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Why a visit to the world’s largest river island is a must

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Bamboo house of Mishing tribe

By Natalia Ningthoujam

Kamalabari (Majuli), Feb 5: Assam’s Majuli faces flood fury — and the threat of erosion — whenever the mighty Brahmaputra river swells. So take a break from your high-tech lifestyle and hop on that double decker boat to live the simple life in the world’s largest river island before it loses the title.

Cruises on luxury vessels can take you to your destination, but to understand the locals’ lives, it is best to travel like them on a rickety motor boat, which can also carry cars, bikes and anything that can’t swim, from Neemati ghat to Kamalabari ghat.

First timers might fear for their lives but for the frequent travellers, it’s like any other public transport. Some are so carefree that they even play cards.

After the half-hour ferry ride, you will reach the shrinking island, which is located over 300 km from Guwahati, Assam’s main city, and is home to approximately two lakh people consisting of Brahmins, Kalitas, Mishings, Deori and more.

Visitors can stay in various resorts, which might remind you of your hostel days due to availability of only basic amenities, or limited homestays.

While driving to your accommodation, you will see paddy and mustard fields, and bamboo plantations along the roads.

Out of the various house forms, the bamboo stilt houses — with an open fireplace in the middle — of the Mishing tribe, are quite unique, and you will see women working on looms made with bamboos and a cycle’s wheel.

Unlike the people of Sualkuchi, a silk-weaving village in Assam, Mishings here make “mekhela chador” and other traditional outfits only for their own use. And men use their physical strength to make beds out of bamboos or other furnitures, when they are not farming.

Majuli, a hub of the Assamese neo-Vaishnavite culture, has many satras (religious and cultural institutions).

“Earlier, there were over 60 satras in Majuli but due to erosion, there are currently just 32 satras here. Auniati Satra is the biggest one in Assam. The land measures up to 500 bigha,” Anant Kalita, the satra’s museum guide, told this visiting IANS correspondent.

“We don’t call ourselves monks or pandits. The ones who stay in satras are called Vaishnavs. We worship lord Krishna. We dance, pray and do dramas, which were created by (saint-scholar) Sankardev,” he added.

The satra is open to all — Brahmins, Kalitas and people from other communities of Assam.

“Even Muslims can come. Ladies can come but can’t stay in the satra. After marriage, people need to stay out of the satra.

“There are 350 people in the satra. Vaishnavs and bhakhts stay in satras, the ones who are outside are called disciples,” said Kalita, who has been here for the past 18 years.

The Samaguri Satra, on the other hand, has kept alive the tradition of mask-making.

Its studio houses numerous masks, like those of Narasimha, Ram and Laxman that are used during festivals and Bhaona, which is a traditional form of entertainment through which religious messages are shared.

Explaining the process of mask-making, popular mask artiste Hem Chandra Goswami’s brother Tilak Goswami said: “The masks are made of mud, cotton cloth, cow dung and vegetable colours. One mask takes about 15 to 20 days to make.”

“Our entire family knows how to make masks. We have been making masks for the last six generations,” added the 65-year-old.

After learning the craft here, some even go to Dibrugarh or Guwahati.

It’s not just the people at satras who are warm and welcoming. Once the local children spot new faces, especially with DSLR cameras, they will happily follow you and strike a pose.

You might have to use a lot of hand gestures while communicating with the locals as they aren’t fluent in English or Hindi, but they will leave you overwhelmed — irrespective of their financial condition, they will not let you leave empty handed.

A cup of tea or a plate full of home-made sweets (rice flour pitha) is the least they can offer, and a request: “Please visit again.”

IANS

India

DGCA restricts P&W powered Airbus A320 Neo aircraft from flying to Port Blair

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Indigo-Airlines

New Delhi, Jan 18 (IANS) Civil aviation regulator DGCA has restricted budget airlines IndiGo and GoAir’s flight services operated on Airbus A320 Neo aircraft powered by Pratt & Whitney (P&W) engines to Port Blair.

A public notice issued by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Thursday read: “The restriction imposed on flight operations to Port Blair with A320 NEO aircraft.”

The two budget airlines operate the Airbus A320 Neo aircraft fitted with P&W 1100 series engines.

The restriction comes after the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the DGCA held a meeting with IndiGo, GoAir, engine manufacturer P&W and aircraft maker Airbus on January 8 to review safety-related incidents with Airbus A320 Neo aircraft, powered by P&W.

Consequently, it was decided that civil aviation regulator will issue an “Additional Directive” on safety protocols for P&W engines which power Airbus A320 aircraft.

On Thursday, the regulator also directed the airlines to “… Create awareness among cabin and cockpit crew about odor or burning smell or smoke (even if slightest) during approach phase and positive reporting to cockpit crew for necessary action.”

Besides, additional measures like “Inspection of 3rd stage LPT blade” at every weekly inspection among others have been mandated.

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Realm of Sultans- Oman

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Oman

The Sultanate of Oman, considered as a hidden jewel at the tip of the Arabian Peninsula. Oman offers an excellent combination of heritage and modern life. Omani’s are very hospitable people and during travelling through the country, locals may invite you to have coffee and dates at their houses, an offer that never to be refused. From mountains and deep gorges to water-filled wadis (valley of a stream) and endless beaches and some of the stunning desert landscapes, diverse beauty of Oman can be sight throughout the country.

Oman received independence from Britain in 1951, following independence the country brought them under the leadership of Sultan Said bin Taimur, however not until his son His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin said ascended to the throne in 1970 that Oman entered a modern renaissance evolving into the contemporary and forward facing country it is today. It is His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said’s foresight that has helped Oman to secure prosperity and ensure that the country remains one of the safest countries in the world.

Oman’s population is just around 4 million people, Oman is an Islamic country that with an acceptance of other religions and cultures, allows anyone to practice their faith freely without any prejudice. Oman has seen the rapid transformation to modern society since 1970 and has never lost sight of its roots. Traditional Omani culture is embedded in nearly every aspect of daily life, from clothing and food to arts and craft and the hospitality the Locals show the visitors. The unique Omani culture and heritage continue today in many of the same ways it has seen for hundreds of years.

Muscat means Anchorage – Stunning modern capital of Oman offering a combination of old and new. Mountains and deserts surround Muscat while sea and fishing today remains an important industry. Muscat is also a busy port city. Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is an architectural masterpiece with 50 meters dome and beautiful Persian carpet, the mosque can accommodate 20,000 people. Muscat’s old Muttrah (administratively a district) quarter, this known for its labyrinthine souk and bustling fish market and famous Corniche waterfront promenade. One can also catch the glimpse of the Sultan’s residence, a colourful Al Alam Palace built in the contemporary Islamic style. Muscat offers several museums exhibiting Omani culture and crafts. The Royal Opera House presents international performances. Shatti and Ourum are popular beaches that offer great experiences to beach admirers. Lagoon and Reefs at Bandar Jissah and Bandar Khayran are located close to Muscat, which is popular for diving.

Muscat offers abundance choices for visitors from world-class shows to fine dining at one of the many restaurants scattered across the capital or shopping for traditional souvenirs at Muttrah Souq to museums and art galleries showcasing Omani traditions and art. Even when the summer temperatures are at its peak in the rest part of Oman, Dhofar and mountaintops of Al Hajar range serve cooler temperatures on their overture.

Jay Kantawala founder of WIYO Travel contemplates that, ”Oman is a relatively unexplored destination and has a lot to offer to the tourist, the country is well- connected from major cities in India with daily direct flights. One can explore Oman for a short break or even for a week to 10 days. Micro-trips can be held here by exuberant travellers”.

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Avoid travelling as Snow may block Himachal roads

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Shimla, Jan 2: Moderate to heavy snowfall may occur across Himachal Pradesh in the next one-two days, the Met Office said on Wednesday.

Residents and tourists have been advised not to venture in the high hills as snapping of road links are high.

The supply of essential commodities and transportation of people may get hampered in remote areas of the state, a government official told IANS.

Hills of Shimla, Kullu, Mandi, Sirmaur, Chamba, Lahaul-Spiti and Kinnaur districts are likely to experience moderate to heavy snowfall from January 4-6, an official of the meteorological office here told IANS.

He said the western disturbances — storm systems originating from Caspian Sea and moving across the Afghanistan-Pakistan region — are likely to remain active in the region till January 9.

Most of the prominent tourist towns like Shimla, Narkanda, Kufri, Dalhousie and Manali are likely to have light to moderate spells of snowfall, he added.

Kalpa in Kinnaur district saw mild snowfall. It recorded a low of minus 3.4 degree Celsius.

Keylong in Lahaul-Spiti district was the coldest place in the state with a low of minus 4.6 degree.

Shimla recorded the minimum temperature at 3.7 degrees Celsius, while it was 0.6 degree in Manali and 2.8 degrees in Dharamsala.

IANS

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