Located along the beautiful Brahmaputra and Barak River Valleys, Assam is a state that is in the Northeast of India; one among the seven sisters in our country. Known for its large and evergreen expanse of tea plantations, Assam is home to a wide range of stunning flora and fauna and boasts of a cultural and natural history that is rivaled by none!
Known for more than just its tea and Bhoot Jolokia pickles, Assam is truly a sight to behold. Planted south of the eastern Himalayas, the state is a cultural beacon that is home to multiple World Heritage Sites, national reserves, and parks. It also houses a sanctuary with several rare and endangered species of animals and plants like the one-horned Indian rhinoceros, pygmy hog, golden langur, three-keeled Asian turtle, the Asian elephant, and many more.
For tourists, Assam offers the best of both worlds! There are the lush green rolling plains that offer a once-in-a-lifetime respite in the lap of nature for the nature-lovers as well as a strong urban presence with cities like Guwahati. Guwahati, or the capital of the state, is today considered one of the fastest-growing cities and is popularly dubbed ‘Gateway to the Northeast India’ as people who want to reach many of the lesser connected neighboring states often take the passage through Guwahati, owing to its high connectivity. It’s a huge commercial center and elevates the national significance of Assam with its wide array of temples and marketplaces.
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Assam’s history dates back to the Stone Ages! The name itself is said to be derived from the Ahom Dynasty which was previously called ‘Shan’. Assam, as a region, was passed from one dynasty to another for centuries before it gained the state autonomy that it has today. First, the Bodo-Kachari Dynasty was followed by the Ahom (Shan) dynasty after which Koch from Bodo-Kachari, once again, established sovereignty in the early fifteenth century.
The history of the region’s tea plantation began in early 1835-36 when the British government allowed land to be rented out from Assam. The salubrious climate as well as its large area made it possible for tea plantations to flourish. Although initially, Assam was just the part of first the Bengal Presidency and the Eastern Bengal and Assam province, it was only after the partition of 1947 that Assam became a constituent state of India.
Because of its long legacy and aboriginal and tribal residence, Assam’s culture is extremely diverse. It’s a confluence of many different cultural practices and rituals stemming from various racial and tribal groups. Today, there are multiple tribes like Miri, Bodo, Kachari, Karbi, Mishimi, Rabhaco co-existing within the state and making its cultural fabric all the more richer.
As for religion, Assam has a majority of Hindus followed by Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs (in that order). Assamese is the traditional language of Assam spoken by over 23 million speakers followed by Bengali, Bodo, and Hindi. The traditional attire for men in the state is the classic white dhoti-gamosa while the women can be observed wearing the mekhela chador, which is a two-piece variant of a saree and is traditionally woven with complex patterns of animal, plant, and bird motifs called ‘Paari’.
Assamese cuisine, like most Northeastern cuisines, rests fundamentally on the staple of rice. Rice is often paired with scrumptious preparations of meat, lentils, or vegetables. A few authentic delights you ought to try while visiting the region include Khaar (meat prepared with papayas, taro, and pulses), Hanhor Mangkho (roasted duck cooked in ash grounds garnished with sesame, lentils, and pumpkins), Masor Tenga (slow-cooked fish curry that comes with a heavy tomato broth), Aloo Pitika (mashed potatoes in mustard oil, green chilies, and coriander), Silkworm preparations, and Baanhgajor Lagot Kukura (chicken meat cooked with bamboo shoots and paired with sticky rice).
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The state’s international airport is located centrally in the city of Guwahati and is called the Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport. For international (and domestic) fliers, it’s easiest to book a flight to this airport and then cover the rest of the distance to their destination through either bus or prepaid taxicab services available at the airport.
For domestic flights, it’s easier to access the Dibrugarh Airport at Mohanbari, which has frequent flights to and from all the other major cities in the country. Prepaid taxicab services can be availed quite easily from designated booths at the airport.
The Guwahati Railway Station is an exceptionally central railhead that is not more than 5 kilometers away from the city center. This railway station is quite well-connected with other major cities in the country like Kolkata, Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore.
Guwahati is a city that is fairly well-advanced and boasts of a sturdy road network. Private and public buses ply regularly and even have stops in the smaller towns of the state. A few major National Highways that connect Assam with the rest of the country are NH 31, 37, 38, 40, and 52. However, during the monsoons, road travel can be made quite difficult owing to waterlogging and blockage on the roads.
Assam has a humid subtropical climate which makes it a pleasant place to visit in the spring and winters. The winter season in the state is quite cold and refreshing and offers solace to those escaping the heat of the rest of the subcontinent with temperatures ranging between 8°C - 25°C.
The winter months are also perfect to get a taste of the famous Bihu festival (a regional offshoot of Makar Sankranti) of the region, which is typically celebrated in the months of January or February and is entirely worth the visit. The Bihu festival is a harvest festival that is a melange of traditional folk music, folk dance, and regional cuisine including Khaar, Maangsho, Xaak, etc.
Avoiding the region in the monsoon season is the smartest, as even though the rains make the plantations more lush, it can be quite difficult to travel and explore the exteriors of the state because of the incessant rains and blocked traffic.
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Taxicab services are available across the state and not just in the more developed cities of Guwahati and Silcher. If you’re a traveler from out-of-state, these cabs can be hired from the railway stations or airports to reach your desired destination. You could also hire the services of car-rental agencies for a clean, hassle-free mode of exploring the various tourist spots in the region.
Auto rickshaws are yet another mode of cheap and easily accessible transportation that not only helps you reach the place of your desire, but it also gives you a more grounded local flavor of commute in the state. Additionally, some regions of Assam also have the ‘Pink Autos’ run by and for women to ensure safety and empowerment for female rickshaw drivers and travelers.
The Assam State Transport Corporation (ASTC) is the body that is responsible for enacting a public transport system in the state. Assam has several state and local buses that ply regularly and touch even the less developed, smaller towns, making public transport an inexpensive mode of sightseeing while you’re there. You could also hire the services of private bus rentals that will take you through the major tourist spots that the state is home to.
Since Assam is known for its tea plantations and wide, rolling plains, it’s a great city to explore on foot. Assam is relatively safe and is a city that offers plenty of opportunities for walking tours, including several vibrant bazaars and markets like Fancy Bazaar, Maati Centre, Pan Bazaar, etc. that can be explored and savored on foot.
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"Assamese cuisine offers nothing for vegetarians."
While the Northeast Indian cuisine typically revolves around a set of delectable meat and fish preparations like pork in tamarind sauce, Masor Tenga, etc. Assamese cuisine also involves several culinary options for vegetarian visitors. Assamese vegetarian thalis are renowned across the country for its taste, flavor, and fragrance. Typical accompaniments in the thali include potato bhaji, cabbage and beetroot preparations, steamed and salted eggplant and potatoes, as well some Bhoot Jolokia pickles to bring some heat.
Mouthwatering already? Well, what if we tell you that, with a spectacular range of regional desserts, Assam is also a sweet-lovers haven? Some vegetarian sweets include Bora Chaulor Payas (a dessert made out of sticky rice, milk, and cardamom), Narikol Pitha (coconut, milk, and sugar balls roasted in flour), Xutuli Pitha (fried dumplings stuffed with sesame seeds and rolled in sugar), and Qubani Ka Meetha (a thick, sweet apricot soup topped with almonds and malai).
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Located in Golaghat, Karbi Anglong, and Nagaon districts, the Kaziranga National Park is a world heritage site - and not for nothing! The park is today, home to two-thirds of the world's great one-horned rhinoceroses population. Other breathtaking varieties of wildlife the sanctuary houses include wild water buffaloes, Indian elephants, capped langurs, Rhesus macaque, the orange-bellied Himalayan squirrel, western hoolock gibbons, Indian muntjac, and the Bengal fox, among numerous others.
There is no denying that this national park is one of India’s crowning gems in terms of natural wildlife and preservation. It also has a large number of rare birds. It’s a gorgeous natural landscape filled with large trees, tall elephant grass and reeds, and mesmerizing shallow pools. The National Park is a life-changing experience to visit, especially if you’re an ardent nature-lover or if you simply love to explore the outdoors and the mysteries it holds!
Sualkuchi or the ‘Manchester of Assam’ is a picturesque little town tucked in the Kamrup district of Assam. This town is known for its history of handlooms and is currently the textile hub of the entire state. It’s a weaver’s village that regularly produces the different kinds of silk that the region is famous for, including the Muga silk, the Pat silk, as well as the Eri silk.
Visiting this little town is a great experience in seeing the local people work towards the industry of silk with years and years of love and experience. It’s a great place to get a vibrant, colorful insight into the history of silk and how it is such an indispensable part of Assam’s clothing legacy!
Majuli Island is a large, freshwater island in the state of Assam that offers a splendid view of the pristine blue waters and is said to be entirely pollution-free! Majuli, which is lovingly regarded as the cultural capital of the state, is made incredibly diverse and animated by the distinct tribal culture of the region. You can explore the island on foot, and the Brahmaputra river through the ferry services that usually run from 8:00 am to 4:00 am.
Is Assam Safe To Travel Now?
Assam is a relatively safe state to travel for tourists. It offers a good amount of security across the state. However, one should always take the necessary precautions while traveling at night. Exploring the tea estates in the state is a favored tourist activity, and while it can be quite fun, do make sure to wear protective long boots to fend against small rodents like leeches, etc.
How Many Days Are Required To Visit Assam?
Around 5-6 days should be sufficient to visit the major tourist attractions in the state. Commuting between destinations is made easier with a good public transport system and a streamlined itinerary with a few must-visit spots!
Which Is The Best Month To Visit Assam?
The winter months of November to March are the best time to visit the region. The temperatures remain pleasantly cool and comfortable. This is the perfect time to explore the outdoor marvels that the state offers, including visiting the national parks and reserves. It’s also during this period that the world-famous Bihu harvest festival takes place in Assam and when the orchids bloom in full-swing.
How Far Is Kaziranga From Guwahati?
Kaziranga is roughly 193 kilometers from Guwahati.
Which Is The Hottest Month In Assam?
Assam has a humid subtropical climate. While it tends to get hot during the summer months, the weather is never sweltering, making it agreeable throughout the year. The hottest month in Assam is generally July with temperatures touching up to, but not going beyond 38 °C.
How To Travel In Assam?
Visiting Assam by road is convenient but not in the monsoons. The National Highways is an easy way to connect roads leading to Assam like Guwahati connecting to Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland.
How Many Airports Are There In Assam?
In total Assam has six airports, one of the six airports is for International traveling.
Which Is The Biggest Village In Assam?
The biggest village in Assam is Sualkuchi.