While helping our NGO partner Balipara Tract & Frontier Foundation fulfill its aim in promoting and showcasing the rich and bio-diverse cultures of Assam we have built up a close relationship with the villagers of Baligaon, a unique community belonging to the Mising.
The Mising, the second largest ethnic group in Assam, originally a hill tribe from Tibet and Mongolia, settled on the plains of Assam around the 8th century. They have their own language which can be traced to some Tibetan/Mongoloid languages and which follows the Roman script.
Mising women are renowned for their exquisite handlooms of cotton and silk, especially the Mirizen shawls and blankets. The men fish and farm and Baligaon is one of the original villages to participate in our NGO partner’s initiative to enroll local farmers as organic cultivation partners. Their staple food includes rice, boiled vegetables, fish and pork.
Spending half a day at an authentic Assamese village like Baligaon is a cultural experience few guests want to miss as it gives a realistic glimpse into the day-to-day life of tribal folk.
After breakfast or lunch at Wild Mahseer guests go to Baligaon, situated on the banks of the Jia Bhoroli River a short 10-minute drive away, where they are welcomed at the house of the village headman. During the Bihu festival in particular he presents them with gamocha (referred to as bihuwaan during Bihu) the traditional cotton scarf and Assamese cultural symbol that is always bestowed on honoured visitors.
Guests then have half a day to participate in village life. They learn about Mising agricultural practices, like the growing of medicinal plants, as they stroll to inspect the villagers’ rice fields and discover the intricacies involved regarding paddy cultivation, rice harvesting and husking. Depending on the time of year they may be able to help sow or harvest the rice. They watch the men fish in the river and try casting a net themselves, learn about rearing silk worms, inspect the dairy farm or even have a go at milking a cow. Back at the village they watch the women making local handicrafts and try their hand at weaving on a handloom.
Those interested in cooking help the villagers prepare a delicious lunch or dinner of traditional Mising food: Joha rice (Assamese aromatic rice), roti (traditional bread) and a selection of other dishes which could include pork curry, chicken curry, smoked or deep fried fish, mixed vegetables and salad. This particular village produces four types of home-made hooch from rice flavoured with local herbs and spices using a traditional fermenting and filtering process. But beware when sampling the local brew… it is an acquired taste and acts like rocket fuel!
If lucky, guests' visits will coincide with a religious festival or another special occasion when villagers dress in traditional costumes and perform their well-loved songs and dancers. If so, be prepared, as the whole community loves it when visitors respond in kind and any renditions offered are always very well received and the cause of great merriment.
Given prior notice we can also arrange overnight stays.