Tea plantations, ancient ruins and colonial villages. Assam in North Eastern region of India is immersed in this timeless space, away from the chaos of the metropolis. In this area, where the British arrived in the late nineteenth century, it is produced 15 percent of the world's black tea, and a good part is exported right in the UK, fought with no cooperation promoted by Gandhi at the time of colonization.
After the descent towards the plains of Assam, through gorges, waterfalls and crossing the mighty Brahmaputra, you can visit some plantations of tea, for which the state is rightly famous along with some of the villages of Mishing people. The River Brahmaputra comes from glacial lake Mansarovar in Tibet and the only navigable river in the world from which you can admire the peaks of 7,400 meters and also the only one, along with the Zambezi in Africa, from where you can make photo safaris on jeep or on elephant back.
The first mandatory stop on a journey in this unexplored area from tourist routes is Guwahati, the largest center in the region. Here you can feel the pre-colonial Indian history, combined with traces of Hindu worship.
Standing out among the temples are the Umananda Mandir, dedicated to the Shiva, located on an island in the middle of the Brahmaputra River, which bisects the city. the peacock island is home to the golden Langur monkeys. Visit the charming Temple of Kamakhya, built in 1665 on an ancient Khasi sacrificial altar. Ambubachi Mela in the period June/July is celebrated here. The bloodshed of the sacrificial animals symbolizes the end of the menstrual cycle of the goddess. An intense experience can also be have at the temple of Nabagraha, which in the past was an important astronomical center, as well as epicenter of the Tantric cult.
You can visit the sualkuchi town with its weaving workshops. You will see the whole of the silk manufacturing process, from the cocoon to spinning to dyeing and finally to the realization of the sari. Continue to Hajo, a sacred place for Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists. Visit to a shrine with a wide view of the surrounding countryside with its frieze of elephants and its sacred lake full of big carp, catfish and turtles.
Cruise to the Saraighat War Memorial. After landing in Pandu continue until the Commonwealth War Graves cemetery, dating back to the Second World War. You can proceed on board a riverboat, the direction of Kurua on the North side. The boat sails in a scenario of hills covered with thick vegetation of Mayong. Continue by road to visit the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary, a small park, home to many Asian rhinos.
The strength of Assam is a black tea cultivation, thanks to the influence of the monsoons, sees the participation of over six hundred plantations. The capital of tea is Dibrugarh, where it produces the finest leaves, the one with the golden leaf. The history of tea and its trade in this province comes from far away, in fact, the British established here the Assam Company, which still exports the product worldwide. There is a possibility of stepping back in time, visiting the plantations with excursions on horseback or by jeep.
During these visits you can see up close the production and processing of tea, and spend the night in the colonial structures of Mancotta Chang and Jalan Nagar South, built by the British in 1849. At 200 km from Guwahati is one of the most pristine places in all of Asia. Thanks to the attention that always gives the people of Assam to nature, there are several natural parks.
Of all the largest and rich in animal species is the Kaziranga National Park, born as a reserve in 1916 to protect the rare unicorn rhino that has its habitat here. In this UNESCO World Heritage site, live the single horn rhino. The dawn is the ideal time to observe it, while the typical local fog dissolves the early solar lights on the marsh and moist grasslands, which constitute its ideal habitat. Depart before dawn at the Kohora Gate, one of the entrances to the Kaziranga National Park.
A drive by jeep or an exciting elephant safari is the best way to explore the wilderness of the National Park, with the possibility of spotting white rhino surrounded by other endemic animals like deer, gaur, wild water buffalo, wild boar and an incredible variety of bird life. If you are lucky enough, you can also see the Indian tigers, very common in this area, but difficult to watch because of the grass where it can camouflage well.
You should certainly not miss a tour inside the Manas National Park in Bodoland which was also declared Unesco World Heritage. You will notice the presence of out of the ordinary flora and fauna and it will not be difficult to meet, among others, elephants, tigers, rhinos, buffalo and deer, to name a few. One way, in short, to live in direct contact with nature and find out how their creatures live freely and happily, despite the many difficulties and dangers they face every day.
Landing at Silghat awaits a trip to the lush tea plantations and is the perfect place to experience the hospitality and learn local customs. Following a walk in the plantations where laborers deftly pluck the small leaves finally you can have an interesting lesson on technique to prepare the perfect cup of tea. On the back of the boat you can sail to Majuli to be introduced to the philosophy of Vaishnavism, spread across Assam and born in Majuli by the Sankardeva during the XV-XVI Century.
He founded here the first Satra, not only a temple and place of the arts including dance and culture, it consists of a prayer hall and dormitories where the monks reside. In stark contrast with the Hindu hierarchy, Vaishnavism is strongly egalitarian, against idolatry and animal sacrifices and strongly monotheistic. Visit the Samaguri Satra where we will see the dances with masks. Also visit Kamalabari Satra where you can participate in the Matia Khora with performances by the young devotees.
Hike in Sibsagar, the ancient capital of the Ahom dynasty, who ruled Assam for more than 600 years. Here is the Shiva Dol and the wonderful rectangular tank of the Ahom queen Ambika. Here you can visit the highest temple in all of India, dedicated to Shiva. In mid April, you can see the Bihu, a show of typical dances of Assam performed by young dancers symbolizing the awakening of life in the spring season.
Move to the direction of Nameri National Park. The park at the foot of the Himalayas, is crossed by the river Jia Bhorali and its deciduous forests are home to the rare white-winged duck. Walking inside the park, it is a paradise for birdwatchers, who will have the chance to spot examples of Merganser, lapwings, martin pescatore and, with a little luck, the elusive hornbills.