Culinary History of Spinach and Two Iron Rich Assamese Recipes

Winters are here and though we live in the concrete jungle, every year my family try to grow some of the winter greens and vegetables in our little abode. This year, we tried some early sowing of spinach, fenugreek, radish and lai xaak. To our happiness, the greens are grown pretty quickly and since then, they have been a steady part of our diet. But if you ask which tender green we enjoy the most is the spinach.

 

As soon as our spinach is ready to be plucked, we have been eating it like starved people. It is one of our favourite green and we do enjoy it in every form. Today, I am offering two family favourite recipes of spinach with you all. But before going to them, let us know the culinary history of spinach and how these tender greens reached India.

Culinary History of Spinach

Spinach is a native of the Ancient Persia from where it was introduced in India and China by the Arab and Nepalese visitors in AD 647. Its invasion of the other parts of the world began when it was introduced in Sicily by the Saracens in 827.

The earliest written evidence of spinach and its usage was found from the 10th century in the Mediterranean. The most prominent works are the medical work by al-Razi (known as Rhazes in the West) and in two agricultural treatises, one by Ibn Waḥshīyah and the other by Qusṭus al-Rumi.

It was introduced in Germany, France and England in the 13-14th century where it was used for medical purposes. It gained its popularity due to its adaptation to the wintery climate and universal appeal. In a 1390 English cookbook, spinach was referred as the ‘spinnedge’ and a food during other dietary restrictions are there.

Iron Rich Assamese Recipes

Easy, Iron Rich Spinach Recipes

Spinach can be consumed in different forms. It can be used in soups, salads, curry, fries and a seasoning. You can use it in whatever way you want, it still retains its properties of iron, vitamins and other minerals. Here is the two recipes we enjoy.

Mashed Potato with Spinach

A very easy recipe. The ingredients are also simple and easily available. The best thing about the recipe is here, spinach is used in the raw form and hence very healthy. Here is the recipe

Ingredients

  1. Boiled Potato
  2. Tender spinach
  3. Sliced onions
  4. Green chillies
  5. salt and mustard oil

Instructions

  1. Mix everything and mash together.
  2. Adjust the salt and serve

 

The other recipe is a non-vegetarian recipe which is another good source of iron and other minerals. This recipe is cooked with fish which is rich in iron and when cooked with spinach, it helps to get a good dose of iron in our diet.

Fish and Spinach Curry

Ingredients

  1. Spinach- cleaned and cut.
  2. Fried fish
  3. Mustard oil, turmeric powder and salt
  4. Fenugreek seeds

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil and temper with fenugreek seeds.
  2. Put the spinach and fry for one minute.
  3. Add the water and fish, salt and turmeric.
  4. Boil and as it reach the desired consistency, swith off the gas,
  5. Serve. 

Written as a contribution to iron rich food with #livogenironchef  by Livogen Iron 

 

Assam Diaries: Tezpur, the Mythological Town

Winter is here and so does the travel season. As the blanket of autumn mist is gradually covering this part of the world, let us take a break from all the mundane works and move to some serene places before the harsh summer months make a comeback. Presenting you a town which still beckons to the pre-historic period of India… Tezpur.

Tezpur is the district headquarter of Sonitpur and a transit town to Arunachal Pradesh and north Assam. The town is a small but bestowed with abundant natural and cultural heritage. Centre of Assamese renaissance, Tezpur was the place where the modern Assamese art, song, and movie was orchestrated by Jyotiprasad Agarwala, Bishnuprasad Rabha and Phoni Sharmah. 

Located on the north bank of the River Brahmaputra, Tezpur is well connected with roads and railways. It also has a small airport where connecting flights can be taken to Guwahati. It is also the main point to go the western Arunachal to visit the tourist places like Tawang. 

Tezpur, the Mythological Town

History of Tezpur

The town and the surrounding areas are dotted with mythological remains from prehistoric period and 8 and 9th centuries. It was found to be the seat of the asura dynasty which ruled the ancient Kamrupa where Banasur, the son of Bali, reigned. Lord Krishna’s grandson Aniruddha fell in love with his daughter Usha enraging Banasura which led to a great war where even the deities took part. Eventually, the love won them back and they all lived happily ever after! (How cliche!!)

The remnants of where Banasura kept Usha, famously known as Agnigarh, is still there in the town. Now, a famous tourist place, the district administration has done a good job to recreate the whole drama with bronze sculptures at the Agnigarh hill. 

Tezpur was also the seat of the Danava dynasty who ruled classical Assam before the Aryans came. Their archeological remnants from 8-9th century are still there near Hazarapar pukhuri and Bamuni hills. 

Da Parbatia, a village near Tezpur has stone sculptures from the 4th century and it may be believed that the place was a centre of shakto clan.

Coming to the recent history of Tezpur, the town was the last point where the Chinese army invaded during 1962’s Ind0-China war. The town was evacuated but fortunately, the invading army retreated back and the town was saved.

But the most glorious moment in the recent history of Tezpur came when the current Dalai Lama gave his first official interview to the press from the Circuit House of Tezpur after his escape from Tibetan territories. Tezpur was crawled by reporters from all over the world and it still holds a special place in His Holiness’s heart.

                                                                (The lady in the thumbnail of the video is His Holiness’s mother)

Tezpur is our favourite stop whenever we travel to upper Assam. I love to get lost in the mythological layers of the town and to stroll around the ponds which are situated in the midst of the town. I love to climb the hillock of Agnigarh and spend time watching the Brahmaputra. 

Tezpur still holds the lost aroma of old Assam where every road is clean and everyone works together to keep the town clean and peaceful. Here is a glimpse of places mentioned in this post. 

Glimpses of Tezpur, the Mythological Town

Agnigarh, symbol of eternal love!

agingarh.tezpur
The Agnigarh or the Hill of Fire

 

Entrance to the Park

Stairs to go to the top of the hill

Glimpses of the mythological tale

Glimpses of the Brahmaputra from the hilltop

 

Archeological remnants at Da Parbatiya near Tezpur

 

MahaBhoirab Mandir at Tezpur

 

 

 

 

 

Poki, Cultural Symbol of Assamese Renaissance

 

Review: Illish Festival, 6 Ballygunge Place, Guwahati

Ok, let’s admit. I am a self-acclaimed fish lover and every summer I look forward to the fresh batches of illish in the fish markets. I am totally in love with this fish and despite innumerable bones they have, my love for it increases with every bite I take. So, when the Guwahati chapter of 6 Ballygunge Place, the leading chain of Bengali cuisine organizes an Illish Festival, who could be happier than me? 

Where is Illish Festival at 6 Ballygunge Place, Guwahati? 

6 Ballugunge Place is India’s leading restaurant chain in Bengali cuisine. The name is enough to allure the Bengali food lover to their tables. The restaurant chain was started in 2003 and it was actually started in a mansion whose address is 6, Ballygunge Place! Since 2003, it has become synonym with good Bengali food and habits. Everything from their plates to sitting arrangements, from servers to the mukhsuddhi is a reflection of Bengali culture.

The Guwahati branch of 6 Ballygunge Place is the exact replica of its main edition in terms of food and hospitality. Even if you have not visited the original 6BP at Salt Lake, you can have everything legendary about the award winning restaurant sitting here in Guwahati.

The restaurant is located in the Lachit Nagar area. It is just near to the foot bridge of Lachit Nagar and the next building to the KFC Lachit Nagar. There is ample space for parking once you enter the premises and you need to bother about your car while savoring your favorite food.

What is Illish Festival at 6 Ballygunge Place, Guwahati? 

Illish festival at 6BP is the celebration of the fish Illish (Tenualosa ilisha) which has started on August 1st. Illish is one of the most favorite fish for most of the Bengalis and as well to a large part of Assamese people. The festival will be there throughout the August month and it’s a treat for all fish loving people out there.

Here is a look at what 6 Bllygunge Place is offering at their Illish Festival.

Illish festival Ballygunge Place, Guwahati

 

Honestly, I knew just one or two dishes that can be cooked with illish. I had no idea that illish can be made in such a luxurious manner with different ingredients. Apart from the begun illish dolma, I found everything appetizing and mouth watering. Here is a photographic journey of what my taste buds got at Illish festival at 5 Ballygunge Place, Guwhati.

Illish festival Ballygunge Place, Guwahati
                                                                                        The spread!

 

Illish festival Ballygunge Place, Guwahati
                                                                    Illish Amrar Tok

 

                                                    Illish and Paleng saaker dom

 

Personally, I was not blown over these two dishes. They are good but dont give that ‘exotic’ feel that illish carries. The amrar tok was very different from what I am used to and may be I was looking for that flavour and was disappointed.

Paleng and illish was ok for me.

Illish festival Ballygunge Place, Guwahati
                                                                 Aam Kasundi Illish

Aam kasundi illish was good and though I expected it to be in the savoury section, it was sweet and went well with the flavour of illish.

Govindbhog illish was just like fish biriyani but every grain of this dish was loaded with the typical illish flavour. It can be eaten as stand alone with some mustard sauce. When asked, we at the food blogger’s table was informed that the secret of this amazing rice dish was to cook the grains in illish stock. (Amazing tip, isn’t it?)

Illish festival Ballygunge Place, Guwahati
Govindbhog Illish

 

The dish below was the show stealer for me. Cooked in green chilli paste, the illish absorbed the right kick but not so spicy to your pallete. This dish was enough alone to give the illish festival a thumb up. Next time a fresh batch of illish lands in my kitchen, this is the dish I am going to try first.

Illish festival Ballygunge Place, Guwahati
Lanka baata Illish

 

The Iliish kata chorsori was ok so did the illish cooked in coconut paste. Narkel bhappa illish was steamed with coconut paste and spiced up with dry chillies. It was good but not as good as the lanka bata illish.

Narkel bhapa illish.

 

 

 

 

Illish festival Ballygunge Place, Guwahati
Illish Kata chosori
Illish festival Ballygunge Place, Guwahati
Mango Illish roll

These rolls were cooked with raw mango and deboned illish. And boy, what a dish! I was totally bowled with the subtle mango flavour mingled with deboned illish. I mean who does not love deboned fish!!!

Illish festival Ballygunge Place, Guwahati
The Table at Illish festival Ballygunge Place, Guwahati

 

Overall, the experince was good, tummy filling and amazing. We talked about food, bonded over it and look forward to such amazing food in future too.

So, if you are in Guwahti this August, do not miss the festival. It is upto 31st August. Go and live some life!!

Lastly, here is the famous crushed pan from 6 Ballygunge Place, Guwahati!

5 Things That You Don’t Know About Assam Tea

Being an Assamese blogger, I have been often questioned why I have not written about the things that are considered as the symbol of my state. In fact, I have not been writing about two things that define Assam at all. The first one is Greater One-horned Rhinos and the other one is Assam Tea. The first one, I am not eager to write about it. My husband is wildlife biologist whose focus is the rhinos and I get to discuss only this magnificent beast in my home. So naturally, I stay away from it while I work.

The other thing that defines my state is Tea. We, Assamese, are addicted to this beverage. In fact, now I am sipping a steaming cup of Assam tea while writing these lines. It is our identity. Tea was among the first questions I was asked while I studied in Delhi apart from if we still live in the jungle and do we need to have a passport to come to Delhi. The exact question was ‘Emm..aahh…do you have a sort of tea garden instead of a kitchen garden?’ Yes. Tea is that specific to us Assamese!

Tea is one of the most loved beverages in the entire world. It is mainly produced in northeast India, some patches of south India, Sri Lanka, China etc. Assam tea is widely loved and used in the world. Tea prices are very average and so at every stratum of the society, it is widely used making it common people’s beverage. Tea in Assam has its own history which is not less than a fairy tale. So, people… brace yourself for an exciting journey to know what is Assam tea. Read this piece and get ready to buy tea online India. Here we go!

5 Things That You Don’t Know About Assam Tea

The history of Assam Tea dates back to 1823

A British mercenary, on his trip to Assam in 1823, was offered a bowl of steaming liquor by a local Sing thou (an indigenous tribe from Assam) chief. As soon as Robert Bruce, the mercenary, sipped the bowl, he was energized with a raw energy. He understood that this was no ordinary local beverage but Tea, for which there was an uproar going on in England. Till that time, tea was a monopoly of China where tea was cultivated and guarded with utmost secrecy so that no one can snatch the business from them. Lots of efforts were already made to grow tea in other parts of the world but in vain. The business heart and mind in Mr. Bruce leaped with joy. He requested some leaves to the chief which were sent to his brother Charles Alexander Bruce to check.

Assam Tea is reigning over British islands since the 1930s

The samples sent by Robert were identified as tea and it was rejoiced by the East India Company as it was opening their doors to the tea trade. Robert’s brother Alexander was appointed as the Superintendent of Govt Tea forests in Assam and it was under his care, the first batch of Assam tea was exported to England in 1837. It was an instant hit among the tea-loving people of England and gradually, lots of people are getting attracted to this tiny state in their empire.

The first sapling and labors in Assam tea plantation were Chinese

At first, the Assam Company was doubtful about the quality of the local tea species. So, they smuggled four lakh tea sapling and labor from China. Though the saplings did not survive the hot and humid weather of Assam, the Chinese laborers helped in initiating the tea plantation in Assam. There was a significant Chinese population in Assam before 1960. Though most of them were either deported or left the country during the Indochina war, there are still people of Chinese origin in Assam. If you want to know more about them, do read the novel Makam by Sahitya Academy winner author Dr. Rita Chowdhury. The book has documented the smuggled Chinese labors to Assam and their descendants’ heartbreaking deportation from Assam. The book is translated into English as The Golden Horse as well as in the Marathi language too.

The Assam tea flavor that has won hearts of millions

Assam tea has a unique strong malty taste and a bright color which gives it its uniqueness. It was researched that this unique flavor comes from the climate Assam has. The climate varies from cool and dry winter to hot, rainy summer which helps the tea plants to grow prolifically producing the best tea in the world. Assam accounts for around 55% of the global tea production every year. And it means you have a little of my state every day in your morning rituals!

Different time zone for Assam tea gardens

Yes. It is hard to believe but the tea gardens in Assam follow a different time zone than Indian Standard Time (IST). As Assam receives sunrays earlier than the rest of the country, the Britishers introduced the system to save the daylight. The general working hour of a tea garden in Assam is 8-30/9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Isn’t is unique to have a time zone devoted to themselves only?

Tea also has many qualities and every household has their own recipe to brew the perfect cup of tea. There are so many varieties of Assam tea available in the market and you are free to choose from it. Currently, my personal favorite one is the Orthodox tea where you don’t have to brew the tea in hot water. Just boil the water, add the tea leaves and cover. After two-three minutes, your ticket to a healthy life is ready to sip! You can also buy tea online to taste various types of tea available in Assam.

Snapshots of Spring in Assam

spring in assam

Assam is a place with abundant natural beauty. Walk into any part of this state and you will find nature at its best. If you are a fan of wildlife, the best time to visit the state is winter but if you love to indulge yourself in greenery everywhere, spring and summer are the perfect time.

Here, I have captured the essence of the country life of Assam. It is said that if you really want to see the beauty of our state, visit a village. We have still preserved the very best essence of our culture, our way of life in our villages.

spring in assam

In this article, I am sharing some snapshots from the place where I am married into. Though I was born and brought up in lower Assam, I am married in upper Assam and hence, my home is the assimilation of cultures and traditions of both the places. The nature in my in law’s place is evident in every aspect. Be it our kitchen garden or our alley, the spring has favored us with open arms and  graced us with our presence. Here are some of the snapshots of how spring has adored us.

Jamun flowers in our kitchen garden. Though I am not aware of the scientific name of this particular berry, it yields sweet fruits, somewhat watery in taste.

Snapshots of Spring in Assam

 

Pomegranate flower in our kitchen garden. Daalim, as it locally called in Assamese, is a common fruit. The pomegranate flowers are known to be capable of lowering blood sugar, benefiting diabetic patients. It also has punicalagin, an antioxidant known for heart benefits.

Snapshots of Spring in Assam

Konbilahi or Cherry tomatoes are grown in abundance in Assam during late winter and early spring. They are an integral part of various Assamese recipes. Our kitchen garden is full of cherry tomatoes trees.

Flowers of tengesi tenga or Creeping wood sorrel. Helpful in hangovers, eczema, soothes insect bites, cures sleeplessness a nd good source of vitamin C. 

Spring in assam

Amaryllis Lily Dutch Flower in our garden.

The clear sky with beetle nut trees at our place.

spring in assam

The beetle nuts 

spring in assam

The rare Keteki shrub in our garden. It is one of the cherished flowers in our folk songs and very difficult to grow. Fortunately, my better half was able to grow it after tedious trials and now it blooms every year. 

The Keteki flower

spring in assam

Kopouful- common orchid found in every village of Assam.

 

Bohag Bihu: A Photo Essay

Bohag Bihu or Rongali Bihu is one of the main festivals of Assam. It is celebrated in the month of April when the Assamese New Year starts. It is the festival when the agrarian Assamese society gets ready for the next agricultural cycle. The festival is full of fun and joy and hence, it is also called Rongali.  Bohag Bihu or Rongali Bihu is the time when the boys get ready with their dhol and pepa to woo their loves in Bihu dance. It is the festival of dance and songs, visiting relatives, and neighbors seeking their blessing for the whole new year.

This photo essay would introduce you with some of the rituals and snapshots of Bohag Bihu. 

Goru Bihu-The first day of Bohag Bihu

 

Goru Bihu

 

On the first day of Bohag Bihu, all the cattle in a household gets special treatment. They are given ceremonial baths after smearing black gram and turmeric paste. This is a community ritual where all the cattle of a locality is taken to a community pond or nearby river. The small boys drive the cattle to the pond or river with two herbs, digholoti and makhiyoti and sing,

Digholotir dighal jaat, makhi maro jaat”.

It is believed that when the cattle are specked by these herbs, the flies won’t bother them for year long. After the bath, the cattle are adorned with garlands made by vegetables like bottole gourd, eggplant, thekera. They are also given the vegetables to eat while singing the following song,

“Lao kha, bengena kha, bosore bosore barhi ja : ma saru, bapera saru, toi hobi bor goru.”

In the evening, they are given jug or a special herb infused smoke to make the gohali or farm hygienic.


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Manuh Bihu- the second day of Bohag Bihu

On the second day, the Assamese people take ceremonial bath with the paste of black granite and turmeric. It is believed that these pastes help to fight any kind of skin anomaly. 

After the bath, the blessing is sought from the elders with offering them bihuwan. Bihuwan is a gamosa which is made especially for the Bihu. Jolpan, consisting laru, pitha, sandoh, curd etc are served.

Bihuwan-Bohag Bihu

 

 

Assamese Recipe: Fish with Ridge Gourd

Summer has made its presence felt in this part of the world and though it is still officially spring, all the summer vegetables have entered our local markets. Personally, I am not very fond of summer. Uh.. do not get shocked. If you have not encountered Indian summer and that is too in its north-eastern parts, it is impossible to feel the pain. However, I must admit that summer has its own charms and own flavors. Especially, when the summer vegetables are still new and after having cauliflowers and cabbages for six months, summer vegetables like ridge gourds are welcoming sight. Today, I have cooked freshwater fish with freshly available ridge gourds. 

This is a simple dish with minimal preparations and almost without spices. Ridge gourd is a healthy vegetable with lots of health benefits. It has anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties. In Ayurveda, the juice of ridge gourd is used in 

  • Treating the gastric mucosa.
  • Inducing emesis and reduce the symptoms of asthma.
  • Treating conditions of intestinal worm infestation.

This particular recipe of fish with ridge gourd is slow cooked with fried pieces of freshwater fishes without an ounce of water into it. The ridge gourd leaves juice once on the wok and the juice helps in cooking the fishes imparting a sweet flavor too. Both the taste of the gourd and fish complements each other making this dish a delicious one. 

Fish with ridge gourd is best served with plain steamed rice and dal fry. If you can lay your hands on a piece of lemon, squeeze few drops over the fish and attain nirvana.

Assamese Recipe: Fish with Ridge Gourd

Fish with Ridge Gourd

 

Fish with Ridge Gourd
A delicious side dish cooked with minimal ingredients and spices
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 4 ridge gourd, cut into thin slices.
  2. 2 pieces of rohu*. (Check note)
  3. 8-10 cumin seeds only.
  4. Mustrad oil
  5. Salt
  6. Turmeric powder
  7. Greecn chilies (optional)
Instructions
  1. Heat oil in a wok and add oil.
  2. Now shallow fry the fish pieces and keep aside.
  3. In the same oil, add the cumin seeds and once they splutter, add the cut slices of gourds.
  4. Add salt and turmeric.
  5. Stir gently. Now cover the wok with a lid and simmer the gas.
  6. Cook for five minutes. Now, the gourd slices would release its juices.
  7. Add the fish, stir gently and cover again with the lid.
  8. Cook in low heat until the fish pieces soak all the juices of the gourds.
  9. Stir occasionally.
  10. Once the gourd lose all its juice, add some chopped chilies and stir.
  11. Adjust the salt and your dish is ready.
Notes
  1. * I use the rohu fish here but you can use any freswater fish to cook the dish.
  2. + Squeeze some lemon juice before serving if you like to have a tangy flavour in it.
Adapted from Assamese Cuisine
Adapted from Assamese Cuisine
Foodie On The Road http://foodieontheroad.com/

7 Things that You Don’t Know About Barpeta Satra

Sometimes back one of my friends asked, “Tumalokar Barpeta Satrar katha kiyo nilikha?” i.e. Why did not you write about your Barpeta Satra? I was silent for some time. Then I told him, “I do not know how to write about it.” Of course, he did not believe me as I am quite defensive about anything but Barpeta Satra or as we fondly call it, Barpeta Kirtanghar.

So what is a kirtanghar? More important, what is Barpeta kirtanghar/ Barpeta Satra? Anyone, who is born in brought up in Assam, has heard about it. It is one of the Satra or a kind of monastery that practices Vaishnav religion and culture. A Satra can be termed as the epitome of Assamese culture and traditions. They were established by Saint Mahapurusha Srimanta Sankardeva and Mahapurusha Madhabdeva, the great preachers and social reformers of Assam in the 15th century. Satras were initially established to preach the Vaishnav religion but gradually they were transformed to be social and cultural organization. The Satra at Barpeta (By the way, it is where I was born and brought up) was established by SriSri Madhabdeva. Barpeta Sattra, which we Barpetiyas (resident of Barpeta) fondly call Barpeta kirtanghar, is one of the important ones among the Sattras.

7 Things that You Don’t Know About Barpeta Satra

If you ask any Barpetiya, do you love your Kirtanghar? You can get a stare that can turn your blood into ice. Tell them any unpleasant thing about it and you were doomed. You may not be physically harmed but mentally, I can not take any risk. Yes, to that extent, we love our kirtanghar. That’s the reason when I was asked to write about it, I was speechless. How can you pen down a feeling which is in your blood? Our kirtanghar is the core of our existence. The whole life cycle of a Barpetiya revolves around the kirtanghar. Be it a newborn baby, on your marriage day, after your death, you are connected to it. It is as necessary for us as to take a breath. Wherever we go, we carry it in our heart. Ask any Barpetiya who lives outside Barpeta, what festival he misses most. The answer will be Doul Utsav (Holi) in Kirtanghar. How can I write all these feelings in a single article? Barpeta kirtanghar is the very essence of my existence. When I finally decided that I am going to write about it, I did not want to write the obvious things about our kirtanghar. My love and devotion for Barpeta kirtanghar are beyond description just like any other Barpetiya. So, here are seven facts that you do not know about this famous Sattra.

7 Things that You Don’t Know About Barpeta Satra

Do you know that Barpeta Satra has an earthen lamp which is lit for last 500 years? Yes, you read it correct. Since the establishment of the kirtanghar, an earthen lamp was lit and till this very moment, it has enlightened our hearts. Extra care is taken to keep the lamp lit and it is amazing that we have not failed it for a single moment. After the establishment of the kirtanghar, it was almost destroyed by forest fire but the wife of the first Sattradhikar personally took care of the earthen lamp and did not fail in that duty. Even during the infamous Maan invasion of Assam, the earthen lamp was enlightened.

Do you know Barpeta Satra is connected to the great epic Mahabharata? That is too with the legend of Rukmini Haran by Srikrishna? Yes. There is a spot in the northeast corner of the main prayer hall of the Sattra where oil like substance springs from the earth constantly. The legend says that it is the spot where the messenger of Rukmini got unconscious after a tiring journey from Dwarka with Srikrishna. To bring him back to consciousness, Srikrishna struck the earth with his arrow and a spring of water emerged with which, he nursed the poor Bednidhi deu (messenger of Rukmini). The very spot still springs a substance which is oily in texture.

Do you know the main prayer hall of Barpeta Satra has two pillars made of Tulsi plant?. Tulsi or Holy Basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum) is a plant which grows in the Indian subcontinent and widely known for its aroma and medicinal properties. Generally, it grows up to only 12-14 inch. But the main pillars of the prayer hall are at least 17-18 feet and the circumference is more than 4 feet. It is said that both the pillars were found in a river during the flood. It is really a miracle as nowhere in the earth grows a tulsi plant as huge as those pillars.

Do you know whole Barpeta Satra has wooden as well as solid sculptures in its walls? The main prayer hall even has such wooden sculptures which are more than 100 years old. All the sculptures depict scene from the Bhagavata.

Do you know, Barpeta Satra has a Rangial phool which is also almost 500 years old? The flower was planted by Mahapurusha SriSri Madhabadeba himself. The plant still blooms in plenty and its leaves and flowers are used as nirmali or blessings in the kirtanghar.

Do you know, the devotees or the visitors are asked only to bring just a small amount of salt or mustard oil to the kirtanghar? It is believed by our forefathers that economic equality should prevail among the devotees and they should not be judged by their economic status in visiting the kirtanghar.

Do you know, Barpeta Satra is the first democratic institution of Greater Assam? Yes, since its establishment, the head of the Sattra or Sattradhikar is elected by an election.

These are the facts about Barpeta Satra which often remains under the veil. Barpeta kirtanghar will always be dear to our hearts. It is the reason for which even after leaving Barpeta, even after marrying a non-Barpetiya, I remain Barpetiya at the core just like any other girl from my hometown. It is the center of my devotion, my pride as a soul who was born in that holy land called Barpeta.

Barpeta Satra

How to go to Barpeta Satra?

Barpeta Satra is situated at Barpeta, a town on the northern bank of the Brahmaputra. Barpeta is situated approximately 90 KM from Guwahati and can be reached via road and railway. The nearest railway station is Barpeta Road from where you can take any public transport to reach Barpeta.

When to visit Barpeta Satra?

Any time of the year is a good time to Barpeta Satra as the holy rituals are performed daily here. However, if you want to get the maximum exposure to the culture and euphoria of the people to Barpeta Satra, then you must visit it during the Doul Utsav or Holi (March every year) as it popularly known outside Assam. The other time to get another glimpse of Satriya culture is during the death anniversaries of Mahapurusha Srimanta Sankaradeva and SriSri Madhabadeva (September, every year). You can also have a good time during Bohag/Rongali Bihu (April 15th every year).

Barpeta Satra

Where to stay during Barpeta Satra visit

Barpeta Satra has a guesthouse where you can stay with prior permission.  Other commercial places for fooding and lodging are-

  • Prashanti Tourist Lodge, Barpeta. Phone no- 094350 25288
  • Hotel Diya-Disha, Barpeta. Phone no-094354 01111

Koila Baba ki Joy!!!!!

Assamese Recipe: Green Jackfruit Curry | Kesa Kothalor Aanja

Every season brings the flavor with it and refreshes our taste buds. During these months when you are bored to death with the cauliflowers, cabbages and other winter vegetables, drumsticks, tender jackfruits bring the much-needed change of taste to our palates. 

Assamese Recipe Green Jackfruit Curry

Today’s recipe is the Green Jackfruit Curry. But before going to the recipe, let us know the health benefits of green jackfruit. 

 Health Benefits of Green Jackfruit

Assamese Recipe Green Jackfruit Curry

Jackfruits are indigenous to South East Asia, most specifically to India. There are lots of varieties of this fruit growing in this part of world and every variety is loved by people.

Jackfruits are can be termed as wonder fruits. They contain lots of essential nutrients like Vitamin A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9, C, E, Iron, Protein, Phosphorus, Potassium, Zinc and carbohydrate. And all these benefits come without no or minimum fat content! It can be termed as one of the healthiest fruits in the world.

In Assam, both the ripe and green jackfruits are widely loved. But as the ripe ones are eaten raw, green jackfruits are often cooked in curry which can be savored with rice or roti. The recipe is simple and the only tough is work is to cut the whole fruit into small pieces.
Here we go!

Assamese Recipe Green Jackfruit Curry

Assamese Recipe: Green Jackfruit Curry

Assamese Recipe: Green Jackfruit Curry
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
40 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
40 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 green jackfruit, cut into cubes
  2. 3 mediam sized potatoes, cut into cubes
  3. Whole garam masala, for tempering
  4. 1 large onion, cut into thin slices
  5. 1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste
  6. Mustard oil, salt and turmeric powder
Instructions
  1. Pressure cook the jackfruit and potato cubes for one whistle.
  2. Drain the water and keep the bolied cubes aside.
  3. Heat mustard oil in a wok.
  4. Once the oil reaches its smoking oint, temper it with the whole garam masala.
  5. Now add the onion slices and saute till they turn transculent.
  6. Now the add boiled cubes, salt, turmeric powder and ginger garlic paste.
  7. Mix well.
  8. Now lower the heat and cover the wok with a lid.
  9. Cook the jackfruits for 5 minutes in its own moisture like that.
  10. Now uncover the lid and stir.
  11. Repeat the process for two times.
  12. Once the boiled cubes are fried on all side and coated with the spice, increase the flame and stir for two minutes.
  13. Now add one and half glass of water.
  14. Let it boil and cover again with the lid.
  15. Cook for 10-12 minutes or until you get the desired consistency.
  16. Adjust the salt.
  17. Serve hot
Foodie On The Road http://foodieontheroad.com/

 

 

Assam Diaries: Origin of the Brahmaputra

The Brahmaputra, one of the greatest river systems of the world, is the lifeline of Assam. It has been shaping the geographical as well as the geological profile of the state, as well the backbone of Assamese Civilisation. Although the Assamese people claimed it to be their own and worship it, the river solely does not belong to this northeastern state of India. It is, in fact, a truly international river. With a drainage area of 580000 square km, the river crosses 2880 km from its source Chema Yung Dung to its mouth in the Bay of Bengal. The Brahmaputra, known as Tsangpo in Tibet, flows 1625 km over the Tibetan plateau, then enters a narrow deep gorge at Pe (3500m from MSL) and then continues its journey southwards across the east-west ranges of Himalayas before entering the Assam Plain. The two rivers Dibang and Lohit join the river in Arunachal Pradesh, India and hereafter it is known as the Brahmaputra. The river traverses 918 km in India and rests 337 km in Bangladesh before emptying into the Bay of Bengal through a joint channel with the Ganga.
The course of Brahmaputra is always attracting scholars from different disciplines and explorers from various parts of the world. Especially the upper course of the river was a subject of great interest to the British explorers in the early 19th century. The source of this river and its link to the sacred river of Tibet i.e. Tsangpo was such an enigma that kept the British Survey of India busy for more than a century. The first adventurer who declared Tsangpo and Brahmaputra to be the same river was Major Rennel in the 1760s. However, much debate was on to solve the riddle of Tsangpo and its later course. Several explorers claimed Irrawaddy as the later course of Tsangpo. The local beliefs also contradicted the theories, which the British explorers tried to hypothesize. The Survey of India became determined to solve the mystery with its dedicated officials. Nevertheless, numerous obstacles before them yearned to solve the riddle. There were two directions before them to solve the mystery – to reach the Tsangpo close to its source and trace it eastward or travel upstream along the Dihang, Dibang or Lohit to check if any of them were contiguous to Tsangpo. However, Tibet was a Forbidden Land to the white-skinned foreigners in the 19th century. Moreover, the alternative way to explore the upper course of the previously mentioned rivers was equally dangerous to the tribal people of northeast India. The land was actually terra incognita to Europeans until that point of time and the people were very hostile to any outsiders.
Despite these difficulties, the Tsangpo-Brahmaputra mystery remained a fascination with the British adventurers. Besides them, there are two things, which pushed the British administration in India takes interest in exploring the upper course of the Brahmaputra. First, the Tsangpo flowed at a great height in Tibet and if the same river flows in Assam plain which has a few meters altitude, then there was a possibility of the presence of the highest waterfall in the world in its course. The other objective was to open a trade route to western China through Tibet. However, the prospect of discovering the highest waterfall on earth led the adventurers to the expedition by both the routes. However, the hill tribes of northeast India proved to be the greatest obstacles in exploring the Tsangpo-Brahmaputra from the east. The British were also not successful from the north due to irascibility of the Tibetans toward Europeans. Decades passed, but the riddle of the Tsangpo-Brahmaputra became a difficult nut to crack. Ultimately, the British mastermind like Colonel Montgomerie and General Walker thought of changing the strategy and devised a new scheme. The new plan included the use of young Indians as spy-cartographers who can carry the survey in lieu of the British officials as these Indians had the benefit of being native. Colonel Montgomerie started to train selected young Indians in the rudiments of the Geological survey at the Institute of Survey of India at Dehradun. This is the point where the thrilling adventure of Indian cartographers to unravel the mystery began.

 

With mongoloid features, these Indians were either fluent in speaking Tibetan or trained to do so to mingle with the Tibetans. They were trained to conduct basic survey works using improvised instruments and techniques and to record them as concisely as possible. They were instructed to take strides of equal length and use beads of their rosary to keep count. The Indians were also taught to recite their findings as reciting prayers like Buddhist monks. They were not only given disguises but were also equipped with modified instruments, which could be camouflaged. The prayer wheel was equipped with a prismatic compass hidden inside it and rolls of paper were also kept to take notes. Instead of regular 108 beads, the rosaries given to them had only 100 to carry the counting accurately. They also carried thermometers to measure the boiling point of water and complete the altitudes by that means. They also get medical training. Thus, the group of Indians was sent one by one to unlock the mystery of Tsangpo-Brahmaputra. These brave men added high expectations to the exploration of the Brahmaputra. Though they were not scholars, they were designated as “Pundits” (Scholars). The Pundits were chosen very carefully for their intelligence and resourcefulness. Disguised as Indian pilgrimages, they largely contributed to the adventure which also brought a geographical and political account of Tibet.

Assam Diaries: Origin of the Brahmaputra
The first two pundits to be chosen were Nain Singh and Mani Singh. They were fluent in the Tibetan Language as well as conversant with the routed through their previous visits to Tibet. Under the supervision of Colonel T.G.Montegomerie, British education officer of Kumaon, Major Edmund Smith trained them. In 1865, Nain Singh made his first journey to Tibet and reached Tsangpo after crossing the Nolan Pass (5000m). Following the course of the Tsangpo westward, Nain Singh aka A.N. was able to reach close to its source. He returned to India with invaluable records of a 2400 km trek. He was the first person to determine the exact location of the Forbidden City, Lhasa. On his second voyages in 1867, he explored western Tibet. The last and greatest journey of Nain Singh was in 1873 when he took an eastward course along the Tsangpo and returned to India through Assam. In his third expedition to Tibet, he covered 1095 miles (1763 km) from Leh to Lhasa. He then turned south and mapped an unknown part of Tsangpo. He followed the river course downstream for thirty miles unexplored. The information brought by him was valuable as the point where he left the river was Chetang and it was beyond the last point at which the river was mapped until date. From this town, Nain Singh was able to approximate its course for further 100 miles by taking a bearing of distant peaks. He continued his journey eastward and finally reached Udaygiri after surpassing many hurdles. Thus, one piece of the puzzle was finally found when Nain Singh mapped the unexplored part of upper Tsangpo.

Another Pundit Kishen Singh who tracked down three important rivers of Asia- Mekong, Salween, and Irrawaddy boosted Nain Singh’s information. However, the confusion was still on that whether Irrawaddy or Brahmaputra was the lower course of Tsangpo. Here comes the account of Kinthup who has the greatest contribution in exploring the Tsangpo-Brahmaputra course.
In 1880, Kinthup followed the path of Nain Singh to solve the riddle of Brahmaputra. Kinthup was a Sikkimese explorer who spent four years in Tibet (1879-1882). He was selected by General Walker to travel along Tsangpo as far east as possible and cut and float logs down the river. The plan was that once Kinthup had float the specially marked logs in Tsangpo, he will inform the British Officials of Survey of India and they would be keeping watch on the lower reaches of Dihang to catch them. This process would lead to conclusive evidence of Dihang being the lower part of Tsangpo. Thus Kinthup who was illiterate began his journey as a servant of a Tibetan lama. They first reached Lhasa and then followed the river up to Gyala Dzong which was the furthest point to be reached by previous pundits. He reached the Rainbow Fall and later carried his journey to Onlow. Onlow was nearly 100 miles lower than any point reached by previous cartographers and was nearly 35 miles from the nearest plains in Assam. But unfortunately, his companion sold him to a Tibetan official as a slave and Kinthup had to live a life of misery there. But he managed to escape and took shelter in a monastery at Pemako.

But unfortunately, his companion sold him to a Tibetan official as a slave and Kinthup had to live a life of misery there. But he managed to escape and took shelter in a monastery at Pemako-chung. There he managed to prepare the logs according to the orders of Captain Harman to throw 50 logs per day. During that period, Kinthup was able to earn his master’s trust who gave him permission to go to Lhasa. From Lhasa, Kinthup sent a message to Survey of India about the logs. However, the messenger failed to deliver the message. In spite of having the risk of remaining slave for life, this brave explorer returned to Pemako where he managed to float the logs. The lady luck didn’t favor Kinthup and his superior Captain Harman, who kept watch for whole day and night for two years. But Harman fell ill and left India. There was no one who was aware of the message sent by Kinthup as the messenger failed to deliver the message, those who were to watch the river for the logs had not been alerted and the logs floated down undetected. Kinthup earned his freedom from his master and tried to re-enter India through Assam. However, he was prevented from entering Assam by the hill tribes. He was forced to take a circuitous route to enter India. Due to his illiteracy, he was not able to keep records. Therefore, the British officials were no so willing to believe his account. Though he was not rewarded for his extreme loyalty and courage, Kinthup went down the history as the most courageous person to establish the link the Tsangpo and Brahmaputra. Two years after Kinthup’s return to India, the Survey debriefed him. Despite being illiterate, or more likely because of it, he had an extremely retentive memory with an almost total recall of the topographical details of his adventure of the Tsangpo. Decades later, in 1913, his account was checked and found to be remarkably accurate. The later explorers who succeeded to establish the fact that Tsangpo and Brahmaputra are the same river were based on the account of Kinthup. After numerous expeditions, finally, Kingdon Ward and Earl Cawdor discovered and established the fact.
Before the adventures of the pundit cartographers, the only source of information regarding Tibet was traveler’s tale and ancient Chinese maps. That information was not near perfect and full of inaccuracies locating places in wrong locations. The pundits were instrumental in bringing the first piece of authentic information about the unknown land. Besides being resourceful and extremely courageous, the men were very loyal who carried out the tasks entrusted to them with utmost care. Nain Singh (A.N.) charted a crude map of Tsangpo from Chema Yung-dung glacier up to the south of Lhasa. He also carried out a survey of Lhasa and adjoining areas. Kishen Singh (A.K.) crossed the Yangtse, Mekong, and Salween and established the course of Irrawaddy and proved them none of them was a continuation of Tsangpo. Kinthup (K.P.) finish his job with the ultimate sacrifice.Their reports along with their British counterparts enabled the Survey of India to sketch an accurate map of the area. Moreover, the process resulted in determining the Dihang as the continuation of Tsangpo. The accounts of the pundits about their journeys make exciting reading. Some of them failed to return due to numerous obstacles. Nevertheless, the courage and sacrifice made by these brave people laid the rock hard foundations of mapping of the Central Asia, China, Mongolia, and Tibet. For almost one century, the information collected by the pundit cartographers was the only authentic source to explore the lower reaches of Tsangpo. The bravery of these pundits like Kinthup, their loyalty and devotion to duty, contributed largely in unraveling the enigma. In this age of technology like remote sensing, GIS and GPS, the expeditions of these people may appear strange with minimum technology and hardships. But there is no doubt that the riddle of Tsangpo-Brahmaputra was solved due to the pundit cartographers courage and sacrifice making it one of the most exciting adventures in the history of human explorations.
N.B. This is one of my articles published in premium English Daily of Assam, the Assam Tribune in February 2013. If you want to have glimpses of the river Brahmaputra, check my another article on it.