India : Assam : Along the Brahmaputra # 1

From Bhutan, Trevor and I and our fellow Australian group, flew south to Assam in Northern India. This was to be a complete change of scene. From the rugged mountain terrain of Bhutan with highly decorated Buddhist temples perched on hillsides, we now travelled by boat through the wide flat lands beside the Brahmaputra River.

We began this journey in Guwahati. From here we would sail north up river.  On the way to the river, we stopped in the village of Guwahati for our first experience of life in this part of India.

Our first stop was at the Kamakhya Temple, a stone structure built on Nilachal Hill in Guwahati. It was built between 1563 and 1565 from stone collected from previous temples built on the site.  It is a Hindu temple dedicated to the mother goddess Kamakhya.  The inner sanctum is a cave below ground level reached by a set of narrow steps.  This cave contains no idols but does contain a sheet of stone which has a yoni-shaped crevice that is continually filled by water from an underground spring.  It is this symbolism that is worshiped as the goddess Kamakhya herself.  Offerings, usually flowers, are offered each morning to the goddess but animal sacrifices are also still made.  Male goats are the preferred animal for such sacrifice. Female animals are seldom used except during mass sacrifices.  As the centre for Tantric worship, the temple attracts thousands of tantra devotees during the annual festival – Ambubachi Mela.

P1010150  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010150 © DY of jtdytravels

The lower plinth mouldings indicate that the temple has earlier origins than its Sixteenth Century construction.


P1010157  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010157 © DY of jtdytravels

Devotees traditionally wear red when paying homage to the goddess.  All footwear is removed before entering any Hindu temple.  No-one, including tourists, are allowed to wear any kind of footwear with the exception of, on occasions, socks.  The reason for this ritual is the fact that leather was the traditional material used for making shoes and, as the cow is a sacred animal to Hindus, leather was not allowed in the temple.


P1010155  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010155 © DY of jtdytravels

Sadhus, or holy men, frequent the temple precincts offering prayers and accepting offerings from pilgrims.  They traditionally wear yellow cloth, or nothing at all, which emphasises the fact that they have no worldly goods!


P1010145  ©  DY of jtdytravels

P1010145 © DY of jtdytravels

The village surrounding the Kamakhya Temple sells all the offerings, clothes and necessary items for a devotee to worship at the temple.  Food and colourful sashes are sold by almost every shop.  Everybody dresses in their very best clothes.


P1010159  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010159 © DY of jtdytravels

The walk to the top of the hill is via narrow passageways lined with these colourful shops.


P1010142  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010142 © DY of jtdytravels

Some vendors set themselves up wherever they can.


P1010166  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010166 © DY of jtdytravels

Fresh new growth on a vine was growing on a light pole at the viewpoint half way up the hill to the Kamakhya Temple.


P1010165  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010165 © DY of jtdytravels

The view from the lookout is across Guwahati town to the Brahmaputra River.


P1010167 ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010167 © DY of jtdytravels

After our introduction to the village, we moved down to the river where the MV Mahabaahu lay at anchor awaiting our arrival. As our bus arrived, the boat owner, Sanjay, plodded across the mud to meet us.


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P1010171 © DY of jtdytravels

This guy watched every move as we boarded the lighter which took us to the ship.


P1010172  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010172 © DY of jtdytravels

The MV Mahabaahu is 55 metres (164ft) long, weighs 675 tonnes and can carry 58 guests who are accommodated in 23 cabins.  There are 30 crew members and it travels at 12 knots.  Recreational facilities include a swimming pool, gym, sundeck, library, spa and hair salon.


P1010174  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010174 © DY of jtdytravels

The MV Mahabaahu entered service in 2011.


P1010180  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010180 © DY of jtdytravels

Trevor, along with the rest of us, was welcomed on board with a tikka and scarf.


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P1010177 © DY of jtdytravels

The sun had already set over the Brahmaputra by the time we got underway.


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P1010179 © DY of jtdytravels

A couple of fishermen poled their way slowly home across the languid waters of the river after a day’s fishing.  I hoped they had caught something to take home to their family for dinner.  It was now time for us to have our first dinner aboard MV Mahabaahu. We looked forward to a very different type of  journey as we sailed up the Brahmaputra River in Assam in north eastern India.


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One comment on “India : Assam : Along the Brahmaputra # 1

  1. Richard D. Greenfield says:

    David: We are contemplating a trip on the Mahabaahu in October or November of this year. We were able to see some of your postings but none that described your thought regarding the boat itself, the service, food, etc. If you have written anything on this subject, we would be interested in hearing from you.


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