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|Guwahati||Guwahati is a practical gateway to the northeast having air, rail and road connectivity to the rest and the northeast of India. However, for a first timer inspired by amazing stories and images of the ‘paradise unexplored’ the first impression at Guwahati may come as a shrilling wake-up alarm with the city’s noisy sub-urban commercial profile. This ‘area nut market’ (guwa + haat) of the yesteryears is presently bearing the brunt of being amongst the fastest developing cities of India, a commercial hub for Assam’s tea and oil industries and the largest and busiest city of the Northeast India. The capital of Assam, Dispur, lies in Guwahati only. Turned off? Don’t be for across the cityscape there are many local attractions and excursions to turn you on like – Kamakhya temple, Umananda Temple, Assam State Museum, Sualkuchi and Hajo – all in the city astride the banks of mighty Brahmaputra river and bordered by the Neelachal hills. ||Read Getting-there |
Kamakhaya Temple -
|An important Hindu pilgrimage and one frequented by tantric worshippers too the temple of Goddess Kamakhya atop the Neelachal hills, 8 km from Guwahati city, is one of the 51 Shakti Peeth in India (Hindu Pilgrimage). The ‘Shakti Peeth’, meaning the site of energy are the places where the pieces of dismembered corpse of Goddess Sati, symbolizing Shakti or energy, fell as per the legend. Kamakhya is the site where Goddess’s Yoni or vagina fell and hence it is revered as the site of special energy and creation. To the displeasure of animal rights activists, everyday a goat or pigeon or buffalo is sacrificed. More blood and sacrifices and pilgrims follow in the form of Ambubachi mela, during the month of June or July when the goddess mother is believed to complete her menstrual cycle. The temple prominent exterior isn’t north Indian Naggar or south Indian Dravidian in architecture but looks more of a water tank in aerial view. ‘Kamrup’ or ‘Kamagiri’ are other names of the same temple.||Location: 8 kms Northewest of Guwahati city|
Umananda Temple -
|The 16th century Umananda Temple is located on the beautiful green peacock island in between the sprawling Brahmaputra River. The Umanada pilgrimage is dedicated to Lord Shiva. and was built by King Gadadhar Singh of the Tai - Ahom dynasty (1694 A.D) Besides being a holy site this place is a great view point to relax oneself and one’s pupil with distant view of the mighty river. The other attraction to the site can be the very conveyance which is used to reach and return to and from the island which is a 36-seater public ferry. This ferry ride can be one’s first intro to the amazing waterways of the Assam and the northeast which gets more elaborate, routined yet interesting at Majuli and the other upcoming destinations.|
Time: 9:30 am - 4 pm when the cruise boats ply from Kachari gate
Location: Peacock Island, Guwahati, 15 min ferry ride from Kachari ghat
Assam State Museum -
|An excellent and systematic place to get an insight into the Assam’s civilization through the ages. The museum, built in 1940, displays tribal artifacts, sculptures, handicrafts, clothing, coins, manuscripts, paintings et al of Assam dating back to 5th century AD. Have an interesting walk through the typical life-size dioramas of typical Assamese village with reconstructed tribal huts. For the researchers in you there’s a reference library.|
Timings: 10 am to 5 pm (summers), 10 am to 4:30 pm (winters)
Closed On: Monday; 2nd and 4th Sat
Sualkuchi - Guwahati
|Sualkuchi is an important weaving centre for Assam’s muga and paat silk. A 30 km pleasant excursion will put a visitor up close to the first-hand know-how of the Silk and looms. Several houses are dedicated to the art of weaving and the owners and workers are welcoming to teach and showcase their produce.||Location: 30 km excursion northwest of Guwahati city|
Majuli is a setting…as if the nature’s idea and imagination of itself got a full play.
"An island-world shaped by and drenched in the waters of Brahmaputra, peaceful, pollution-free, lush-green with pesticide-free rice-fields, dotted with fishing nets and traps, raised bamboo houses, home to simple tribal people busy in their chores of fishing, mask-crafts, pottery, handloom, boat-making and dairying, blessed with the spiritualism of the neo-Vaishnavites and their Satras, cohabited by many a flora and fauna, unusual or unseen in the civilized locales, with wetlands and swamps that offer a feast for many of its local and migratory birds, breeding ground for the gangetic dolphin (Shishu)…”
This dream-like island is also world’s largest inhabited riverine island on the river Brahmaputra measuring around 600 sq km. It is not the size but the lifestyles and life forms therein living in chorus and harmony which makes Majuli a neverland. A visit to the place can slap a realization that ‘nature has blessed man for his needs but not his greed.’ A 3 hour excursion fetched this writer during December memory of birds precariously feeding on the wetlands of Majuli from a distance that even many man designated bird’s sanctuary can’t afford. To name a few birds - lesser adjutant, Siberian crane, purple swamphen, Indian pond heron, ruddy shelduck, kingfisher, whistling teal in plenty.
Majuli – close to nature, separated, serene, simple, spiritual and sustainable – is a true repository of Cultural, Natural and Spiritual heritage. An excursion or a three-day stay can get one a much needed experience of lifetime. Satras: Satras, ‘the home of the honest’, have been the living museum of spiritual and cultural heritage of Assam over the past five centuries. These monasteries of neo-Vaishnavism school of thought with Vishnu as the main God were initiated in the 16th century by reformer philosopher Srimant Sankardeva. Presently, over 400 Vaishnavites pursue their spiritual quest here after giving up all their worldly pleasures, including marriage. The colors of existence at any Satra is as simple or flamboyant as Majuli itself. In fact, Majuli is the only place till where this new-Hinduism philosophy, art, and culture flourished or say confined itself with a following that cuts across nations. Today, Satriya Nritya, the classical Dance of Assam and Ankiya Bhawna, the traditional drama, created by the founder Saint are world-known performing arts of Assam. Besides these hermitages also houses Assam’s royal and tribal artifacts of archaeological values like ancient books, coins, masks, weapons, sculptures, wooden carvings, copper plates etc. Out of the 22 remaining Satras most interesting Satra would be Auniati, Uttara kamalabari and Garamor. Best time to visit Majuli is the festival Rass-Mahotsav, a celebration of life of Krishna when almost whole of the Majuli is turned up for 3-day long event. People and Villages: Around 150 thousand tribal folks inhabit some 144 villages in Majuli and live in complete harmony with its environs. Mishing, originating from Arunachal Pradesh, Deori and rtually every single person on the island is involved in the three-day long 'raas' festival, depicting the life of Krishna. People from hundreds of kilometres away come to celebrate this festival including a number of expatriate members of community. The satras have also honed certain art and craft traditions, which can now be found only here. In Natun Samuguri satra for example, one can still find the craft of mask-making; and in the Kamalabari satra the finest boats made are described as articles of great Archeological value by the Archeological Survey of India which inspected Majuli island during December 1998 for recommending it as a WORLD HERITAGE SITE. Majuli is situated at a distance of 20 km from Jorhat. One can take the bus or a hired taxi to the Nimati Steamer Ghat from where ferry services ply. The distance takes over three hours to cover, with three bus rides and two ferry rides.
Location: 200 Km to the east of Guwahati
Best Time to Visit: October to March
Attractions: Neo Vaishnavites Satras
Kaziranga National Park
Welcome to the rhino’s nation on the southern bank of Brahmaputra River, in Assam. A National park that stood and stands true to its objectives and can easily be called Assam’s greatest revived asset. A UNESCO World Heritage Site (1985), A Tiger Reserve (2006), Important Bird Area (Birdlife International) – Kaziranga is home to 1800 great one-horned rhinos, that is, two-third of world; world’s highest density of tigers with 32 tigers per 100 sq km; and India’s largest population of Asiatic wild buffalo.The above fact is the spin-off of a farsighted effort that focused on all elements of the food web and ecology. Meaning the above tiger statistics are not the result of blind in vitro mass production but an actual abundance of prey animals like hog deer, swamp deer, wild boar, hog badger, porcupine, sambar, wild buffalo, rhino and elephant. And it is not just the animals but also the birds that adds to Kaziranga being a wildlife lover’s delight. Around 300 species of birds have made Kaziranga their nesting, feeding or breeding place.
Sighting a rhino in Kaziranga is not uncommon in its 430 sq km (166 miles) of flat expanse and dense rainforests; however, the thrill can vary depending upon the mood of the thick-skinned biggie. The writer on his first elephant safari into the dense thicket of very tall elephant grasses and swamps had a taste of a rhino’s short temper when it charged towards the very elephant he was atop. Initial excitement to get close and closer for that ‘Nat-geo shot’ was given an afterthought. Anyway, experienced mahouts knew the art, waited for a third elephant to join and counter and control the charging rhino. Be there for a guided jeep safari on the designated kutcha (loose) tracts and atop an elephant, the safest and bumpy cruise deeper into the dense green jungle of elephant-sized sharp elephant, with patches of swamps and water meadows. Also, the coming of new luxurious resorts has provided a much needed laid-back comforts to Kaziranga. Perfect for those who prefer adventure limited till the park. The Kaziranga Rhino conservation effort has been growing in its area, profile and rhino’s population ever since it came into existence in the year 1904 on behest of wife of the then Viceroy of India, Lord Curzon. Since then when rhino was nearing extinction the initiative had overcome many hurdles – occasional flood from the volatile Brahmaputra River, separatist movements, human encroachment, poaching for the prized horn of rhino etc. Assam’s obsession with rhino is quite apparent.
Elephant rides: 5:30 am and 6:30 am
Jeep Safari: 7:30 am-10:30 am and 2:30pm-5pm
Guwahati, the largest city of Assam, connects Assam to the Northeast and the rest of India.
Outside seven states: Siliguri - 440; Kolkotta - 1100; Darjeeling - 630; Gangtok - 589;
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