Written by Namrata Sarmah, Project Curator, Directorate of Museums, Government of Assam (India, ITP Fellow 2018)
My recent travel to Balipara in the Sonitpur district of Assam was quite surreal and pristine exploring the Environmental Heritage of the Eastern Himalayas. The site is a hidden treasure of flora and fauna. It is 22 acres of the certified organic Eastern Himalayan Botanic Ark comprising of a Heritage Bungalow, a small Rice museum, four cozy tea bungalows which allows you to immerse yourself in nature and experience community living. Assam is endowed with ethnic and cultural borrowings from both the Indian subcontinent and South-East Asia. This diversity is reflected in the city’s demographics.
I was fortunate to visit the Baligaon Mishing Village which is Assam’s first certified green village. It is rich in history, tradition and culture of the Mishing community. The village is looked after by the village head – Kamison Mili – a man of the soil who has set the example of community conservation. Standing true to its title as a Green Village, it exemplifies clean and green living with a botanic garden of around 700 endemic species, an efficient rainwater harvesting system, waste management system and an ethnic way of life. There is also a rice museum dedicated to preserving the culture of the local communities, their craftsmanship and entrepreneurial spirit. It houses seeds of 102 varieties of local rice as well as other indigenous seeds. Apart from those, several traditional tools and implements have also been put on display at the museum.
The Directorate of Archaeology, Assam has declared Burra Bungalow (Wild Mahseer) as a heritage building for it bears the characteristics features of colonial architecture. This place also gives you a chance to romance with tea as you can quietly contemplate life in the colonial era. The place also gives you a flavor of Anglo-Assamese and ethnic cuisines with curries, stews, roasts and chutneys to tantalize your taste buds along with authentic flavors in the meals. Visitors can also experience the ancient art of weaving, farming and fishing with the locals and take-home local handicrafts, organic food and edible plants. On a personal and professional level, I had an inexplicable familiarity with this place.