Travel travails in North East India in 1988-Return Journey

So we reached Nazira after harrowing experience. It was very cold there. In the winter, the sun goes down at about half past four in the evening. Those were the days when an extremist outfit called ULFA was very active. There were kidnappings and murders. So people ventured outside mostly in the daytime or under the protection of security forces.

We left in the early mornings and came back early. We went to see the Sivasagar town which was the capital once upon a time of Assam under the rule of Ahom kings. Ahoms came from South-East Asia and settled in North East India for good. Although in the beginning they followed Buddhism but converted to Hinduism and began suffixing “Singh” to their names. Thus the town of Sivasagar was founded by King Shiv Singh. It is a large town. There is a very large lake called Shiv Sagar. In fact the whole area has number of such lakes and the water in them is very clear. Adjacent to the lake is a Shiv temple called “Shiv Dol”. It is gigantic structure.

Shiv Dhol temple

Most of the trading is in the hands of Marwaris which originally migrated from Rajasthan. In fact they are so enterprising merchants that there is hardly any place in the North-East where they have not set the shops. One reason for their flourishing in this part of the region is the indolent nature of the local people. There is many shops which sell the silk sarees and cloths. The silk is from Assam and Manipur and comes in three main varieties namely Golden Muga, white Pat and warm Eri Silk. These varieties are produced by the same silkworms when fed on leaves of different trees. Everyone who goes there purchases the silk along with the tea. You can see unending stretches of tea plantations everywhere along the main roads.

Then we visited the “Madams” which are very elaborate mud structures where the bodies of kings and other royal people are interred exactly in the same fashion as the Pharaohs in Egypt.

Days went by very fast and time came for returning. There was a train in the early afternoon and we went to Simulgudi station again. There people moving here and there confused and worried. There we saw a notice saying that due to “Bandh (strike)” in Cachar Hills all the trains going towards Silchar shall remain cancelled for next 4 days. We went back feeling helpless and thought of going to Guwahati and from there more trains shall be available for Silchar although we had to do a lot of useless journey. So we boarded a train after 2 days and it reached Guwahati at noon. The scene was not promising. I went to booking counter for a train inquiry and ticket. As usual no reservation was available on the counter. I caught hold of a tout and gave him extra money for getting the berth reservation. The train was at about 4 O’clock in the evening which meant we have to occupy the berths after sometime and sleep and reach in the early morning at Silchar.

Beautiful Cachar Hills

But as the night approached, there happened a surprising thing in the train. There was no electricity in the train. On top of it, the train was over crowded and there was not an inch to move for going to toilet. The reservation did not have any relevance because on such trains which stop at every station people alight and board at every station. The train halted at some station where we procured some candles and a match box. Without light you could see the person sitting next to you. Sometimes I was afraid that if anyone of us moved, he or she could not retrieve the way back.

Somehow, the night passed and reached Silchar in the early morning. It was such a perilous journey.

Tai Ahoms: The Easterly Kshatriyas

Indian subcontinent can be accessed on land and by sea from three sides. In the past, invaders entered it through West from the side of Afghanistan. It is protected from North by Himalayas which act as a formidable wall. The mountains which cover the India from North West to North East have been responsible for keeping the invaders entering from the North directly.

lt is also responsible for creating the weather particularly the Monsoon which gives India respite from sweltering heat and helps in meeting the irrigation requirements and bestow bounteous crops to the region. Its snow capped mountains feed the perennial rivers which sustain the life of teeming masses inhabiting the entire northern India.

The people entering from the West mingled with original people inhabiting the region. Soon their population escalated and they were obliged to spread in search of newer avenues where the conditions existed for habitation. In this process they spread over whole of Ganges valley up to Bengal.

The other entry point was the North East where people from South East Asia and China entered India. In comparison to the Western corridor mentioned earlier, terrain here is more difficult. Also people who came and settled in the North East confined themselves to the present Assam and its 6 sister states in the North East.

One reason for this might have been the difficult proposition to expand towards West where already stronger kingdoms existed. Secondly the narrow strip called chicken neck area separating the North East states from rest of India must have acted as a bottleneck which might have dissuaded them.

Assam and the 6 other states namely Meghalaya, Tripura, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland & Manipur in the North Eastern part of India possess enchanting natural beauty.

Due to the lack of industrial progress, the environment is still free of pollution. The natural products are forests of bamboo & teak, crops of rice and vegetables grown on the fertile land on the edges of river Brahmaputra without any application of contaminating fertilizers. Of course most famous product of Assam known all over the world is the tea.

Arunachal Pradesh is famous for its mountainous landscape. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As you travel by car on any road and along both sides are never ending teas plantations. You can see the women laborers with special kind of baskets hanging from their shoulders plucking the leaves and putting in the baskets.

Tea Garden

There is plenty of fish in the rivers. The area is rich in petroleum. In fact, the oldest oil well in India was drilled in Assam at Digboi. The original people are mainly tribals whose customs and rituals are entirely different from rest of India.

The most important migrants to come and and settle in this area came from Yunnan province. First to enter the North East region was Sukhapa, who came with army, his women and nobles.

Sukhapa

Although initially they did not practiced Hindusim but later Kings leaned towards this religion and ultimately converted to Hinduism. Local inhabitants called them Tai-Ahoms.

As they became more tolerant towards Hinduism, the elements of Hindu mythology entered into their history. Thus it was stated that Brahma created the human beings from a gourd. These people were gentle and pious.

But by the time of Treta Yuga, the moral values declined and Indra became worried and sent his grandsons: Khunlung & Khunlai to rule the earth and bring back the old order.

These were the progenitors of Tai-Ahoms. They descended to earth facilitated by a golden ladder on the Mung-ri-Mung-ram mountains. Thus the Tai Ahoms, as they won over the local people labeled themselves as Eastern Kshatriyas.