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Postcards from Magical Manas

It’s almost impossible to outdo John Muir in expressing one’s love and enchantment with the river. He said, "The sun shines not on us but in us. The rivers flow not past, but through us. Thrilling, tingling, vibrating every fiber and cell on the substance of our bodies, making them glide and sing. The trees wave and the flowers bloom in our bodies as well as souls, and every bird song, wind song, storm song of the rocks in the heart of the mountains, is our song, our very own, and sings our love."


The languid and magical Manas River flows through the Manas National Park, carrying fresh drafts of glacial water from the Eastern Himalayas. A UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site, a Project Tiger Reserve and an Elephant Reserve in Assam (India), it nourishes and rejuvenates your soul like nothing else does. The Park is contiguous with the Royal Manas National Park in Bhutan, the oldest protected area in this small Himalayan nation. The air, water and the land, everything shines and sparkles here, sprinkling magic dust on the beholder! If you have to send a postcard to serenity, this is its address.


It’s a trans boundary river in the Eastern Himalayan foothills between southern Bhutan and India and constitutes the largest riverine system in Bhutan. The total length of the river is 376 kilometers, out of which 272 kilometers flow through Bhutan and 104 kilometers flow through Assam (India), before merging with the mighty Brahmaputra.


As the miles of forests cascade and the cityscape fades into oblivion during the road trip, this is where one arrives at from Bansbari (the entry point to the Park in Barpeta District, Assam) and that’s just the beginning of the journey deep into the lush forests. This is where the traveler can begin wandering along the Manas River, as it flows through the expansive landscape, to drift from rock to rock, tree to bush, grove to grove or simply watch the river flow, healing, nourishing...


The beauty and glory of the Manas National Park is best enjoyed when one stays deep inside the Park, surrounded by forests. However, the only option for doing so means checking into the Mathanguri Forest Bungalow or a stay on the Bhutan side of the river. This is how the Mathanguri Bungalow looks, up in the clouds, next to the River, atop a hill. Amenities are basic here but the location is perfect for restful nights after endless wandering through pristine forests, serene mountains and rafting in the glacial Manas River. If your heart and soul craves shinrin- yoku and fernweh both, trust me, this is the perfect destination!


When a lone tusker wanders on the edge of the magical blue river, it's a sight to behold! Needless to say, Manas National Park is a photographer’s paradise, as the land and the river metamorphs its moods from hour to hour, through the course of the day. The river is not the same at dawn, noon or dusk. Time and the heart beat slows down in the wilderness to match its relaxed pace, revealing all the broken fragments within our core, requiring attention and healing. And what better place than this to tune in to your inner self in the silence of the forest?


To quote John Muir again, “The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness.” He further said, “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves." Every word written by him reverberates in the air as one reflects, overlooking the glorious Manas River.


Behold, a circuit of molten gold, marking the ocean, lies in the lap of the Eastern Himalayas.


Dusk, that magical time of the day when your soul glows and flows with the Sunset at Manas… ‘Tis the perfect hour to fall in love With the soul and the world beyond The perfect last hour of the sun The perfect last hour of love The perfect last hour to glow and flow  As the river waltzes into  The heart of the sunset  At magical Manas…


Majestic elephants, owned by the Forest Department, amble into the Manas River for a drink.


An Ode to the River The river sings a love song of Enchanted spirit companions Their lives, love, dreams and agony... Pause my darling! Float in the aquamarine water of love Scoop up happiness from its heart. Your laughter riding the waves  Is sunshine for the mermaid in my soul. She splashes and dances,  Serenading the river...


The thumb rule in the forests is that you must always look up while wandering or hiking to absorb the forest vibes. Cause you don’t want to miss the tapestry woven by nature in the sky as well…This is where you can unleash the nemophilist hidden in your soul.


The mythic Mithun, aka gayal or the Bos Frontalis is unique as it is neither completely wild nor domesticated, yet closely integrated in the culture and lifestyle of the indigenous people, scattered across the Eastern Himalayas. Inscrutably, this bovine beauty followed us for miles as we trekked in the Royal Manas National Park, pacing her speed with ours. She pauses here as we paused to capture her beauty, glowing in the morning sunlight. Wonder what she was thinking about?


Hush! Behold the exchange of tender moments between Sangay Wangmo, the elephant and her keeper at breakfast time, at the Royal Manas camp site on the Bhutan side of the Park.


Indeed, all loveliness arises from the colour green and especially so for a nemophilist. The vast Park spread across Bhutan and India is one of the richest biodiversity hubs in the world. Captured during a leisurely trek in the forest in the early hours of the day, watch how the forest exudes its own light and aura. You are meant to walk here like you are kissing the earth, open all your senses, absorb the atmosphere of the forest and relish the feeling of belonging and being a part of this beautiful living and breathing world. Take a deep breath and inhale the 'forest vitamin' phytoncides. Wait for that zen moment to wash over, as you feel all stress and toxins get released from your being and feel one with nature...Immerse yourself in the sights, sounds, textures, smells, motions, feelings and subtle messages disseminated by the tress, by nature. Enjoy shinrin-yoku or forest bathing and let it heal and renew your soul. Let it wave its magic wand...


The photo blog and the poetry by Barnali are inspired by the Manas River and the Manas National Park. She is a freelance writer, photographer and a communication professional, currently serving as Head, Communication and PR at SOS Children's Villages of India. She was part of the Balipara Foundation Field Trip to Royal Manas National Park in December, 2017. Follow her on instagram at @b_barnali

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