Tea Trail & Majuli
Traveling through Assam’s Tea Trails and discovering the ancient traditions of Majuli
When you sip on a hot cup of tea, do you ever wonder where it came from? Chances are that it came from Assam! The Upper Assam region holds the distinction of being a major tea producing area and tea from these estates is exported to all parts of the world! It is said that a Scottish gentleman, Robert Bruce, introduced tea cultivation in Assam in the early 19thcentury and that led to a growth in the number of tea estates in the region. And now, Assam is the beneficiary of tea tourism where a large population of travelers comes to experience the process of tea making and staying inside provincial heritage bungalows.
A trip to Upper Assam isn’t complete without a visit to the lush green, perfectly manicured tea estates, and gigantic tea factories and some of the best ones are:
Manohari Estate is a popular estate located just 13 kilometers from Dibrugarh. Spread over 1800 acres, the estate has a tea-growing area of about 1000 acres. A visit to the aroma filled estate will let you experience the entire process from plucking tea leaves to the rolling and sorting process.
Ghograjan is also located close to Dibrugarh and the estate here started off in the 1930s! In their 5th generation of tea cultivation, the estate is famous for producing CTC and the finest orthodox tea.
Joonktollee estate has the largest tea factory in Northeast India. Spread over 1870 acres, the estate specializes in producing green tea, Orthodox and CTC varieties.
Khongea estate is located between Jorhat and Dibrugarh and earned the distinction of producing the highest rank tea in India! You can sip on the golden tipped tea and some other special varieties during a visit to the estate.
To enhance the tea tourism experience, local estate owners now offer accommodations inside tea estates and in colonial bungalows all over Upper Assam. And here are our top picks of these heritage bungalows that deliver the ultimate holiday experience.
A sure way to get pampered is to book a stay in the Wild Mahaseer, which is a heritage tea estate resort located near Tezpur. Experience the perfect blend of colonial architecture and influences of Assamese culture as you spend a holiday amidst 22 acres of tea estates. Get a glimpse of how the British lived and enjoy a first-hand experience of the tea making process.
Another fantastic option is the Kaziranga Golf Resort. Though it is not located inside an estate, staying at this resort is a memorable experience. It was once used as a residence for the British administration officers, but now the heritage bungalow has been converted into a luxury resort. With a full-fledged golf course amidst a tea estate, clubhouse, fine dining restaurant, spa, and indoor games, the Kaziranga Golf Resort also offers tours to nearby tea estates and tea factories.
Sitting pretty in the northeast state of Assam is the world’s largest river island, Majuli. Encircled by the gushing waters of the mighty Brahmaputra River, the island is now a major tourist attraction. And getting to Majuli Island is nothing short of an adventure. You will first have to travel to Jorhat and then get to Neemati Ghat, which is about 30 minutes away from the city. At Neemati Ghat, there is a slew of ferry options to get to the next point, Kamalabari Ghat in Majuli Island. Buy a ticket from the counter at Neemati Ghat and soon you are on your way to Majuli by boat.
The boat ride is a memorable experience. The rickety boats ferry people, cars, two-wheelers, and sometimes livestock and you will get an essence of how the locals travel to these islands on a daily basis. Packed with people and vehicles, the ferries chug along the deep waters of the Brahmaputra River and if you are lucky, you might be able to spot the rare River Dolphins! Once you dock at Kalambari Ghat, you need to take a shared tempo or jeep to Garamur town. Most of the hotels are located in Garmur Satra and you will find homestays and start hotels in the vicinity.
One of the best things to do in Majuli is to visit the mask makers! A growing hub of Assamese culture and art, Majuli is famous for its unique masks and this art can be traced back to the 15th century. Majuli is home to numerous satras or monastic centers that promote Assamese culture, tradition, and folk art. Majuli has been a hub of neo-vaishnavites which was initiated by Srimanta Sankardeva in the 15th century. Numerous satras flourished during the time but now only a few remain. Some of these include the Dakhinpat, Garamurh, Shamaguri, Kamalabari, Narasingha, Auniati, and Bihimpur.
The mask-making tradition is mostly practiced by the Nutan Chamaguri satra, and the head of the satra is the master craftsman. Most of these masks are made for events such as the Raasleela festival and the Bhaona, which is a form of street theatre popular all over Assam.
There are three types of masks – Mukha (face), Lotokai Mukha (face with movable facial features), and the Bor Mukha (giant body-sized masks). The process of making a mask is quite cumbersome. The first step involves making a 3-dimensional skeleton for the mask made from locally grown bamboo. Once the frame is done, it is covered with cotton fabric soaked in clay soil, water, and cow dung. The paste is applied over and over again on the frame until all facial features are developed as per the design. The frame is dried in the sun for a few days and then natural colors are used to decorate the masks. The hair and mustaches are made from jute and water hyacinth and once all is done, they go through a rigorous audit process. After the quality check is done, the masks are ready for shipping!