Its gorgeous beauty had been described by Major John Butler way back in 1845, but till date the beauty-spot of Karbi Anglong remains a local picnic outing
by Partha Pratim Sharma
Sunday? Yes Sunday!
Just the day that kids hate to get up early.
“Sunday is our birthright, and we shall have it! (Just a twist on what Tilak said on freedom, but Sunday is freedom!)
But then, I whispered in their somnolent ears: “Silveta Jabena? (Won’t you go to Silveta falls?)
And they jumped out of the bed, even on Mahalaya dawn, the beginning of Devi Paksha, this year.
Ah! The milky waterfalls, almost mystical, gurgling down a 70-feet rapid and turning into a river below, snaking its way across the Karbi Anglong district.
Originally known as Mikir Hill, Karbi Anglong, or the ‘Land of the Karbis’, is one of the largest districts in the centre of Assam. It has rolling hills, dense forests, many waterfalls, rivers, and streams.
And yet Silveta is even today just a day-tour for local families, barely known to tourists outside the state, despite the fact that its beauty was graphically narrated way back by British envoys. Let us take a look!
It was the year 1845, still 12 years for the Sepoy Mutiny to come, and the British were having a cozy time, exploiting India’s ins and outs very comfortably.
That is when Silveta was discovered. The locals knew it of course, but for the first time it came to the notice of the outside world.
The sound of the waterfall can be heard from a great distance as it dashes over innumerable boulders, the gloomy scenery around is divested of its monotony, and the traveler feels a pleasurable excitement which he would not exchange for the comforts of the fire-side at home
Major John Butler (55th Regiment, Bengal Native Infantry, and Agent to the Governor General of North East Frontier Province of Assam) wrote in his book Travels And Adventures In The Province Of Assam During A Residence Of Fourteen Years.
“On leaving Kachooamaree, we had a dreary march of fifteen miles through a dense jungle and some plains of high grass, and were seven hours in reaching our encampment at the foot of the Jummoonah rapids or falls, called Seelbhetah. (It is now called Silveta.)
“The coolies came into camp about sunset with our baggage and provisions, when the camp became a scene of activity, every one exerting himself heartily to cook his dinner.
“The scenery here is very wild, and the fall of the river over a ledge of rocks between a narrow gorge of low hills cannot be less than sixty or seventy feet, with a noise that can be heard at a great distance, and, after its fall, as it dashes over innumerable boulders for a distance of a hundred and fifty yards, the gloomy scenery around is divested of its monotony, and the traveler feels a pleasurable excitement which he would not exchange for the comforts of the fire-side at home.
“At night in the dark forest, two or three hundred little fires of the troops and coolies blazing forth on the banks of the foaming river presented a most animated scene.
“Above the waterfalls, the river appeared very deep, and the current slow; boats arriving at the foot of the rapids are occasionally unloaded and dragged through the jungle, and are again launched upon the river a short distance above the waterfalls.”
Such an enchanting description from so long ago, and yet, Karbi is one of the barely explored treasures of Assam.
Silveta waterfall is one of the unexplored tourist destinations, an isolated place in the Highway NH36, with a public garden cum picnic spot under Karbi Anglong Autonomus Council, Department of Environment and Forest, Manja Central Range, Karbi Anglong East Division.
Also, it is a part of Marat Longri Wildlife Sanctuary.
People from adjacent areas come here for picnics on Sundays or other holidays.
There are very few permanent structures, one of them being a large shed with a concrete bench for dinning and a shed for cooking.
There are three toilets, hardly maintained well as visitors are few and no one complains.
The river, the boulders, the natural landscape is majestically picturesque. The flow of water is very much relaxing in winter.
In the monsoon, though, the river gets a bit wild.
Karbi Anglong has lush evergreen forests, and beautiful hill areas along with flat lands.
The climate of this district differs from one place to another; the hills being relatively cold than the flat plains. Mainly tribal people reside in Karbi Anglong.
This enchanting hill district with its diverse and rare flora and fauna has remained untouched and undiscovered.
Mother Nature has indeed been very generous to Karbi Anglong, yet its potentialities for tourism remain sadly untapped.
The peculiarity of the topography of the district is that it is divided into two parts.
The western part is with its rolling hills, dense forests, waterfalls, rivers and streams.
And the eastern part is much more populated, with flat paddy lands, green hills interspersed with meandering blue rivers.
Diphu is the headquarter of Karbi Anglong. Silveta Waterfall is 220 km or a four-hour drive from state capital Guwahati, through Nagaon NH 36 to Kathiatali and further.
Summers in Karbi Anglong can be hot and humid and generally last from June to August. Monsoon means very heavy rains and some flooded valleys.
The remaining parts of the year are pleasant and bracing. The peak season for tourists to visit the district is October to March.
There is large plain area for parking and you can pitch you tent for a stay or day picnic.
Bring your fishing gear, especially fishing rod. This river has Eel fish and crabs along with other fishes. Prepare your meal. A leisure place in the wild.
And if you still have questions, ask the local forest department.
But as I said, this Mahayala morning, the kids and we rushed out for a zooop! To Silveta… and wasn’t it just groovy!
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Partha Pratim Sharma is based in Mangaldai, a small town and district headquarter of Darrang. He is a sustainable designer, artist, traveller and a farmer. He is known for his exemplary work on magazine designs, but has now settled to work in his studio, which hes designed in Assam-type architecture