Tag Archives: Brahmaputra

By the Brahmaputra

What would you do if you had only an evening in Guwahati? Spend those precious hours at the expanse of the calm and unhurried Brahamputra. That’s what we did.

We were at the fag end of our 21-day sojourn through the north eastern states. We were in Guwahati for just a night before catching our flight back home.

From the hotel we hailed a rickshaw and said “Ghat”. Looking at us and seeing that we were not locals he raised his eyebrow and said “Suruj “. Yes, we wanted to see the famed sunset on the Brahmaputra River. 

‘There’s a sunrise and a sunset every single day, and they’re absolutely free. Don’t miss so many of them.’
– Jo Walton.

We were dropped at the Fancy Bazaar Ghat. A few boats were anchored to the shore, swaying to the lullabies of the waves. A few others, probably the last ones of the day, were trying desperately to get back to the shore. It was only 4.30 pm, but the sun was already down to its brightest red.

The river completely mesmerized us. Not only with its beauty, but also with its sheer size and huge expanse. How can you call something so vast like Brahmaputra, a river?

‘There is nothing more musical than a sunset.’
– Claude Debussy

Brahmaputra looked more like an ocean – a moving one.   It’s so different to sit by a river, who is addressed in the masculine gender. Brahmaputra, Son of Brahma, the only ‘Nad’ (नद) in India. You get a different kind of vibe from ‘him’; you can feel the strength and energy, the hidden danger lurking inside the depths, often expressed when he comes to full strength, during monsoons.

‘From within or from behind, a light shines through us upon things, and makes us aware that we are nothing, but the light is all.’
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Brahmaputra is the life line of Assam. More than the religious importance, this river evokes a sense of pride in the people. At the same time people have suffered when the river has come full throttle.

“Luitor Bolia baan, toloi koloi nu dhapoli meliso, hir hir sowode kal roop dhori loi kaak nu bare bare khediso.” [Jayanta Hazarika]

Oh the maddening floods of Luit, where are you heading this time. Whom are you chasing again with the frightening sound of your waves.” 

‘Sit by a river. Find peace and meaning in the rhythm of the lifeblood of the Earth.’
– Anonymous

We walked along the banks to get a better view of the sun. The banks were not without the usual share of the city’s grime. Did we hear a silent scream? “Clean me and preserve me for posterity”. Did we miss his pain in our relentless effort to capture one of his golden moments in our cameras.

‘Human society sustains itself by transforming nature into garbage.’
– Mason Cooley


Was he calling to us silently, welcoming us to explore the deep waters.  The smallest river island – Umananda Island – in his midst beckoning us to the shores. We didn’t venture in. 

‘It was good to be a little island. A part of the world, a world of its own. All surrounded by the bright blue sea.’
– Margaret Wise Brown

Why does this river take many a name in its course, even if the water that flows through the river beds is the same. Originating as Yarlung Tsangpo from Kailash Manasarovar in Tibet, in Arunachal Pradesh, Brahmaputra is known as the Siang River.  In Assam, Brahmaputra River is also known as ‘Luit’ or the red one. 

But what’s in a name, right? I could be anyone you would want me to be.

‘Write your worries in sand, carve your blessings in stone.’
– Anonymous

It was finally time for our journey back to reality. The magic of Brahmaputra was coming with us. Just like the music of Bhupen Hazarika, known as the bard of Brahmaputra, whose soulful renditions traveled thousands of miles beyond these shores.

‘There’s a lot of truth in the old saying birds of a feather flock together.’
– Anonymous

And as we flicked the sand off our clothes and made our way to a waiting rickshaw, we turned back for one more time to look at him. He didn’t let us down. Brahmaputra still glistened like gold in the setting sun.

Photo credits: Rajesh

Wakro – a Prelude

Let’s first put a few realities on the table. Not many tourists have Arunachal Pradesh on their travel agenda. Which is just as good for those of us who want to keep their special discoveries all to ourselves!

And if you felt that there is a Tawang, that does catch a few tourists in the peak season, the truth is that there are many more such pearls tucked away in a green oyster that takes more than a touristy attempt at discovery. Scouring for the most popular North-east travel itineraries from the net or walking up to the travel agent office, down the road, will not yield much more than the West Arunachal  circuit of Tawang and Bomdila. Which is why we headed to the North-East – to the East of North-East.
Racing across the map

Racing across the map

So what do I now have to offer which I haven’t already shared with you. We spent a few moments at the War cemetery at Digboi, drove up the  Stillwell road till the Pangsau Pass at the Indo-Burmese border, played with the butterflies and dodged a few leeches in the woods of Namdapha, crossed the Lohit to reach Tezu, headed all the way up to Walong, reached out to distant Kaho and Kibithu and almost caught the first sun rays to fall on the Indian subcontinent.
Wakro, Arunachal pradesh (Google Map)

Wakro, Arunachal pradesh (Google Map)

There is still something left to be told, something really substantial and special that was, in fact, the reason that had us pack up our bags and head out to Arunachal in the first place – Wakro.
For starters, it happens to be one of the realities that we placed early on the table. Seeing it on the Google map is the stuff that gets the traveller in you to sit up. Typing in just Arunachal Pradesh on Google maps and without zooming in any further, you realise that Wakro is the furthest east that you can get anywhere in India. So much so that half of Burma, including Yangon, lies to its west. So, when we drove into Wakro in Jayanto da’s jeep, we knew we were in the east…seriously east.
As we climb down the mountains - Lohit river

As we climb down the mountains – Lohit river

Descending the last few bends in the ghat from our long drive from Walong, we passed the Demwe point where one road went on to Tezu and the other headed to Parshuram Kund. We took the latter and, shortly, reached the new bridge that sprawled across over the Lohit. All along the climb up to Walong and down it, watching the river from the IB at Walong and crossing over it on the hanging bridges, we had seen Lohit in all its many moods. But this was different. We were staring down at it from really up close and from the ‘comforts’ of a concrete bridge.
Parashuram kund bridge

Parashuram kund bridge

Ahead, the famous sight of Parshuram’s axe embedded in the river bed heightened the drama that was already quite dramatic. We parked our Scorpio at the base of the bridge, climbed a few steps till we reached a temple. There were a few men dressed in saffron sitting around a Banyan tree.
Walking to the ghats

Walking to the ghats

We walked further, passed another temple, and a few more smaller shrines,  and proceeded to climb down the steps that were built to accommodate the thousands who flock here every January during Makarsakranti to take a dip in the freezing waters of Lohit. For now, we were the only people around.
The temples, shrines and holy men on the way to the kund

The temples, shrines and holy men on the way to the kund

Every year, Parshuram Kund Mela is organized  in the month of January from 13th to 15th. On Makar Sankranti day, large numbers of devotees come here to take their holy bath. Legend says that when Parshuram killed his mother with an axe at the behest of his father, the axe got stuck to his hands. In order to get rid of the axe, and the sin of killing his mother, he came to Brahma Kund where he took a dip in the holy water. Magically, the axe immediately fell from his hands. He picked up the axe and threw it as far as he could into the mountains. The axe split the mountains, and the spot where it fell became the Brahmaputra River.
The axe seen from the Parasuram Kund bridge

The axe seen from the Parasuram Kund bridge

Beyond the Parshuram Kund, the Lohit River is known as Brahmaputra.
Jayantoda told us an interesting fact about Parshuram Kund. During Makarsakranti, only those whose parents have passed away can take a dip in the Lohit River at the Parshuram Kund. The rest take a dip across the Kund in the Brahmaputra River.
The iconic 'axe' at Parasuram Kund

The iconic ‘axe’ at Parasuram Kund

Down at the last few steps just above the river, we felt the naked fury of the Lohit as the blacks, the dark greens and the frothy whites all tossed up as if in a super strong blender. In front of us, the “axe” with its jagged edges protruded resolutely over the swirling waters.
Close encounters with the 'axe'

Close encounters with the ‘axe’

Wakro was just 20 km up ahead. A brief stop for a cup of tea later, we were crossing the Kamlang bridge and waiting with bated breath for the first sight of Uncle Moosa’s ‘home’ town. Uncle, an Arunachali at heart and by the sheer fact that the last 30 years of his life have been spent in Arunachal and among its lovely people, currently works and lives in Wakro.
From here on Lohit is known as Brahmaputra

From here on Lohit is known as Brahmaputra

For the next five days we would be with Uncle, sharing or rather encroaching upon his space, spending time with him at the Apne library, with his books, with his little patrons from Apna Vidya Bhavan and Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya, with the wonderful staff of these fine two schools and, never the least, the two remarkable people who started and run these excellent institutions under the Anu Shiksha Seva Trust (ASSET) with the graceful blessings of His Holiness Swami Sri Sri Anubhavananda Saraswatiji.
Well, that will need a whole lot of a chapter.

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