In this weeklong trip, you will be visiting the beautiful countryside of Assam to leisurely enjoy the slow paced life in the villages and also get a chance to learn about the diverse cultures of the various tribes of Assam. The tour begins with a visit to Namphake village of the small Tai-Phake community. This tribe had migrated two centuries ago from Myanmar in search of the other Tai clans who had settled in Assam during the medieval era. The unique culture of the Tai-Phake people can be experienced as they have well preserved their art, architecture and traditions. You will also be able to witness their religious life which revolves around their old Buddhist monasteries and beautiful pagodas.
Further on, you will get a chance to visit Majuli, which is the largest inhabited river island of the world. The island is the birthplace of the Neo-Vaishnavite culture of Saint Sankardev which is widely followed by the people of Assam. Many historic satras (Assamese monasteries) were built within the island, where monks both young and old, learn about various forms of traditional arts, dance, music, drama and religion. The satras preach a life of simplicity, and yet, it is easy for a tourist to be consciously enlightened by the power of such simplicity and sanctity. Majuli is also home of three tribes, namely the Mishing, Deori and Sonowal Kachari, who live a very simple and sustainable life. You will get to spend time interacting with these tribes and exploring their villages, thus understanding about their ways of living on the island and participate in their daily activities. One can learn weaving, preparing ethnic dishes or even traditional pottery. You can also spend time indulging in the pleasures of bird-watching, as there are numerous wetlands on the island which form a natural sanctuary for many birds. Or you may rent a bicycle to explore the island and it’s secrets at your own pace, maybe watch a spectacular sunset by the banks of the mighty river.
Discovering mysteries of the land midst an easy going setting, this tour is a proper introduction to the people and land of Assam, bringing forth authentic experiences that leave a long lasting imprint in your memory.
Day 1 | Dibrugarh - Namphake
After arriving at Dibrugarh airport in eastern Assam, proceed towards Namphake village (2 hours) near Naharkatia. Enjoy the drive through the beautiful countryside and tea gardens. Namphake is an ethnic village of Tai-Phake tribe which migrated from northern Myanmar two centuries ago in search of their other Tai clans such as Ahoms, Turungs, Siams, Khamtis and Khamyangs who had settled in Assam centuries earlier. A large gateway in Tai script welcomes the visitors to this quaint village located by the Burhi-Dihing River. Namphake is the largest settlement of the Tai-Phake community. Your stay will be with a local family or in a small guesthouse run by the village monastery.
Day 2 | Namphake
Spend the day exploring the village and learning about this interesting tribe which has well preserved their old traditions and culture. Villagers are still seen in their traditional attire and continue to speak their old Phakial language. Their houses are traditionally built on stilts and are unique in their own style. The main attraction of the village is the old monastery of Theraveda Buddhism and the Golden Pagoda built in Burmese architectural style, it has been visited by the royals of Thailand and many venerable monks. The historical monastery has inscriptions and paintings which narrate the migration of the tribe. The friendly monks ‘Bhante’ also offer free guided tours of the monastery. One can also visit the nearby Taiphake village at Tipam, which also has a beautiful location and a fascinating old monastery.
Day 3 | Namphake - Majuli
Leave early to Nimati Ghat (7 hours) to catch the afternoon ferry across the Brahmaputra to Majuli, the biggest river island in the world and a well preserved spot for Assamese and tribal culture. Arrive by afternoon and spend the rest of the day leisurely exploring the vast island and the beautiful countryside. Enjoy a rural stay, relish the ethnic Mishing cuisine and also try the local brew, Apong. Your stay will be in a traditional bamboo cottage with basic amenities.
Day 4 | Majuli
Visit villages of the Mishing tribe, the indigenous inhabitants of the island. The Mishing community belongs to the mongoloid group and were historically inhabitants of the hills of Arunachal Pradesh. They often faced raids from the fierce neighbouring tribes and later migrated to the plains of Assam to settle peacefully where they adopted a new culture and religion. Most of their villages are located by the scenic riverside as many Mishing tribesmen also depend on fishing for their livelihood. Visit their homes, interact with the villagers and observe their traditional lifestyle. One can also learn weaving in the traditional hand-looms. Traditional Mishing dance performance can be arranged upon prior request.
Day 5 | Majuli
Visit few of the old Assamese monasteries of 17th century such as Auniati, Kamalabari, Dakhinpat Sattras, built by the followers of the medieval saint Srimanta Sankerdev. Here, the monks learn a unique form of art, drama, music and Neo-Vaishnavite philosophy which was started by Sankardev. A small museum is also maintained by the monks of Auniati monastery which showcases well preserved artifacts made by the monks and antiques of Ahom rulers. Then, visit the mask making center at Samuguri Sattra where extremely elaborate traditional masks are made by the monks for the Bhaona (dance dramas) which depict scenes from Hindu mythology. Bhaona drama or Gayon-Bayon, musical duet performed by the monks can be arranged upon prior request. Also visit Salmara potters’ village, unique on the island, where potters make earthenware without the use of potter’s wheel! Try your hand in pottery and sculpting with riverine clay. In the evening, visit Kamalabari monastery to see little monks perform prayers with cymbals and drums at sunset.
Day 6 | Majuli
Travel to the remote villages of Deori tribe and Sonowal Kachari tribe in the northern part of the island. One can also enjoy fishing or cycling leisurely around the island. The large wetlands and lakes on the island also attract many birds which interest many ornithologists, enjoy the spectacular sunset on the banks of Brahmaputra.
Day 7 | Majuli - Jorhat
After breakfast, catch the return ferry to Nimati Ghat and transfer to Jorhat airport (2 hours) or Dibrugarh airport (5 hours) for departure. End of tour.
La Maison De Ananda, the ‘house of happiness’, was built by a French couple who fell in love with Majuli and gifted it to a local family as a source of income from likeminded travelers who visit the island. The stilt cottage is built in local ways using bamboo and cane. Interiors are clean and basic, in tune to the village life existing around. There’s a sit-out where one can relax or have pleasant conversations.
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Being a native of the Indian state of Assam, I have always heard tales about how vast and wide the Brahmaputra River is – like an ocean. But it was after I came to know of Majuli, did the tales became more concrete...