What immediately comes to mind when someone thinks about Assam is perhaps its rolling verdant valleys, sprawling tea gardens, old, charming estates, deep and dense forests, and the mighty Brahmaputra river. But this riverine state that is also the gateway to the beautiful northeast of India cannot just be visited for its refreshingly splendid landscape. Assam is a treasure trove of history, culture and heritage, and the small towns and villages of the state stand as true testaments to it.
One such quiet and little-known town is that of Dhubri, situated in the western part of the state. Surrounded by rivers on all three sides, this town has had a glorious past as an important administrative seat of colonial rule. It was also the meeting point for different ethnic groups that mingled together, forming the unique cultural heritage and historical background of the state. This place and its cultural legacy is an important part of Assam's character, and this is what we are set to explore in an exciting heritage walk organised by Sahapedia through its outreach programme, India Heritage Walks in association with the District Museum of Dhubri on March 17th, 2019.
Until 1874, Dhubri was mostly part of the Bengal kingdom until the British created the new province of the Assam valley and incorporated the district into it. The town has been visited by several important personalities, like Swami Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi, Subhash Chandra Bose and even the first Sikh guru, Guru Nanak Dev, followed by the ninth guru. Thus, Dhubri also houses a Gurudwara of great reverence to the Sikh community, Gurudwara Damdama Sahib.
The growth of blended culture in this region, particularly in language, art and religion, has been due to the continuous process of assimilation of the various ethnicities, castes and creeds of the locals and the populace that migrated. Today, the remains of the colonial era in the historical and cultural buildings reflect the splendid heritage and culture of the town. Opulent heritage buildings and majestic structures greet you at every nook and corner. The rich history of the town oozes out of the structures and famous sites, depicting the tales of time and trade of a centre of excellence of a bygone era.
In this walk, we shall attend and explore the many historical sites of the town of Dhubri, to understand its architecture, history and significance in modern-day Assam. The walk begins at the District Museum where more than a thousand objects of archaeological importance have been displayed. From traditional terracotta art to wooden toys, from jewellery to natural history specimens, each item gives varied insight into the heritage of Assam. We will then explore the old Victoria Park. Home to a glorious white marble statue of Queen Victoria that arrived on a steamer from England in 1905, the well-manicured park is apparently the only park still funded by the Britsh government. Since Dhubri, which may as well be called the parliament of religions, has several communities of various faiths residing in it, we will explore three different places of worship, all of which are of historical importance.
We will begin with the Brahmo Mandir that was established in 1875. When the Brahmo Samaj was found in the 19th century, the faith spread fast in Assam with quite some following in Dhubri. Learn more about this spiritual movement as you admire the temple whilst understanding more about its architectural importance. We will then head to the Armenian Church built in 1765, shedding light on the connection of the Armenians to Assam. With a beautiful green facade and glass-stained sun catcher, this modest church has evoked a certain enigma in Dhubri’s old residents. It is an important symbol of a dwindling community in India whose stories remain the main focus of this space. Thereafter, we will walk down to the famous Gurudwara Damdama Sahib to understand the Sikh influence on the region’s culture, followed by a visit to the historical Panchpeer Dargah established in the 16th century.
After getting an insight into its religious heritage, we will explore the town's civic heritage with a visit to the DC Bungalow, built in 1879. The official residence of the Deputy Commissioner is a beautiful heritage villa situated on the banks of the Brahmaputra river. With a beautiful garden and intricate architecture, the villa's walls hide interesting stories that shall be narrated during the walk. We will then head to the SP Bungalow, followed by a visit to the Meteorological Tower to observe the various influences on its architecture, and then walk by the sprawling tennis court and the Municipality Bungalow. Also on the list is the famous Daak Bungalow which has a lush green garden and a cute brick-layered facade. Built by the British government in 1879, it is a treasure trove of stories about Dhubri’s planning and development.
All these stories shall be narrated by walk leader Bijoy Sarmah, a renowned journalist and a prolific storyteller. Presently working as Senior Journalist for The Sentinel, Special Correspondent for Dainik Purvoday, and Associate Editor for the Eastern Panorama, he has over 30 years of experience in journalism and is more than simply well-versed in the history and culture of the state.
So, come and explore Dhubri and uncover the many secrets of this glorious town.