Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Z for Zila Sonitpur

Kolia Bhora Setu after sunset
"Zila" means district in several Indian languages including Assamese. Assam has 27 districts and Sonitpur is one of them. Sonitpur district was created in 1983 when it was split from Darrang. The district headquarters are located at Tezpur.

The name Tezpur is derived from the Sanskrit words 'Teza' (meaning blood) and 'Pura' (meaning town or city). Legend has it that the original name of this place was 'Sonitpur' ("sonit" in Sanskrit also means blood), the capital of asura king , Banasura, a devout of Lord Shiva. Later his daughter Usha had a Gandharva marriage with Aniruddha, the grandson of Lord Krishna, whom she had abducted with the help of Chitralekha. On finding this Banasura imprisoned Anuruddha. Subsequently, in the battle between Krishna's army and Banasura's army fought for the rescue of Aniruddha, the grandson of Lord Krishna, according to legend, there was so much bloodshed that the whole place was stained in red. This led to the name of the place becoming Tezpur.

View from Agnigarh
Tezpur is the hometown of Koka (my maternal grandfather). So, it is also Ma's hometown. As a child, I have traveled several times with my grandparents to Tezpur. After Koka's retirement, they briefly stayed in Tezpur before moving to Guwahati permanently. I have done my post-graduation from Tezpur (Central) University and so have been in Tezpur for two years. You know, we could see the Kanchenjunga peak from our university campus on a clear day.

As a child, I remember being taken to all the places to see in Tezpur. Some of them are:
  • The famous Agnigarh, site of the fortress which was built by Banasura to keep his daughter Usha in isolation. The name itself is derived from the words 'Agni' (meaning fire) and 'garh' (meaning fortress or wall) in Sanskrit. 
  • Ganesh Ghat (the term ghat refers to a series of steps leading down to a body of water, particularly a holy river) next to the Ganesh temple.
  • Padum Pukhuri, literally means lotus pond, is a famous lake with an island in Tezpur.
  • Cole's Park (Chitralekha Uddyan) is a vast and beautiful park. Here one can see the two massive ornamental stone pillars and the sculptural remains of the famous bamuni hills.
  • Bhairabi temple, located in the outskirts of Tezpur on the banks of river Brahmaputra.
Nameri (N is for Nameri) is also located in Sonitpur.

But my favourite thing about this district is the Kolia Bhomora Setu (bridge) on the river Brahmaputra. This bridge connects Sonitpur on the north bank with Nagaon District on the south bank. The length of this bridge is 3015 meters. The construction of the bridge took place from 1981 to 1987. It is named after the Ahom General Kolia Bhomora Phukan.


The sunset from the bridge is absolutely spectacular. And there is always a breeze blowing. In spring, when the trees on the either side of the road leading up to the bridge are in full bloom, it is gorgeous. The flowers on the trees, forming a myriad of colours and their petals strewn on the road, the greenery all around and the blue waters. I am in love with this sight. Don't know when will be the next time I shall see it.


This is my last post for the challenge. Phew! I can't believe that I survived. I have devoted this whole month to this challenge and my blog. And finally it has come to an end. I had one hell of a time. I hope you enjoyed too!

Do keep reading me :)

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Y for Yarlung Tsangpo

Yarlung Tsangpo
Yarlung Tsangpo is the Tibetian name for the upper course of the river Brahmaputra flowing through Arunachal Pradesh and Assam of India. 

With its origin in the Angsi Glacier, located on the northern side of the Himalayas in Burang County of Tibet as the Yarlung Tsangpo River, the river flows across southern Tibet to break through the Himalayas in great gorges (including the Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon) and into Arunachal Pradesh (India) where it is known as Dihang or Siang. It flows southwest through the Assam Valley as Brahmaputra and south through Bangladesh as the Jamuna (not to be mistaken with Yamuna of India). In the vast Ganges Delta it merges with the Padma, the main distributary of the Ganges, then the Meghna, before emptying into the Bay of Bengal.
Siang
 
The Yarlung Tsangpo River is the highest major river in the world. The Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon, formed by a horse-shoe bend in the river where it leaves the Tibetan Plateau and flows around Namcha Barwa, is the deepest, and possibly longest canyon in the world.
Brahmaputra
Well, I have not seen Brahmaputra in its Yarlong Tsangpo form, but I have seen it and experienced it at different points across Assam. I have crossed it a number of times via the Saraighat bridge in Guwahati and Kolia Bhomora bridge in the Sonitpur district. I have picnicked on its banks several times. I have lived near it. And I have experienced a flood cause by it as a child. In Assam, the river is more plain as it has no falls or rapids. But it creates havoc every year during the rains. You can read more on that in my post "Rain Bane".
This mighty river has such a remarkable journey. Starting as Yarlung Tsangpo, becoming Siang, transforming into Brahmaputra, mingling to become Jamuna and finally merging into the Bay of Bengal. In India, all river names are feminine except Brahmaputra (it means son of Brahma). Hence, it is often referred to as the only male river of India.


Jamuna

I would love to see the gorgeous beginnings of this gorgeous river someday, Yarlung Tsangpo.

Monday, April 28, 2014

X for saraighat (e)Xpress


The Saraighat Express is a daily superfast train which runs between Howrah (Kolkata) and Guwahati (Assam). The train is named after the famous Battle of Saraighat fought between Mughals and Ahom rulers of Assam (Ahom Kingdom) in which Mughals were defeated by the Ahoms under the great leadership of Mahavir Lachit Borphukan Commander-in-Chief. The train belongs to Eastern Railways zone of Indian Railway headquartered at Howrah.

Now you must be wondering why I jumped to a train when I have been writing for this challenge on places. Well, this is a place for me because I have spent innumerable hours on this train. After I went to Kolkata for studies in the year 2003 and stayed there till 2007, I had taken this train at least twice a year (sometimes thrice) to visit home, i.e. Assam. And each time includes to and fro journeys. It is overnight journey and it takes nineteen hours to reach Guwahati from Kolkata and vice-versa.

Except a couple of times, I have always traveled in a group by Saraighat Express. All of us students of the same institute from the northeast region of India. And as students, we could not afford the flight tickets. And we had always traveled by sleeper class. The AC coach did not fit  into our pocket money either. And no, our parents did not indulge us (I am so happy that they did not).  In the beginning, we were only a handful of students. But with each additional year, students from our region increased and so did our travel group. It was so much fun. And most importantly we learned so many things mainly being independent. From booking tickets together using our student quota to getting home without our parents or elders, it was a liberating experience. Getting a taxi, carrying bags, traveling without confirmed tickets, loudly gossiping late into the night in the train, getting scolded by co-passengers, getting food at stations and train vendors, every bit of it was memorable.

Then there was my husband Az (we were dating then) seeing me off and receiving me at the station every time. My juniors (including my younger sister Namz, we have always studied in the same institutes) giving us some alone time as we said our goodbyes when we were going home. And me getting freshened up as we near the Howrah station on our way back. Namz still teases me about it. 

There are so many splendid memories associated with this particular train. And so it is one memorable place to me.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

W for Ward's Lake



Ward's Lake is a beautiful man-made lake in Shillong, in the State of Meghalaya of India. The lake is named after Sir William Ward, the then, Chief Commissioner of Assam. (Shillong was once the capital of undivided Assam). A beautiful little lake with short garden walks and boating facilities - this is a popular spot for both local and visiting tourists. It is known as Nan-Polok among the locals.

The first time I visited Ward's Lake was in 1995, when I went to participate in the 1st Junior National Karate championship. Since then, I have visited the lake a number of times. There is a ornamental bridge across the lake, where you can stand and feed the goldfish below. The lake is full of pretty and big goldfish, who are in my opinion quite obese. Thanks to the generous visitors. You can buy food for them from the vendors inside the lake complex.

The last I was there was in December 2009, along with my office buddies. We all had joined the organization only a month prior to the visit. Here are a few pictures.

 
 

Friday, April 25, 2014

V for Village of Hauz Khas

Hauz Khas Village is located in  South Delhi, India. The Complex houses a water tank, an Islamic seminary, a mosque, a tomb and pavilions built around an urbanized village with medieval history traced to the 13th century of Delhi Sultanate reign. It was part of Siri, the second medieval city of India of the Delhi Sultanate of Allauddin Khilji Dynasty (1296–1316). The etymology of the name Hauz Khas in Urdu language is derived from the words ‘Hauz’: “water tank” (or lake) and ‘Khas’:“royal”- the “Royal tank”. 



In the 1980s, Hauz Khas Village, studded with domed tombs of Muslim royalty from the 14th to 16th centuries, was developed as an upper class residential cum commercial area in the metropolis of South Delhi, India. It is now a relatively expensive tourist cum commercial area with numerous art galleries, upscale boutiques and restaurant. The present status of the village also retains not only the old charm of the place but has enhanced its aesthetic appeal through the well manicured green parks planted with ornamental trees all around with walk ways, and the sophisticated “gentrified” market and residential complexes which have sprung up around the old village. The tank itself has been reduced in size and well landscaped with water fountains.


In December last year, on one weekend, Az and I visited Hauz Khaz Village. We parked outside the Deer Park and walked through the park to the Hauz Khas Complex. People were peeking at deers through the wired fence. The deers, who are used to human attention, were grazing and lazying around like ordinary cattle, least interested in the human folk.

As it was a weekend, the Village was quite crowded. The complex with all its monumental components is quite a pretty sight. With the gorgeous ruins against the greenery and the water body, we were taken back in time. The ruins were brimming with families, couples and groups. There were also young musicians getting ready for an evening program. The park around the water tank is very vast and I was quite tired at the end of our walk around it. The deer park is a part of this park area. Apart from the deers, there were also peacocks, and swans and ducks at the water body. There are also monkeys roamig freely in the park area. They have a good time scaring the visitors. The vicinity of the complex is dotted with numerous restaurants, boutiques and galleries. By the time we headed back it was almost dark.
 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

U for Umananda




The Peacock Island at sunset
Umananda Devaloi is located on the Peacock island (the smallest inhabited Riverine Island in the world) in the middle of the Brahmaputra in Guwahati city, Assam. To reach the temple, one has to cross the river in a boat. Lord Shiva is said to have resided here in the form of Bhayananda. According to the Kalika Purana, in the beginning of the creation Siva sprinkled ashes (bhasma) at this place and imparted knowledge to Parvati (his consort). There are various other legends of Lord Shiva associated to this island.
The island
The temple
The temple of Umananda was built in 1694 A.D. by the Bar Phukan Garhganya Handique by the order of King Gadadhar Singh (1681–1696), one of the ablest and strongest rulers of the Ahom dynasty. The original temple was however immensely damaged by a devastating earthquake of 1897. Later, it was reconstructed by a rich local merchant who chose to inscribe the interior part of a Siva temple with Vaisnavite slogans.

I visited Umananda in the summer of 2009 with my mother, grandmother, uncle, aunty and  their daughters. We paid our respects and then had lunch, which my grandmother packed from home, on the island itself. It was a holiday so the place was quite crowded. What I liked best on the island was the Golden Langurs who inhabit the island. While you are there, you better feed them. I am sharing few pictures of the animal. Watch out for its long tail.

 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

T for Tsuglagkhang Temple

  
Located in McLeod Ganj, just above the town of Dharamsala, India, the Tsuglagkhang Complex is the official home of the 14th Dalai Lama. The complex houses the Photang (Dalai Lama's residence), Tibet Museum, Tsuglagkhang Temple, and Namgyal Gompa.

The Tsuglagkhang temple has statues of Shakyamuni, AvalokiteĊ›vara, and a statue of Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche). The original image at the Tsuglagkhang (Jokhang) in Lhasa, had been an object of devotion since the 7th century when it was commissioned by King Songtsen Gampo. During the cultural revolution when statues and religious objects were tossed out and destroyed, Avalokitesvara, ended up in a heap of rubble with all the others.Somehow, both a wrathful and peaceful aspect of the face were discovered and salvaged from the rubble.The images were then carefully passed from hand to hand, and eventually found their way to India, then to Dharamsala, where they were encased as precious relics into the newly sculpted image of Avalokitesvara. In the present times, the temple is popularly known as the Dalai Lama Temple.
 
McLoeodganj was a part of the trip my husband and I took to Himachal Pradesh in November 2013 (more about this trip in "To The Hills and Back"). We visited the Tsuglagkhang Temple on a Monday morning. Monday is the day when His Holiness himself delivers the sermon. So we had to go though the strict security checks and deposit our mobile phones and camera. So we could not take any pictures inside. The inside of the temple was full of devotees of various devotees. The sermon was transmitted in two languages. One section of the devotees were listening to His Holiness directly and the other section was listening to the english translation. And there were monks who were serving the hot tea to the visitors.

From a information board in the premises the temple, we learnt about the Gedhun Choekyi Nyima. Gedhun Choekyi Nyima (born 25 April 1989) is the eleventh Panchen Lama of Tibetan Buddhism as recognised by the Dalai Lama and various other Tibetan Buddhist leaders. He was born in Lhari County, Tibet. On 14 May 1995, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was named the 11th Panchen Lama by the 14th Dalai Lama. After his selection, he was detained by authorities of the People's Republic of China and has not been seen in public since 17 May 1995.He is said to be the world's youngest political prisoner.

 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

S for Silghat

Silghat is a town located on the southern banks of the Brahmaputra, in Nagaon district, Assam. It is 48 km northeast of Nagaon. Major points of attraction include the Hatimura Temple and huge Samantagiri hillock.

Last January, I took a trip home along with my husband and my sister. It was picnic season and we also thought of going for a family picnic. So off we went to Silghat. We packed our snacks, tea, water and our lunch from home. Maa wanted to visit the famed Hatimura Temple. So it was our first stop. In the vicinity of the temple we had our snacks. And then we headed towards the popular Silghat Kamakhya temple. We did not visit the temple and directly headed for the river bank. It was winter season, so the river was very calm and the water levels low. Unlike the vicinity of the Hatimura Temple (it is also located on the river bank), there were no noisy picnic parties around. So it was very serene.
 
 
 

When we reached there, it was already lunch time. Deta (my father) walked down to the river to wash his feet and got stuck in the river mud. So it was not not a good idea to walk down to the river without shoes. After lunch we lied down on our mats and spent our time gazing at the blue river and the blue clear sky. Then my sister and I took a walk along the river and took some pictures. Soon it was late afternoon and it was time to leave. And then suddenly we spotted a couple of river dolphins who had come to the surface. We saw their curved backs as they jumped out of the water and dived again. They were quite fast to be captured on our ordinary cameras. But the sight of them which our brains captured will be etched on our memories forever. The dolphins made our day.

To me, dolphins seem to have smiling faces. Don't they?



Monday, April 21, 2014

R for Rang Ghar

Rang Ghar
The Ahom Kingdom (1228–1826, also called Kingdom of Assam) was a kingdom in the Brahmaputra valley in Assam, India that maintained its sovereignty for nearly 600 years and successfully resisted Mughal expansion in North-East India. The dynasty was established by Sukaphaa, a Shan prince of Mong Mao who came to Assam after crossing the Patkai mountains. The rule of this dynasty ended with the Burmese invasion of Assam and the subsequent annexation by the British East India Company following the Treaty of Yandabo in 1826.

Rang Ghar is the double storied royal pavallion which was built by the Ahom King Pramatta Singha during the year 1744-51 for watching games of birds and animal fights besides the cultural programmes. It is 3 km away from the center of the Sivasagar Town. Situated by the side of the Assam Trunk Road, it lies to the northeast of the Rangpur Palace, a seven-storied royal complex comprising the Talatal Ghar and the Kareng Ghar.

The roof of the super structure is constructed in the reverse form of a boat having crocodile shaped ending. The outer walls of this pavallion are beautifully curved with geometrical and floral design. The Rang Ghar is said to be the oldest amphitheater in Asia. The Ahoms used thinly baked bricks for their buildings. They did not have the use of cements and so used  a paste of rice (sticky rice) and eggs (primarily duck eggs) as mortar for their construction.

 


I have grown up in Jorhat which is almost 60 kilometres fro Sibsagar. I have been there a couple of times as a child to visit the Ahom monuments. It has been decades now. I wish to visit the monuments again. I have heard that the monuments quite well maintained now. But there is disheartening news too. It is in news that frequent earthquakes and seismic surveys being undertaken by the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation are posing a threat to Assam’s 18th century amphitheatre Rang Ghar. At least 35 cracks have been noticed at various places on the walls of the historic Rang Ghar.
 
I am taking part in the Blogging From A to Z Challenge [April 2014].

More information on the Rang Ghar at http://www.assaminfo.com/tourist-places/3/rang-ghar.htm