When I visited you the February 2017, it was a trip of many firsts — the first time I was travelling to the Northeast region of India, the first time I visited Assam, the first time I visited a wildlife sanctuary (as an adult), the first time I brought back fresh produce from the Uzanbazaar market in Guwahati for my Amma, much to her surprise and great delight, and many more firsts.
The trip materialised out of the blue with an invitation to be a part of journalists and travel writers from the organisers of the Rongali Assam, a cultural festival to be held in Guwahati in the first week of February 2017. Even, as I sent in my acceptance mail to the organisers of Rongali, I was already planning how I could do some independent travel on my own in Assam.
Some research later, I zeroed in on visiting Kaziranga, Sivasagar, and Hoollongapar for a three-day independent trip before I joined the rest of the group for the Rongali Festival. It has been more than two years since that trip, but I can still remember the wide-eyed excitement and thrill I felt when I landed in Guwahati, and which lasted me all through the trip. When I boarded my return flight to Mumbai 6 days later, it was with a suitcase full of souvenirs and brochures, a heart filled with happiness and also memories and experiences of a trip like no other.
Let me give you a glimpse into what my Assam trip was like.
The first thing I wanted to see was the Brahmaputra, for I love rivers and have great reverence for them. But unfortunately I didn’t get to see it till 3 days later when I returned to Guwahati for the Rongali Festival. It was an emotional moment to see this mighty river like none other. It is so vast that it looks like the sea — wherever you look, the river fills your vision.
I have visited wildlife sanctuaries as a child, but the Kaziranga National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was my first as an adult. I’m conflicted when it comes to visiting wildlife sanctuaries, but I decided to visit anyway. And for good measure visited the Hoollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary near Jorhat. Both were memorable visits, but left me with a lot of questions and thoughts to introspect.
One of the reasons I chose to visit Sivasagar was to get acquainted with the Ahom dynasty who ruled Assam from 1228 CE for 600 years. Sivasagar has many monuments — royal, religious and secular — built by the Ahoms. About 30 km from Sivasagar is Charaideo, where the royal burial grounds of the Ahoms are located. Without doubt, Sivsagar was the highlight of my trip.
I wasn’t planning on visiting the Assam State Museum in Guwahati, but one I had an afternoon free in Guwahati and the Museum was a natural choice for me to spend some time there. And I’m so glad I went for it was a revelation. I should be more specific and say that the sculpture gallery was a revelation and it remains one of the best sculpture galleries I have seen in Museums across India.
I thought I would have the time to only visit the Kamakhya Temple at Guwahati, but I manged to see many more. The temples were so different architecturally and aesthetically from what I have seen before, that every visit was a revelation and like a new lesson in temple art !
On my last day in Assam, I went to the Uzanbazaar market in Guwahati and kind of went berserk with the fresh produce available. When I left the market an hour later, I left with two bags full of fresh vegetables and these fragrant juicy lemons. When I reached home in Mumbai that evening, my mother asked me snidely if I had gone to Assam to shop for vegetables !
There is so much more to write and share, but I’ll do that in the blogposts to follow. This letter was meant to convey, in brief, a summary / snapshots of my trip. In the weeks to come, I’ll be enumerating on most of the highlights and sharing detailed posts. one by one
I end this letter with an apology for the delay in writing this letter, dear Assam. It should have been written and posted 2 years ago. But then life happened or to be honest, laziness and procrastination happened. But now, not only has the letter got written and posted, other blogposts on my Assam trip of February 2017 are also ready. Hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed reminiscing about that trip. I don’t know when my second, third or more trips will happen, but I do know that they will — after all I have so many places to visit, as the brochures in the photograph bellow reveal ! 🙂
Disclaimer: Part of the Assam trip was facilitated by the Rongali Team; the views and words in this post are, however, all mine.
The Assam Series: Rongali Assam 2017 | Dear Assam |