ABOUT ASSAM

Assam is undoubtedly a paradise for tourists. With a 5000 year old civilization it is rich in natural and cultural treasures. With endless greenery and fresh, cool and soothing climate Assam has a large number of tribes with varied traditions, cultures, dances and dresses. Assamese literature is as rich and old as its history. The ancient treatise on the elephants, the "Hastirvidyarnabha" is one of the prized possessions of Assamese literature.

With five national parks, eighteen wild life sanctuaries and a number of reserved protected forest areas Assam stands unparalleled in bio diversity. Out of the five national parks two are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, two are bio sphere reserves and three are Project Tigers. These protected areas are home to a large number of wildlife many of them are endangered and listed in the schedule-I of the Wildlife Protection Act of India. Assam is the home to the One Horned Rhinoceros with the single largest concentration of the mammal. There is also a good number of the species like the Royal Bengal Tiger, Asiatic Elephants, Eastern Swamp Deer, and Asiatic Water Buffalos apart from a host of other wildlife. With the discovery of Eastern Hoolock Gibbon (Hoolock leucondys) in a survey conducted between March and May, 2010 in three reserve forests of Hallow Gaon, Kukurmara and Kundil Kolia on the north bank of Lohit river located in Sadiya range of Tinsukia district, Assam harbours the highest density of primate species in the country with a total of 10. North East India harbours as many as 12 primate species out of the total 26 species found in India.

Assam and Tea... both are inseparable. Assam is the single largest tea producer in the world with a share of more than 20% of the total world produce. It has around 2472 big lush green tea gardens mostly owned by big companies. However, in the last 15 years there has been a revolution in Eastern and central Assam, being the main tea belt with locals becoming small tea planters making small tea gardens with their own capacity and thus contributing further in the production of tea. Assam Orthodox tea has the coveted GI (Geographical Indications) status in India and Assam exports about 50 million kg of Assam orthodox tea. It is now possible to stay in a Colonial British era heritage tea bungalows inside a tea garden and see the process of tea plucking and tea manufacturing.

Weaving has been a traditional craft of the Assamese and women of almost every household in the villages take pride in their possession of a handloom in which three different silk of mulberry, muga and eri designs are made. The Lovely golden colour of muga, the creamy eri and glossy mulberry are considered prized textiles by customers locally  and abroad. Assam is the proud state to have GI status (Geographical Indications) in India to its prized Golden Silk Muga.

Special festivals of the Assamese are the three Bihus, the Rangali Bihu (April) which marks the advent of the cropping season, the Bhogali Bihu or the harvest festival (January) & the Kongali (October) or the Bihu of the lean period. The Bihu dance is one of the most joyful and fascinating dances in the world.

The Ahom royal remains at Sivasagar and the temples, vaishnavite monasteries, huge water tanks built under the patronage of the Ahoms in various parts of Assam showcase the 600 years golden age of Assam history. With the start of the Ahom rule in Assam in 1228 AD the state came to be known as Assam from the earlier names of Pragjyotishpur or Kamrup. And the Ahom royals made the great effort to unite various ethnic groups living in the state to make a greater Assamese society. The impact of the great rule of the Ahoms could be seen in almost all spheres of Assamese society today. The Ahoms, belonging to the great Shan Tai race migrated from the Yunan province of China, accepted Hinduism apart from their own Tai traditions with Buddhism. During their regime Vedic Hinduism reached its peak in the region. The Ahoms were patriotic and great warriors and they were successful in repulsing as many as 18 invasions from the mighty Mughals of Delhi.

The mighty Brahmaputra which is one of the 25 longest rivers in the world with a total length of 2,900 km is the life line of Assam. River cruise is now available for tourists in luxury vessels on the Brahmaputra. The cruise is an opportunity to see Assam through the river route which was used prominently by the mighty Ahom rulers for transportation especially during the decisive battles with the Mughal rulers of Delhi.

If you are scared of spicy Indian cuisine, then we have Assamese cuisine for you which is with very little or no spice. Assamese cuisine is very tasty, healthy and nutritious.

SIGHTSEEING:

Bhalukpung and Nameri NP

Bhalukpung on the border of the state of Arunachal Pradesh is made picturesque by the sparkling river Jia Bharali. You can nature walk here or go rafting and angling on Jia Bharali. The Jia Bharali has a long and glorious history of Mahseer angling since the days of the British. It is always pleasant & thrilling to raft down the Jia Bharali river in a rubber dinghy amidst the verdant green and serene surroundings.

The Nameri National Park is located by the side of the Jia Bharali River. It came into International focus with several sightings of the rare and endangered white winged wood duck a few years back. It is now evident that there are at least 25 birds thriving within the 137 sq. km. of semi evergreen and mixed deciduous forests and wet lands of the parks. Besides, elephant, tiger, leopard, sambar, barking deer, wild boar, gaur, bear, and wild dog the park abounds in a variety of birds including 4 species of hornbill.

Guwahati

Guwahati is not just the capital of the state of Assam, it is also the gateway to North East India. It is ringed around three sides by a chain of hills that stretches to the distant horizon. The Northern side is bordered by the awesome Brahmaputra river. A cruise on the Brahmaputra is an uplifting and peaceful experience. The following places are also worth visiting in Guwahati -

Kamakhya Temple

The Kamakhya is atop the Nilachal hill near the western rim of the city. Mention of this important shrine is made in ancient treatises. It is one of the important centres of the Shakta form of Hinduism. It attracts pilgrims from all over the country.

The architecture of this temple, the rites and rituals associated with Tantricism which have an important seat here, are of absorbing interest to the visitor.

However, even those who are neither religiously inclined nor archaeologically minded would enjoy the drive up to the top of the hill for a breathtaking view of the city below, the curve of the river ahead, and the blue hills stretching hazily away to the horizon beyond. The sunset on the river, seen from this vantage point, is simply glorious.

Assam State Museum

The Assam State Museum houses important artifacts. A visit to it is a must if one is to get an idea of the richness and diversity of the region's historical past.

State Zoo cum Botanical Gardens

The location of the state zoo cum botanical garden is one of the best in the country. Several species seen here are success stories in conservation and have been bred in captivity. The botanical gardens are great source of interest.

Vashishtha Ashram

Vashishtha Ashram situated on the southernmost rim of the city on the Sandhyachal hill, is a tranquil spot to visit. Thick forests surround the area. It is said that sage Vashishtha had established his "Ashram" here. Three gushing rivulets meet at this point. The temple here is also worth a trip.

Shrimanta Shankar Deva Kalakshetra

The Shrimanta Shankar Deva Kalakshetra has been conceived as a grand exposition of the life and culture of the people of Assam, of its many ethnic groups and tribes, the people who have made the cultural mosaic of Assam, in all its beauty and splendour. Named after the great unifier of Assam and one of the greatest integrators of the Indian society in the 15th century, Shrimanta Shankar Deva, the Kalakshetra has been attempting to capture and convey the essence of the great seer's spirit, who preached the message of unity in diversity, sang the song of universal brotherhood.

The complex is spread over 10.28 hectare and has a) literary and dance drama department b) an art department c) a cultural museum d) a heritage park e) an open air theater and f) an artists' village.

Kaziranga NP

Kaziranga National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the oldest national park in Assam. It is situated in central Assam with an area of 860 sq. km. It is the home of the Great Indian One Horned Rhinoceros. The landscape of Kaziranga is of sheer forests, tall elephant grass, rugged reeds, mellow marshes and shallow pools. So far as the history of Kaziranga is concerned, Lady Curzon, the wife of British Viceroy in India Lord Curzon, first heard about the Rhino of Kaziranga from her British tea planter friends and came to Assam in 1904-05. Although she could not see the animal she spotted hoof prints with three toes, which convinced her that such an animal did exist.

On her return she persuaded her to do something to save this animal from extinction. Lord Curzon set the wheels of British bureaucracy rolling and on 1st June 1905, a preliminary notification announcing the intention of the Government to declare 57273.60 acres of Kaziranga as a reserved forest was issued. Kaziranga was declared as Reserved Forest on 3rd January 1908 and was officially closed for shooting.

Finally on 11th February 1974 Kaziranga became a National Park. Visitors can go round the park either on trained elephants or drive around in vehicles. Elephants move slowly and so they do not cover as much ground as a vehicle might. But then the chances of getting close to wild life are much higher on elephant back than they are in a vehicle. However, the main attraction of Kaziranga, the Great Indian One Horned Rhinoceros is very easy to see. Rhinos graze like domestic cattle in the grassland and marshes around the park and can be spotted belly deep in the marsh, chomping contentedly on succulent grass.

Kaziranga was brought under the Project Tiger recently. There are 86 Royal Bengal Tigers as per 2000 Census. Kaziranga has 70% of the world population of Eastern Swamp Deer and Asiatic Water Buffalos. Out of 2006 rhinoceros found in Assam 1855 could be found in Kaziranga as per 2006 Census.

The wild population :

One Horned Rhinoceros, Elephants, Indian bisons, swamp deer, sambar, hog deer, sloth bear, tiger, leopard, leopard cat, jungle cat, hog badger, capped langur, hoolock gibbon, wild boar, jackal, porcupine, python etc and a host of birds both resident and migratory.

Other Attractions :

You can stroll through the lush coffee and rubber plantations of nearby Karbi Anglong, or you can visit the Karbi villages, meet the tribal Karbi people, observe their lifestyle. Or, romp through enchanting tea gardens and watch how you get your daily cup of tea.

Sivasagar

Situated at a distance of 350 Kms. from Guwahati, Sivasagar town is the district headquarter of Sivasagar district. The mighty Ahoms ruled Assam from 1228-1826 setting up capitals in various places of Sivasagar district. Sivasagar town (earlier known as Rangpur) was the capital of the Ahom Kingdom from 1699 to 1788. The town dedicated to Lord Siva - its name literally meaning the ocean of Siva - is strewn with tell - tale ruins of a powerful empire. Presently, Sivasagar presents the unique spectacle of industrial transformation of a silent town in the backdrop of relics of bygone days. The following are the places worth visiting.

Karenghar & Talatalghar

A seven storied palace having three storeys underground known as Talatalghar and the upper storeys known as karenghar, the capital and military station of the Ahom kings is only 4 kms from Sivasagar town. First constructed by the Ahom King Rudra Singha in 1700 AD, alterations, additions and new constructions to this palace were made by the successors of Rudra Singha. The Talatalghar made of brick and an indigenous type of cement was constructed by king Rajeshwar Singha. There were two underground tunnels from Talatalghar connecting Dikhow river and Gargaon Palace which were later blocked by the British East India Company.

Ranghar - SivasagarRanghar

A little distance towards the North East from this Royal Palace and by the side of the Assam Trunk Road stands another imposing 2 storied building. This is Ranghar, the royal sports-pavilion of Ahom kings which was constructed during the reign of King Pramatta Singha in 1746. This Ranghar happens to be the oldest amphitheatre in Asia.

Gargaon Palace

Gargaon, the principal town of Ahoms built by Ahom King Suklenmung in 1540, lies 13 kms. east of Sivasagar. The structures were made of wood and stones. The Old Palace was destroyed and the present seven storied palace was rebuilt around 1752 by King Rajeshwar Singha. King Pramatta Singha constructed the brick wall of about 5 kms. in length surrounding the Gargaon Palace and the masonry gate in 1747.

Joysagar Tank

The largest tank in India and perhaps the biggest man made tank in the world comprising an area of 318 acres of land including its four banks, out of which 155 acres is filled with crystal clear water. An earthen water pipeline runs from this tank to the Rangpur Palace (Karenghar) which is about 2 kms in length, for supplying water of this tank to the Royal Palace.

Charaideo

The tombs of Ahom Kings and Queens at Charaideo hillock which are comparable to the Pyramids of Egypt are, even in the present time of astounding scientific progress and development, objects of wonder revealing the superb skill of sculptors and the fine form of architecture of Assam in those days. About 30 Kms. from Sivasagar town towards the east and at the foot hills of Nagaland, the first capital of Ahom kingdom was established by Swargadeo Sukapha.

This is also the place of ancestral Gods of the Ahoms and the sacred burial floor & stone pillars of "Deo Sal" are still lying on the summit of the hillock Deo Sal in Dol Bagan.

Sivasagar Tank

In 1734, the second Queen of Siva Singha had the Sivasagar Tank dug to commemorate the victory of her husband, and named the tank "Sivasagar Tank".

The tank covers an area of 129 acres of land excluding the 4 banks. The total area of the tank is 257 acres of land. Although situated within the heart of the town the water level of the tank is above the level of the town. On its banks are three temples - the Sivadol, the Vishnudol, and the Devidol. The Sivadol is believed to be the highest Siva temple in India. Its height is 104 ft. and the perimeter is 195 ft., at the base. It is capped by an 8 ft. high golden dome.

Dibru-Saikhowa NP

Dibru-Saikhowa N.P. Situated in the Dibrugarh & Tinsukia districts of Eastern Assam, is just 13 km. off Tinsukia town.

The 340 sq.km national park consisting of extensive grassland, swamp forest and shallow waterbodies is located in between the mighty Brahmaputra river and the Dibru river.

Famed for the feral horse the park also has mammals like Tiger, Leopard, Clouded Leopard, Elephant, Sambar, Slow Loris, Asiatic Water Buffalo, Capped Langur, Indian Wild Dog etc. One can see the Gangetic Dolphins in Dibru river.

Over 300 species of birds have been recorded.

Interesting Bird Species: Marsh Babbler, Jerdon's Babbler, Black-breasted Parrotbill, Rufous-vented or Swamp Prinia, Jerdon's Bushchat, Pale-capped Pigeon, White-tailed Rubythroat, Black-breasted Thrush, Yellow-bellied Prinia, Mountain Tailorbird, Smoky Warbler, Rosy Minivet, Green Magpie, Ferruginous Flycatcher, Spot-winged Starling, Red-headed Trogon, Sultan Tit, Ruby-cheeked Sunbird, Swamp Francolin, Blyth's Kingfisher, Bengal Florican, Pied Harrier etc.

Majuli

Majuli, the largest river island in the world, is a civil sub-division of Jorhat District. It is located 20 km. off Jorhat town. It is a pollution free fresh water island. Total area of the island was 1250 sq.km., now it is about 650 sq.km.

Its length from east to west is about 90 km. & width from north to south is avg. 16 km. Majuli is a natural & cultural heritage site. With water bodies covering most of the areas , Majuli attracts plenty of birds both local & migratory.

About 25-26 Satras are remaining now in Majuli of which the Satras of Kamalabari, Auniati & Garmur are worth mentioning. These Satras are propagating the religious ideology of great Assamese medieval Vaisnavite Saint Sankardeva & Madhavdeva, preaching Satria culture.

Manas NP

Manas National Park is a tiger reserve and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Assam. It is one of the most fascinating National Parks in India and the home to some rare mammals like the Golden Langur, Hispid Hare and the Pygmy Hog. The Golden Langur, a blond species of the Langurs is more common in forests on the Bhutanese side .The Hispid Hare or Assamese Rabbit is darker brown than the Black- Napped Hare, and is covered in coarse bristly hair.

The pygmy hog, a small hairy version of the wild boar with a more attenuated snout and rounded rear is found nowhere else in the world. Both the Hispid Hare and the Pygmy Hog inhabit thatch - scrub and grassland and were  thought extinct until rediscovered in 1971. Other mammals include Wild Buffalo, Indian Bison, Elephant, Rhino, Tiger, Hog Deer, Sambar, Barking Deer, Swamp Deer, Spotted Deer, Himalayan Bear, Wild Boar, Leopard, and Clouded Leopard etc.

Manas has survived decades of insurgency & it was recently re opened to visitors. But the Great Indian One Horned Rhinoceros has become extinct here & researches are on to re introduce the same in the near future. Consisting of grassland, dry and moist deciduous & also rain forests, Manas has an area of 520 sq km & with the Bhutanese govt. protecting the Bhutanese side of the jungle there is a stretch of about 3500 sq km of protected area on both sides of the border.

Manas has recorded 380 species or more birds.

Interesting Species: Swamp Francolin, Bengal Florican, Wreathed, Oriental Pied & Great Hornbills, Collared Falconet, Speckled Piculet, Rufous-vented Laughingthrush, Ashy Wood Pigeon, Thick-billed & Orange-breasted Green Pigeons,Pale-capped Pigeon,Barred Cuckoo Dove, Red-headed Trogon, Rosy Minivet, Sultan, Yellow-cheeked and Black-throated Tits, Rufous-vented Laughingthrush, Pied Harrier, Black Francolin, Bengal Bushlark, Chestnut-capped & Striated Babblers, White-tailed Nuthatch, Wallcreeper, Ashy-throated and Grey-hooded Warblers, Rufous-bellied Eagle, Grey and Savanna Nightjars, Ruddy Kingfisher etc.

 
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