Assam state is known for wildlife, archaeological sites, and tea plantations. But apart from that Assam is also known for the production of silk. Assam produces high-quality silk from ancient times. There are a number of incidents in old historical stories that confirm the existence of silk in India through Assam. Silk is used for the weaving as it is the most important characteristic of North East India Neolithic culture.
In Assam, there is commonly production of three endemic silk which are golden Muga silk, warm eri silk, and white pat silk.
It is the product of silkworm Antheraea assamensis which is domestic to Assam. The silk produced has its fine texture with durability. Muga traders have that favor of Central Silk Board of India that if they pass inspection then they allow hem to use geographical indication logo for trading globally.
Pat silk is usually of brilliant white color or off-white color texture. It is the silk produced by the Bombyx textor silkworm which is considered as the primary product of silk. The specialty of the silk is that it can dry even in shadows.
Samia cynthia ricini which feed on castor oil plant is the producer of Eri silk. Another name given to this silk is endi or errandi silk but somehow it is popularly known as Non-violent silk. The warmth and softness make it be used as shawls and duvet.
The silk industry had started to get progressed when the ruling kings were taken a keen interest in the art and craft formed using silk during 1228 AD. Before that, some archaeologists claimed that Indians learned the art of silk weaving through some Chinese migrants. Silk had also been considered as part of royal status because the silk weaved clothes were dressed by the king and the royal families.
According to some resources, there are around 9500 sericulture villages producing the muga, eri and pat silk in the Assam and Sualkuchi being the hub of that industry. The industry or the main hub of silk is sualkuchi which is the center of silk weaving because it is the place where all women in ancient times used to craft silk weaving within a developed community which is still the part of Assam culture.
A cup of “Irish breakfast tea” would be a perfect way to start the day with. Have you ever wondered where it comes from? It is made from small-sized Assam tea leaves which is a type of black tea grown in the region of Assam, the largest tea-growing region along the mighty river the Brahmaputra and bordering Bangladesh and Myanmar, from the plant Camellia sinensis. Black tea distinguishes itself from other types of tea by its dark leaves and more intense flavor caused due to oxidation. This gives the Assam tea a malty flavor, enormous aroma, bright color and energetic taste.
Robert Bruce, a Scottish adventurer introduced tea bushes from Assam in Europe in the year 1823. During the East India Company, a committee was constructed in 1834 to evaluate the scientific nature and mercantile potential of Assam tea. The “Tea committee” discovered that a hybrid of the Chinese and Assam tea would be best suited in the climate and topography of Assam. Assam experiences precipitation of 10-12 inches in the monsoon per day and the temperature rises to 96.8F which is extremely humid and hot. This tropical climate contributes to the aroma and taste which makes this tea significant. The planting and manufacture of Assam tea from 1840 to 1860 were monopolised by the Assam Company, which operated through the labor of the local Kachari community. The success of the company and the colonial policy to offer land for the tea plantation led to a revolution in the production of tea in Assam in the 1860’s. Most of the tea estates in Assam are the members of the Assam Branch of the Indian Tea Association, which is the senior and most eminent body of tea manufacturers of India.
Assam tea is harvested twice and commonly called the “first flush’” and the “second flush”. The “second flush” produces the highly-priced “tippy tea” which is plucked from the gold tips and is sweeter and full-bodied and costs more than the “first flush” harvest. There are two to seven stages in the processing of tea leaves and any change might result in a different type of tea. Moisture and temperature can affect the tea production and thus the procedure is carried out in a climate-controlled facility. Withering, fixing, oxidation, rolling, drying and aging are the major steps involved. The interesting fact about the tea plantations is that it doesn’t follow the IST(Indian Standard Time) and has a separate timezone called “Tea Garden Time” or Bagan Time, which is one hour ahead of IST.
Assam tea is known to have higher caffeine content than other teas which is about 50-90mgs of caffeine per cup. However, a stronger and darker brew will yield more caffeine. The most likely Assam tea benefits that you’ll experience is a boost in energy and an increase in mental alertness from the caffeine which is enjoyed by drinkers in the morning. In addition, black tea contains polyphenols including catechins, flavonoids, and tannins which is known to boost your health. It is also said to have the property to reduce cancer but is yet to be proven scientifically. To take the full advantage of black tea, people use loose leaves without sugar or milk. It also has proved to have side effects like increased heartbeat, palpitations, restlessness, nervousness, problems with sleep, or a headache. Some people may even experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and diuresis. However, the celebrated Assam tea continues to be produced approximately 1500 million pounds of tea every year.
Odisha, the beautiful state located in the eastern coast of India is a hub of large number of cultures, traditions and festivals. The Car Festival of Puri is famous worldwide. The second-largest festival is the Chandrabhaga Mela or the Magha Saptami Festival which is usually being observed on the seventh day of the new moon of Magha month and normally lies in February. Although the temple is devastated, thousands of devotees flock to Konark to commemorate the new birth of Surya Dev or the Sun God. The reason for the state of the temple is still unknown and remains to be a huge puzzle to the historians and archaeologists. But according to the copper plates and the references made on the Ain-i-Akbari states that the temple was in good condition until the 16th century. Visitors and pilgrims can find several beautifully sculpted and carved idols of a sun god, Maya Devi temple, wheels, horses and Lord Narasimha. They will also find a plate declaring Konark to be a world Heritage site. The sight along the Chandrabhaga river on the day of the Magha Sukla Saptami attracts the attention of tourists and pilgrims equally.
The festival has an astonishing history. A mythical anecdote tells that Samba, the son of Lord Krishna was cursed by his father upon intruding his room during a private moment. Lord Krishna imprecated Samba of leprosy which was a huge punishment for an unintended mistake. Upon Narad’s suggestion, Samba worshiped Surya Deva upon the banks of Chandrabhaga river for 12 days for a cure and he eventually was. This place is still known to have curative powers and people from all over come to seek for it.
The devotees wake up early and take a dip in the Chandrabhaga river and wait for the sun to rise and ask for his blessings. After the darshan, people usually go to the Sun Temple of Konark and spend some wonderful time with their families and friends. Odisha is sometimes known as the tribal state and several local tribes try to sell their handmade products in the Chandrabhaga fair. Tourists also enjoy the cultural festivals happening during the day. Folk singers, Odissi dancers, and other music exponents will showcase their talents during this day and keep the audience happy. The Pandas (priests) gather on the beach and draw an outline of the Jagannath temple on the sand and place mounds of wet sand, each mound representing a family. The pandas perform the Puja by chanting mantras. To witness this holy and beautiful festival, reach Chandrabhag beach from Puri which is 31 kilometers away. It is such an overwhelming scene to watch people from different wakes of life reaching to pray the mighty Surya Dev with the pure heart filled with devotion.