As dawn cracks in at Kaziranga National Park in Assam, we slowly swish through the thick grassland with dewdrops still on their tips.
Sitting atop an elephant, our eyes are wide open to spot the one-horned rhino, for which this UNESCO World Heritage listed sanctuary is famous for. As mist rises, we spot a mother and baby rhino at a water hole. Our mahout takes us close to the beasts, who remain unmoved. Later, we see many more of them, Kaziranga being home to over 2,000 of these scarce species. We also see other animals—deer, water buffaloes, elephants, crocodiles and exhilarating avian kinds—but no tigers and leopards as the big cats shyly hide from us.
This exciting wildlife adventure is one of the highlights of our eight-day upstream cruising from Guwahati to Jorhat along the Brahmaputra River aboard luxury vessel M V Mahabaahu.
Originating in the Tibetan Himalayas, the 2,900-km Brahmaputra is the lifeline of Assam. For time immemorial, the waterway has nurtured the socio-economic and cultural life of millions of people living along its shores. Sailing along the river means knowing more about Assam, which boasts of unspoilt nature, rich history, lively culture, and friendly people of many ethnic backgrounds. The river cruise is ideal to dig into the treasure trove of this remote Northeastern state in a different way.
The 55m long, five-deck boat is like a mini luxury hotel featuring 23 well-furnished and air-conditioned cabins and other facilities from reception desk, lounge, library, bar, dining, a small swimming pool, spa facilities, deck with cardio equipment and weight training facilities, 24/7 tea and coffee station, massage room for Ayurvedic treatments, steam and sauna, jacuzzi, salon for hair spa and beauty therapies. The cruise is operated by Far Horizon Pvt Ltd.
The M V Mahabaahu’s crew is trained, certified and experienced as per international marine standards. Food is light and lean, served by an executive chef. The breakfast and lunch are buffets, with semi-seated and theme dinners. An onboard bakery serves up freshly baked breads and rolls.
As our voyage begins, a mystic landscape of lush green fields and sandy river beds, interwoven with shanty villages and towns, unfolds before me. At scheduled stops we meet locals who introduce us to their simple and humble lifestyle. Other than mobile phones, I hardly notice any other sign of modernity here. Economically handicapped, they haven’t lost touch with culture and traditions. This become evident when they perform dance rituals like the Bihu, Jhumur and Mukha Bhavana, where masked actors enact an epical episode.
At Assam’s Majuli, once the world’s largest river island, we witness a high-energy dance by a group of monks from the 15th century Neo-Vaishnavite cult. (Sunday Standard)