Rang Ghar front view

Ranghar – The Tai-Ahom Heritage Monument

Sahityarathi Laxminath Bezbaruah had composed this beautiful song back in the days when Assam was not economically sound. But the poet firmly believed that we, the Assamese, can never be poor.

Ami Asomiya, nohou dukhiya

Kihor dukhiya hom?

Hokolu asil, hokolu ase

Nubuju nolou gham.

Sankare dile bishudh dharam,

Lachite baahut bol

Sati Joymotir satitwa tezere

Asomi aai probol.

Bajok doba, bajok sankha

Bajok mridang khul.

Asom akou unnatir pothot

‘Jai Aai Asom’ bul.

Yes, Assam has a very rich cultural heritage which is much precious to every Assamese. The language, literature, religion, custom, tradition, values which have been passed down from our ancestors is what makes us rich. Economically we are gradually growing too, but socially and culturally we never were and never will be poor.

Historic Sivasagar bears testimony to this rich cultural heritage of Assam in general, and Tai- Ahom cultural legacy in particular. And standing tall is the Ranghar, one of the earliest pavilions of outdoor stadia in the Indian sub-continent.

Ranghar

Ranghar was first constructed during the reign of Swargadeo Rudrasingha with bamboo and wood. It was later re- built with brick by Swargadeo Pramatta Singha in AD 1744 – 1750.

Ahom kings and nobles watched various activities like buffalo fights and other sports mainly during the Rongali Bihu festival from this amphitheatre. They would sit all high and mighty enjoying the fun down at rupohi pathar. Ranghar, in my opinion, therefore became more like a symbol of power and majesty of the Tai Ahom royalty.

Keeping with this tradition Ranghar comes to life once a year during Rongali bihu. Day long cultural programmes are held and people come from far and wide to experience this colourful event.

Ranghar is a popular tourist attraction of Assam. I too have visited Ranghar several times ever since my childhood. But my most memorable visit was the school field trip to Sivasagar when we were in 7th standard. Our school used to organise trips for students every year for all the classes. The lower classes were not taken to trips but allowed to picnic in school campus. But, if I remember correctly, from 5th standard onwards students were taken on day long short trips.

beautiful ranghar and its surroundings
Beautiful Ranghar and its surroundings

Source – commons.wikimedia.org

I loved these trips but at the same time was always nervous because I suffered from motion sickness. I knew very well that such bus trips would make me sick and I could barely enjoy. But I always ended up signing for these trips for the mere joy of going together with friends. Planning started several days ahead of the actual trip on the lunch menu, games to play and other stuff. Playlists of songs were finalised to be played on the Walkman. Breakfast was provided by school but we had to carry our own lunch boxes. This planning was the real exciting part of the entire trip.

In school ours was a crazy group of seven friends and we called ourselves Rainbow group. Back in those days to own a camera was a luxury and only a few of us could afford it. I don’t quite remember who among us carried a camera but we did manage to take a few pictures. And I am very sure most of my school buddies still cherish those beautiful moments and pictures as well.

Me and my child Nevaan in front of Rang Ghar
Me and Nevaan in front of Rang Ghar

This year, in the month of April, I revisited this historic monument to create memories with my 3 months young baby. As we were travelling for the first time with our baby from Guwahati to Ledo, a distance of 522.9 kms, we decided to take a break at Sivasagar for a night. It was an exhausting journey with a baby and two fur babies. After taking a good rest for the night we went to visit Ranghar, Talatal ghar and Shivdol early next morning. The charm and glory of this town and the historic Ranghar will never fade.

Sivasagar should be a must visit destination in your bucket list. It has much to offer when it comes to historic monuments, and most villages in Sivasagar will give you the real thrill of raw Assamese village life. And trust me Spring is the best time to visit Assam when nature is at its best.

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/

The Best Gift from my Dad

When I was quite young, my dad gave me a gift…..a poem. It was an invaluable piece of advice from a father to his young daughter who had yet to experience life. I feel proud to say that I remember it till date by heart and feel happy to share it with you all.

Plain living and high thinking,

That’s what should be your aim in life.

Never daunted but ever ahead,

That’s how you can win in strife.

That’s only my advice

To you my little daughter

What more can you expect 

From your dearest father.

father3

My father used to write revolutionary poems in his youth. As a kid I remember he narrated for us lines from Shakespeare’s plays and we were like, ” Wow, dad is so good in literature.” Inspite of his vernacular educational background, it was dad whom we looked upto, or run for help with our English homeworks and assignments, especially grammar. He was like our proof reader, our editor. Even today I am scared to show my write ups lest he finds some mistakes. So inspired by my dad here is my first poem ever:

ILLUSION

O’ blithe soul!
The envoy of peace
How blessed you are, indeed!
The blue sky is all yours, all birds your cohort,
And a carefree and blissful life you live.
Athwart the sea, over the mountains,
Beyond the horizon you fly,
Praising His creation, cursing man
You utter- fie human fie!

pigeon2

Indomitable, unstoppable, fiery you are
Unlike me, trapped in life’s mire.
I take a leap….fall…and lurch.
They consider me to be fluky
And are in praise at my fate
But they fail to see the sting,
Which i suffer and hate.

pigeon

How i wish to fly like you!
to explore the splendor all through
to feel the breeze and touch the sky
and sing songs of love true.
But dreams are a sham
And man a mere marionette
His fate is in submission
And life an illusion!

Thank you! Hope you like it! Please try and overlook my mistakes, if any.

Pic courtesy: Google

Talatal Ghar – The epitome of Tai Ahom architecture

The most interesting memory I have of Talatal Ghar is one that gives me an eerie feeling. Actually Talatal Ghar was used as the location of a very hit Assamese movie “Anthony mur naam” and the song concerned is “Ei rati jui jwole”. In the scene set at midnight there’s this woman, clad in a white saree who lures a group of armed policemen with her mysterious movements around the palace. This woman, disguised as a spirit, has someone to protect and hence lures the policemen away with her singing. There’s something uncanny about the song and its melody which gives you the chills. Somehow this scene is deeply rooted in my memory and my brain automatically associates Talatal Ghar with eerieness. Though in reality this is far from the case.

Talatal Ghar in Sivasagar district of Assam, also known as the Rangpur Palace was built as a military base. It has three storeys that are under ground( currently closed for tourists) and four above the ground, and thus the name “Talatal”. The underground storeys had two tunnels which linked the Dikhow River and the Garhgaon Palace and  served as easy access and secret routes during wars. Present day Talatal Ghar has only the ruins but the architecture has a lot to say about the Ahoms.DSC_1061

HOW TO GET THERE:

Well guys, we do have airports here, the nearest being Jorhat Rowriah Airport. It’s a domestic one though with only Jet Airways and JetKonnect flights. However, you can take a rental cab from there to Sivasagar which would take you around 90 mins. If you are the adventurous type then hire a bike, though I am not very sure if any bike services are available there. However, I am here to help always and would update you on that.

If you have arrived at the Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport, Guwahati you can do the same but it would take you longer from Guwahati to Sivasagar, about 6-7 hours. There are also train services available to Sivasagar from Guwahati and Shatabdi Express( GHY to DBR) is a good option which currently runs on alternate days. From Guwahati the options are more. We have quite a few cab services which you can self drive also. Bike rentals are also available from Guwahati. So I would personally suggest you to land at Guwahati and then go on about the other plans.DSC_1094

ACCOMODATION:

Obviously you have to hold for a night or two at Sivasagar and there are quite a few hotels here. Hotel Shiva Palace is a good one with both restaurant and lodging. But it would be awesome if you could homestay at a native’s place which would expose you to our people and our food. Would update you on homestay soon.

Talatal Ghar is a must visit for those who love archaeology and architecture. And like I already said it would serve as a very good location for movies, music videos, photography and the likes. It is unnecessary to give you further details because you have to come and explore it yourselves.

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