Rural Charm of Assam

Author: Harvestina Lepcha
Date: 2019-12-04

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Rural Charm

Assam is predominantly agrarian, and the essence of its multi-ethnicity lies in the villages. One place that combines adventure, Spiritualism and rural appeal is Majuli, often called the soul of Assam.

Measuring 421 sq km and parked in Brahmaputra 310 km east of Guwahati, Majuli is one of the world’s largest river islands. A majority of some 150,000 people on Majuli are paddy farmers, traditionally growing some 100 varieties of organic and pesticide-free rice.

Most of the islanders belong to three tribes — Mishing, Deori and Sonowal Kachari, with the non-tribal Assamese comprising the rest. For the rural population, the only mode of communication with the world beyond is a twice-a-day ferry service.

Apart from Satras or Vaishnava monasteries that dot the island, Majuli is famous for mask-making and has a tradition of making pottery from beaten clay burnt in driftwood-fired kilns, a technique sans the familiar potter's wheel. This similarity has made archaeologists draw a link between Majuli and the Indus Valley civilizations.

An Assamese village that literally weaves magic is Mayong, 35 kms east of Guwahati and adjoining Pabitora Wildlife sanctuary is blessed with a magical ambience, Mayong is an occult village where reside at least 120 wizards and witchdoctors. 

Remnants of old temples on Assamese hillocks surrounding Mayong a probably are pointer to its tantric or black magic past. The place has four important temples — Kechaikhaiti shrine of Burha Mayong, Narashinha Ashram of Hiloikhunda, Ganesh temple of Hatimuria and Shiva shrine of Kachashila - and a community museum showcasing ancient magic literature and relics.

Almost equidistant from Guwahati, Assam to the northwest, is Sualkuchi, the expansive village of silk weavers and traders often referred to as Manchester of the East. It was established at 370 years ago as a model of the export promotion zone, but sericulture began flourishing here around 4th century BC. 

Sualkuchi’s weavers have been churning out exotic indigenous silk - the silvery creamy paat (derived from Bombyx mori) and the warm-as-wool eri or endi (from Attacus ricini) -apart from muga and the rare mejankori (from Litsea citrate). Life here revolves around the never-ending tick-a-tack-tick music of at least five looms per each of some 4,000 households The rhythm induces four million square meter of silk fabric worth Rs 800 million annually, This translates into more than 101 metric tonnes of muga, 820 tons of eri and 12 tons of paat. The yarns are made from worms reared on 19,300 hectares of mulberry and other eco-sensitive plants across Assam.

Off the road to Sualkuchi is Gandhamou, a rural tourism destination that offers local cuisine on the bank of river Brahmaputra besides a farming experience. Nearby, holy town Hajo is surrounded by villages that excel in floriculture. The Moria community in the area also lords over Assam 5 bell metal industry.

In eastern Assam, 70 km from Dibrug is Season Merbeel (near Naharkatiya), an ecotourism project around an ox-bow lake that is blessed with natural beauty, including 250 species of flora, about 200 species of birds both resident and migratory, and several other species of fauna including many rare reptiles and insects. Visitors can either put up with rural local villagers or make a day-long trip, during which they may also spot leopards, monkeys, deer, rabbits, turtles and monitor lizards among other wildlife. Among birds one can see white-winged wood ducks spot-billed ducks, common teals, lesser adjutant, storks, chestnut bitterns, egrets, crow pheasant, breasted quails, black crested bulbuls etc.

The rural people will take one around, showing places offering black tea and til - pitha, tell stories, Sing local songs, and also offer place to Stay.

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