One of the Seven Sister States in the North-Eastern part of India, Assam is rich in biodiversity, culture, tradition and heritage. The capital of Assam is Dispur, and Guwahati, which is the Gateway and also the most important city, is also one of the fastest developing city in our country. The culture and tradition of Assam dates back to the early 13th century, the time when The Ahom dynasty ruled Assam for nearly 600 years. Assam is also a land of many tribal and ethnic groups which have their own culture tradition and language. There is so much to do and see when in Assam. I being born and brought up in Assam cannot claim that I have seen or experienced the whole of it. So Here I have listed down my top six experiences in Assam which is unique and at the same time very interesting:
The most important thing to experience when you are in Assam is its chief traditional festival BIHU. Celebrated as a set of three festivals- The Bohag Bihu celebrated in the month of April, The Kati Bihu in the middle of October and The Maagh Bihu in the month of January. Each Bihu carries different significance related to agriculture and harvesting. Throughout Assam, Bihu is celebrated with full enthusiasm. Visit Assam during Bihu and enjoy its ethnic Assamese cuisines, Bihu special delicacies for example the Pithas (sweets made of rice flour), Yogurt and Flattened rice with jaggery and many more. Also experience the very famous Bihu dance, performed by both men and women dressed in traditional Bihu attire which is Muga Mekhela Chador set and Assamese gohona or jewelry, it is something which you should not miss in a lifetime. The Bihugeet (Bihu songs) on which the Bihu dance is performed are folksongs composed in couplets that rhyme and depicts an emotion.
Jeep Safari or Elephant Ride in Assam’s Jungles
The Kaziranga National Park, The Manas National Park , The Orang National Park, The Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary are the top most places when it comes to experience the wildlife in Assam . The wildlife in Assam is indeed intriguing. With a rich biodiversity, dense forests and grasslands, Assam’s jungles are best for experiencing the wildlife from close proximity. Assam is world famous for its one-horned rhinoceros. It is the pride of Assam. To see a rhino then you must visit Kaziranga National Park and also The Pobitora National Park where you can find them in abundance and watch them roaming about in the wilderness . An elephant rides or a jeep safari is all you need to take to watch this majestic animal. Not only rhinoceros you can also spot various other mammals like wild buffaloes, swamp deers, sambar, etc. These places are great hot spots for bird watching. The Manas National Park was started as a Tiger Reserve Project and if you are lucky enough you can spot a royal Bengal tiger. Located in the borders of Bhutan and Assam, The Manas National Park has another worldly charm to it. While enjoying your jeep safari, make a permit and visit Pangbang, the bordering village of Bhutan.
Jeep Safari Timings: Kaziranga: 7:00 a.m.-10:00a.m. and 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Pobitora: 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Entry Fee: Kaziranga; Rs. 100 for Indians and Rs.300 for foreigners
Manas national Park: Rs1100
Ambubachi Mela at Maa Kamakhya Devalaya
Every year in the month of June during the monsoons thousands of devoted pilgrims visit Kamakhya Temple which is one of the 51 Shakti Pithas situated on the Nilachal Hills. It is said during this time Maa Kamakhya goes through her annual cycle of menstruation. It is to celebrate the fertility of mother Nature. It is basically a ritual of the Tantric Cult. The Mela or fair continues for three days. You can see many sadhus and sanyasis with long matted hair, ashes smeared all over their bodies, locals , aghoris, bauls singers, etc. visit to get blessings from Maa Kamakhya. The temple remains closed during those days and on the fourth day the gates are opened after all rituals. Visit the temple at this time, well it will be a great experience as the mela or fair is one of its kind. The government makes proper arrangements for all the devotees so that their stay during the Ambubachi Mela goes smooth and hassle- free.
Majuli- Largest River Island in India
Another major attraction of Assam is Majuli which is a river island in the mighty river Brahmaputra. But most of its land area is eroded and shrunk. Its lush green environment, pollution free air and fresh river water makes Majuli perfect getaway for those who want to be with nature. Just 20km away from Jorhat, Majuli can be reached by ferries. Visit Majuli for its famous Satras which are centers associated with the Eksarana tradition of Vaishnavism. It will give you an insight to the traditional Assamese culture and heritage. The best time to visit Majuli is during the Raas mahotsav or Raasleela that takes place during the month of November and where devotees enact Lord Krishna’s Raas Leele themselves. Enjoy authentic Assamese cuisine and relish throughout your whole life.
Assam was ruled by the Ahoms for six centuries and Sivasagar, which was also the old capital of The Ahoms, is the best place to witness their art and architecture. When in Assam a visit to Sivasagar is a must as there you will get to see the architectural skills and excellent craftsmanship of the people of Assam who built the famous monuments constructed during the reign of the Ahom Kings. The Shiva dol, The Joy Dol, Ranghar which is Asia’s largest amphitheater and also the Ahom rulers’ cultural playground, Talatalghar, Karenghar are examples of their artistic skills. It will give you a glimpse of the history of Assam and how it was ruled by the Ahoms.
Tea Gardens of Assam
Assam tea is world famous. Not only is Assam the leading producer of tea in our country, it is also the second largest commercial tea production region after China. The tea gardens are indeed a sight to remember. When in Assam make sure to visit the tea gardens especially the ones in Upper Assam. On both sides of the road you can see acres and acres of land with evenly pruned tea plants. Take a walk into the tea gardens and a fresh aroma of tea leaves will refresh you instantly. Witness the tea garden workers as they pluck tea leaves with conical baskets on their backs, have a cup of tea with them and know all about how tea is manufactured from the leaves.
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Author: Ishani Nath
Ishani is a full time teacher & a part time traveler and blogger based in Guwahati, Assam. She loves travelling and sharing her knowledge through her writings. She is a dreamer – with a dream to travel the whole world, an explorer who loves exploring new places, meet new people and know about land and culture. You can read her travel stories on http://buoyantlifestyles.com/