Panimur Waterfall

Panimur waterfall – The Niagara of Assam

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

Kopili Kopili rangdhali suali

Mohima buja ke taan

Kopili Kopili toi hoi baoli

Barixhat marili dhaan

Kopili Kopili gabhoru suali

Chanchala nai tur maan

Kopili Kopili dehar bhaje bhaje

Mitha jowbonore gaan

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

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

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

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

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

Places to visit near Panimur:

Haflong lake
Source: noblehousetours.com

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

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

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

Jatinga river
Source: reddit.com

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

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

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

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

How to reach:

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

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

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

Where to stay:

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

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

Best time to visit:

Panimur Waterfall
Source: theoodlesrainbow.com

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

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

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

Sivasagar – Complete City Guide to the Historical Place of Assam

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

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

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

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

Places to visit:

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

Ranghar bakori Bihu celebration
Source: outlookindia.com

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

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

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

Talatal Ghar
Source: Swarnav Borgohain

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

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

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

Shivdol
Source: tourmyindia.com

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

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

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

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

How to reach:

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

Where to stay:

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

Where to eat:

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

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

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

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

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

Parampara Paradise

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

A typical thali in Parampara Paradise
Source: tripadvisor.in

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

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

Parampara Paradise
Source: tripadvisor.in

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

The address of this restaurant is:

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

Mising Kitchen

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

Interior of Mising Kitchen
Source: magicpin.in

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

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

Mising Kitchen
Source: justdial.com

The address of this restaurant is:

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

Gam’s Delicacy

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

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

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

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

Gam’s Delicacy city unit
Source: sentinelassam.com

The addresses of the 2 units of this restaurant are:

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

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

Heritage Khorikaa

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

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

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

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

Interiors of Heritage Khorikaa
Source: justdial.com

The address of this restaurant is:

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

Maihang

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

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

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

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

The interior of Maihang
Source: maihang.in

The address of this restaurant is:

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

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 a young Bihu dancer. 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.

Deepor Beel – A Haven for Migratory Birds in Winter

Asom amar rupohi

Gunoru nai hekh

Bharotore purba dixhor

Surjya utha dekh

………….

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

………..

Gutei jibon bisarileu

Olekh dibokh rati

Asom dekhor dore napau

Iman rokhal mati

Siro binondiya tumar

Seuj poribekh

Bharotore purba dixhor

Surjya uthar dekh

Dr. Bhupen Hazarika

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

Grey Pelican
Source : Surjya Kumar Chetia

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

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

Ruddy Shelduck
Source: Surjya Kumar Chetia

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

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

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

The Na-Khua tradition – Thanksgiving in Assamese culture

O mur dharitri ai,

soronote diba thai

Khetiokor nistar nai,

mati bin oxohai

Doya kora doyaxila ai

……..

……..

Mati ke xaboti dhori

Mati ke sarothi kori

Matir bukut sunit dhalu

Jironi pahori

Dhoritri ai mur

Amak tumi neriba

Tumar seneh bine ai

Ami nirupai

Dr. Bhupen Hazarika

Assam is mainly an agriculture based economy and the farmers consider this land as their mother, the one who nurtures them. They forget all pain and toil incessantly to nurture the land which is their only source of livelihood. They pray to her to keep blessing them with good crop every year and thus nurture them. In the above song composed by our very own Dr. Bhupen Hazarika, this plight of the farmers is highlighted.

Since agriculture is the main source of livelihood in Assam so naturally a good crop is the reward for all farmers. And as thanksgiving to Mother Nature the Na- khua festival is organised. It is a lesser known tradition in Assam followed religiously by a few ethnic communities and a certain section of the society. It is like a community feast organised to celebrate the first meal of the fresh new harvest. The winter crop starts coming in by the month of Aghun ( mid-November to mid-December) according to the Assamese calendar and Na- khua is organised in this month.

A traditional Assamese platter
Source: Kaberi Gogoi Deka

Na-khua is a combination of two Assamese words, Na means new and khua means the act of eating. This is an extensive meal prepared in the traditional way with local ingredients from the local markets. Sometimes these ingredients are home grown in our own little farms. There’s a lot to learn and taste in such community feasts and is a good opportunity for those who would like to learn about Assamese food. The best part is that these dishes are cooked in firewood which gives a different flavour to the dish.

The dishes prepared in Na-khua are very elaborate and so I thought it better to discuss about the same with someone who has good knowledge of it. I got in contact with a home chef based in Guwahati, Kaberi Gogoi Deka who is very passionate about cooking and has won quite a few cooking competitions here in Guwahati. Her food related posts in social media are very interesting. She cooks the perfect pithas ( rice cakes) and has in depth knowledge of Assamese cuisine. She told me that Na- khua is actually synonymous with a few signature dishes like Haah manxho kumura ( duck with ash gourd), mati mah kath alu ( black gram and yam) , bora saul tora patot diya ( sticky rice wrapped in tora leaf) etc. These, in fact, are compulsory cooks apart from a variety of other dishes which may vary. Other typical ethnic dishes include gahori manxho khorikat diya ( pork barbecue), borolia maas khorikat diya ( fish barbecue), lai xaak bhaji ( mustard green), alu bilahi pitika ( mashed potato and baby tomato) and the list goes on.

Sticky rice wrapped in Tora leaf
Source: Kaberi Gogoi Deka

Na-khua, however, is organised in a different manner at my in- law’s place which was very novel to me. I witnessed a proper Na-khua ceremony of the Deodhai class of the Ahom community with elaborate rituals after my marriage. Na-khua is also called Mritokor hokaam by them because the food is first offered to the ancestors (grihadam) with full rituals as a kind of Thanksgiving to them. Xajpani is the most important requirement for every occasion in the Ahom Deodhai community. So about two weeks ahead of the set date ( in the month of Aghun) the mixture for xajpani is prepared and kept aside for fermentation. Another requirement for the ceremony is red hens which are also offered to the ancestors. The number of hens depended on the number of expired members of the family. A special kind of plate was made from bamboo for offering the food which is called the mehenga.

The food for the offering is prepared in the kitchen and it is very unique. The compulsory dishes are : bhapot diya bora saul ( steamed sticky rice), mati mah kath alu ( black gram and yam), gahori laixaak ( pork with mustard greens), ou-tenga borali maas ( a fish variety with elephant apple), goroi maas pura ( a variety of fish roasted over fire), kukura pura ( chicken roasted over fire) and our indispensable Xajpani.

The offering for ancestors on Na-khua

The Deodhai purohits perform the rituals uttering prayers in Tai language. They invoke the ancestors, express gratitude and seek blessings on behalf of all the family members. After the rituals a part of the offering is handed to the family members for them to share and eat. It is only after the rituals are over that the purohits and other guests present sit down for the meal. Xajpani is also served to everyone present. Along with all the dishes already mentioned there are few others which are very popular like haah kumura ( duck with ash gourd), masor petu (fish intestines), kukura petu ( chicken intestines), haah petu ( duck intestines), kol posola ( banana shoot).

Na-khua basically is a fun tradition but certain ethnic communities do have set rules or rituals. It is all about eating a hearty meal after the toil at the agricultural fields bear fruit and farmers are blessed with a good crop.

Maha Shivratri and Shivdol of Heritage Sivasagar

Shivdol
Source: templepurohit.com

Shivdol is a group of structures on the banks of the Sivasagar tank, also known as Borpukhuri, in Sivasagar, Assam. It comprises of three different temples namely Shivdol meaning temple of Lord Shiva, Vishnudol meaning temple of Lord Vishnu and Devidol meaning temple of Goddess Durga. Lord Shiva along with Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma form the holy trinity (trimurti) of Hinduism. Lord Shiva is responsible for the destruction of the Universe, with the goal of recreating it.

Located in the heart of the city of Sivasagar the Shivdol is a popular destination for pilgrims. Tourists and pilgrims come from around the country to offer prayers to Lord Shiva. The temple stands tall at 104 feet high and is said to be the tallest Shiva temple in North East India. Situated at the topmost part of the temple is a golden dome called Kolosi which is seven feet tall.

Mahashivratri meaning the great night of Shiva is the most important festival celebrated here on the new moon day in the month of Magha according to the Hindu calendar. The origin of this festival is not very clear and there are different versions. Some believe it to be the marriage consummation of Lord Shiva with Goddess Parvati. According to another belief Shivratri is celebrated as the day when Lord Shiva saved the world from the pot of poison that emerged from the ocean during Samudra Manthan. Devotees visit the temples and offer milk, fruits, flowers, fresh leaves and sweets to the shrine. Ardent devotees also remain awake throughout the night and engage in chanting prayers, or meditating. Some also keep fast to please Lord Shiva and receive his blessings.

Sadhus on the occasion of Mahashivratri at Shivdol
Source : Swarnav Borgohain

A special prasad made on the occasion of Mahashivratri is the bhang laddo or bhang lassi which is an edible preparation of cannabis. This is basically a cannabis infused sweet or drink and is the highlight of the festival. Bhang is said to be Lord Shiva’s favourite food. After having spent one night sleeping under this plant’s leaves, he ate it in the morning and feels refreshed. It is widely believed that since then Bhang became his favourite food.

Shivratri in Sivasagar is said to have been celebrated since the construction of the Shivdol by Queen Ambika, second wife of Swargadeo Siva Singha in 1731. Every year during Mahashivratri a huge mela or fair is organised over a few days and pilgrims and tourists alike visit from far and wide to offer their prayers as well as take part in the celebrations. This coming year Mahashivratri falls on February 21st, 2020 and as usual festivities and fairs are expected to be arranged for the occasion. The brightly illuminated temple standing on the banks of the Borpukhuri ( Sivasagar tank) is the most pleasant sight to see at night, with people bustling around the fair surrounding the temple walls on all sides.

Night view of Shivdol with the Sivasagar lake
Source: flickr.com

Sivasagar is a place of rich cultural heritage and great historic importance in Assam as it was the capital of the Ahom kingdom who ruled Assam for glorious six hundred years. It was earlier known as Rangpur and got its current name after its then ruler Swargadeo Shiva Singha. Sivasagar is home to some the most amazing historical monuments in Assam built during the Ahom rule. These include Ranghar, Talatal ghar, Kareng ghar which in a way boasts of the glorious Ahom reign.

In my earlier post on Talatal ghar, I have mentioned in details how to get to Sivasagar and other related information. There is a lot to visit and explore in this historic place called Sivasagar when it comes to history, architecture and culture which would definitely leave you enriched.

Magh Bihu – Harvest Festival of Assam

Buffalo fight on the occasion of Magh Bihu
Source: asianage.com

Magh Bihu is known as the harvest festival of Assam. It is celebrated in the month of Magha marking the end of the harvest season in Assam. It falls around mid- January and is a time of abundance which we celebrate with lot of festivities and feasting. Hence this Bihu is also called Bhogali Bihu derived from the word Bhog meaning eating and enjoying.

My reminiscence of Bhogali Bihu goes back to the days when we spent the Bihu eve beside the fire till midnight guarding our kitchen garden which my father nurtured with great care. My father used to grow vegetables in the little piece of land he had which mainly included potato and black gram ( mati mah ). Apart from these he also planted cabbage, cauliflower, carrot, bottle gourd, baby tomato, parsley, etc. in very small quantities. So it was naturally our duty to protect it from the local youngsters during the Uruka night which is the Bihu eve.

For those who might be wondering why we need to guard our kitchen garden on Bihu eve. Well, in Assam it’s like a tradition during Uruka night of Bhogali Bihu to steal from the neighbourhood gardens and farms. The more logical explanation of this tradition is that in villages the cowherd used to spend the entire Uruka night guarding the harvest in the granary and also the Meji built for the early morning of the Bihu. January in Assam is cold and to keep themselves warm the cowherd used to steal wood and bamboo from their neighbour’s field to light a fire. They also stole vegetables to satisfy their hunger throughout the night. This is more like a fun tradition and was an open secret for both parties involved. There were no fights later on for the theft done.

A simple bhelaghor. Source: reddit.com

These festivities and traditions were not restricted to the villages only but also celebrated with much enthusiasm in the towns and cities of Assam as well. I grew up in the small town of Dibrugarh and just like the cowherd guarding their granary in the villages, we guarded our small kitchen gardens.

Bhogali Bihu starts on the Uruka night when a community feast is organised in villages and towns alike to celebrate the end of the harvest season. People get together and contribute to arrange for the grand feast, the highlight being the new harvest of rice and of course our very own Xajpani in some cases, the impotance of which I have described in detail if you follow the link given. Men, women and children all help with preparation for the feast. We sing, dance and enjoy to our heart’s content rejoicing at the good harvest we are bestowed with God’s grace. Bhogali means feasting and merriment and we live up to its name.

A Bhelaghor is a makeshift hut made with the haystack of the harvest fields for the Uruka. It is here that the cowherd spend their night and eat their feast. In the earlier days this hut was made in as simple a way as possible. But with time the artistic minds of people have taken the art of making bhelaghor to the next level.

Modern day Bhelaghor
Source: hindustantimes.com

A Meji is a massive bonfire made of wood, bamboo and haystack for the morning of the main Bihu day. We get up early in the morning, take our bath and offer our prayers by lighting this Meji. We also offer pitha or rice cakes, betel nut to the sacred fire in thanksgivings. Some also offer Mah-karai, a special mixture of roasted rice and black gram to the fire which is considered auspicious too. This mixture is later also eaten by the people along with other delicacies like a variety of pitha, jolpaan etc. The makeshift bhelaghor is also burnt down along with the meji.

Our society Meji in Guwahati

The Bhogali festivities continue for a few days with family and friends visiting each other. A variety of pitha or rice cakes are made by the ladies to treat their guests. A traditional way to treat guests is to serve xurum, xando or sira Jolpaan with curd and gud ( jaggery). Pithas included til pitha, tel pitha, steamed pitha, til ladu, coconut ladu etc. served with xajpani. Sometimes the ladies get together as a community and prepare them on the Uruka night.

Assamese jolpaan and pitha served during Bihu. Source: nenow.in

Buffalo fight is another important aspect of the Magh Bihu festival. Such fights are still organised in some parts of the State and people in large numbers gather to witness these iconic fights. However, with the risk involved there has been a gradual decrease in such fights. This one time I was travelling to my hometown for Magh Bihu I happened to witness a buffalo fight somewhere in Nagaon, Assam. The dust in the air, the massive crowd hinted at the majesticity of the event.

Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu is considered the second most important festival in Assam after the Rongali Bihu or Bohaag Bihu. In a state where agriculture is the main source of livelihood, where a majority of the population rely on farming the Bhogali Bihu holds a very special place in our hearts. The sweat and tears of the farmers bear fruit and this calls for nothing but celebration.

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.

inside Dibrugarh university with my child

Dibrugarh University – The True Indomitable Spirit

Dibrugarh University Logo
Dibrugarh University Emblem
Source – nyus.in

Jyoti Prasad Agarwala, the cultural icon of Assam, was a playwright, poet, songwriter, writer, and filmmaker. In his popular song,

“Ture Mure alukore jatra

Abyartha Abyartha 

Ami palu jibonor artha abhinav

Swagat swagat xateertha” 

he sums up the beautiful journey of a student. This journey towards enlightenment is unfailing and would add meaning to our otherwise meaningless life. We all are comrades in this journey and the poet takes the opportunity to welcome everyone to embark on this life-changing journey.

The commemorative main gate of Dibrugarh University is named JYOTI BATSORA (named after Jyoti Prasad Agarwala) which bears this meaningful song engraved on one side of the gate. This adds substance to the true spirit of Dibrugarh University.

Jyoti Batsora Dibrugarh University
Me and Nevaan in front of Jyoti Batsora

Every student who enters through this gate is driven by an indomitable spiritThe long road which leads us from the gate, with trees on either side seems to be symbolic of the road which lay ahead of us in life. We can definitely take rest under the shade of the trees when we are tired, but can never give up.

Memories of my University days are quite vivid in my mind even today, though it has been over a decade now. The best thing I realized about University life is something called ‘department sentiment ‘. We were seen as a department first, then as an individual. So wherever we go, we actually represent our department…be it the varsity week, any cultural event, or seminar or even a casual visit to the canteen.

This sentiment brought out the best in us. We became more passionate about whatever we did in order to maintain the pride and dignity of our department. We passionately participated in almost every event during the Varsity Week, because like I said earlier, even though the road is tough we can never give up.

When it came to studies we got boosted by the newly introduced semester system. Securing first class in a literature subject was a little tough until then. But the semester system gave us hope of securing a better percentage if not a first-class.

dibrugarh university auditorium
Dibrugarh University Auditorium
Source – quikr.com

Dibrugarh University is a State University set up in 1965 and leading research and innovation-driven university. Spread over an area of 500 acres, the University has a Central Administrative building, a State of the art Library, an auditorium, Indoor Stadium, a recreational park, Health center, DU haat, Students Day Activity center, VC bungalow, Guest House, separate Boys and Girls Hostel, Professors quarters, Canteen and various Departmental buildings.

It has research programs like Ph.D., M.Phil, D.Sc and D.Litt. Postgraduate degree,  Undergraduate degree, Postgraduate Diploma, Certificate courses, Advanced Postgraduate diploma are also available in the university.

Dibrugarh University has affiliations to University Grants Commission (UGC), National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), and Association of Indian Universities (AIU). The University was accredited ‘A’ grade in 2017 by NAAC which remains valid for a period of 5 years.

Dibrugarh University also accepts Foreign/NRI students to Post- Graduate,  Undergraduate and Diploma programs in different fields. 15% seats on the supernumerary basis are reserved for admission for Foreign/NRI students.

The University, however, doesn’t have any provision for scholarships for Foreign/NRI students. The detailed guidelines for admission of Foreign/NRI students are available in the Dibrugarh University official website.

Hopefully, the Global linkage opens up new avenues for the students of Dibrugarh University in terms of further education, projects, and scholarships.

dibrugarh university administrative building
Dibrugarh University Administrative Building
Source – educations.com

Dibrugarh University has brought about many positive changes in the last few years. These include the introduction of new courses at different levels. Dibrugarh University Institute of Engineering and Technology (DUIET), Centre for Performing Arts are worth mentioning (in my opinion). Apart from these PGD in Tea Technology and Plantation, Masters in Travel and Tourism Management, PGD in Journalism and Mass Communication and a lot more other new courses are drawing the attention of students and parents as well.

This is the indomitable spirit I was referring to…. the desire to keep growing undaunted by any kind of obstacles, both internal and external. Students of Dibrugarh University are driven by the passion to achieve their desired goals and the University is driven by the urge to impart quality education.

Dr. Karabi Deka Hazarika, an accomplished educationist, ex- Professor of the Dept. Of Assamese, and currently, the Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences, Dibrugarh University has given the lyrics of the University anthem. In the anthem titled “Niyatang kuru karma “, she aptly refers to the University as the Sun. Like the rising sun which spreads sunshine, the University has spread its light of knowledge far and wide, dispelling the darkness of ignorance.