Feature -Nov 2019

    This Month’s Feature Article

    Burha Luit- The majestic Brahmaputra


    Sharmili Mitra

    Brahmaputra- the son of Lord Brahma, is known as one of the masculine rivers of India. This river flows through three countries – originating in Tibet, flowing through India and then on to Bangladesh. It flows into India at Arunachal Pradesh and further in Assam. Over 3000 km long, it is considered to be one of Asia’s majestic rivers.

    For centuries this river has captivated travellers and many scholars. This mighty river has seen countless ebbs and flows and has myriad stories to narrate. In Assamese language it is also named as Burha(meaning old) Luit (derived from the Sanskrit word blood), representing the antiquity of the river.


    Amogha wife of Sage Shantanu had a child by Brahma the creator of the Universe. The child took the form of water. Sage Shantanu placed the child right in the middle of the four great mountains — Kailash, Gandhamadana, Jarudhi, and Sambwartakka. He grew into a great lake, the Brahmakunda. With the passage of time, this water body grew into a lake swelling up to forty miles, resembling the sea. This is how Brahma’s son (Putra in Sanskrit)—‘Brahmaputra’ (mythologically) came into being.

    Terrestrial Attributes 

    It is said that this river is born in the glacial womb of Kailash range of the Himalayas.

    Having its source in southwest Tibet, it flows as Yarlung Tsangpo river and continues its meandering journey through fatally deep gorges, before turning south towards India. After a gradual descent, the tributaries enter Arunachal Pradesh as the Dibang, Siang and Lohit rivers, which finally merge in the Assam Valley to form the Brahmaputra.

    Upon entering Assam, the Brahmaputra becomes braided. The river and its numerous tributaries form the massive flood plains of the Brahmaputra Valley, where the span of the river can reach almost 20 km. This makes it one of the widest rivers of our planet. From Assam, the river flows into Bangladesh, where it links up with one of its largest tributaries, the Teesta River.  The biggest and the smallest river islands in the world, Majuli and Umananda, are in Brahmaputra.

    Assam is called the gateway to the northeastern states of India. It occupies the floodplains and middle reaches of the Bramhaputra River. A picturesque region famous for the lush green tea gardens ,spectacular wilderness areas and the oldest working oilfield in the world, which was first tapped in 1901 at Digboi. The two UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Kaziranga National Park and the Manas National Park, has plethora of wildlife and it shelters the endangered one-horned rhino, Asiatic elephant, Bengal tiger, gaur and many other fascinating species.

     Majuli is the world’s biggest river island in the Brahmaputra . The island is accessible by ferries from the city of Jorhat. The island is about 300–400 kilometres (186–249 mi) east from the Assam’s largest city —Guwahati. It was formed due to course changes by the river Brahmaputra and its tributaries, mainly the Lohit river.

    Pilgrims Paradise 

    The Brahmaputra basin has a number of ancient temples.

    The 16th century iconic Kamakhya temple, one of the Shakti Peethas(shrines or divine places of the Mother Goddess), is along its banks.

    The Gurdwara Sri Guru Teg Bahadur Sahib is located along the river’s banks in Dhubri, Assam. It is said that Guru Nanak(the founder of Sikhism) visited this area in 1505, and the Gurudwara was built about 160 years later by Guru Teg Bahadur.

    Parasuramkund, on the Lohit River (one of the tributaries), which is associated with the warrior sage Parasurama, attracts millions of devotees who congregate here during the Hindu festival of Makar Sankranti (mid-January) when a big fair is held.

    Hajo, near Guwahati, is a pre-eminent example of the Brahmaputra’s syncretism. This ancient pilgrimage centre serves the spiritual needs of three religions namely Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims.

    Umananda Devaloy is a Shiva temple located at the Peacock Island in the middle of river Brahmaputra This serene place of worship is named after and dedicated to Lord Shiva.This place is so serene and nature is still so pristine, that it indulges the vistors to spend hours and get absorbed  in nature’s beauty.

    Dirgheswari Temple, dedicated to Goddess Durga, is located in the northern banks of the river.The temple is said to have been built by the Ahom King Swargadeo Shiva Singha during the 18th century. Mother nature surrounds this temple with green foliage.

    Aswaklanta Temple, is an ancient Hindu temple located on the banks of the River Brahmaputra in North Guwahati. This temple was also built by the Ahom King Swargadeo Shiva Singha in 1720.There are two main deities in the temple. They are Lord Janardana and Lord Anantasai Vishnu. The temple has beautiful stone inscriptions on all its walls and the sculptures here are fine specimens of rock-cut architecture.

    The Dakhinpat Satra is a very popular satra on the Majuli Island of the state of Assam. This island is the abode of the Assamese (native people of Assam) neo-Vasihnavite culture. This culture came into being around the 15th century by the revered Assamese saint Srimanta Sankardeva and his disciple Madhavdeva. Many Sattras (institutional centers associated with the ekasarana tradition of vaishnavism)or monasteries constructed by the saint still exists and  represent the colourful Assamese culture.

    Technology & Engineering

    Contructing bridges over the Brahmaputra has always been a formidable task. The character of this river has been traditionally considered quite difficult due to various reasons like  high currents , turbulent waters, widespread erosion of the banks, very and high seismicity, its ferocious and unpredictable behaviour and so forth. But the human race never gave up and has always sustained perseverance and showed respect and submission to this mighty river.

    Saraighat Bridge, built over the Brahmaputra River in Guwahati, is the first railway-cum-road bridge. The construction of the bridge started in 1958 and it was initially inaugurated for goods truck in 1962. With the estimated length of 1,492 meters, Saraighat finds place among the longest river bridges in India. If we turn the pages of history and go back to 1671, then we discover an engrossing story. The Mughals had sent a huge army to invade the then undivided Assam. The Ahoms were the ruling dynasty during that period and they drove off the Mughals under the leadership of their valiant army commander Lachit Borphukan in an epic battle fought on the waters of the mighty Brahmaputra.

    It is said that the Saraighat bridge stands over the same area where the battle took place in the 17th century.

    Kolia Bhomora Setu, Originally built in 1987 to connect Nagaon and Sonitpur Districts on the North and South Banks. This Setu (bridge)with a length of 3 kilometers is surrounded by the Brahmaputra on both the sides.Ahom General Kolia Bhomora Barphukan prepared an elaborate plant to construct a bridge over Brahmaputra river. It was in early 16th century. The Ahom General started with site selection (connecting Bhomorguri hills near present day Tezpur with Kamakhya hill of Nagaon district) and even collected special boulders for the massive bridge. But the General passed away and the ambitious project died with him.

    Bogibeel bridge, is also a railway-cum-road bridge completed in 2018 in the Dibrugarh district of the north eastern state of Assam. The 4940.5 m long bridge is considered to be the longest bridge of its kind in India. The bridge provides connectivity to nearly five million people residing in Upper Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. It is the fifth rail-road bridge on the Brahmaputra river in Assam. Due to its location, the bridge is of strategic importance to India as it significantly enhances India’s ability to transport troops and supplies to its borders in Tibet Arunachal Pradesh.

    Challenges are meant to be met and overcome…

    The inhabitants at the banks of this mighty and majestic river, conveys the message that “ challenges are meant to be met and overcome with immense faith and perseverance. Floods are a way of life in this region. Over the years, people and ecosystems have developed methods to deal with it.Each year, between the months of June and October, the region is devastated by floods. This flooding which helps to restore the fertile soil of the river valley is also accountable for great human misery.  Deforestation of the Brahmaputra watershed has resulted in soil erosion, increasing the probability of flash floods.Rising sea levels due to global warming also pose a major threat to the ecosystem of the region and many islands are now partially submerged. It is for mankind a serious call to come forward and act to preserve and restore the gifts of nature.

    Perhaps it is the pliability of human nature that the people of the valley have taken this endless cycle of destruction and resurrection in their stride. Or it is perhaps  the amorousness for the Burha Luit, that makes the inhabitants overcome the challenges.

    ….Nishabdhe, Nirobe, O BURHA LUIT tumi buwa kiyo?
    O Dear Burha Luit, why do u still flow with such quietude and silence?

    Pic credits : source Internet
    Geographical facts : credits encyclopedia

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