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Moushumi Ghosh

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Dhritiman Mukherjee

The sight of mighty Bramahaputra along with its tributaries was exhilarating from the sky… “Brahamaputra” is the soul of Assam .The life and fate of the people from Assam revolves around this mighty flood prone river. Brahamaputra, is worshipped as the son of “Brahama”, the Creator.

Brahamaputra one of the most predominant rivers in the world. Being a Trans boundary river It starts the journey as the Tsangpo, near the sacred Mt Kailash in South western Tibet  and flows through the mountainous Tibet ,forming The  deepest and the largest canyon of the world namely, Yarlung Zangbo Grand Canyon , after flowing at an average altitude of 4000 mts in Tibet the river takes the course to Arunachal Pradesh where he is named as  Siang , and further passes through Assam where it joins with other two major rivers Dibang and Luit along with many other tributaries, and the river creates the fertile Brahamapurta Valley in Assam. Further down in Bangladesh the river is known as Jamuna and merges with river Ganges ,flows further down as two great rivers as Padma and Meghna after forming the largest delta at Sundarbans it merges into the Bay of Bengal. This mighty river completes its journey of 2900 kms from its source to its confluence.

One of my main attraction to come to Assam was to travel along this mighty river, to see and feel the river and the natural heritage around Brahamaputra from a close counter. We took a flight to Guwahati from Delhi. Our flight landed at Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport.

Guwahati :

Guwahati the largest city and the business capital in the North East and considered to be the gataway to North East India, the city is expanded between the southern bank of mighty Brahamaputra and the foothills of Shillong Plateau.

A car was waiting for us at the airport, we deided to go to Neelachal Hills to see the famous Kamakshya Temple .Kamakshya is one of the 52 shaktipeethas, it is belived that “Sati” s genital organ fell in this place, Sati is worshipped here as Bhubaneshwari,Chinnamasta, Bagalamukhi, Tara etc. This is one of the most worshipped pilgrimage for Tantrics and Hindus.

We stayed at Kamakshya till the evening, then returned to the city and checked into a hotel with a great view of the river.

Next morning we visited  Chitrasal Hill to see the Navagraha Temple, the temple was the center for ancient astronomical research. It is dedicated to nine planets in the solar system. It was wonderful to know that this marvel of science was built  during 17th century.

Our next destination was Madan Kamdev in Dewangiri Hill, Alike the famous Kajuraho temple in Madhya Pradesh  this is also an archeological site with erotic sculpture. The natural surrounding of these sculptures added more spice to this place. The history of this sculpture is still unveiled, but it has been assumed that this was built during 10th to 12th century.

After a brief visit to Madan Kamdev we drove down 35 kms to Hajo.Hazo symbolizes secular India , Hajo attrtacts worshippers of all faiths. It is of immense significance as it is the meeting point of three religions in Assam - Hinduism, Islam and Buddhism.We visited few temples , monastries and mosques ,interacted with people to understand the unique secular ambience of this place.

We decided to visit the famous textile village Saulkuchi, the village is located on the bank of Brahamaputra and is recognized by India tourism as an ideal textile village. Textile tourists from all over the world come to Guwahati to experience silk manufacturing in Saulkuchi.This village has historic tradition of weaving. Golden Muga silk is being produced here from Semi domesticated silk worm known as Antheraea Assamensis, which is endemic to Assam. Mostly these silks are being exported. The crafts men gave us a warm welcome, and took us around the village, we were delighted to see the workshops .

In the evening we took a brief cruise on the river, the sediment heavy water of the magnum river looked amazing at the dusk.

Orang National Park :

Next day we planned to reach Tejpur via Orang National Park.Orang is 140 km drive from Guwahati and situated on the North Bank of Brahamaputra in Udaigiri district of Assam. The park is famous for it’s pristinely and scenic beauty. The Park consists of tall grassland, woodland and wetland including the channels and islands of Brahamaputra.

Indian one-horned rhinoceros is the main dominant species among other animals Asiatic elephant, tigers, hog deer, civet, porcupines are found here.Orang is a great destination for bird watchers, a great number of migratory birds along with some endemic grassland birds are found here. Snakes like python Cobras and different species of turtles are also found in Orang.

In our brief Jungle safari we could locate a number of One Horned Rhinos, hog deer, a tusker. A pallas fish eagle grabbed out attention with its spectacular hunting of gigantic fishes.

Accommodation in Orang is available only in the forest departments guest house, since it requires a prior permission we decided to drove down further 68 kms to the historic town of Tejpur.

In and around Tejpur:

Tejpur is situated  in the Sonitpur District of Assam on the Northern bank of Brahamaputra.Tejpur is one of the most beautiful towns in Assam, surrounded by tea gardens, river, archeological ruins, forests and hills.

We decided to stay in and around Tejpur for couple of days to explore the surroundings.

Next morning we opted for a country boat cruise on Brahamaputra, our intention was to see the livelihood around the river and to look for the Gangetic dolphin. Brahamaputra is one of the major habitat of this endangered species.

 

The boat ride through the river was an amazing experience . We could locate a couple of dolphins, but we could see only the body of the dolphins, they were not lifting the face above the water. The fishing with the Chinese net was interesting to watch.

We went for a brief visit to the ruins of Bamuni hills, and then drove down to Bhalukpong.Bhalukpong is situated on the foothills of the Eastern Himalaya beside the Kameng River, one of the most scenic spots in the state bordering between Arunachal Pradesh and Assam, further down in Assam ,this Kameng river is named as Jia Bhoroli and it merges into Brahamaputra .

Iner line permit is required to visit the Arunachal part of Bhalukpong, However we could manage a permit and visited Tipi ,Asia’s largest orchidarium with more than 7500 orchids. The colurs and granduars of the orchids are unexplainable.

While returning, we saw river Kameng cascading down through the hills with all its granduar, at the Elephant flat.

Next day we visited Nameri National Park.

Nameri National Park is situated in the border of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, in the foothills of Eastern Himalaya. It covers an area of 200 Sq. Km with river Jia Bhoroli flowing inside the park. Nameri is home to some of the endangered species like Sloth Bear, Royal Bengal Tiger, Clouded Leopard, Indian Wild Dog and winged rarities like white winged wood duck, four varieties of Hornbill and many other birds. Jia Bhoroli river of Assam is famous for the Mahseer angling.  The river is home to the endangered Golden Mahseer.

We went for a rafting in Jia Bhoroli along the forest and could trace few rare birds like ibisbill, margerzer etc . In the afternoon we crossed the river and trekked inside the park

Night stay was in a  wonderfully located eco camp beside Jia Bhoroli.

Next morning we crossed Brahamaputra at Tejpur and drove down to Kaziranga National Park..Kaziranga is the Jewel in the crown ,blessed with natural heritage which attracts thousands of tourists all over the world every year. This is one of the best managed and happening parks in the country.

Kaziranga National Park :

Kaziranga National Park is situated in the Golaghat District of Assam .It covers an area of 470 sq. kms. This is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Kaziranga is situated on the flood plains of Brahmaputra and is the haven to some of the most exotic and endemic wildlife in the World. Most important of all is Indian One Horned Rhinoceros. The forest consists of tall dense grasslands, open woodlands, streams and wetlands. . The park is divided into 4 ranges. The Eastern or the Agoratoli range covers the eastern part with woodland interspersed with grassland and wetlands. The Kohora range covers the central part and it is most easily accessible. The Baguri range covers the western part of the Park and has the highest rhinoceros density. Burhapahar, 4th range, covers the first additional area attached to the Park. First three ranges are open for the visitors.Kaziranga is a birding paradise with a checklist of almost 500 species. Key species include Bengal Florican, Swamp Francolin, Pale-capped Pigeon, Great and Wreathed Hornbill, Jerdon's Baza, Slender-billed Vulture, Pallas’s Fishing Eagle, Imperial Eagle, Greater Spotted Eagle, Pied Harrier, Oriental Hobby, Greater Adjutant Stork, Hodgson’s Bushchat, Rufous-vented Prinia, Marsh Babbler, Jerdon’s Babbler, and Black-breasted Parrotbill.

"Big Five" - the elephant, rhinoceros, wild buffalo, tiger and Swamp Deer. are found in Kaziranga. A total of about 50 species of mammals are found in the park, which includes rare animals like Gangetic Dolphin, Chinese Pangolin, Hoolock Gibbon, Hog-Badger and Parti-coloured Flying Squirrel. 39 reptiles make the list and include the endangered Gharial and the rare Assam Roofed Turtle. Both Reticulated and Rock Pythons are found here.

We checked into wildlife resort, took safaris in all the ranges of the park along with elephant ride .The wildlife viewing experience was more than satisfactory.

We completed a list of 75 species of birds and about 20 species of mammals in just 3 days time. We sighted Indian One horned Rhinos and Indian elephants in huge number in every nook and corner of the park. Eastern range is adjusant to Brahamaputra,it was amazing to see a heard of elephant along with other animals on the bank of the river.

Majuli, Jorhat & Gibbons Sanctuary :

After the rewarding experience at Kaziranga we planed to visit Majuli Island. Two hours drive took us to Jorhat, We crossed the ferry at Nimatighat, The river was at its full majesty . The smell of the water, the cool breeze and the sound of ferry the fish traps, the rice fields on the banks of the river took us to a different world all together.

Situated just 20 kms away from Jorhat, Majuli is the largest river inlands in the world, it was formed due to the change of the course of Brahamaputra along with its tributaries. The island is situated in the middle of the river spreaded over 886 sq kms. But the area of the island is decreasing rapidly due to the river erosion. Majuli is the center of culture and heritage of Assam. This is the nerve center for music, dance art and

craft, a part of majuli is inhabited by the colourful tribes and it is famous for for its innumerous Satras or Monastries.

The wetlands in and around the island is a real paradise for birders, thousands of migratory birds takes over the place in the winters. We encountered a handful number of  resident birds in our short visit. Majuli has been short listed by unesco as world heritage site.

After a days excursion at Majuli we stayed the night at a beautiful colonial tea bungalow at Jothat. Jorhat is spreaded along the Brahamaputra and its tributaries  is one of the most important agricultural township in Assam.The town is a Jewel in the crown amidst the lush green tea gardens.It is the tea capital of Assam. Research and experimentation on new variety of tea and its therapeutic use is done in here.

Next day we intended to visit Gibbons sanctuary in the morning before we start our journey for Dibrugarh.

Gibbons sanctuary is spreaded over a small area of 20 hecters of area in the south bank of Brahamaputra .The sanctuary consists of evergreen rain forest and surrounded by tea gardens. It is named after the endangered “Hoolock Gibbons”

Hoolock Gibbons are the only existing ape in India. Apart from Gibbons Stump tailed Macaque, Pig-tailed Macaque,Resus Macaque,Assamese Macaque, Capped Langur and the Slow loris are found here.This small sanctuary has got enormous importance to the nature lovers all over the world since this is the habitat for seven species of primates and most of them are endemic to North East India.

We were lucky enough to see a family of Holock Gibbons , few capped langur and a pig tailed macaque , quite a number of Resus Macaque in our brief visit to the sanctuary.

Our next destination was Dibrugarh.

Shibsagar :

On the way to we made a brief visit to Shivsagar. Shivsagar was the ancient capital of Assam.The ancient architectures are influenced by South East Asian architecture. The city is named after the water body or the tank adjusant to three famous temples namely, Shivadol Vishnudol and Devidol . The Shivadol temple is 104 feet high and the one of the most important temples in Assam. The water body is called Borpukhuri.Migratory birds are found in large number in this tank.Critically endangered bird Greater adjutant stocks are found here in good number. After spending some time with the birds we continued our Journey to Dibrugarh. Dibrugarh is 5 hours drive from Jorhat.

 

Dibrugarh & Dibrusaikhowa National Park :

As we entered Dibrugarh the car was passing through the lush green tea gardens in the Brahamaputra Valley, rich tea aroma was in the air, and the sky was crystal blue.Dibrugarh is the tea capital of Assam.We could realise we have entered in the very heart of the land of Brahamautra.Dibrugarh .Dibrugarh stretches on the northern bank, Brahamaputra is at its best here along with its major tributaries.At places the river is  10 kms wide, it rather looks like a sea, both the banks are not visible at the same time. Dibrugarh is consists of flood plains of Bhahamaputra , swamps and bheels.We could smell the river from every nook and corner.We stayed the night in a beautiful tea bunglow . We were severed exotic colonial cuisine along with the garden fresh tea.

Next morning we woke up with the singing of brain fever bird, after a brief birding session we went to see tea processing and the life of the people in the tea gardens. We heard that few days back a leopard has given birth to few cubs inside the garden. We longed to see the small cubs, but with a second thought decided not to disturb the mother and the little ones. After a lavish breakfast we proceeded to Guijan, near Tinsukia to our final destination to Dibrusikhowa National Park

Dibrusaikhowa National Park consists of 340 sq kms. of grassland, riverine and swampy area, including a large area of deciduous and ever green forests. The park is situated on the flood plains of Brahamaputra and is sandwiched between Brahamaputra and its tributary Dibru river. It is a Biodiversity hotspot, a Tiger reserve, and a National park.

350 species of birds and 26 species of Mammals have been recorded in the park.

Some of the important birds of this area are Marsh Babbler, Jordon’s Babbler, Black-breasted Parrot bill, Swamp Prinia and Jordon’s Bush chat. Some of the other species found here are Swamp Francolin, Cotton Pygmy-goose, Spot-billed Duck, Speckled Piculet, Drongo Cuckoo, Pale-capped Pigeon, Grey-headed Lapwing, Slender-billed Vulture, Red-necked Falcon, Peregrine Falcon etc

 

Important mammals of this area are the six species of primates, seven species of cats, such as tiger leopard, leopard cat, clouded leopard, golden cat, fishing cat, jungle cat. It is also home for Indian Elephant, Asiatic wild buffalo, feral horse. Forest is approachable through the river, the adventurous ones can trek inside the park. We took a boat ride in the morning in search of Dolphins and the endemic grassland birds, In the evening we visited the nearby Motapan Magul Beel,  Thousands of migratory birds made this wetland a paradise for birders. Next day we opted to trek in the park through the undulated dense woodland, We had to cross river and streams on the way,  the landscape was breathtaking inside the park. We opted to spent the night in a  small camp beside Dibru River just opposite to the park.

It was our final night at the Brahamaputra basin. Incidentally it was the Assamese new year eve, the festivity was in the air , we were fortunate enough to see a Bihu dance performance .The sun was about to set at the back drop of Dibru river. The male and Female dancers gorgeously dressed in golden muga silk mekhla chaddar and gamochas, girls looked exotic with coca flower garland tied around their hair. They danced gracefully with melodious folk tune, .Sheer Joy reflected from their repetitive movement. This famous form of Assamese folk dance is all about celebration of life .

The Brahamaputra basin turned magical with the music and dance against the changing colours of the setting sun.

We have to return to the urban life , but this 2 weeks travel along this mighty river  has been an experience of a life time . The memories of the Brahamaputra basin  always carry a special place in our hearts.