The Assam Experience – Day 3 & 4

Sleep is the perfect answer to a day marked by hard work and overeating, and sleep i did. I had a long day ahead. We were to leave Guwahati and head across the Brahmaputra to the north bank and follow the National Highway 52 to Tezpur with a halt at the Madan Kamdev Temple. From Tezpur, we were to cross the Brahmaputra again to the south bank over the Kalia Bhomora Bridge and join National Highway 37 to Kohora in Kaziranga National Park.

Route Map

We turned right from NH 52 at the village of Baihata Chariali and continued on a unpaved road for two kms to reach the base of the hill on top of which is the Madan Kamdev Temple. None of the seven temples in the complex are extant and are identifies by their plinth and foundation and the numerous exquisite sculptural fragments. The misty morning air and the strangely golden vegetation made for rather interesting ambiance.

All that remains of the once glorious temples
Lintel of what was once a door jamb
Mist-clad desolation
Loose sculpture
The goddess

After about an hour at Madan Kamdev, we resumed our onward journey towards Tezpur. The roads passed through Assam’s idyllic rural heartland. We kept stopping every now and then to capture the life around us.

I don’t belong here!
Potter on his way to the haat
And of course there were the tea gardens, reminding me of home
Mustard fields forever!

Tezpur was wrapped up at a feverish pace and we could not wait to reach Kaziranga. We were to stop here for the night and were booked at the Jhupuri Ghor, a resort run by Assam Tourism. The resort consisted of a number of independent cottages built in the traditional style with cane and bamboo. We checked in around 2:30 in the afternoon and took off immediately to the Baghori range for a jeep safari.

At the entrance to Kaziranga
My cottage @ Jhupuri Ghor
Interiors – I
Interiors – II
Welcome to Kaziranga!

The safari took us the the westernmost range of the park, Baghori. When we met the Managing Director of Assam Tourism for dinner on the first night, he had told us that “Rhinos in Kaziranga are like cattle… they graze everywhere”. At first we thought that we was simply building it up for us, but then when we spotted four rhinos from the highway itself, we started getting hopeful.

Across the stream is Kaziranga!
First sighting, Wild Water Buffalo (Bubalis bubalis arnee)
I need a good telephoto…gosh they are so expensive!
Hog Deer (Axis porcinus)
The grasslands of Kaziranga
There he is, the Great Indian One Horned Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis)
One more time, folks!

Rhino spotting seems to be the easiest thing at Kaziranga. I actually saw so many of them that by the end of it i started wondering if there are any other animals except them. At one point of time, i was staring at a field and i could count 26 of them. No, but seriously, it was amazing. Considering this is one of the few places in the world, you can see the Indian, Rhino, may their numbers increase ever so steadily. The Managing Director was right. He was not only building it up for us, but was complimenting himself on a job very well done!

The cattle of Kaziranga!
Damn them tourists!
Guardhouse, Kaziranga-style!
Sunset @ Kaziranga
Sunset @ Kaziranga
Sunset @ Kaziranga

After the delightful evening in Kaziranga, went to check out some of the local hotels and collect the details for inclusion into the book. One place that stood out was Wild Grass Resort. It had a small hut which acted as a namghor (a place of worship for Assamese Vaishnavites) where a priest was reading the kirtan (devotional hymns). The feel of the place was completely out of the world and i could not resist clicking some.

Worship – I
Worship – II
Traditional murals on the ceiling of the shrine
The Priest!

That was that for the day. Tomorrow we are to head eastwards towards our next destination, Jorhat.


The next morning, we could afford to conduct our businesses at a more relaxed pace as our next destination, Jorhat was only 97 kms away. But as is the rule, we never travel at one go. We stop for pictures,conversation and most critically, food!

Anyway, our first stop en route Jorhat was a little village on the way. The village was populated by people of the Mishing tribe. They have lived for centuries along the basin of the Brahmaputra and their history, culture and tradition are intricately linked to the great river. The trademark of Mishing people are their unique houses. Built on stilts, the houses help avoid the rising water levels of the river during the floods.

Mishing houses
Mishing House

After the Mishing village we stopped at a little eatery in Bokakhat, the last settlement in Kaziranga and ordered puri sabzi. Interestingly it came on banana leaves and was accompanied by a very hot, and very tasty chilly achar.

Sometime i wonder if man made god or god made man!
Finally someone clicks me…with the boss, that too! Notice how i put the gamosa to good use. I will demonstrate more uses for this wonderful piece of fabric in subsequent photographs.
Basket shop!

Around 25 kms from Bokakhat, after the town of Dergaon is a small village called Negheriting. It is home to a dol (derived from deul, meaning temple) built in the 17th century by the Ahom kings in the panchayatana ( where the main shrine is accompanied by four subsidiary shrines, usually in the four cardinal directions) style. Located on top of a hill, the main garbhagriha enshrines a shivalinga while the four subsidiary shines were dedicated to Durga, Vishnu, Surya and Ganesh.

Negheriting Shiva dol
Sculpture on the northern walls of the dol
Imprisoned by faith? Temple priest at Negheriting
This is interesting! The round red chillies you see here are supposed to be the hottest in the world. Locals call it Bhoot Jholokiya (one that makes you see ghosts). I was very pleased with myself when i finished an entire chilli over lunch a few days later!

By the time we reached Jorhat it was well past 2 in the afternoon and we decided to go pay a visit to the Hoolock Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary, 20 kms from Jorhat. As the name suggests, the park protects India’s only ape, the Hoolock Gibbon. We did not see any apes but i got some interesting pics.

Hoolock Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary
The region has seen an influx of migrants from Nepal. Many of them stray into the forest to illegally collect firewood. One such expedition was underway, but hearing us approach, the people fled, leaving behind these huge stacks of wood.
Someday i shall find employment as a gamosa model!
In my defense, i was unaware of the moment this pic was taken.
This is perhaps one of my favourite pics of the entire trip. We were returning to Jorhat  and the sun had started to set. I was in the back-seat of an Innova when i noticed the hues in front of me on the road. I took this shot, zoomed in through the glass. Personally, i feel this is the perfect explanation why ‘dusk’ in Bangla is called godhuli (a time when the air is full of dust [dhuli
My room at Hotel Paradise, Jorhat. Could it BE ( a la Chandler Bing) more tacky?

Well, folks, that is as much as i got for you this time. Next up, we discover more of Jorhat and the amazing Shivaagar.

Till then…