India : Assam : Along the Brahmaputra # 2

The Brahmaputra River is a large river by any standard.  It is one of the major rivers of Asia.  It originates in the Angsi Glacier on the northern side of the Himalayas in Tibet.  It cuts through the Himalayas in deep gorges and flows into the Indian state of Arunchal Pradesh before flowing SW through the Assam Valley.  It then flows in a southerly direction through Bangladesh and into the vast Ganges Delta.  After breaking through the Himalayas, the river exhibits typical braided river characteristics.  It is highly susceptable to channel migration which makes navigation difficult.  For our journey on the river a pilot boat charted the way.  The Brahmaputra has many name changes in its 2,900km (1,800ml) journey to the Bay of Bengal as each country, and even states, call it by a different name.

The river is prone to catastrophic flooding in spring when the Himalayan snows melt.  The average discharge is about 19,300 cubic metres (680,000 cu ft) per second.  This is the equivalent of 34.3 times the volume of Sydney Harbour.  The discharge can rise to 100,000 cubic metres (3,500,000 cu ft) per second during floods.  This is 178 times the volume of Sydney Harbour.

Although navigable for most of its length, I did not see much river trafficwhilst on this journey.

P1010205  © DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010205 © DY of jtdytravels

Although the river has an average depth of 38m (124ft),

there are many shallow sand banks jutting out into the river.


P1010197  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010197 © DY of jtdytravels

The main type of river traffic we saw were small wooden fishing boats.


P1010209  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010209 © DY of jtdytravels

Our pilot boat, Subansiri, was never far ahead – charting a safe course for us.


P1010212   ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010212 © DY of jtdytravels

The Subansiri, and another boat hitching a ride, in the very flat landscape.


P1010247  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010247 © DY of jtdytravels

One of the boats seen on the river.


P1010256  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010256 © DY of jtdytravels

Another fishing boat, out for a day’s fishing.


P1010257  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010257 © DY of jtdytravels

More fishing from a small wooden boat.


P1010271  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010271 © DY of jtdytravels

High tension power cables crossing the river on tall support masts near

the Kolia Bhomora Setu Bridge.


P1010276  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010276 © DY of jtdytravels

The Kolia Bhomora Setu bridge was the second bridge built over the Brahmaputra river.  It is an important link to the rest of India for the seven states in the NE of the country.  It is 3015m (just 223yds short of 2 miles) long and is supported by 27 piers.


P1010284  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010284 © DY of jtdytravels

These kids belong to some of the tea pickers on the Koliabur Tea Estate.


P1010287  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010287 © DY of jtdytravels

Brightly dressed tea pickers on the Koliabur Tea Estate.

It had been a very interesting start to our river journey; a much more gentle journey.


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Photography   Copyright  ©  David Young  of  jtdytravels


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Entries re Bhutan and the Brahmaputra, India

There are more recent travel stories and photos posted on our other website

Those musings cover David’s visit to Bhutan and to the Brahmaputra River in Assam, northern India

On this site , we will soon be adding stories and photos about our next adventure, a rail journey through many parts of Europe. This journey will start in June and we hope you can join us for that adventure.

Jennie and David

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.


P1010171  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

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.


P1010177  © DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010177 © DY of jtdytravels

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


P1010179  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

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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Photography copyright ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

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