India is a country of vivacious cultural heritage. From the magnificent Taj in the North to the divine shrines of Tirupati in the south, this unique country of ours never fails to leave its visitors awestruck by its mesmerizing beauty. The ethereal beauty and vibrant cultures of the North-East India however stand apart for their grandeur and elegance. Yet the cultures and traditions of several parts of the North-east remain unexplored and unknown. The Barak Valley of Assam is one such region whose rich socio- cultural history and breathtaking flora and fauna makes it one of the prime hubs of tourism in the entire North-east India.
Enwreathed by four of the Seven Sisters and our neighbour Bangladesh, the Barak Valley consists of the three most important districts of Assam- Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi. Known for its tropical climate and amiable weather, the Barak valley is bounded by mountains on three sides. The majestic River Barak which flows through the region has been a witness to the fascinating historical moments that have defined the very existence of Barak Valley. Originally a part of the Kachari Kingdom, Barak valley was annexed by the British in 1832. The British East India Company established several tea estates here, making it an economically significant region and an important trade center. In fact, the World’s first Professional Polo Club was formed by the British in Cachar itself. Silchar, the administrative capital of Cachar district earned the distinction of “an island of peace” from former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi for being unstirred by the political upheaval which was prevalent at that time.
The evergreen vegetation comprising tropical rainforests is an abode to numerous species of Tigers, Elephants and Capped Langurs. The Hollock Gibbon, Pig tailed Macaque and the Masked Finfoot are some of the rare and endangered species found in this region.
The ethnicity of the region primarily comprises Syllethi Bengalis, Dimasas and Manipuris. Considered as a regional dialect of Bengali, Syllethi is the predominant language spoken in the Barak valley.
The love for one’s own language is perhaps realized the most when its very existence faces grave threat. This very ardor of the people for Bengali language shaped one of the most prominent language movements of the world in the form of “Bhasha Shaheed Andolan” of 1961. The decision of forcibly implementing Assamese as the primary language across the state by the then Assam Government saw the whole of Barak Valley united for the love of their culture and heritage. After Eleven innocent sacrifices and countless causalities, victory finally graced the footsteps of Barak Valley as Bengali was declared as the official language. Even today, the people of Barak Valley take immense pride in their language and the unbroken spirit of the Bhasha Shaheed Andolan remains omnipresent in the streets of Barak Valley.
It is often believed that a culture can be accurately understood if one embraces the local delicacies and dishes which it offers. Primarily being a Bengali community, the people of Barak Valley relish fish of many kinds. The most savored local cuisines include “Shutki” or dried fish curry, “Shidol” or fermented fish chutney and various freshwater fish indigenous to this region. A mouth watering composition of rice, milk and sugar, slow cooked inside a bamboo shoot locally known as “Chunga Pitha” is another scrumptious offering which simply cannot be missed. From the euphonies of Rabindra Sangeet to the Hymns of “Bagaani gaan “, the ever-melodious aura of this region never fails to astound its visitors. Sri Kancha Kanti Devi Temple, Khaspur Rajbari, Maniharan Tunnel, Bhuban Temple, Language Martyr Tomb and Shonbeel (which is the second largest wetland of Asia) are a must visit for the wanderlust aficionados.
The Barak valley with its unceasing progress on the tourism front, promises adventure and beauty to its visitors and has the tremendous potential to become one of the most sought after places in the entire country.