As in the song “Bistirna Paarore”, Dr. Bhupen Hazarika asks “Burha Luit, buwa kio?”, the Brahmaputra is not just any other river, it is an emotion that the Assamese swear by
By Joydeep Hazarika | Photographs by Rimi Bhattacharjee
Ask an Assamese what would he miss the most outside Assam? You may get a myriad range of answers. But wheneversomeone asks meI can only think of the Brahmaputra or the Burha Luit aka the Grand Old River. There is something unbelievably mystical about the Brahmaputra. Starting from the Himalayas in Tibet, flowing through the heart of the great Assam valley, joined by the Ganges in Bangladesh and finally flowing into the Bay of Bengal… it has a journey which resembles any man’s including mine. Although my journey has still got quite the distance to go.
The Brahmaputra is not just any other river. It is an emotion for the people of Assam. There are so many rivers and smaller streams that flow all over the land. But there is something so different about this river. It is the Grand Luit. It is the life force of the Brahmaputra Valley and is the cradle to one of the oldest cultures in the Indian subcontinent.
My earliest recollection about the river is, as a child when I used to go to the river’sghats with my late grandfather to watch, the fisherman go about their early morning catch of fish. The sight was magical! The sights of so many fishing and ferry boats floating about on the river waters, which were again bathed in the blood red rays of the rising sun gave forth a surreal feeling. It was as if the river had come alive from a deep slumber.
Watching the boats hold their own against the torrential waves of the merciless river was a sight in itself. My grandfather had once told me how he as a youth, had had a narrow escape from getting drowned in the river. The river for him was a merciless demon which took away lives in lieu of what it gave to the people. For him, it was the Blood River!
This I realise every year when the Brahmaputra’s torrential floods cause havoc throughout the state. And sometimes when the flood waters creep inside our house I absolutely feel it. The Old Blood River may have given many people jolting memories but for me it was this river which taught me what being strong means!
Ever since my childhood, I have wanted to swim across this mighty river. But till date it has never happened because I know the Luit’s strong currents are waiting to suck me into them. Every year, several people end up drowning in the Brahmaputra’s strong waves. As an amateur swimmer, even though I sometimes dream of swimming in the river, logical thinking dissuades me.
There is a story that the legendary Assamese Vaishnav saint Srimanta Sankardev managed to swim across the mighty Brahmaputra. While I can’t vouch for the veracity of this story, it is still fascinating. I have swum in the waters of the Ganga, the Yamuna and the Teesta. And whenever I swum in any of those rivers, my thoughts have often drifted to the Brahmaputra… as if it is laughing at all men… waiting to be conquered.
But under all this cloak of ferocity, there is also a calmer and sensitive side to this river. The sight to watch the sunset by the Brahmaputra is sheer joy! God knows how many evenings I have spent watching the sun set by the Brahmaputra. And I am not alone. Countless others also share the same feelings.
Brahmaputra or the Brahma’s son as it translates into English is not just another river. It is the lifeline of Assam. It gives life and takes it away. While it may not be a holy river, it is still an embodiment of the holy for me. For just once a year, Brahmaputra attains the form of a holy river, and that is when people perform the Pind Daan rituals for their departed ones. Many wait round the year and wait for the day of Ashokastami when the Brahmaputra attains its purity just for one day.
Countless people’s mortal remains have been submerged in the mighty demon river’s waters. Many more will meet the fate. Probably me too. Perhaps then I shall finally fearlessly float on the strong currents of the Brahmaputra and become one with the mighty old demon.
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Passionate about traveling, Rimi loves to explore new places and their intriguing local culture and cuisine. Apart from that, soft music binds her along with good movies and books. Hailing from the beautiful city of Guwahati, currently residing in Pune with her 2 heroes, son and husband.
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Joydeep is a Guwahati based journalist. He has done his graduation from Hans Raj College and his masters in journalism from MCRC, Jamia Millia Islamia. Also an illustrator and a musician, Joydeep takes keen interest in the politics and culture of Northeast India and the surrounding region. He is currently working on his first novel.