Namaskar Friends! Welcome to Visa2explore! This is your host, Harish Bali. Last night, we reached Jorhat. This morning, we left to go from Jorhat to Majuli. After traveling 6-7kms from our lodge, we’ve reached Neamati Ghat. Here, we bought a ticket for Rs. 15 per person. And we’ve also purchased a Rs. 700 ticket for our cab for Majuli. The ferry services begin at 7.30 in the morning. This is an hour long journey and we should reach Majuli by 8.30 or 9 am. The last ferry from Jorhat to Majuli leaves at 4 pm. If you want to go there in your own car,….. …then you need to be here at least 45-60 minutes before departure…. …otherwise, it is possible that you might miss the ferry. Beautiful journey…. We are moving towards Majuli island floating over the Brahmaputra. For your information, Majuli is the world’s largest, inhabited river island. Finally, we’ve reached the Kamabari Ghat, Majuli. On reaching here, you’ve two choices. If you come by your own car, then start your car and move on to your lodge or hotel. Or if you don’t come by your vehicle,… …you can hire a local taxi,… …and then go to your cottage or hotel. We stayed here at the Prashanti Eco Tourism lodge. This lodge is spread over a huge area, with a beautiful landscape,…. …though the number of room is limited. I found out about two categories of rooms. The one we rented was at Rs. 2500 per day tariff, otherwise,… ….rooms are also available at Rs. 2100 per day tariff. Every room has an air-conditioner. Spacious! The view from the balcony is incredibly beautiful! As soon as we reached here,… …the weather turned cloudy. So, I asked them to place a table for me outside to have my breakfast. Now, I am feeling so good, sitting here,…. ….that I really do not want to go anywhere today, but keep sitting here all day I’ve ordered Akhoi for myself. Puffed rice! It can be eaten with milk as well. And with curd as well. Since, I have a bad throat, I am going to eat it with milk, and not curd. This is a light breakfast. We also use this at the time of Diwali worship at home. I had never imagined I would eat this kind of a breakfast. Akhoi, hot milk and gur (jaggery). Interesting! I should add some more gur! Akhoi is almost bland in taste. The real taste to be enjoyed here is that of milk with jaggery. Something different for the first time! Now, we will finish it and go out to take a look at Majuli. We have left our hotel. It was raining for the past 15-20 minutes. The weather is awesome! The month is March and pleasant weather! There is almost no traffic on the road. As for the landscape, it is greenery everywhere. We’ve come to Auniati Satra. For your information, at a Satra, religious worship goes hand in hand with cultural practices. We paid obeisance inside. We also tried to find out some information about this place and we were told that…. ….Lord Krishna is worshiped in the form of ‘Govinda’ here. For your information, the monks of the Satra where we are standing right now…. …are Brahmacharis (celibates). Although, this is not a common practice for all Satras. There was a time, when there used to be 65 Satras in Majuli. However, due to gradual sand erosion, a lot of Satras had to shift to mainland. At present, there are 32 Satras active in Majuli. In this museum, there is a special item on display – an ivory mat! You have probably not seen it in any other museum. Besides that, all the things presented by the Ahom King to the Satra,…. …are also preserved here. One more special collection in this museum is that of a famous commander of Assam. His name was Lachit Borphukan. All his weapons are preserved here. This is another important artifact collection that you will not see in any other museum. We came to know of an ongoing cultural programme, happening 5kms from our lodge. Today is the day 5. And we’ve just reached here to see it. Here, we saw that along with cultural programme,… …food is also being cooked through traditional methods. To come here was a good experience for us. We came to know from someone that at 11.30 am, a cultural programme was going to be…. ….held at Uttar Kamalabari Satra. Let us go inside and take a look. The programme, whose glimpse you just saw,… …it is called Gaayan-Baayan. Through dance, song and music, the devotees pray to Lord Vishnu. Right now, we are in Uttar Kamalabari Satra. During this trip, we have been eating ‘Khaar’ with dal (lentils), papeeta (papaya)…. ….and with several other combinations. This gentleman standing here with me is an employee at Prashanti. So, I’ve been discussing with him to understand how Khaar is prepared and he…. …took us out of the lodge to show us. This is a banana tree, called Bhim Kol in Assamese. It is from the milk of this tree that Khar is prepared. From what I’ve understood, this is the stem of this tree, where my hand is right now. The stem will be cut like this. This is a particular variety of tree called ‘Bhim Kol.’ Correct! From this, Khar is made. So, Sir, can you demonstrate how it is done to us? Sir, what will we do with it now? We will dry this in sun for a whole day. This one has been dried already. Do you have more of the dried variety, if I want to look at it? Yes! Here it is! This will turn into this when dried? Yeah! It will look like this when dried. Okay! And what next? We will set it on fire. Okay! After it is burnt completely, we will derive khar from it. From what I’ve understood, we cut off the stem from Bhim Kol like this. A layer of the stem! Leave it to dry in the sun for 15-20 days. After that, it will turn into this form. After that, it will be set to fire.’ After being burnt, it is cooled down and the ashes that are left,…. …from that Khar will be made. What they showed us right now, by way of demonstration, was done in an open field outdoors. Now, technically, this is Khar! This can be added directly to dal, papaya or anything else. It is very effective in digestion. Second version of process, that he told me, involves dipping this ash into water and then…. …passing it through a sieve. That is another way to bring khar into use. Was I right? Yes you were! You told us about that Khar. Now what would you call this? You can make Khar from this as well. How? This fruit of the Bhim Kol tree, after you eat it,…. …after the fruit is eaten, its skin, that is left behind,…. …its skin is dried in the sun, similarly, and thereafter,… The skin will become like this. After which, it will be burnt the same way. The demonstration of Khar that we just saw, how is that different from this process? The earlier process that you saw, can be implemented in the months of September-October. And this process can be implemented throughout the year. Okay. From this, you can make Khar throughout the year, but that process has a fixed duration. So, I understood from him, as well as from my discussion with some other people. Khar has a lot of health benefits. It is beneficial for your digestive system, no doubt, but if someone is suffering from a…. …particular gastric problem,… ….if they eat this fruit regularly,… …they have a good chance of rectifying that condition. Was I right? Yes! Am I right Sir? Yes! Thank you very much! And …… thank you! In the Kamalabari market, we met Ms. Nayan Muni. She is Tourist Officer, Assam Tourism. So, with her help, for the next half of the day, we will understand this region better. And the culture of this region. For now, we’ve come to…. …to watch this handloom factory, where women work through a cooperative society. And create products out of handloom. This is Mekhela Chador, whose base is cotton. And its design is created from wool. Okay! Wow! Ma’am, how many days does this take to complete? 20 days! 20 days! Yes! This means, it involves a lot of hard work! Yeah! Please come! See, we do not have that many products here right now,….. …because there is an exhibition going on. So, most of our products have gone to the exhibition. Still, you can check out these. Can I look at a scarf? How much does it cost? Rs. 2600. Two thousand, six hundred rupees? Yes! So, generally, scarves are smaller in size. Yeah! But the scarves you sell here are usually larger. Yes! What is this jacket called? Hello! This is so beautiful! So, this is made of pure cotton? Pure cotton! This looks smart, no doubt! Yes! Do you have a bigger size in this? No, we don’t have right now. Ohhoo! Though, this jacket looks smart, but they don’t have a larger size in it available. What is its price? Rs. 1400. Rs. 1400? Okay, no problem! It felt good! This jacket is a result of pure cotton, Rs. 1400 and five days’ worth of hard work! And if you want, while coming to Majuli, you can also visit here. Dhanyawaad (Thanks)! Thank you very much! Here, please take this back! Okay! A lot of people had suggested that we should watch the Majuli mask-making live. Please tell me, how many years old is this practice of mask-making in Majuli? This is a 500-years-old cultural practice. Ooohhhh! Wow! And Sir, how many of people are actively involved in this practice on a regular basis? Right now, there are about 500 students actively involved in mask-making. Very Good! Fantastic! Please come inside, This is our mask making studio, where we preserve masks. See this. Wow!!! This is the mask of one of Lord Vishnu’s avatars. You have a whole collection here! This is it! Beautiful! By the way, I have never seen so many masks in one place before today. Really magnificent!!! This is our tradition, our family tradition, which we are carrying on. This is how this culture goes on. By God! So, what mask is this? This is the mask of one of Raavan’s younger brothers, Dushan, of Khar-Dushan! This one is of the demon Dushan and it is worn like this. Ooooohhhh!!!!! Open your mouth! You can open your mouth inside the mask. No, it is ok. You can talk from inside. I can talk but how do I look, how will I know? Oooohhh! By God! Oh God! Absolutely real! Magnificent!!! Can I see this Gada? Yes, go ahead! Awesome! It changed your character immediately! This is a character from Ramayana, Bali! I am Harish Bali. This is King Bali! And what is this gada made from? This gada is made from bamboo and thermocol. Very magnificent! I enjoyed it. Now that you have such collection of masks, if I want to purchase something for myself….. ….what would be the cost of both these items? This one is for Rs. 2000. And this one is for Rs. 5000. Okay! But making these masks involves hard work and the way you use natural colors,… The thing is that we have kept their costumes ready as well so that when we perform,…. …we can use the costumes too. And the way the mouth of these masks moves,…. …it was not there traditionally. This movement of masks was introduced a long time back by our Guruji. The traditional masks do not have this movement. Those were fixed. Okay! This is an innovation introduced. It was a good thing to introduce with changing times. Yes, with changing times! Very good! Excellent!!! Thank you! Now, she is taking me to a home nearby, for some snacks. And we’ve already reached outside that home. By the way, whose home is this? We’ve come to the home of Mr. Rajan Goswami. Okay! Yes! Sir! I’m coming! Sir! Namaskar! Sir, this is Harish Bali. And this is Sir, he works in a college. Fantastic! In a higher secondary institution, actually. After our talk, they prepared so many snacks for us within 15-20 minutes’ time. This is a great example of hospitality! Just imagine that someone like me comes to Majuli and reaches your home without prior information. And you will feed him all this within just 15-20 minutes!!! This is the specialty of Majuli. I enjoyed it. I mean I haven’t even eaten anything yet but I am impressed! Magnificent! Now, please help me out! Please tell me about each of these snacks. This is Bor pitha. It has gur (jaggery) and rice powder. Okay. So, what did you fry this and this in? In mustard oil. Okay! This thing, I believe, I ate at Kaziranga, in the Orchid. Yes! This looks like a similar dish to what I ate there. With this, I have curd, poha, gur. Now, I will start later on, first you all should pick one. I will try this one. I’ve picked this one! Very soft! It is really magnificent in taste! I’ve never tasted this kind of snack before today, obviously,… …it has multiple flavors. It has an overlying taste of sabudana (sago seeds). With that, it has the flavors of rice powder, sooji (semolina) and frying, of course. Looking at the fried snacks, I thought it would be oily, but surprisingly, it has limited oil. It doesn’t have the heaviness associated with oil. And by adding sugar, obviously, it tastes sweet. (laughter)!!! But it is very tasty, actually, that is what I want to say. This is an interesting snack. It has rice powder and it has been fried in mustard oil. Really….magnificent!!! In my opinion, the trick in making this is, please correct me if I am wrong….. …to maintain its softness. Because the real taste of this snack lies in the crispiness on the outside and the softness inside. And the flavor of gur is excellent. Magnificent!!! Okay, this one is called Lass Kora! When you eat something outside the home and then eat the same thing at home,…. …it tastes different. This is a fact! I have to admit. Excellent!!! I was thinking about one thing…. …about this combination of curd, poha and gur,… …if we remove gur from this, this combination will be incomplete. I mean, it is a complete package as it is. (Laughter) Very good! It is very tasty! I am still thinking about how we came here without informing…. …and you prepared all this in 15 minutes. That is the thought coming to my mind repeatedly. This is a local custom? Yes, it is! We’ve reached the pottery location. In front of us, we can see a lot of pots lying around. Now, where are you taking us? Now, we will show you the process of making pottery. Okay! Great! Tell me one thing, how old is this pottery profession here? This is something even these people won’t know. This means many generations have been doing this for so long. It has been many generations, that is why these people are known as ‘kumhars’ (potters). They work with clay and are known as Kumhars. Okay!! Whatever pottery is made here is made with hands. Okay!!! Ohh, this will go hand in hand! Interesting! I really liked coming here to meet you all. They must not have understood what I said. (Speaking in Assamese) Thank you! Finally, at 7 pm, we’ve reached the home of Ms Nayan Muni. To have our dinner. So, you belong to the Missing tribe? Yes! Okay! As she has told me, the Missing tribe population is dominant in this area,… …this was a great opportunity for us to have dinner at her home. And again, a good example of hospitality. She kindly invited us to her home for dinner. Yeah! Great! One more thing that I noticed is that though it is 7 pm, but looking at the darkness around…. …it feels as if it is already 11 pm. And second thing, looking at the activity level, I can see fish being sold here and a small vegetable shack there. Rest, you will hardly find one or two people walking around right now. Otherwise, in another hour, the surroundings will be totally peaceful. We are inside their kitchen. If you look downside, it is bamboo. Oh God!! Hello beta! I can see the cooking has already started.’ Yes! Okay! Let me have a closer look! So, the design of your kitchen, is it particular to Majuli or elsewhere too? It is not confined to Majuli. Kitchens outside also have such design, especially among the Missing tribe. So, the pots are placed upside down. The pots are placed like this in order to dry them. This is because when we cook food like rice, we keep it in these pots for fermentation. Okay!!! Dal, dal, these are boiled vegetables. This is jhilmil greens, which they showed us earlier. This is aloo pithika. She informed that this doesn’t have mustard oil at this moment, but usually,…. …mustard oil is added to this dish. And this is small potatoes cooked with plantain flower. One more interesting thing that I understood in the last five minutes…. ….is that as this flower is cut… …on cutting (I ate this flower last time either in Kerala or Kolkata),.. …this outer peel is removed there, Only the inner flower is used. But here they tell me that they eat the outer peel as well as the inner flower. This is a slightly new experience for me. This is a special leaf, known as, Khara paat! It has sticky rice inside. The rice is wrapped in the leaf and boiled. This is something compulsorily cooked during festivals and on special occasions. Okay! It is a special dish Great! So, can I start my meal with this? Yes! How do I eat it? We eat it especially with non-veg like chicken or pork. But since you are vegetarian,… Yes, most of the times! …so today, you will have to eat it with whatever is in your plate. Ahh! So what should I eat it with? Dal? I can also eat it as it is? You can eat it with vegetables as well as on its own. Alright! Very different taste! Very different! Sticky rice, she had already told me about, so no surprise there! I was already aware that the leaf had sticky rice inside. But this taste is very different and I personally feel that…. …this would make a better combination with non-veg instead of dal. Now, she suggested that I should also try it with this dish. So, I am going to eat it with this jhilmil saag. The sticky rice makes for a better combination with saag than with dal. That is a fact! In Assam, I’ve heard, there are more than 300 varieties in rice. So, which variety am I eating right now? This is Bau rice. Okay! One thing, that I cannot keep out of my mind and…. ….I want to repeat it again. …I am really impressed with the combination of sticky rice with Jhilmil saag. What you already mentioned to me that if potatoes had been boiled before cooking, that….. …would have meant a different level of water in the dish. The way you cooked it has a different level of water in the dish. So, it is good that you added a bit of onion, a bit of coriander, some salt,…. ….and nothing else. Very, very tasty! Cabbage! And papaya! Both boiled! It is only here that I understood from here that people of Missing tribe love to eat boiled food. Cooked with the least amount of oil. Even if they use oil, it is in the least possible amount. Out of all the things that I ate today, there are a couple of dishes, which…. …I am not going to forget for years to come. I liked it that much. One is this combination. About which I’ve already spoken thrice. Yes and second thing is aloo pithika. Today, I think I’ve had 10 or 8 servings of this aloo pithika in the past few days. But this one I liked very much. Really beautiful! Now, let me finish this food! After that, I will move from here and end this journey. It is almost 8.45 pm. Really, I am enjoying all the varieties of food in Assam, as you can see. We enjoyed the food a lot while finishing it. Thanks to you! Thank you! I would also like to thank your family members. Rest, I feel that if you come to Assam with this mindset that…. …you want to experience the peace and calm of village life. Like for us, it is 9.30 pm but it feels like it is 2 am midnight. I mean to say that it is pin drop silence right now. All I can hear is the slight animal or bird sound in the distance. That is all I can hear. So, this is also an experience in itself. So, if you spend a day or two here, you will feel it was worth it. Now we are going to go to Sivasagar, via, Deog? Correct! So, we will meet soon! And thank you very much! Thank you! So, that is it! Thanks for your time! Thank you! Thank you!