The gateway to the northeast “Guwahati” was our first port of call. From different directions we met at Kamakya temple which houses the deity who guards the city. The atmosphere in the temple was so charged. It gave us an insight of the Assamese as they flocked to this place of worship.
Continuing further we reached the hillock and got the first glimpse of the Brahmaputra. We were awestruck by the beauty of this mighty river which dictates the lives of the people. Although a nurturer, providing water for cultivation and a habitat for fish ( The staple diet) it is also a destroyer of the very things it nurtures.
Speaking of nurturing, we set out to taste the local Assamese thali.
It proved to be a real hit with the vegetarians, the non vegetarians and” the opportunistic non vegetarians “alike. The cuisine is quite distinct from the rest of India as the spice used is very mild with a tinge of fiery chilies.
The textiles on display the emporiums, were amazing, as were the beads, cane products to name but a few. The Muga silk is simply gorgeous.
Julie’s family were so gracious to throw open their home and hearts. We had a wonderful evening with them as they regaled us with stories of the past.
The eternal forest, Kaziranga
The elephant safari was ever so thrilling as we spotted our first one horned Rhino up close and personal. As we ventured deeper and deeper we saw more rhinos near the water or grazing on the grass completely oblivious of its gaping audience.
The afternoon jeep safari was equally enthralling with the beautiful serene vista interspersed with the wild animals. The bird enthusiasts among us were thrilled to behold the colourful array of birds. The progression of the sunset was out of the world. Just as the ranger called it a day and instructed the drivers to head back. The mighty graceful elephants appeared by the waterhole.
The orchid park has a collection of about 500 types. We enjoyed the cultural dances that were performed and took a walk in the herb garden. There is a display of the varieties of rice grown in the north east. They also have a section devoted to weaving and sericulture. What struck an incongruous note was a young woman engaged in the ancient art of weaving while listening to music through a smart phone.
Majuli is one of the most surreal places in India.
Majuli is the second largest fresh water island in the world. We had to board the local ferry to gain entry into this paradise. At first we looked at this crossing with trepidation unsure if it could ferry us safely to the shore. As we looked at the calm demeanour of the local people we felt ashamed of our insecurity. Well as one friend remarked even the great titanic sank. So as Doris Day would say Que Sera Sera ( Whatever Will Be ,Will Be)and we sailed forth.
This soon proved to be one of the highlights of the tour. We got to mingle with the local villagers and observe the vibrant teenagers completely adapting to the so called modern india dress sense and the elders clinging on beautifully to tradition. Just looking at the two old women in front of us brought peace.
After disembarkation we piled into our Innova and wondered how we were to proceed as there were no roads to behold, not even the potholed ones of urban India. We had an exhilarating ride over the sand.
We walked through one of their villages and had glimpses into their way of life
Each house had a small loom under the stilts with the women busy weaving beautiful patterns from silk and cotton threads. Such uncluttered lives they lead with all their possessions fitting into a tiny chest.
Majuli has a number of monasteries. Some are for families and some for only bachelors.The Auniati Satra houses bachelor monks in individual units with three or four monks to a unit. The prayer hall was beautiful.
Spellbound by the mask makers
We also visited Samaguri Satra – a family monastery. Here the residents kept us spellbound with a spectacular dance drama performance depicting scenes from the Ramayana. What made it stand out were the wonderful masks which the monks make by themselves under the guidance of their guru.
The drive to Ziro was breathtaking
The mountains were covered in thick forest with apple and cherry blossom. We were also lucky to spy some Mithuns. We were in Ziro to observe the Myoko festivities. We went to the Apatani village to witness the procession ceremony which was very interesting with the men and children taking part in the march inspite of the rain.
Being chilled to the bone we were so happy to be invited to one of the homes.
The log fire in the center was as welcoming as were the people. After the repast of tea and eggs we stepped onto the balcony and were confronted with views of the white and pink blossoms everywhere. We were transported to Japan.
High tea party
The Apatani house in the city centre was more modern with a TV, Sofas etc. Nonetheless the nature of our hosts remained just as welcoming with millet rotis and Kiwi wine. We invited them over to our hotel for dinner the next night.
The serene surroundings left us with a feeling of nirvana
The walk through the bamboo and pine forests were heavenly as was our picnic lunch. The Ziro Music Festival grounds is awesome with the green meadows,the quaint wooden bridge and the view of the rice cultivation.
The gaiety was so impromptu and joyous
True to their word the Apatani women came decked in traditional attire looking ever so delightful. Some of us also chose to wear similar attire which gave them immense joy. Having enjoyed the spread they went on to entertain us with melodies indigenous to their tribe. This was followed by sing a longs and dancing. Even the French travellers from the next tables joined in and a fun time was had by all.
The comfort of the hotel in Tezpur was so welcoming
It going to show that we can wax eloquently about the simplicity of village life and how we admire it but still crave our creature comforts.
Tezpur the blood city as it is called
is where the historic battle between Krishna and Shiva panned out. From here we bode farewell to Brahmaputra and hurried to catch our flight.
Thus ends the saga of the nine sisters who progressed from mere acquaintances to something more meaningful.
Article written by Sita Kumar, an avid traveller on her experience of the Myoko festival tour in March 2018.
Image courtesy – Cyril Hinda for Curtain Call Adventure, guest’s from the March Festival tour and our own.