Gogoi

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 haak as 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.

pork with mustard greens

Top 10 Most Popular Ethnic Assamese Dish

Assam is an ethnically diverse state, multi-cultural and multi-lingual due to which the food culture here is also diverse.

Assamese cuisine has so much to offer that you need to spend quite a few days to satisfy your gastronomic appetite, if you have one. But trust me when I say that there’s literally no end to this food marathon.

However, there are a few signature ethnic delicacies which you should never miss while in Assam.

Assamese Cooking Style

Assamese cuisine is characterised by less oil, no added spices, cooking over fire and to a great extent fermentation. The only spices used are ginger and garlic, and some local wild herbs. So basically Assamese food is a straight out of home kitchen kind of experience, with a zest of raw smoky flavours.

Prepare yourself for a mouthwatering read about the top 10 Assamese delicacies.

Top 10 Assam’s favourite dishes

Haah Mankho Kumura

Duck with ash gourd
Duck with ash gourd
Source

Haah mankho kumura or duck with ash gourd is a quintessentially Assamese delicacy you should never miss.

The meat tastes best when cooked over firewood as it gives a smoky flavour to the tender juicy meat. The ash gourd melts making the gravy extra rich.

Duck meat tastes best around December- January because it becomes more fatty during this time.

Gahori Bah Gaj

Gahori bah gaj or pork with bamboo shoot will give you the typical ethnic feeling. This is a purely boil dish with loads of flavour.

Like every other ethnic Assamese dish this too sounds simple but the taste is definitely something to pay for.

Aamlori-Tup aru Koni

Aamlori-tup aru koni or larvae of weaver ant fried with eggs is an exotic Assamese delicacy consumed during Bohaag Bihu by many ethnic communities.

This is usually consumed on Goru bihu day along with poita bhaat (leftover rice kept overnight in water) and 101 xaak (101 types of vegetables cooked like a hot pot).

Kukura Mankho Til diya

Country chicken with black sesame seeds
Country chicken with black sesame seeds
Source

Kukura mankho til diya or country chicken cooked with black sesame seeds is another very rich dish in terms of flavour.

Essentially ethnic, this is not a very common dish but prepared by few tribal and ethnic groups in Assam.

Khar

Khar is actually a kind of alkali/potash obtained from bhimkol, which is a variety of banana.

The banana peel is stored over months, then burnt in fire and water is then added to this burnt mixture. After leaving it for a while the mixture is strained and what we get is called khar.

This is added in small quantity with either black gram or mustard greens or raw papaya which gives you a very unique taste that will linger on your tongue for a long time.

So the potash is called khaar and taking into account what it has been added to we call it accordingly. Like amita khar if added to raw papaya, lai xaak khar if added to mustard greens, etc.

Gahori Lai Xaak

Pork with mustard greens on the platter with pork dry fry and fish fry
Pork with mustard greens on the platter with pork dry fry and fish fry

Gahori laixaak or pork with mustard greens is a hot favourite here in Assam.

This is a lot easier to cook because the meat is pre-boiled, so it all comes down to proper seasoning and adding the greens at the right time.

Pork is fattening and so little to no oil is used in this dish.

Ou-Tenga Borali Mas

Ou tenga borali mas or fish cooked in tangy elephant apple is a very refreshing dish.

The highlight of the dish is, undoubtedly, the elephant apple with its sour element, not too sour but sweet too.

Mati Dal aru Kath Aloo

Mati dal aru kath aloo or yam cooked with black gram is a compulsory dish consumed during Bhogali Bihu and/or Na-khua mainly because it’s seasonal.

The dish might sound simple to you but trust me you cannot resist it once you taste it!

Leta Polu bhoja

Silkworm pupae fry
Silkworm pupae fry
Source

Leta polu bhoja or silkworm pupae fry is also a very popular dish consumed widely during Bohaag Bihu.

This is more of a snack and tastes best with xajpani.

The silkworm is first boiled and then the cocoon is removed. The pupae is then fried with onions, green chillies and garlic.

Kosu Bilaahi

Kosu bilaahi or taro (colocasia stems) with tomatoes, preferably cherry tomatoes or kon bilaahi, is my personal favourite.

The calcium oxalate present in taro plants is uncomfortably itchy for which you need to boil it first. Tomatoes are used to balance this itchiness. This is a mushy dish, perfectly balanced in flavours.

Conclusion

The best accompaniment with any kind of Assamese food is our very own xajpani which gives you that extra zing.

Honestly, Assamese cuisine has so much to offer that it’s impossible to cover everything in a single article. Moreover you have to taste it to believe it!

Learn more about Xajpani

As I have previously mentioned, the best time to visit Assam, especially for a food lover, is around Bohaag Bihu and Bhogali Bihu because of the availability of a variety of food items.

These two are officially the festivals of feasting and merriment and therefore have much to offer including pithas and doi-jolpaan.

So come and experience Assam’s amazing food served with unbound love!

Xaj Pani – The Drink of Assam

What is Xaj Pani?

Xaj Pani is a name known to almost everyone from Assam, a culturally rich state from Northeastern part of India. But for those who have no idea what it is, do read further. Also, if you already know what it is, how about a little revision?

Xaj Pani is Rice Beer made of fermented rice and a mix of rare species of herbs. However, the process and ingredients to make it differ from household to household.

Xaj is known to be the drink of the Ahoms and plays an important role in their socio-cultural lives. But nowadays Xaj is not distinctive of the Ahoms people only. People from other ethnicities and communities also relish and even prepare this at their homes irrespective of it being an Ahom dish. Xaj has become more like the “Drink of Assam”.

Xaj Pani offered in a bowl
Xaj Pani – Drink of Assam

Source – assamtribune.com

When and where do you drink Xaj Pani?

Xaj Pani is offered by the Ahom community to their forefathers to please them and seek their blessings. Special ceremonies are held during childbirth, marriage, and even funeral. These are called Na- Purushor Hokaam or Mritakar Hokaam meaning ceremonial offering to the forefathers. Since Xaj is the main element in these ceremonies, we also call them Xajor Hokaam. It is believed that such rituals ward off evil spirits and bring good luck to the family with the blessings of the forefathers.

Apart from these ceremonies, Xaj is also prepared during Bhogali Bihu, the harvest festival, and during Rongali Bihu as well by people of these communities. This is offered as a welcome drink to guests during Bihu along with other varieties of mouth-watering delicacies.

First experience with Xaj Pani

From a personal standpoint, I have been a part of quite a few of these ceremonies, and in my opinion, these ceremonies are very elaborate.

My first experience as I remember was during Na- khua which is basically the meal after the first batch of harvest comes in. Normally during Na-khua, people get together to organize a feast with the fresh harvest of paddy. People arrange such feasts according to their convenience after the harvest is done.

Xajpani offering
Source: Runjun Konwar Gogoi

My experience with Na- khua was a little different. Our Na- khua was organized at home and guests were invited along with Tai Ahom purohits.

Around two weeks prior to the set date, my late father-in-law made arrangements to ferment the rice adding some seeds (unknown to me). He chose the Bara chawoul, a sticky variety of rice, steamed it and added the secret ingredient. He then left the mixture to ferment for a few days. I saw that he added little water after 3 – 4 days without touching the mixture. This I believe is done to keep the mixture moist.

On the day of Na- khua, he strained the mixture at first and then added water to the mixture. The initial liquid obtained is called Rohiand the final product after adding water is called Xaj. We then gave some offerings to our forefathers. Among many other special items/offering made was Xaj. Prayers were offered and rituals were performed, after which the purohits drink Xaj. Only after the rituals were complete, others sat for their feast. Xaj was later served to everyone present.

Why Xaj Pani is so important?

Xaj is one of the most favorite drinks in Assam. It is naturally loaded with a variety of probiotics and has great therapeutic values.

Till now Xaj Pani was a household drink, but very soon this will hit the market as Heritage Alcoholic Beverage. Some reliable official sources say that an MoU has been signed for this purpose between Assam Agriculture University and a private organization giving production rights to the latter. A pilot project has already been initiated to mass-produce Xaj Pani with standardized ingredients and process.

Great! When should I visit Assam to taste this awesome drink?

If you are planning for a trip to Assam, do visit during Rongali Bihu, which falls around mid-April, as it would be the best time to visit and personally witness the rich culture of Assam. People of Assam will always welcome you with open arms and warm hearts.

The scintillating song of the cuckoo, the gorgeous green nature, the reverberation of the traditional Dhol in the distance, the mesmerizingly beautiful dancing muses will make your heart flutter.

The warm hospitality that you will receive here would make you feel at home. And what more than a glass of our heritage Xaj to cheer you up.

Cheers to this unique TASTE OF ASSAM!

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