Assam - the mystical land rich in flora and fauna - has been in the spotlight often, mainly for its scenic beauty, the one-horned rhino, and its tea cultivation. Did you know that there is a lot more than that to this mesmerizing land?
Below are a few very interesting facts about Assam which will make you fall in love with the place even more than you already are.
Digboi-Asia’s Oldest Refinery
Yes, Asia’s oldest refinery is located in a small town in Assam called Digboi, tucked away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Legend has it that the Britishers would tell the laborers “Dig, boy, dig!" as they dug land for crude oil, hence the name 'Digboi' came about. Digboi, which got its first refinery in the year 1901, came to be known as the Oil City of Assam.
This place is sure to mesmerize you with its well-developed infrastructure and cleanliness. While you are here, you must photograph the unique bungalows which were built before independence for British professionals who would visit to supervise work in the refinery. A walk amidst the greenery, oil plants, bungalows and the golf course at Digboi is a must.
How to reach: Located approximately 14 hours from Guwahati, it can be reached by road or rail.
Main Attractions: Assam Oil Corporation Limited, the bungalows, and Digboi Museum
Majuli-Asia’s Largest River Island
The river island of Majuli is located in the upper reaches of the river Brahmaputra. This spectacular place is sure to make you feel as if you are on a different world altogether.
Apart from this, Majuli is also regarded as the centre for Assamese culture. The Satras here were formed by the followers of Sankaradeva, where Assamese music, dance, and dance drama are being performed since ages. Bhaona and Borgeet are a few of these forms, which are being performed in these Satras with dedication, with the help of Gurus. The traditional masks and attire used in these plays is one of the main highlights
How to reach: Located 200 km from Guwahati, you can take a ferry ride to Majuli from Jorhat. You could even hire a private motorized boat.
Main Attractions: The scenic views as well as the place's cultural heritage
Mayong-Hogwarts of Assam
Not many know of this little village called Mayong in Assam has been the land of witchcraft and black magic since centuries. Mayong, the Hogwart's of Assam, has been practising magic since long before Ms. Rowling conceived of the idea of Harry Potter. In fact, the name 'Mayong' comes from the Sanskrit word 'maya', which means 'illusion'. There are many scary tales associated with Mayong - of people vanishing into thin air or beasts magically being tamed - which will surely give you goosebumps. Here, you can still find people practicing magic which have been passed down from generation to generation.
How to reach: Mayong, located about 40 km away from Guwahati, is very close to the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary. It can be easily reached from Morigaon.
Important attractions: Mayong Central Museum and Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary, which has a high number of one-honed rhinos.
Jatinga-Place Of Mass Bird Suicide!
You are sure to come across the name of this Assamese village called Jatinga every now and then, for the very bizzarre phenomenon that happens here - that of birds committing suicide. The small village of Jatinga that rests quietly in the Borail hills of Assam, has been witnessing this event of mass suicide by birds every winter for about 100 years. Hundreds of migratory birds fly at high speed towards trees and buildings, succumbing to death eventually. Why do they do this? That mystery still remains unsolved.
How to reach: Jatinga is located in the district of Dima Hason, approximately 330 km from Guwahati. It can be accessed by road from Guwahati.
Main attractions: The lush green scenery here is sure to leave you spell-bound, apart from the mystery of the bird mass suicide.
The Jonbeel Mela-The Barter Fair
This is one of the most unique festivals of Assam, where the barter system comes alive. The three-day-long Jonbeel Mela, held in the month of Magh (January or February) at Dayang Belguri in Morigaon district, celebrates the phenomenon where goods are exchanged for goods as per one’s needs. The fair was started by the Ahom kings in the 15th century, and continues till date.
How to reach: Dayang Belguri is located around 5 km from Jagiroad in Morigaon district and 32 km from Guwahati. It is easily accessible by road.
Main Attractions: Traditional dances and cock fights are the major attractions, apart from the barter fair.
The Brahmaputra-India's Only Male River
While all the other rivers flowing in India - the Ganga, Jamuna, Saraswati, Mahanadi, and Sabarmati, for instance - are addressed as 'nadi' and considered to be females, the Brahmaputra is considered a 'nada' or a male river. This is because of the strength with which it flows and also because of its width and height. Interesting, right?
The Kamakhya temple situated atop the Nilachal hills in Guwahati is one of the 108 shakti peeths. This is the place where Sati’s womb and vagina fell when Lord Shiva went berserk on knowing of her death and performed a tandav with her dead body on his shoulders. This temple does not have an idol of Kamakhya Devi, but the devotees are led towards a small room with a subterranean pool where the goddess's organ is kept covered with a red cloth. Every year during Asaad (June), the temple remains shut for three days, when it is believed that Goddess Kamakhya goes through her annual menstruation cycle. It is said that the pool of water where her uterus fell turns red during these three days. On the fourth day, the temple opens with much fanfare and celebration to the Ambubasi Mela.
Where: Around 10 km from Guwahati railway station
Assam houses the lamp which has never been turned off since 1461 - Dhekiakhowa Bornamghor.
‘Naam’ in Assamese means 'prayer' and ‘ghar’ means 'house', so 'naamghar' literally means a 'prayer house'. Very commonly found in Assam, naamghars have been around in Assam since the 15th century. These sacred spaces not only serve as prayer halls, but also as places for cultural activities and centres for learning.
It is said that the lamp at Dhekiakhowa Bornamghor, a naamghar at Jorhat, has never been put off since 1461. This lamp which was lit by the saint Madhavadeva in 1461, and has been burning ever since, religiously re-fuelled by priests from generation to generation.
Where: Dhekiakhowa Bornamghor, Jorhat
UNESCO World Heritage Sites
The Manas Wildlife Sanctuary and Kaziranga National Park - both UNESCO world heritage sites - are located in Assam. While Kaziranga is famous for its one-horned rhinos, Manas is known to have quite a few rare and endangered animal species of the world.
Where: Kaziranga is around 280 km from Guwahati and can be reached by road. Manas Wildlife Sanctuary is 176 km away from Guwahati.
Land Of Festivals
Although Bihu is the main festival of Assam, the people here celebrate a lot of other festivals with great enthusiasm. Three different types of Bihus are celebrated here - Magh Bihu in mid-January, Rongali/Bohag Bihu in mid-April, and Kaati Bihu in the month of October. The last three days of Durga Puja or Navratri are also celebrated with great gusto here.
When to visit: Although each of the Bihus is celebrated here with great enthusiasm, Rongali Bihu is a must-visit, owing to the various kinds of food prepared for the festival. The Bihu dance performed at this time in every household or locality is definitely worth a watch, too.
Houses Some Of The Biggest Tea Estates
It is common knowledge that Assam is the largest tea producer in India. As per statistics, more than 52% of the tea produced in India comes from Assam. The several lush green tea plantations in Assam are sure to mesmerize you, and you just can’t resist stopping by them. You can even plan a trip to a tea plantation, to witness how tea is manufactured.
Where: Jorhat, Dibrugarh
How to reach: Located about 300 km from Guwahati, it can be reached by rail or road.
When to visit: Mid May to June. Tea cultivation continues till early December.
The houses in Assam are worth a dekko!
The houses in Assam are unique, and can only be found here. Lately, the people of Assam too - like other places - have started favoring the building of concrete houses, traditional Assamese houses are still hot favorites. These houses are short but spacious, with thatched roofs that are perfect for the climatic condition here. The stems and leaves of bamboo trees, widely found in Assam, are commonly used in the making of these houses.
Bogibeel Bridge-The Longest Bridge In India
This combined road-and-rail-bridge is under construction, and is expected to be ready by the year 2017. On completion, this 4.94 km-long bridge across the Brahmaputra river will become the longest bridge in India. The strategic location of the bridge will be beneficial to Assam and Arunachal Pradesh in many ways.
Sole Producer Of Authentic Assam Silk (Muga/Eri and Endi).
Eri silk, white Pat silk, and golden Muga silk are the pride of Assam. Weaving is done in almost every household here, either silk or the simple gamosa (the traditional white-colored cloth with red borders). Assam is said to have the largest number of weavers as compared to other parts of India. The three types of silk found in Assam are manufactured from worms that can survive only in Assam’s climate. Sualkuchi, a place near Guwahati, produces these silks in enormous quantity and, for this reason, is regarded as the Manchester of the East. This is definitely a must-visit place in Assam, and it is the best place to buy Assamese silk as well.
How to reach: It is easily accessible by road from Guwahati.
Jagiroad-Asia’s Largest Dry Fish Market
Jagiroad, situated in the Morigaon district, around 50 km from Guwahati, is popular for being home to Asia’s largest dry fish market. This market is functional for three days a week. Jagiroad exports quite a few varieties of dry fishes to countries like Malaysia and Bhutan, and to a few other South East Asian countries as well.
How to reach: It can be reached by road or rail from Guwahati.
The Amazing Welcome Ritual
Just in case you are planning to visit Assam after knowing these amazing facts about the place, be prepared for the most unusual kind of welcome by the beautiful people here. They will drape you in the traditional Assamese gamosa - a small piece of white cloth with red borders that is unique to Assam and cannot be found anywhere else.
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