Mawsynram’s June Rainfall Record and Assam Flood Situation

Many of us have read in history books that Cherrapunji is the wettest place on the planet. However, in recent years, Mawsynram, a small hamlet near Cherrapunji has snatched away that title. Now Mawsynram has snatched another record from Cherrapunji.

The highest rainfall in a single day in June was held by Cherrapunji since 1966 was broken by Mawsynram last Friday, 17th June. Mawsynram received a whooping 1003.6 mm of rain on 17th June 2022, beating the previous record of 945.4 mm of rain way back in 1966. Neighbouring Cherrapunji too received 972 mm of rain following the 811mm and 673.6mm on the previous 2 days. Currently, Assam and Meghalaya are being battered by bountiful rains, causing flood-like situations in both the states.

Despite being the wettest places on Earth, Cherrapunji and Mawsynram both face acute water shortage during comparatively drier winter months. The monsoon rainfall has decreased in recent years and coupled with construction in the hills which blocks natural streams and water run-offs, there is a serious water crisis in south Meghalaya.

Again sudden cloudbursts are becoming frequent in the region dumping torrential amounts of rainfall which is speeding up the topsoil erosion in the region. That is why we see in recent years sudden landslides and floods in the Assam-Meghalaya region. Sudden floods in Haflong in Assam in May this year washed away an entire town, including trains, rail stations, bridges and tracks. As of now, there are severe flood conditions in various parts of Assam. Over 55 lakh people are affected, while the death toll rises up to 101 as of 23rd June. The south Assam districts of Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi are the worst hit where water levels breached the embankments along the Kushiyara and Barak rivers. The western districts of Barpeta, Dhubri are also severely affected, and so are Nagaon, Dima Hasao, and Kamrup districts. The NDRF and SDRF have turned on the rescue operation throughout the state and have saved many lives amidst extremely heavy rainfall on the state.

Written by – Himadri Paul

Offbeat Cruise Routes in India

Cruise is fast becoming one of the prime activities of tourism. Though travelling by road or rail seems far better in enjoying the landscape, there are several cruise routes in India where beauty is breathtaking. Inland cruise is an excellent option to explore the rural beauty of our country. Cruise is one of the best options when it comes to spending a leisure luxury travel with little to arrange on our own.

Let us now explore some amazing routes that India has to offer.

1)Mumbai to Goa Cruise :

Jalesh Cruise operating between Mumbai and Goa

This is one of the most popular choices of a cruise in India, among nationals and foreigners alike. It is a sea voyage parallel to the Konkan coast that takes around 12 hours. Several luxury world-class ships operate in this route. More than the natural beauty, this cruise offers a high degree of luxury that boasts of providing you with everything you aspire to while travelling. The route passes through the ruins of Maratha forts by the sea, which has been listed in the UNESCO World Heritage Site tentative list.

2)Kochi to Lakshadweep Sea Voyage :

Kochi to Lakshadweep MV Kavaratti Cruise

This is an excellent deep sea ride to the coral islands of India, the Lakshadweep. The pristine beauty of small coral islands, dotted with coconut trees, white sandy beaches, and brilliant blue water, will attract a huge number of tourists. The journey lasts 14-18 hours. However, the ships here are more for transportation of the locals and yet to be made ultra-luxury to attract the rich tourists.

3)Kerala Backwaters :

House Boat in Kerala Backwaters

Boating and staying at houseboats of Ashtamudi and Vembanad Lakes offer breathtaking views of the landscape of God’s Own Country, Kerala. House boating is famous in Alappuzha, which is known by the name Venice of the East. The ancient port city of Kollam also provides staying in a luxury houseboat. Houseboats of Kerala are luxurious and affordable at the same time.

4)Sundarbans Cruise :

Kolkata to Sundarbans Cruise

Cruise inside the world’s largest mangrove forest is itself an enchanting experience. While motorboats are affordable to the locals for daily transportation, there are also small but luxury ships that take you through the mystic water channels deep into the forest. Chances of seeing tigers, crocodiles, and deer are high from watch-towers and also from the cruise itself. The journey starts from Kolkata and lasts 2-4 days, depending on the tour package.

5)Brahmaputra Ride :

Assam Cruise through Bramhaputra River in MV Mahabahu

River cruise through the majestic Brahmaputra river no doubt offers an experience on its own. The stretch between Jorhat and Guwahati is navigable all year and is frequently visited by tourists. Majuli island, the world’s largest river island, and the Kaziranga National Park fall in the journey where the tourists can enjoy the rich biodiversity in north-east India.

So, which cruise are you thinking about next? Do let us know in the comment section below.

Written by – Himadri Paul

Assam – Mizoram Border Disputes

It is a well-known fact that India has several border disputes with Pakistan, China and even Nepal. Many countries in the world have border disputes with their neighbouring countries. India is made up of several states, which too have inter-state border disputes. Such conflicts have never escalated to a situation that one state issues travel advisory to its rival state despite being in the same country.

Such has happened with Assam and Mizoram locking themselves in a border disputes battle. As with many places worldwide, border disputes come from agreeing to two different border-demarcation lines signed off in two different years. Mizoram officially recognizes the border, which was signed in 1875, while Assam follows the 1933 agreement. While it seems that the latest border should always be followed, Mizoram claims the 1933 border was set without consulting the local tribal chief. In fact, Assam has border disputes with most of its neighbouring states.

Mizoram have allegedly started constructing a road through the disputed border, through the middle of Lailapur Reserved Forest, an ecologically sensitive zone. This irked Assam, and they deployed police in the region to stop the construction work. The situation tensed when police from both sides opened fire at each other. The skirmish resulted in 7 deaths, including that of 6 police officers and 1 civilian, as well as over 70 injuries. Assam police have accused Mizoram police of opening the fire first, after which Assam advised a complete travel blockade of Mizoram.

However, there were several channels open for bilateral talks. Assam and Mizoram both used the communication channels available, and peace talks have resumed between the state ministers. As per the latest decision, both sides have resumed between the state ministers. As per the latest decision, both sides have agreed to keep their neutral forces keeping utmost restraint, Mizoram condemning the killings and Assam withdrawing the Travel Advisory. We hope that peace remains between the two north-eastern states of India and settle their border disputes peacefully through bilateral talks.

Written by – Himadri Paul

Is Tea Indigenous to India?

There are not many Indians who do not like tea. Tea is the most common beverage in India. From Kashmir to Kanyakumari, from Gujarat to Assam, tea is widely available and heavily consumed. Most households can not even function properly without one or two cups of brewed tea a day. This is why India is the world’s largest tea-drinking nation. This International Tea Day, let us look back at whether this was the case some 500 years back.

Researchers still debate whether tea originated within the present borders of India. However, tea was neither consumed widely nor was it drunk like how we are drinking it today. The earliest reference to tea drinking comes from the Dutch controlled Surat in Gujarat. Tea was consumed by indigenous Indians living in Surat as a medicine for its strong medicinal values. In those days, tea was expensive as it was imported from China. Hence small quantities of tea were consumed only on feeling unwell or having health issues. Back then, tea was only brewed in water, with no added sweetener or milk. However, lemon juice and some spices were added to it for additional health benefits.

Spiced tea with lemon and spices

The British started the first plantations in Darjeeling with Chinese tea saplings. Though the first attempt was a failure, more attempts proved successful and commercially viable. Thus was produced the world-famous Darjeeling tea, which has great flavour and taste. More plantations were made in south India in the hill-towns of Ooty, Munnar, and Sri Lanka. However, these were Chinese varieties, and such tea can not be said indigenous to India.

In the early 1820s, when the British were looking for an alternative to the Chinese monopoly of the tea trade, they found that tea was grown and consumed by Assam tribes. After a detailed study, it was concluded that the Assam tea was of a different variety and that local people consumed it as medicine. Geographically, Assam is located near Yunnan plateau in China, where tea was believed to have originated. Hence, some also thought that the Assam variety of tea was a variation of tea that originated from the Yunnan region of China. As per consumption, various tribes, most notably the Singpho tribe, used to consume tea since time unknown. However, the production and consumption technique was different from modern tea, which the Europeans disliked. Assam tea, being indigenous to Assam, thrived well throughout Assam and parts of north Bengal, and this is today the most prominent tea producing region in India.

Tree Plantation in Assam

Kashmir has another story of tea consumption. Though tea did not originate in Kashmir, its proximity to China and lying in the old silk route between Iran (Persia) and China made it a vital tea trade centre. Kahwa chai, or Kashmiri green tea, has been widely consumed in Kashmir, Pakistan and Central Asia since the Kushan empire in the 1st and 2nd century AD. The word kahwa means sweetened. Kahwa tea involved the addition of a sweetener, either sugar or honey. Spices like saffron, cardamom and cinnamon and sometimes nuts like walnut, almond were added to it. The Mughal empire later patronized it in the 16th century. So tea consumption in India is very old, at least in some parts, goes back way before the British popularized it in the rest of the country.

Kashmiri Kahwa Green Tea

Ladakh, Lahaul and Spiti, parts of Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh consumed tea much before the British arrived in India. Here, tea was consumed with yak butter, yak milk and salt, and is today called butter tea. Yak butter tea provided the much-needed warmth and energy that is required in such a cold climate. Today, however, yak butter is often substituted with butter made from cow’s milk due to its availability and low price. Consumption of butter tea started in the 7th century in Tibet and was popularized in the 13th century indicating how old the tradition of drinking butter tea is.

Ladakhi Yak Butter Tea

Lastly comes modern tea, which is popularized across every part of the country by the British. However, the Indians were reluctant to drink a product that was foreign to them. The railways played a crucial role in spreading tea consumption. Tea brewed in water, with milk and sugar added to it, was introduced in the railway stations. The locals took up the initiative as being cheap. It attracted the middle-class Indians and thus became an excellent revenue-earner. Tea became a staple of the Indian diet as it became a typical drink to have in long-distance railway journeys. Even today, lemon tea and milk tea available on the train and the stations are most travellers’ choice of beverage during journeys.

Tea Vendor also called Chaiwala in north India

There is a wide variety of “chai” consumed in India. Some of the most notable types are – 1)masala chai, where powdered spices were added to the tea to increase its flavour, 2)lemon tea, where lemon juice is added to liquor tea, 3)jasmine tea, where jasmine flowers are boiled with green tea, 4)milk tea, where the base liquid is fully or partially milk. Based on the amount of processing, tea can be 1)white tea, 2)green tea, and 3)black tea, in increasing order of processing. White tea is the healthiest of all, obtained from leaves of young saplings; green tea is a bit more processed though retaining most of the healthy ingredients; black tea undergoes many processes that make it lose most of its antioxidants. The most popular version in India is black tea for its strong flavour and rich caffeine content and also for being publicised widely by the British. Though newer versions are increasingly made available in cafes and restaurants, a street chaiwala is still preferred by most common Indians. At homes, despite the promotions of the health benefits of green tea, black tea with the home-customized version is the favourite among most Indians.

Masala Chai

Which tea do you prefer at home? Will you opt for a cafe or a chaiwala to drink tea outside? Do mention your preferences in the comment section below.

Written by – Himadri Paul

Assam Earthquake 2021 Analysis

On 28th April 2021, a moderately severe earthquake hit Assam and parts of north-east India. The 6.4 magnitude Earthquake had epicentre at Dhekiajuli in Sonitpur district of Assam, and the focal point was 17 metres below ground level. The epicentre is located just 80 km northeast of Guwahati, the largest city in north-east India. The area falls under Seismic hazard zone V, which most prone to massive Earthquakes.

The Himalayan Frontal Thrust, or the Main Frontal Thrust, is a major geological fault along the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plate boundaries. Many parts of Assam, including Sonitpur, falls near the area of Himalayan Frontal Thrust and is thus prone to significant Earthquakes. The 8.6 magnitude Assam earthquake of 1950 severely damaged the whole state and the neighbouring states of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram and Meghalaya. This time, as the earthquake’s magnitude was not that severe, many areas, including Guwahati, felt tremors but were not severely damaged.

The earthquake occurred specifically at Kopili fault, a 300 km long part of Himalayan Frontal Thrust stretching from Bhutan to Mayanmar following the foothills of the Himalayas. The Kopili fault is one of the most seismically unstable faults that have produced earthquakes since prehistoric times. The Kopili fault has been quiet for some time, some time and the earthquake released much of the stress building up in the crust. That is the reason for the severity of the quake. The last major earthquake in the region was of 6.0 magnitude on 29th July 1960.

According to the latest reports, two died of shock and at least 10 others sustained injuries in the earthquake. Several buildings and roads in the western part of Assam are damaged. The nearby Arunachal Pradesh districts also felt the tremors where two people are injured after their house collapsed. There was also a report of a minor landslide in West Kameng district induced by the quake, that blocked a vital road in the area.

The earthquake’s timing and duration were the primary cause that it averted any significant damage. The earthquake occurred early in the morning and for a short duration of fewer than 30 seconds. Had the tremor occurred midday, there might have been damages to workers working in high rise buildings and offices. Also, an earthquake persisting for more than 30 seconds will bring more damage to the facilities. However, there were six aftershocks ranging between 3.2 to 4.7 magnitude, which has not caused any significant destruction. Let us hope that no more damaging aftershocks occur amid the pandemic situation in India.

Written by – Himadri Paul