A visit to Kaziranga and Sivasagar was something I was planning for years. Kaziranga is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which needs no introduction. On the other hand, Sivasagar was once the capital of Ahom Kingdom, which is now known for sacred Sivadol, Ahom palaces, monuments, and Maidams (burial mounds of the Ahom nobility).
After some research and some online bookings, I was all set to begin my journey. It was a fresh morning of spring in Assam. When we started our journey from Guwahati, it was already 7 am. Though we decided to cover the 4 hour journey before 10:30 am, things don’t always go as planned. Moreover, I heard a lot about the highway dhabas of Amoni and Jakhalabandha, and it was on my itinerary. So, I was sure we would not reach Kaziranga before 12 pm.
We began our trip to Kaziranga National Park. As we crossed the Nazrikhat toll plaza, we were greeted by the lush paddy fields, colorful trees, and a group of ‘Bihuwa dol’, who were on their way to celebrate Bihu. It was indeed a sight to behold. The road was almost empty, only with some night buses coming from Dibrugarh and Tinsukia. We reached Jakhalabandha at around 10 am and had our breakfast there. These dhabas have a set menu. We got a thali full of puris, chana dal, mixed veg, salad, pickle, and kheer. The homely flavors enhanced the taste and we thoroughly enjoyed it with a hot cup of chai.
After a good and hearty meal, we commenced our journey. At around 11:30, we were thrilled to see the sign ‘Welcome to Kaziranga National Park’, which meant we entered the border. Kaziranga had already started and we were crossing through the animal corridor. Unfortunately, our hotel was another 40 minutes drive, which is located in Bokakhat. Before we reached the hotel, I made a call to our safari guide, informing him to pick us up from the hotel. We checked-in first and kept our belongings in our room and waited for our guide.
He reached within 20 minutes and our journey to the world of one -horned rhinos began. Before I share my experience, I would like to share some important things, which may help you plan your trip better.
Best Time to Visit Kaziranga
Make a google search and they will tell you ‘November to April’ are the months to consider a trip to Kaziranga. But I suggest, visit any national park or wildlife sanctuary, when it is not too hot and when it is not too cold. During winters, the thick fog hides the animals and you won’t get to see them. Plan the trip in spring, when nature is at its prime and the animals roam free, taking advantage of the beautiful transformation of nature.
How to Reach
If you are traveling from Guwahati, the best way to reach Kaziranga is by hitting the road. On the way, you will come across some stunning natural landscapes. The train connectivity is also good. There are regular trains to Jorhat from Guwahati. You can alight at Jorhat and reach the park by road to Kohora.
Kaziranga offers Jeep and elephant safari rides. Unfortunately I have seen how mahouts treat this majestic animal with sharp objects. It would be hypocrisy, if you visit the park to admire the other animals and talk about their perseverance, while riding another.
You can easily book jeep safari online on the park’s official website. It costs INR 1,000 per person.
Finally A Trip to Kaziranga
So our guide picked us up from the hotel and within a few minutes, we entered Agoratoli, one of the four zones. We came across a few Assam-type houses of the local villagers. At the entrance, we were stopped by the forest guards, who checked our documents, and searched for prohibited items. Once we cleared the checking, we entered the park.
Within a few minutes we were inside the jungle. Apart from the birds chirping, there was an uneasy silence all around. For 10 minutes, we haven’t seen anything. Not even the birds, who were hiding behind the bush or on the top of larger-than-life trees. But as luck favored, our guide pointed his finger to the direction of the lake flowing beside. I grabbed my binoculars and finally got to see the star-resident. Yes, it was a one-horned rhino, who was enjoying a relaxing bath on a sunny day.
After that, there was no stopping. We were greeted by several herds of deer, who were curious about us, a herd of elephant with their two little ones, who were only curious about how to use their long trunk, colorful birds, wild boar, tortoise, wild water buffalos, gaur, barasingha, western hoolock gibbon, macaque, etc. A handy tip- if you come across a group of langoor, gibbon or macaque, monkeying around, hide your binoculars or cell phone immediately. If they get a hold of it, you will lose it forever.
Interestingly, I didn’t expect to see rhinos in such a large number, as I have heard a lot about poaching in the area. Between 2000 to 2021, poachers have killed more than 200 rhinos. However, the government took strict action against them and thankfully the population is growing like never before. Even our safari guide shared his experience about how previous visitors were disappointed, when they didn’t get to see the rhinos. But today, the table has turned. And one-horned rhinos grazing on the field has become a common sight.
It took us more than two hours to complete this eastern range, which is known for its beautiful landscape and abundant wildlife species. As we were wrapping up our safari before dark, we caught a glimpse of an elephant family, drinking water before heading to their home for the night. We captured the moment on our camera.
The Next Day
I am not a morning person, but still woke up at around 5 am. It was just my excitement to see the diverse wildlife species, which inspired me to wake up and take an early shower. I was all set for my next adventure to Bagori. Our guide was already waiting for us outside our hotel. We just hopped on the jeep and started our journey full of excitement and a hope to see a ferocious but gentle tiger.
After a few paperwork and other formalities, we entered Bagori. We got a glimpse of some wild water buffaloes grazing on the meadows, a herd of elephants taking a morning stroll, and a herd of swamp deer hopping around for no reason. The view is so ethereal that we almost forgot ourselves and were fascinated by everything going around. This was a rare sight for us, and we knew, it perhaps could be the only time in our life to see these beautiful creatures.
Finally it was time for us to wrap up and leave the park. We came back to our hotel and packed everything, checked out and headed towards our next Destination…
Sivasagar Assam, the cultural heritage of Assam, was once the capital of the Ahom Kingdom. This small town between Dibrugarh and Jorhat is known for its historic significance. This popular tourist destination is home to numerous Ahom monuments, royal palaces, Maidams, and secret tunnels of Ranghar and Karenghar. Moreover, the verdant beauty of Sivasagar is something, which can’t be described in words. On one hand, it has lush paddy fields, on the other, the green sheet of tea estates fascinate you. No doubt, tourism is an additional bonus to this already rich town, which is also blessed with booming tea and oil industries.
Before exploring the city’s top attractions, let’s know about the history of this little town. Sivasagar or Sivasagar, which means ‘the ocean of Lord Shiva’, got its name from Sivadol, a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. It was built in 1734 by Kuwari Ambika, wife of Swargadeo (Ahom King) Siva Singha.
Since we had a very limited time in, we decided to visit the historic and religious sites of Sivasagar. Our Sivasagar itinerary began by offering prayers at Shiva Doul.
No trip to Sivasagar is complete without offering prayers and seeking divine blessings of Lord Shiva at this historic temple. One interesting fact about the temple is, it is the tallest Shiva temple in northeast India, with a height of 104 feet. This more than 200 year old temple has a massive dome, called Kosoloy, which was made of pure gold. Several Hindu Gods and Goddesses were sculpted on the walls and pillars of the temple. These carvings show how the religious aspect of Assam is no different than that of other parts of India.
Although we had a tight schedule, I insisted on visiting Vishnu Dol and Devi Dol as well. These Assamese temples dedicated to Hindu Gods and Goddesses are the finest examples of Ahom architectural style.
The next morning we decided to visit Joysagar Pukhuri, one of the largest artificial lakes in India. The lake was formed in 1697, in just 45 days, during the reign of Ahom Swargadeo Rudra Singha. The lake was built in the memory of his mother Joymoti Kunwori, who sacrificed her life enduring the most brutal torture by the then king Lora Raja (child king) Sulikphaa. She chose to die instead of disclosing her exiled husband Gadapani’s whereabouts.
Today, this 318 acres of lake is home to hundreds of native and migratory birds, who visit the lake during winter. The northern bank of the lake has several temples, including Shiva Dol and Vishnu Dol. But since we already had visited them a day before, we decided to visit Talatal Ghar, which was just 3 kilometers away.
Ranghar is the oldest surviving amphitheater in Asia, which is referred to as the ‘colosseum of the east’. Its history dates back to 1746 AD, and reflects the architectural precision and grandeur of that time. This grand building was originally built by Ahom Swargadeo Paramatta Singha to be used as an amphitheater for entertainment purposes. Ahom kings and queens and nobles used to enjoy buffalo fights and Bihu dance during Bohag month of the Assamese calendar from Ranghar.
This seven-storey palace, three of which was built beneath the surface and the rest above the ground is the largest Ahom monument. The floors under the ground are called Talatal Ghar and the part above the surface is known as Karengh Ghar.
It was initially built as an army base. It has two secret tunnels and three floors below ground level. Kareng Ghar or the Garhgaon Palace is the grandest of all monuments ever built by the Ahom kings. It was first commissioned by Sukhrungphaa in 1698 AD. However, after his death, numerous alterations were done. The structure was initially built with wood and stone, which over the years were destroyed.
The visitors are allowed only on the ground floor, and first floor. Although I felt the architectural style of this historic monument very simple in comparison to those of Rajasthan and Maharashtra, which boasts elaborate decor. But its beauty lies in its simplicity. Moreover, it is the largest monument built by the Ahom dynasty.
As we entered through the gate, we were awestruck by the surrounding lush greenery, the well-manicured garden, and the grand palace. Kareng Ghar, which is also known as the Garhgaon Palace, was constructed in 1751 by Swargadeo Sunenpha or Pramatta Singha. However, the present permanent structure was built by Swargadeo Rajeswar Singha in 1752 AD.
This grand palace went through some renovations, which resulted in its irregular shape. There were several rooms that run along a single corridor. The ground floor was used as a stable, storerooms, and servant quarter. The royal suites were on the upper storey. There was a Puja Ghar or Prayer House too.
It took us more than 2 hours to tour the palace. We didn’t want to miss the details, and the glorious history of Ahom Kingdom. Did you know it was the valor and love for the motherland of the dynasty that the Mughal couldn’t invade Assam?
We spent almost a week and yet were disappointed that we did not plan the Sivasagar trip properly. There are so many attractions and places to visit in Sivasagar in this historic town of Assam that I must have to take another trip for sure. And this time, I will include Dibrugarh and Tinsukia as well.