Destination Review: Assam
A holiday to Assam on your mind? Read our handy guide for information on what to see, what to do and what to eat in this beautiful state.
Best known for its sprawling green tea estates and the one-horned rhino, Assam is among the most accessible and significant north-eastern states in India. ‘The Gateway to the Northeast’ is where the mighty Brahmaputra River flows, and is an important centre of trade for the oil and tea industries.
Assam and its neighbouring regions featured traces of human settlements from as early as the Stone Ages, and later it served as a frontier kingdom for the Gupta Empire. The Tai group called Ahoms ruled upper Assam for about 600 years, post which the colonial rule began. Modern-day Assam is a blend of spectacular natural beauty, unique flora and fauna, impressive hospitality, and a distinctive culture.
Things To See In Assam
Historic structures, wildlife sanctuaries, modern establishments, and different tribes and cultures – all co-exist beautifully in Assam. There is nothing stereotypical in the state; what visitors get instead is a refreshing and unique travel experience of an India far removed from camel rides and spicy food. Here are some top attractions to visit in Assam:
Sitting quaint and serene on the untameable Brahmaputra, is Majuli, the world’s biggest river island. Although floods and erosion are a constant threat, the little island is where one can get a detailed insight into the Vaishnavite culture. The many Satras (religious institutions) are well-maintained by followers of Sankaradeva and play host to traditional art and dance forms like borgeet, bhaona, and mask-making.
This is one of the 108 shakti peeths in India, and is considered the place where Sati’s womb fell during Shiva’s tandav. Located in Guwahati’s Nilachal hills, it is a major centre of shakti worship. The annual Ambubachi Mela draws lakhs of devotees from all over the world.
Kaziranga National Park
Imagine riding on the back of a majestic elephant or a sturdy jeep through the tall jungle grass as dawn breaks and animals and birds come out for a drink of water–a safari here can be a surreal experience. Built in 1905, Kaziranga is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to two-thirds of the planet’s one-horned rhinoceroses.
Assam State Museum
Located in Guwahati, this museum features an interesting collection of anthropological, artistic, and other artefacts related to the state’s history and culture. There are also tribal sculptures and reconstructed traditional homes on display.
Curious Facts About Assam
Assam was first mentioned in a 4th century pillar inscription in Allahabad, the text of which was written by Samudragupta of the Gupta Dynasty.
It has its own state anthem called ‘O Mur Apunar Dex.’ Written by Laxminath Bezbarua. It was officially adopted in 1927.
It is home to Mayong, a seemingly nondescript village that is often referred to as the Hogwarts of Assam. A historic hub of black magic and witchcraft, the place was even mentioned in the Mahabharata.
The Brahmaputra River that flows through Assam has a massive width of 10 kilometres! It is also considered as the only ‘male’ river in India.
Nômôskar – Hello
Ki khobor – How are you?
Mur khobor bhal – I am good
Mûr nam – My name is…
Apunar/tumar naam ki? – What is your name?
Theek aasay – Okay
Hoi – Yes
Nohoi/Na – No
Moi buji pua nai – I did not understand
Eitur daam kimaan? – What is its price?
Khyama koribo – Excuse me/Sorry
Dhanyabad – Thank You
Ahu – Goodbye
Travel Tips for Assam
Convenient and affordable local modes of transport are available almost everywhere, but may be patchy in smaller towns. Booking a private cab is the best option to travel distances in the state. Negotiate the fare if not using government transport.
Since Assam lies in the eastern part of the country, there is an unofficial time difference of over an hour. So be prepared for earlier sunrises and sunsets as compared to the rest of India and plan your day accordingly.
November to April-May is the best time for an Assam trip. But remember to pack winter wear if travelling between November-January.
Local Cuisine in Assam
Being a rice-producing state, Assam has a predominantly rice-eating population. Called bhaat in Assamese, it is often accompanied by dal (lentils), maas (fish), and bhaji/sobji (vegetable dishes). The everyday Assamese cuisine is not spicy and has distinctive elements like khar (dish prepared with alkali), koldil (banana flower), and khorisa (fermented bamboo shoots).
Duck, mutton, chicken, and pork are often eaten by non-vegetarian locals in Assam. The cuisine and dishes also vary according to the particular tribe and religion of the people. Many tribal communities also brew traditional alcoholic beverages like laupani, hor, jou, and apong.
Using Money in Assam
Like the rest of the country, the state also uses the Indian Rupee. Assam is oft-visited by Indian travellers and a significant number of foreigners, and as such currency exchange services are available at various places. Although private currency exchange services are available in bigger cities like Guwahati, it is advisable to use banks and Government-recognised outlets.
ATMs are common in major cities, but it is better to keep cash handy when travelling to rural areas.
Assam Fact File
Location: North-east India, bordered by Bangladesh and Bhutan
Connectivity: Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport in Guwahati is a major airport; North East Frontier Railways links the state to different parts of the country. There is road connectivity to Assam from Siliguri (West Bengal) and even Bhutan.
Climate: Tropical monsoon rainforest
Languages: Assamese is the official language. English, Hindi, Bengali, and Bodo are also spoken and understood in most places.
Time Zone: IST (UTC +5:30)
Food and Drink: Rice dishes with duck, pork, and pigeon are common. Vegetarian options are plenty as well. Laupani, a fermented rice drink, is a popular alcoholic beverage.