River Cruise on the Brahmaputra
Kaziranga NP - Majuli - Sivasagar - Dibrugarh
One of the most compelling descriptions of the Brahmaputra River can be found in a literary piece by writer Dianne Sharma Winter. She writes,
"There is a saying that goes 'If you cross the Brahmaputra one time you are destined to return'. There are a lot of legends and prophesies floating with the current of the mighty Brahmaputra River as it tracks its course from Tibet onto Bangladesh, roaring down through narrow chasms and gobbling up land in its hunger to reach the sea. A river as wide as an ocean, blood red with stories of sacrifice and patricide, unusually for a river it is male in its aspect and unusually for India, it is not a holy river but often referred to as the Old Man River.
Apart from one day a year when the qualities of the water become divine enough to wash away the sins of a devotee, Brahmaputra spends his life washing away the efforts of man whether sinful or not. There still remains a divine union between the Brahmaputra and Mother Nature, the fruits of their union visible in the verdant jungles and fields so green that they could only have been painted by the co-ordinate efforts of man in harmony with nature. Brahmaputra is not a river that will be easily tamed; it is a river that demands respect and submission.
Rare it is to find a reference to this river without the word "mighty' attached to it. A river of sorrow and munificence, the river is the blending and balance of our human lives measured against the flow of time. Every year hundreds of people are taken by the swift flow of flood as the river swells with monsoon rain and thousands more are nourished by the rich silt deposits left in its wake. If a river is the highway of life, cultures, and commerce – then the Brahmaputra is beyond par in this respect."
This 7 nights cruise over the mighty upper reaches of the Brahmaputra River will make time stop and enchant you with magical landscapes that surround the river in its silent course through the vast and verdant plains of Assam. Covering both secrets and highlights that the river traverses, the cruise will start with a visit to the world-famous Kaziranga National Park, a UNESCO natural heritage site where a century of conservation initiatives has led to an excellent habitat of thriving subtropical biodiversity. Jeep and elephant safaris here will bring you upfront to some of the wildlife, such as elephants, deer, rhinos, otters, or perhaps even a majestic tiger making its presence certainly felt. Continuing upstream, the cruise will reach the large island of Majuli in the middle of the mighty river where Hindu-Assamese monastic culture is deeply rooted and thriving since medieval times. Here on the beautiful island, you will come across some heartwarming village folk and monks alike, and get to learn more about the unique philosophy, arts, dance, drama, and music being practiced in the monasteries. The cruise further has some historical visits to temples, ruins, and monuments all of which are an excellent display of the rich heritage of the people of Assam. Lastly, this cruise also covers a visit to the greenery of a tea plantation where guests will learn about the various stages from growth to production that goes into bringing us our daily cup of refreshing tea.
Arrive at Jorhat airport and drive to the port at Steemer Ghat (2-3 hours), a river bank surrounded by verdant forested hills and located close to Kaziranga National Park. Alternatively, you can arrive at Guwahati Airport (4-5 hours). Rest of the day at leisure to settle-down onboard the ship and be introduced to staff and fellow travelers.
Upon disembarking pre-dawn, drive to Kaziranga National Park's central range for an early morning elephant ride that brings you thrillingly close to the rhinos and other animals. Return to the ship for breakfast onboard and continue cruising upstream with the national park on the right bank. Around midday, we reach Vishnath, a medieval Hindu temple built during the time of the Ahom kings and dedicated to Lord Shiva. There are other latter-day temples too that can be visited as we walk through the town before boarding the ship and setting off with Kaziranga still on the far bank. Wild elephants may sometimes be spotted or perhaps even a tiger on the banks. Evening at leisure.
The day will be well spent on the river cruising upstream with immersive views of the Himalayas to the north and the Naga Hills to the south. The mighty river's impact on the landscape is evident with hundreds of deserted islands along its course and massive erosion on the banks. There are also chances of spotting river dolphins, as well as creating a sensation as riverside villagers gather to see the crafty ship sail past. We should arrive in the evening at the lonely Dhansiri Mukh.
Disembarking early morning, we will visit Kaziranga's non-touristy eastern range in a jeep safari. The habitat is good for bird watching, spotting rhinos and elephants, or maybe even a tiger dominating his territorial expanse. Returning to the ship, the cruise will continue upstream. Rest of the day at leisure.
Another day will be spent cruising upstream. There will be friendly visits to riverside villages where you will get a chance to interact with the locals, learn about their sustainable river-dependent ways of living and get an overview of the simplicity of life in the Indian countryside.
Around breakfast time, we should reach Majuli, the world’s largest inhabited river island that is a cultural center for the Assamese people and possesses unique Hindu monasteries famed for their preachings, arts, dances, and drama. The island is now shortlisted to be considered for a UNESCO World Heritage status. You'll be visiting a monastery to get a better understanding of the culture and get an opportunity to interact with the monks. Later, there will be a visit to an eclectic museum and a rich dance performance at Kamalbari monastery depicting Hindu mythology. The day will end by cruising across to Neamati Ghat on the opposite bank.
This morning, we will visit the green expanse of Horu Charai Tea Estate and see the various processes of tea production (the factory is inoperative between December and mid-March). Later, drive for about an hour to reach the historical town of Sivasagar, the one-time capital of the Ahom kings who ruled over the plains of Assam for six centuries. Their culture and architecture is a strange and delightful amalgam of Indian and Southeast Asian. We shall see temples with stupa-like profiles and palaces with distinctive motifs such as the crocodiles and caryatids that adorn the roof of the Rang Mahal - the grand viewing gallery of the kings. The temple tank here is believed to be the world’s largest hand-excavated reservoir. We return to the ship by afternoon to spend our last night on board the ship.
Drive to Dibrugarh Airport (2 hours) for your departure flight, passing through the typical colonial tea town that was once a major base for American flights over "The Hump" to China during WWII. Alternatively, you may transfer to Jorhat Airport (2-3 hours).
The wooden cabins of the river cruise have a boutique feeling and provide modern amenities while remaining spacious and ambient lit. With large windows that provide panoramic views, you can spend as much time as you want in taking in the river journey.
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