Tezpur, which in English means “City of Blood”, is the cultural capital of Assam apart from being a hub of the Indian army. In essence, it has a mix of both the old and new worlds and is a perfect holiday destination for the travel salesman to tap. But how did it get its name? Well, more about that later.
First and foremost, let’s put to rest a concern of every traveler to this region: safety. Tezpur is really secure, in fact one of the safest place in Assam what with the Army headquarters situated there. Besides, the locals are very friendly as well and crooks are an extinct species except some eve-teasers who are omnipresent in front of the cinemas, and a couple of local rowdies who have apparently seen much better days. So in a nutshell, there is very little chance of you getting ripped off unless you had been living under a rock this long. And as for lodging facilities, you can choose depending on your purse from the 3 star “KRC palace” to the moderate ones like “Aniruddha” and “Kanyapur”. But of course, one rule that applies everywhere (which I have come to propound based on my experiences) is that never ask the rickshaw-pullers or auto/taxi-drivers to take you to a decent place as it will be anything but decent. So go around and look for yourself, it won’t take long as it is a small place and of course you have my little discourse to help you. And for the food of course, as I have written, you will be spoilt for choice but then again try to pre-pone your dinner a bit as the town sleeps early.
Well you might wonder what is there in this quiet distant place for lovebirds like you but don’t ponder over it for even a moment more. Tezpur is the epitome of love. Even the origin of the name Tezpur has its roots in love and the struggles that come with it. It is the place where the evil “Banasur” had taken Lord Krishna’s grandson Aniruddha prisoner when he fell in love with Banasur’s daughter Usha. The battle that took place after that between Banasur’s army and Krishna left the whole town red with blood which gave the place the name-“Tezpur” meaning “City of blood”. So you if you are visiting Tezpur with your special one, take her to Agnigarh which stands as a memory to that epic battle and signifies the victory of love over hatred. The small hill with the beautiful flowers and trees around have provided a serene backdrop for many a love story.
Apart from Agnigarh, you can go boating in Podum-pukhuri (meaning “Lotus Pool”) or watch the sunrise and sunset over the Brahmaputra. In the evening, go strolling along the quiet roads and experience the best time of your life. Although Podum-pukhuri is in the heart of the town, if you want to experience the waves of the Brahmaputra, you will have to go a bit further away near Kaliabhomora bridge or Silghat. Although there is very little chance the boatman will hand over the oars to you, at least you can experience the mode of communication that your forefathers used not so long ago to cross the rivers and which is still used by the small-scale fisherman here.
Besides, if you like the idea of an empty road where you can accelerate to your heart’s content and push the speedometer of your car to the limit, well Tezpur is the place for you. The town sleeps early but you need not do so. Go out on a long drive to the outskirts of the town over to the Kaliabhomora bridge and you are gonna love it. The thrill you feel as you bolt through the darkness all around you on the solitary road, is hard to explain in words.
One location for the safari lovers is the Orang National Park which is about an hour’s drive away from Tezpur (though it depends on who is driving). You need not be a wildlife lover to fall in love with the jungle and the rare species of birds and animals around you. It is the experience of a lifetime.
While you are there, you can also feast on a wide variety of sumptuous meals that the land of Assam has to offer. There are a lot of eateries scattered across the town which provide meals ranging from north-Indian to Chinese to delicious local dishes.
If you are not that much into experimenting, you can try Veggie-food or Delight (which is the best bakery in town apart from providing fast food as well). For those with the sweet tooth, KF is recommended. Apart from Delight Bakery, KF is the only place that offers the most delicious pastries and cakes and the good news is that it has two joints in Tezpur, one only serving pastry and sweets and the other providing all kind of cuisines.
But for the food-maniacs like my friend Subhash, I would strongly recommend the local “pitha”. Though the pithas are generally made during “Bihu”, but you will find a whole lot of extremely courteous and friendly locals who will be ever eager to let you try their varieties of pithas. Honestly, no trip to Assam can be complete without tasting them and the taste will hang on to your tongue long after you have left the beautiful state far behind you. And of course, not to forget all those roadside vendors selling everything under the sun from “jhalmuri” to noodles and fried eggs.
There is no dearth of picture perfect locations in Tezpur. Be it the stone garden of Kanaklata Udyan or the biological gardens in Agnigarh; Tezpur is the place to be for enthusiasts of photography, apart from the regular travelers. It is not called the “City of love” for no reason.
We were lucky to experience both sunshine and rainfall in our 3 days of stay there. Hence we were able to catch the glimpse of the beauty of Agnigarh in all its glory as the sunshine fell on the variety of beautiful plants there as well as the raindrops glistening on the rocks of Kanaklata Udyan. But it is advisable to visit the places during the day as only a few remain open at night and the lighting is not that good. After all it is a quiet town on the banks of the Brahmaputra, which reminds me of the snaps we took of the mighty river as we passed over the Kaliabhomora bridge. Dawn or dusk is the perfect time for taking pictures of the Brahmaputra just before the glowing sun vanishes into the horizon.
A photography aficionado can take pictures of flowers and birds in Agnigarh, or the broad expanse of the Brahmaputra, or the gigantic rocks of Kanaklata Udyan, and even the ruins of Da-parbatia.
A couple of other locations where you can try your hand at photography are the old railway station with its meter gauge, the pond of Hajara-Pukhuri, the rock inscription of Rudrapad and of course Ganesh-ghat with its crowd of the religious and the agnostics; the first group coming to pray and the second loitering around in the riverbank for some not so noble reasons. But one thing for sure, each of these places has its own old world charm and is a paradise for any sane photographer.
Every place has its own charm but as goes the saying:”Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder”. While the youngsters might prefer a bustling town with a great night life, the older might just seek solitude in a quiet place away from the humdrum of the city
My trip to Tezpur is a perfect example of this. Although being in our early 20’s, we have a penchant for the so called “cool” places, but that trip was supposed to be a journey to the unknown India’s past. Places like Delhi and Rajasthan are common destination for people with the same objective that we had, but we wanted to try something different. That exactly is what the travel agents and websites should tap in the holiday season or in any season for that matter. The reason being that, there are a lot of people like me who seek the unknown and the not-so-famous lands. You will find a zillion websites taking you to Shimla and Mussourie but how many have heard of Tawang and Roing?
The memory of the place is the greatest souvenir you can take with you. It will always be etched fresh in your memory. Of course, for the more materialistic amongst you, you can buy the “Phulon-gamusa” which is more than just a gamusa (towel) but a significant symbol of Assamese culture. Then there is the “jhapi” and the “mekhela”. I won’t disclose what they are. Go find out for yourself. After all it is best that some things are unknown as otherwise, what is the point of travelling? So get out of your den and go visit this quaint old town in the extremity of the country. And trust me when I tell you this, it will be worth every penny of yours.