Paas Phuron of Assam Tourism

Have you heard about tempering? Yes, tempering! As in tempering dal, curries etc – not to be confused with “tampering” which is of course another matter. Now, you must  be wondering what are the words- tempering, dal, and curry doing in a travel article, words which are basically culinary terms? Let me explain – In Fried Eye, we take words in a pan of experimentation and simmer them slowly till the flavor and aroma start emanating from it to delight your senses, hence culinary terms are favored words in our Fried Eye vocabulary. Doesn’t the name suggest so? Well, now coming back to tempering, do you know how dal is tempered here in this part of India? Not with hing/asafoetida or jeera/cumin seeds or even mustard seeds/rye. But with a unique combination of not one or two but five ingredients or spices which lend a completely different aromatic flavor to our dal and curries. A combination known as Paas Furon or Paas Phoron . If you try getting it in other parts of India- I am sure you will draw a blank. There you have to get the spices separately and prepare the combination. The spices for your information are- Jeera (cumin), Saunf (aniseed), Ajawain (caraway seeds), Methi seeds (fenugreek) and finally Kaljeera/Kalonji (the black cumin/nigella). .

Patience my dear travel lovers, We are coming to the travel part now. Just let it simmer for a while. So we here in Fried Eye thought, if we were to grade the tourist spots not in stars or even tomatoes or even omelets but the spices of our very own paas furon- the five top places, which lends a whole knew flavor to the package called Assam, which ones would they be?

Without much ado we present before you the “paas furon ” of Assam

  1. Guwahati.
  2. Sivasagar
  3. Kaziranga
  4. Majuli
  5. Tezpur

That brings us to the “why” and their respective brief introductions with a bit of helpful information, which we promise you, will be nothing lengthy and long winded but rather short and crisp. We realize that time is precious.

When we were trying to pick the places, we were at a loss on which to pick and what to leave out. It was a tough decision as every place in Assam, has a distinctive appeal an aura in them. But keeping in mind the properties of the paas furon, we decided to go ahead to pick those which represented each of the spices of Paas furon.

But we are in a dilemma now. How much do we show? How much do we advertise? Where should the promotion end to sustain the mystery element and make the travel lover return for more? We will go by our instincts and try to strike a balance between the blatant and the subtle with of course links for more, for the conventional research dependent travel lovers. Though the descriptions will be brief acting as a short of teasers for the future , but Gowahati might be slightly elaborate keeping in mind its pivotal role.

So with your due permission (assuming  your continuing interest in the article) we start with Guwahati as our first of the spices.

Guwahati- The jeera/cumin.

pic credit- dritzdcool under creative common license

 Cumin , probably one of the most used spices in India, can be used whole or ground. It is also the most prominent one in the Paas furon.

Similarly, Guwahati is the most important City here in the North East and Assam. It’s importance commercially as well as socio-economically, cannot be denied as inferred from its prominence as an upcoming city with many commercial as well as educational and cultural institutes and nor can its historical significance associated with Kamakhya Temple and other temples be overlooked. In fact it is the most dynamic city in the north-east. It also ranks among the top upcoming cities in India. But of course as a visitor you would preferably like your Whys and Whats to be answered first. Yes! ‘Why’ and ‘What’ are the most compelling of all the interrogative nouns. Once the ‘Why’ and ‘What’ are answered, the How-s and Where-s can be easily dealt with. Isn’t it? Coming back to Guwahati, our reply will be –

  • Why not Guwahati, a city steeped in History?
  • Why not Guwahati , a city famous for Temples , with Kamakhya Temple being its USP , one of the most important shaktipith with its tantric inclination?
  • Why not Guwahati , a very picturesque city on the banks of the mighty river Brahmaputra, interspersed with hills?
  • Why not Guwahati, where you can spend an evening cruising on the river and enjoy the twinkling lights of the city?
  • Why not Guwahati, where you can also shop and dine in style in the many malls that dot the city?
  • Why not Guwahati, with its full cultural calendar which can offer many an entertaining evening?
  • Why not Guwahati with its upcoming resorts and luxury hotels which offer the best of leisure facilities?

If that was not enough of Whys then you can always visit the several tourism sites on Guwahati for more details.
So What would we recommend to you if you were to ask us about the What-s? There are so many to choose from!

  • The Kamakhya Temple for a start a place synonymous to Guwahati and the Ambubasi fair held there annually. One can also visit the Vashistha Ashram with its verdant surroundings, the Umananda temple in the river island and the Navagraha temple, if you are on a spiritual tour to find your inner you.
  • If you are a nature person then you can always sit atop its numerous hills and enjoy the view below or you can enjoy an evening cruise on the mighty Brahmaputra. You can also take a boat ride and enjoy a cup of Assam tea by the banks of the Dighali pukhuri.
  • You can also participate in adventure sports like rappelling, river crossing and mountain climbing in the resorts near the hills.
  • If you are the ones who need shopping malls, cool places to hang out and hip crowds, you can find no dearth of such joints either.
  • If you love history , arts and culture do not forget the fairly recent attraction called Shankardev Kala shetra which gives an interesting insight of the history and culture of Assam and north east India.
  • Better still you can just take a long drive in the country side, which is as remarkable as the English countryside but very much underpromoted.

That was Guwahati in very brief for you but in case you want a detailed one then you can always have a slice of Guwahati in our earlier article in fried eye.

Some quick facts

Well connected by the Indian Railways and also by Air , all major airways have daily flights from Delhi and Kolkatta .

Accomodation is not a problem with many hotels mushrooming all over the city.

Commercial hubs are- Paltanbazaar which is near the railway station

Bhangagarh- where many shopping malls have come up

Fancybazaar and Panbazaar for the hip young college going crowd

Other noteworthy places are Ulubari, Chandmari and Ganeshguri.

With that let’s proceed on to our next spice of the set

Sivasagar – The fenugreek or methi , which is another romantically beautiful place-The historical capital of the Ahoms. You see, fenugreek lends a distinctive flavor to the paas furon mixture just like Sivsagar, which exudes a total all Assamese experience and flavor, be it the honey sweet accent of the people, the historical architecture of Rang ghar, Kareng ghar and Joy Sagar, or the culture and tradition of the place itself.  Sivsagar in itself represents everything that Assam is and fills you with the experience of being in the times of Ahoms of yore.

Situated on the banks of Dikhow river, it was built around a magnificent tank called Sivasagar from which the town derives its name and the existing monuments and relics in and around the town still bears testimony to the flourishing Ahom rule.
There are also some major tourist attractions nearby Sivasagar which can be covered by day long excursions.

  • The river Island Majuli with its satras. (more on it later).
  • Kaziranga, the famous national park with its animal population boasting of the one horned rhino.
  • The nearby picturesque tea estates or if you are inquisitive sort, then you can inspect the workings of an oil field which are at a comfortable distance from Sivasagar.

So what would we recommend for you, in Sivasagar, which is again so very accessible
The list is vast.

The Shiva dole, The Vishnu Dole and the Devi Dole on the banks of Sivasagar Tank- the three major temples of Shivasagar dedicated to Vishnu, Shiva and Durga Devi.

Joysagar – the largest man-made tank in India built during the reign of Ahom king Rudra Singha in memory of his mother Rani Joymati and Joy dole , a temple dedicate to Lord Vishnu.

Rang ghar or the amphitheatre of the Ahom Kings said to have been built of an indigenous variety of rice and eggs.

The four storied Kareng Ghar or the residential palace, built when Garhgaon was the capital of the Ahom Kingdom and that which is arranged in receding tiers. Though the monument is quite damaged, you can still find the remains.

Talatal Ghar– with three stories under ground and four above is a must visit for its interesting architecture.
In fact each and every monument (mentioned or otherwise) is a marvel of the architectural style of that particular reign. Since we have to stick to a word limit hence we are limiting our description here but you can stay tuned with Fried Eye for more about Sivasagar in our future issues, complete with details and resplendent with some beautiful pictures.

But before that some quick facts.

The nearest international airport is in Guwahati from where it is around 350 kms on road. Both the transport corporation as well as private players ply daily buses from Guwahati during day and also night. The nearest railway station is at Shimaluguri which is around 16 km from Sibsagar and you can either avail taxi or bus from the Station. The nearest domestic airports are at Dibrugarh (110 km away) and Jorhat (60 km away which connects it to Guwahati by daily flights)

Hotels available there are basic but clean and hygienic and light on your pocket. Some of the good hotels over there are Hotel Siddharth, Hotel Brahmaputra, Hotel Ronghar etc. Buses, auto rickshaws and cabs ply within the city. The people there are very friendly and will be happy to be of your help .  So rest assured if in case you are having lingering doubts about visiting the city

 

Next on our plate is Kaziranga, which of course is quite well-known by its own right and needs no introduction as such, but still a brief about Kaziranga-

Kaziranga- the Ajwain/caraway seeds.

Kaziranga National Park, as the world knows is one of the most important tourist destination with the sole claim to fame for its one horned rhino, but is that its only asset? We will come to that later on, but let’s see why it has been rated as Ajwain? Ajwain is famous as a digestive agent among spices,which also lends a slightly nutty – slightly raw flavour to the Dal, just like Kaziranga, situated on the banks of the mighty river Brahmaputra and which too exudes a bit of rawness to the pristine natural beauty of Assam.

Assam has not been very much publicized as a hot tourist spot. Only recently has it come to the fore as an upcoming tourist destination. People till now still thought it to be a very remote, inaccessible ,primitive area with Kaziranga and the one horned rhino being its only uplifting point or the USP that people could “digest” about Assam.

pic credit - Shahwar Hussain

But just as Ajwain is more than a digestive agent, so is Kaziranga more than about the one horned rhino. It’s also about conservation of other wild lives (including the much endangered tiger) of the North Eastern part of India. Kaziranga National Park got itself inscribed into the world heritage site list long back in 1985 .Other than the prehistoric survivors the one horned rhino, Kaziranga is also home to many variety of wildlife like the Indian elephant, Indian bison, swamp deer, tiger, leopard, hollock gibbon etc. It is also a birding paradise with winters being the right time to go bird watching for the great influx of migratory birds.

pic credit-Shahwar Hussain

Accommodation is not a problem as luxury resorts as well as budget accommodation are available within the natural surroundings and arranging an elephant safari or a jeep safari is a piece of cake. One can also go for nature walks to the nearby Karbi villages and have a glimpse of their way of living or just enjoy the scenic beauty of the tea estates and the nearby villages.

For more info you can visit the site and here or as an alternative wait for our future editions to know more about Kaziranga.

Some quick facts about Kaziranga

Kaziranga is well connected by Bus from Guwahati (250 km away) and also to Jorhat and Sibsagar. The nearest rail head is at Jakhalabandha 34 kms away, which is again connected to Guwahati.

The park is open to visitors from Nov 1 to April 3o and you can avail the elephant safari or the vehicle safari whichever suits you. A guide is a must and like in any other national park, there are some rules that you have to strictly follow. You can go for online booking of your itinerary in their official site .

And Now if you are done here, then may we proceed on to our next?

Majuli or our Kalonjia of our paas furon of Assam.

Known scientifically as Nigella sativa, kalonji is primarily used in flavoring confectionaries or bread and some liquors, but its nutty yet pungent bitter flavor is used in paas furon to provide the added zing and as well as balance out the strong flavors of the aromatic ones, though in the process it never losing its unique flavor. In an almost similar fashion Majuli has a bitter-sweet correlation as far as Assam is concerned. It was supposedly the largest river island a few years back, but flood and erosion had taken its toll and reduced the surface area of the island. Not only has this affected the ecology of the place but also has made a big impact on its socio-economical aspect.

Other than the disputed title of being the largest river island, it is also famous as the place where the Assamese neo Vaishnovite movement was started as early as the sixteenth century by Shri Sankardev, a renowned saint and social reformer. So not only is it in the limelight for its eco diversity and rare flora and fauna, it also boasts of a rich cultural heritage on account of the many Satras or hermitages that were set up to propagate and preserve the Assamese neo Vaishnavite movement. Satras are to Assam what monasteries are to the Buddhists. It is the seat of Assamese culture and spirituality and many art and artifacts from those early times are preserved in the Satras. Though 66 satras were set up, out of which only 21 satras remain in Majuli due to soil erosion.


But unfortunately this beautiful and culturally rich state has been endangered to such an extent, that a mass awareness from all quarters has been initiated for its conservation and preservation of the socio-eco system. NGOs and the Union Government are trying their best to get it recognized as a world heritage site by the UNESCO.

pic credit- SHAHWAR HUSSAIN

Though we are proud of a place as colorful as Majuli , we are also  very concerned of its preservation too.

Some quick facts:

You can easily explore Majuli as a part of the Kaziranga- Jorhat- Sibsagar- Majuli circuit by making anyone of the four as your base, but our recommendation will be Jorhat owing to its proximity to all four of them.

It is best to visit Majuli during November during Rasleela celebrations for a gay time, and advisable to avoid the Monsoons.

The best way to explore Majuli is by hiring a boat for a cruise in the river or cycling through the island.

To reach there you have to take the ferry from Nimatighat near Jorhat which is around seven hours bus ride from Guwahati but you can also reach Jorhat by air. You can cross over in  car in the ferry if you choose to very much like the crossover in Panjim in Goa.

Accomodation is a slight problem over there and it is best that you stay in Jorhat. Only gues trooms are available in the satras for which you have to inform before hand.

To know more about Majuli just visit the site or wait for a detailed story in our future issues.

That was Majuli in brief for you and finally let us proceed on to the last of our spicy pick-

Tezpur the Saunf or aniseed.

Close your eyes and think about saunf or aniseed. What do you remember? Aroma? Freshness? A smile? Your first date in that new joint? Yes, sweet and romantic. That is how we associate Tezpur. Situated on the North banks of Brahmaputra , this scenic town is steeped in mythology , history and romance. The city is abundant in lakes, gardens, hills and archeological sites. Monuments and relics from as early as 600 A.D have been unearthed in Tezpur.

The Da parbatia, sculptural remains of the Bamuni hills, Bhomora guri stone inscription will delight the history lovers.

If mythology is your cup of tea, then do visit the Chitra Lekha udyan and the Agnigarh which was the site of the legendary romance between Usha, the daughter of Asura king Bana and Prince Aniruddha , grandson of Sri Krishna and one which almost was about to bring destruction in this universe with the Hara- Hari war.(the war between Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu). If you want to know more about this legendary romance then just read the collections of Sri Jyoti Prasad Agarwala, a doyen of Assamese literature, who was also from Tezpur. In passing we have to mention that Tezpur boasts of some great stalwarts who were the best in their own field, be it literature or music and arts like- Roopkunwar Jyoti Prasad Agarwala, Kalaguru Bishnu Prasad Rabha, Phani Sharma, Bhupen Hazarika to name a few.

For the religious ones we have the Mahabhairav temple, the temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and one which houses one of the biggest and oldest Shiv linga.

The Nameri natural park and the Kaziranga national park are at comfortable driving distance from Tezpur.

The town is fast coming up as an important, educational, cultural and economy centre.

Some quick facts

Tezpur is upcoming fast as an important tourist hub with some added attraction like flower shows, food festival etc  in their annual tourism festival.

An eco camp has also been established to give a feel of living in the wild.

Tezpur is connected by air with Guwahati and Kolkatta. It has two national highways linking it to the major cities in Assam. The nearest major rail head is in Rangia junction and Tezpur is just 181 km away from Guwahati.

Climate is lovely and accommodation is not at all a problem.

Fried Eye has already covered Tezpur in its earlier issue and you can enjoy the unique write up by clicking here.

Well with that we complete in brief our Paas Furon of tourist hot spots in Assam. Of course we cannot deny that there still remained many worthy hot spots which required a mention- like Jorhat, Diphu, Halflong, ,Silchar, Dibrugarh, etc. but we promise to bring them before you in our true Fried eye style write-up complete with pictures and travel tips, in our future issues. Hoping to meet you soon with a fried hot spot in our next !

We welcome your comments at letters@friedeye.com

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