Blue hills, meandering rivers

All is quiet: The Brahmaputra. Photo: Ritu Raj Konwar.  

Assam, the land of undulating plains and scattered mountain ranges, is a gateway to north-eastern India. The mighty Brahmaputra charts a majestic course through the state, giving rise to the lush and flourishing Brahmaputra and the Barak valleys before flowing into the neighbouring Bangladesh. Assam is an incredible blend of the modern and the ancient with its dynamic culture and tradition along with well-preserved historical monuments and wildlife sanctuaries. This magnificent land of blue hills and meandering rivers consists of rich flora and fauna, several exotic tea gardens and is the habitat of the famous one-horned rhinoceros. Assam presents a harmonious existence of nature at its element, which in turn makes it an enchanting retreat.

Guwahati, the largest city, serves as the hub. Known as Pragjyotispura in ancient times, it is located on the shores of the Brahmaputra. Guwahati has many places worth seeing. The state zoo-cum -botanical garden is a tourist attraction being located in the natural and sylvan environment of the lush green Hengrabari Reserved Forest. Here, though the animals are restricted, they dwell in their natural habitat in the midst of flora-fauna found in the forests of the state.

The Srimanta Shankardev Kalakshetra is named after the Vaishnava saint Srimanta Shankardev and provides an insight into Assamese life and culture.

History and legend

The Kamakya Temple, the celebrated Shakti temple, is situated atop the Nilachal Hills, overlooking the Brahmaputra. The tantric Shakti shrine draws a huge crowd from all over India especially during the Ambabushi and Manasha Puja. Baisisthashram, positioned in the southern-most rim of Guwahati city on the Sandhyachal hill, is named after the great Vedic Sage Vasistha. Besides these, the Planetarium and the Guwahati Oil Refinery are worth a visit. Sualkuchi, 32 km from Guwahati, is a prominent centre of silk production, particularly the golden Muga silk, which is not produced anywhere else in the world.

Overlooking the Brahmaputra from its northern bank, Tezpur boasts of a glorious past, mesmerising scenic beauty and exquisite archaeological ruins. Valleys between snow capped peaks serve as the northern backdrop highlighting the lush tea gardens along with temples and ruins making Tezpur a traveller's delight. In mythology, Tezpur is associated with the story of Usha, the daughter of asura king Bana with Annirudha, the grandson of Krishna. Tezpur — meaning city of blood — derived its name from the battle between King Bana and Lord Krishna.

Several places in and around the town are worth visiting. The ruins of Bamuni Hill are famous for their artistic beauty. The sculptural remains and two massive ornamental stone pillars dating back to the 19th and 20th century A.D are to be found preserved in the Chitralekha Udyan previously known as Cole Park. The Agnigarh Hill is another tourist attraction. The hill top gives a bird's-eye view of the town and glorious views of the sunrise and the sunset. The famous Mahabhairav temple and the Bhairabi temple devoted to Goddess Shakti are also tourist attractions. Bhalukpung on the banks of the Jia Bharali is on the border of Arunachal and Assam. It is famous for its angling and rafting.

Not to miss

The Kaziranga National Park in the Golaghat district lies in the flood plains of the Brahmaputra and is flat country with elephant grass and shallow swamps interspersed with large patches of semi-evergreen forest. Legend has it that a young man called Kazi from Karbi Anglong fell in love with a young girl called Ranga. Their clandestine meetings in the forest led to their sudden disappearance and this in turn led the forest to be named as Kaziranga. The Kaziranga National Park in Assam is best known as the abode of the magnificent one–horned rhinoceros. Besides it is also one of the important birding destinations in the world.

Majuli in upper Assam is one of the world's largest river islands. Located in the midst of the Brahmaputra it is a hub of Vaishnava culture. There are over Vaishnava monasteries or satras in Majuli like Kamalabari, Natun Kalambari, Auniati, Garmur. These are regarded as the main centres of Assamese art, music, dance, drama, literature, religion.

Sibsagar, once the capital of the Ahom kingdom, has several enthralling sights and monuments. The massive man-made tanks are worth seeing. The 250-year-old Sibsagar Tank constructed by Queen Madambika with water level that stands higher than that surrounding ground is situated in the middle of the town. A seven-storied mansion known as the Garagon Palace situated 13 km. east of Sibsagar is another tourist attraction as is the Kareng Ghar and Talatal Ghar — the latter a seven-storied structure of which three are underground — six km from Sibsagar town. The Rang Ghar is an oval two-storied pavilion from which the Ahom kings watched elephant fights and other events. At Rang Ghar, there is another large man-made lake known as the Joysagar built by King Rudrasingha in 1697.

Surrounded by tea gardens and blue hills, Digboi is a major oil town. The Digboi Refinery was established in 1901 as Asia's first refinery and the second in the world.

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Printable version | Sep 24, 2021 7:18:11 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/nxg/Blue-hills-meandering-rivers/article16300213.ece

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