“Elita, you cannot come to Nagaland right now. There is an indefinite state-wide ‘bandh’ beginning today. I am so sorry about this” read the text message.

The effects of having spent five days in heavily militarised Manipur (though very safe with nothing untoward happening at all) had just begun to wear off as we settled ourselves in Mizoram’s Aizawl.

But Aizawl was going to be a short visit from the very beginning – a mere 48 hours.

Many route-maps through India’s northeast had been drawn and redrawn in the months preceding my impeding journey to the region. I was on version 7 of that route-map the day I left Mumbai for Guwahati mid-January earlier this year.

That SMS from my friend in Nagaland about the curfew alerted my prefrontal cortex that version 8 would have to be birthed now. Evidently, my amygdala was in the least bit pleased.

Assam, Tezpur, river, Brahmaputra

 

Hello again, Guwahati

Unrest in the northeast has lent a bad name to the region. But if you would have read my account from Manipur (and stand by for one from Nagaland), you will know that while conditions are challenging, it is the locals who are most affected. Tourism, on the other hand, can actually help the locals because of the revenue it brings. In other words, don’t let the news paralyse your plans of exploring the region.

But back to version 8 of my route map, my friend and I were crouched over our phones at our guesthouse in Aizawl, pinching our screens reacquainting ourselves with Google Maps and finding our next best alternative.

Aizawl, Mizoram, airport
Aizawl’s Lengpui Airport

Flying out of Lengpui Airport the morning after that SMS meant returning to somewhat familiar environs after 10 odd days; during which we’d hopped in and out of Tripura, Manipur and Mizoram. Yes, we were back in Guwahati and it was a reaffirmation that this capital city of Assam was like how most capital cities are – urban and therefore, cacophonous, congested and also, dirty.

But among some of the things most capital cities get right, Guwahati has been redeeming with its food, in general and street food, in particular.

street food, India, chaat,
When in India’s east, always say YES to puchkas (distant relatives of Delhi’s gol-guppes and Mumbai’s paani-puri)
Bamuni Hills, Bamuni Pahar, Tezpur, Sonitpur, Assam, northeast
Ruins that are now being managed by the Archaeological Survey of India

 

Ruins that are now being managed by the Archaeological Survey of India

Guwahati – Tezpur – Kaziranga

With our train tickets from Guwahati to Dimapur cancelled, we made our way to Tezpur. What I imagined would be a stopover to catch up with a friend turned out to be an insight into the intrigue that is Tezpur.

The cultural capital of Assam and located along the banks of the mighty Brahmaputra, there is more to Tezpur than meets the eye. Mild and calm in contrast to Guwahati, Tezpur has a pace and charm of her own that you gently begin to experience once you’re on the Kolia Bhomora Setu.

My ignorance and curiosity got my friend to introduce us to her uncle who shared his many recommendations with us. And since we had just that day in hand and had to obtain a new Inner Line Permit (ILP) for Arunachal Pradesh on priority – owing to the rejig and route-map number 8 – we settled to make a visit to two key points of interest.

P.S.: Obtaining a new ILP was no sweat at all. Find your way to the Deputy Resident Commissioner’s office in Tezpur and fill out a form requesting for a new permit and submit two photographs and a self-attested copy of a government recognised ID card. And you’re done.

It is the same process you would follow for either of the three states – Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh – irrespective of where you apply for the permit.

Tezpur

Here’s a bit of a backstory.
Before Tezpur was named so, it was known as Sonitpur which today is the name of the district. Interestingly, both Sonit and Teza translate to mean blood; the former in Pali and the latter in Sanskrit. According to a myth, a battle ensued between the armies of Krishna and Shiva that resulted in a bloodshed, leaving the entire place drenched red.

When myth and history combine, they sure do create something beyond imagination!

This was some of the nuggets of information I was able to pick from our conversation with an official from the Guwahati Circle of the Archaeological Survey of India in Tezpur.

But between having some time to kill and then going to re-apply for our ILP, we made two stopovers:

(i) Bamuni Pahar:
These are but ruins today. A heap comprising of the most intrinsically carved rubble. To a passer-by, like yours truly, these seem unseen and invisible to the rest of the world.

I was naturally tempted to enter my own mind place as if to recreate what this structure might have been dating back to sometime between the 6th and 10th century AD – because I really wish there was more information to glean from.

Legend has it that Aniruddha, Krishna’s nephew, fell in love with Usha, the daughter of Banasura – a thousand-armed asura king, who disapproved of the match and had imprisoned Aniruddha in this place.

Bamuni Hills, Bamuni Pahar, Tezpur, Sonitpur, Assam, northeast
Ruins that are now being managed by the Archaeological Survey of India

 

Ruins that are now being managed by the Archaeological Survey of India

 

Bamuni Hills, Bamuni Pahar, Tezpur, Sonitpur, Assam, northeast
Ruins that are now being managed by the Archaeological Survey of India

(ii) Da Parbotia
Not too far away is yet another relic – Da Parbotia: a door frame that is a part of the remains of a temple consecrated to the Ganga and Jamuna who are carved and depicted on the lower sections of the doors, holding garlands in their hands. This too is believed to date back to somewhere around the 10th century AD.

Tezpur, Sonitpur, Assam, northeast
Da Parbotia: the door frame

 

Da Parbotia, Tezpur, Sonitpur, Assam, northeast
Temple bell
Da Parbotia, Tezpur, Sonitpur, Assam, northeast
Carvings of Ganga and Jamuna on the door frame
Da Parbotia, Tezpur, Sonitpur, Assam, northeast
Up and close — Da Parbotia: the door frame

When not rummaging through temple ruins and failing miserably at distilling myth from history, I was found wolfing down the spreads available at Spring Valley. Why I heard about the Karbi’s for the first time when I was wiping clean the Karbi Thali. The Karbis, I learnt, have been an indigenous group from Assam who have had to flee invasion and leave behind their original inhabitation in present-day Kaziranga on multiple occasions.

Today, the Karbis are the third largest tribal community in Assam following the Bodos and the Mishings.

Kaziranga

The next morning, we hopped on to a state-run bus service to get to Kaziranga National Park – home to the world’s largest population of one-horned rhinoceros besides tigers, elephants, wild water buffalos, swamp deer and avian population. The national park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

For me, it was my Animal Planet meets Nat Geo moment, sharing a physical space with the many creatures of the wild. Seeing these beings in their natural habitat has been such an out and out rewarding sensation.

Every once in a while, every one of us SHOULD step out of our rooms, our cubicles, our devices and more importantly, our heads and start seeing the world around us.

Seeing it for what it is; NOT what it is projected as being.

And maybe then, like Lennon sang, “…the world will live as one…”

UNESCO World Heritage Site, rhinoceros

 

UNESCO World Heritage Site, rhinoceros, birds, avian

 

 

Kaziranga National Park, jeep safari

 

UNESCO World Heritage Site, rhinoceros

 

UNESCO World Heritage Site, rhinoceros

 

UNESCO World Heritage Site, tortoise

 

UNESCO World Heritage Site, rhinoceros, elephant, bird

 

UNESCO World Heritage Site, rhinoceros

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