Destination Bhutan – A happy place to be

Buddhist temple in Samdrup Jongkhar market area

People don’t take trips, trips take people.

John Steinbeck

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

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

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

Somewhere in Samdrup Jongkhar

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

Samdrup Jongkhar : Bhutan-Assam border

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

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

The prayer bells

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

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

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

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

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

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

A foot bridge in Samdrup Jongkhar

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

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.

Choklong – The Ahom Wedding Rituals & Dress

Marriages are made in heaven but solemnized on Earth

This is a popular saying on the institution of marriage and sounds cliche. But trust me, the customs, ceremonies, and rituals involved in a marriage are so varied, yet grand and beautiful that the institution itself cannot be cliche. An Assamese marriage ceremony is different for every ethnic community in Assam and each has its own intricate ritualistic affair.

Choklong is the unique marriage ceremony of the Tai-Ahom community of Assam. Choklong is the marriage ceremony performed in the divine presence of the Gods by lighting 101 earthen lamps.

The Maral with 101 earthen lamps distinctive of a Choklong marriage ceremony.
The Maral with 101 earthen lamps distinctive of a Choklong marriage ceremony.

In the ancient days, the Choklong marriage ceremony was a nine-day long ritualistic affair. But nowadays it has been reduced to three days namely Juron diya, Murot tel diya, and the main day Choklong ceremony. The Ahom priestly classes, i.e., Deodhai, Mohan and Bailung perform all the religious ceremonies of the community which included the marriage ceremonies as well. They had full knowledge of the Choklong system of marriage and therefore full authority too.

The most important aspect of a Choklong marriage is the lighting of the 101 earthen lamps. On the day of the marriage an altar is prepared which is called the Maral. It is basically an extensive rangoli decorated with 101 earthen lamps. In the rangoli pattern, 16 small earthen lamps are arranged in 6 concentric circles, and 4 medium earthen lamps are placed in the innermost circle. In the centre a large earthen lamp is placed. Another important part of the Choklong marriage is the Hengdang which is a single-edged sword with a long handle. The Hengdang is offered by the bride to the bridegroom which has a lot of symbolism. By accepting the Hengdang the groom is basically promising to protect his bride lifelong and look after the family. In the ancient days, the groom accepting the Hengdang meant that he would defend his country against enemies and thereby protect the nation.

Hengdang the sword of Ahoms
The Hengdang
Source – ancientpages.com

The Wedding Dress

The wedding apparel of the bride and groom in a Choklong marriage is so royal and elegant that it adds to the grandeur of the ceremony. The groom wears a kurta and dhoti with a turban on his head. A traditional cheleng sador is wrapped around the groom’s kurta. All these are made of our very own Muga silk, sometimes paat silk also. The bride wears a mekhela, reeha, full sleeved shirt like blouse, and a muga headgear. With time, however, the traditional mekhela sador is widely worn by the bride with the headgear.

Learn more about Assamese wedding dress in The Silk Tales – Assam Traditional Silk.

Every girl, at some point in her life, fantasises about her marriage even if for a second. She wants to look the best on her wedding day and fantasises her wedding dress, the jewelry, the sets, customs and rituals as well. I was no exception to this. In fact, from the day I learned about the royal Ahom Choklong marriage ceremony, I was very sure I am going to have one. My favorite part of the ceremony was the offering of the Hengdang to the groom by the bride. For me, it seemed larger than life event with the groom dressed in traditional Muga kurta and dhoti along with a muga turban. I was mesmerised by the thought of the groom promising to protect the bride from all evil with the Hengdang in his hands.

Ahom bride and groom in their wedding apparel of muga silk
Ahom bride and groom in their wedding apparel
Source: https://instagram.com/frozenframeproduction?igshid=sj5401s2q2on

The Wedding Rituals

An Assamese marriage these days is traditional with its unique customs and rituals, but also with a touch of modernity as far as the attire, extensive sets and glamour are concerned. It is an amalgamation of both. Ceremonies and rituals start many days ahead of the actual wedding day. In my previous post on Xajpani I had mentioned about Na purushor hokaam. This is the first ritual in any Assamese marriage which takes a few days prior to the marriage. The name, however, may vary according to different communities.

The ceremony starts with the Juron diya. The family of the groom brings gifts for the bride which includes her wedding trousseau, along with gold and traditional Assamese jewelry, cosmetics, ceremonial maah halodhi to be applied by the bride on her wedding day. There are many other things brought along with these. These are brought in two earthen pots, one with gifts for the bride,another with maah halodhi. The bride takes out a portion of the maah halodhi and leaves some for the groom in the same pot which is later carried back to the groom. Juron is given by the groom’s mother and other female relatives and basically is an all-female ceremony. The bride later changes her attire to the ones gifted by the groom’s family and seeks blessings from the elderly people present in the ceremony.

There’s another ritual called koina or dora nuuwa meaning bathing the bride and groom in a ceremonial way. This is arranged in the respective places of the bride and groom. The maah halodhi kept aside during the Juron ceremony is applied on the body of the bride and groom, and later washed with water. For this a bei is made with bamboo where the bride and groom are made to sit for the ritual. Under this bei is buried one egg, a needle, kasi, beetle nut and a coin. This ritual signifies cleansing the bride and groom of any impurities or evil spirits thereby preparing them for their new life. The water used during this ritual is brought from a nearby river or lake in another very ritualistic manner. The mother along with the ladies of the family and community goes to a nearby water body singing biya naam. This ritual is called pani tola.

Murot tel diya is solemnized on the next day after juron. Biya naam are traditional wedding songs sung during this ritual, and in fact throughout all the ceremonies related to marriage. The bride is applied tel now by her relatives and other female guests. The female guests gathered then asks for xoraai from all the family and relatives by singing biya naam. The xoraai basically consists of tamul-paan, gamucha, money, sweets etc. given to the ladies which is an expression of happiness and thanksgiving. This is more like a fun ceremony.

An Assamese Choklong marriage is an elaborate affair, a larger than life affair as all other Assamese marriages are. One cannot but be awe- inspired to witness such a marriage. It is all about customs and rituals. But with modernisation there has been some positive changes too which, however, have not affected the rituals. Videographers, photographers, make-up artists, dress designers, jewellery designers are involved nowadays to make a marriage more memorable. In Assam we have a talented bunch of such artists who gave given a whole new look to our traditional marriage ceremonies and taken it to another level. So if you ever get an invite to attend a Choklong marriage or any other Assamese marriage, do not miss the opportunity. You would be more than happy to be a part of an Assamese marriage.

 

 

Toy Train from Kalka to Shimla passing through a dark tunnel

Why do you Travel?

Travelling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.

– Ibn Battuta

Travelling enriches us with knowledge that comes from experience. It broadens our mind as we come in contact with different cultures. Our perspective changes and we become better as human beings. And in the words of Ibn Battuta, we become storytellers in the process. We have so much to share, we almost relive those moments every time we share our travel stories, which is the best part of travelling. You become richer with memories that will last a lifetime.

With a little money and proper planning it is possible to travel to places, provided you have the interest to do so. Travelling alone is fun, but the company of like-minded people always makes travelling all the more thrilling.

It doesn’t matter where you’re going, it’s who you have beside you

– Unknown

For me and my sisters, travelling was always about taking a break after the gruelling school exams. We would wait for our parents to make plans either during the summer or winter vacations.

Luckily for us, my father was an employee of Indian Railways which came with the perk of free travel passes. My father’s position allowed him four first class train passes a year to travel anywhere within the country.

Toy train from Kalka to Shimla going through a dark tunnel
Toy Train from Kalka to Shimla
Source – nativeplanet.com

People travel for different reasons like for relaxation, or work. Basically the idea is to visit new places and get a taste of their culture, food and the likes and enriching thereby. With the rise of social media, Instagram and YouTube influencers, travelling nowadays is more about work and image building, and promoting stuff rather than vacationing.

How social media changed the meaning of Travelling

Travelling before social media was a totally different concept to what it is today. Computers were totally new, and we were taught ‘LOGO’ in school…. I mean Yes… I bet many of you don’t even know what that is. Well, a turtle (a triangle cursor basically) appeared on the computer screen and typing instructions we could make the turtle to draw figures. So, LOGO was actually a computer educational programming language. Rest is history! It was around in 12th standard or so that I learnt to send an e-mail, and much later opened an account in the social networking platform called Orkut.

What I am trying to say is that the memories that we created while travelling was not for pictures. We literally lived those moments which remains fresh till this date. Everything about travelling was raw, unaffected by the thoughts or actions of sharing first, travel later on social networking sites. I agree that we all love to share what we have seen or experienced, but the difference was in the medium of sharing. Earlier we shared our experiences by relating through words and now we relate through pictures.

Dudhsagar view from afar with a train crossing by
Dudhsagar – On the way to Goa
Source – indiatoday.in

My personal experiences with travelling in India via Indian Railways

I have had the opportunity of visiting many tourist destinations of India with my parents and sisters. There was something exciting about those train journeys, 2-3 days without washing up, cramped in our seats playing cards or antakshri, making new friends, and staring out of the window towards the endless green and the dimly lit unknown towns. Though we could avail first class compartments, but sometimes we chose to travel 2nd class sleeper merely for the insane thrill and excitement.

It is not the destination where you end up but the mishaps and memories you create along the way

– Unknown

The swarming in of unreserved passengers during daytime, the monotonous loud voices of the hawkers, the sweaty smell in those small compartments is what sleeper class is all about. But the best part for me was the bustling in of the food vendors with a variety of food options like Jhal muri, puri sabji, bread omelette, tea, coffee, cucumber etc. These vendors were prohibited in the first class compartments resulting in the journey being extremely boring.

Throughout the day we would munch something or the other, get down on big stations to do a little stretching, or look through the stuff brought by the vendors on the train. I remember ordering egg thalis for dinner on the train which came with 2 eggs per thali.

The famous mango wafers of Malda Junction, the brightly lit Farakka Barrage, the breathtaking view of the Dudh Sagar waterfalls while travelling to Goa, the 103 tunnels to Shimla, the fear stricken train journey over the Pamban Bridge in Rameshwaram are memories which gives me the thrills even today.

Pamban Bridge in Rameshwaram, Tamilnadu

The true nature of travelling

Our journeys were not about comfort travel, luxurious hotels, multi- cuisine food or high end brand shopping. We mostly travelled 2nd class, stayed at budget hotels, toured in tour buses, ate normal desi food and did minimal shopping. The happiness was in being able to see new places. Those few days of vacation felt like a lifetime of good memories.

This thrill, happiness and memory is what I want to give to my child. The raw pleasure of visiting new and unknown places. Growing up I want him to fondly remember these trips, the precious moments he had spent with his parents visiting famous tourist destinations from a very young age.

It’s a big world out there, it would be a shame not to experience it

J.D. Andrews
Pallabita Bora and her son, Nevaan in front of Shiva Dol Sivasagar Assam
Myself and Nevaan in front of Shiva Dol, Sivasagar

Dr. Bhupen Hazarika, the musical exponent of Assam had composed another famous song,

Asom amar rupohi

Gunaru nai xesh

Bharotore purba dixhor surjya utha dexh

– Dr. Bhupen Hazarika

Assam has so much to boast about and we have yet to explore Assam in all its beauty. So to begin with I decided to visit all the tourist attractions as well as destinations in Assam, and what could be better than exploring it together with my child. We kickstarted our travel in mid April this year, during Rongali Bihu when we were visiting our parents for the first time after Nevaan was born. He was, to be exact, 104 days young on that particular date. And the first place he visited was the SHIVA DOL situated in historic Sivasagar. It was like seeking the blessings of the divine in this new and exciting journey of ours.

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.

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 ethnicity and community 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 and Deodhai communities 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

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/

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/