Darjeeling may get all the attention but scenic Dibrugarh, on the banks of the Brahmaputra river, is the ‘Tea City of India’. Dibrugarh temperature remains at an average of 22.9 degrees Celsius, annually. With swathes of lush tea gardens amid paddy fields, Dibrugarh along with Tinsukia and Sivasagar forms a triumvirate of tea-producing districts of Assam. Historically, an encampment for the great Ahom kings, its name is said to be derived from the riverside fort built by the British in 1824 on the banks of the Dibru (Dibaru) river, a tributary of the Brahmaputra – dibru is a Dimasa word for ‘water’ and garh means ‘fort’. Dibrugarh airport is well-connected to major cities in India such as Mumbai, Delhi, and Bangalore.
Teeming with soothing carpets of green, the manicured tea gardens are an unmissable sight around Dibrugarh. Go on a guided tour and understand the journey from leaf to cup while staying in a plantation itself, like the colonial Mancotta Chang Bungalow. Catch the rich biodiversity of rare flora and fauna, just 60km south of Dibrugarh at Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary, Assam’s only evergreen tropical rainforest, which also has several World War II cemeteries nearby.
Religion plays an important role in Assam which is known for its various satras or monastic Vaishnavite centres of worship. Among the main satras and thaans is Koli Aai Thaan, dedicated to the divine Koli Aai, daughter of Dibru Satra’s religious head priest. Other places to visit in Dibrugarh include the marble Radha Krishna Temple, the royal burial grounds Barbarua Maidam, Lekai Chetia Maidom, Bahikhowa Maidam and the Raidongia Dol (which dates from 700 AD) known for its collection of ancient relics.
There are many festivals celebrated here, but Dibrugarh comes alive during the bunch of Bihu festivals—Ringtail (spring), Bhogali (harvest) and Kangali (pre-harvest). The spring festival is the best time to see the whole city coming together to organise community pandals or stages where games, literary events, traditional bihu dance, music contests and cultural programmes are held. It is quite a sight to catch dancers in their lovely gamocha, mekhala, dhoti and chadar (ethnic costumes) perform in the green fields to the beat of dhols and the pepa (horn pipe).
While locals love traditional fare like masor tenga (tangy fish curry), mangkho (meat) and laroo pitha (festive rice dish), there’s decent Chinese, north Indian, Bengali and Continental cuisine as well in Dibrugarh town
Dibrugarh is a small town with little opportunity to party. Yet, there are few places to chill out or break away from routine. Zaffran Bar on HS Road is a nice place for an evening drink or dinner while De Rock Café on AT Road is a cool youth hangout where people like to relax with friends and catch some of the best rock gigs in town. Another option is to hop into local watering hole Dreamland Bar for a drink. Dibrugarh Gymkhana Club is a lovely place to wind down in comfort, but is only open to members and their guests. It may not involve drinks, but you could also catch a movie at the old Aurora Cinema Hall or the fancier and modern Galleria Cinemas in Sohum Mall.
Being tea country, you are spoiled for choice so don’t forget to pack some original Assam tea to take back home. The street shopping scene is also quite amazing as you can pick up traditional items like exquisite cane and bamboo crafts, silk saris and traditional garments like mekala chador, gamocha, japi and xorai. Visit New Market for branded electronic goods, fashion, apparel, leather items and jewellery, Amolapatty for furniture. Chowkidinghee Bazaar has many eateries, so after a tiring round of shopping, there’s plenty of choices to beat post-shopping hunger pangs. If you prefer the ease of malls as one-stop-shops for major needs, try Sohum at RKB Path or Reliance Trends.
If you are done inhaling the aromas of tea from the factories around and feel like going on a long drive, take a 54km detour along the Dibrugarh–Tinsukia Highway and visit the Tilinga Mandir dedicated to Lord Shiva famous for its vast collection of temple bells (tilinga in Assamese) suspended from the ceiling. It is a sight to behold when you find bells made of brass, copper, aluminium in all shapes and sizes hanging all around the temple and even from the trees! For the faithful, the bells are given as offerings for every fulfilled wish, making it one of Dibrugarh district’s most popular and atypical tourist attractions. Make a wish here and who knows, you may return to tie a bell yourself! Incidentally, the first railway services in the North East region began from Dibrugarh, so it holds prime position in the history of the India Railways as well.
|Civil Aerodrome Dibrugarh, Mohanbari, Dibrugarh, Assam 786012||DIB|