There are some places in Jorhat that remind you very strongly of its colonial past. The city is rich in history from being the capital of the Ahom Kingdom in the 18th century to the later advent of the British rule. During the Ahom reign, the Burmese people invaded Jorhat and defeated them though soon Jorhat fell into the hands of the British.
Assam today is known for two things- tea and oil. Jorhat had one of the earliest tea gardens in the state and it slowly spread to other parts of the State. By 1885 a narrow gauge railway started operating, which was another factor for the flourishing tea industry. Tea raked in good business for the British who came in 1824 and stayed till India’s Independence in 1947. There are many establishments that have survived to this day, the Jorhat Gymkhana Club being one of them. Built in 1876, this Gymkhana club has the oldest golf course in Asia and ranks the third oldest in the world. It also serves as a venue for the Governor’s Cup, a well known horse racing event. During my stay in Jorhat, I tried to get a peek into this old world’s charm, but the club is strictly for members only. Members also have access to all other facilities offered in the club, like the grass tennis court, swimming pool, billiards, polo, a bar and a theatre.
Another place of interest in Jorhat is the Tocklai Experimental Station, which was set up in the year 1911. This is the oldest and largest station for carrying out research on tea cultivation and processing. This station is also a big reason for the productivity and expansion of tea business in North- East.
Colonial era tea heritage bungalows around Tocklai are the most unique and attractive sites in Jorhat. Most of these bungalows and tea gardens are now on the outskirts of the main town around Tocklai Tea Estate and are now occupied by high ranking government officers and exude great charm. Time makes things mystic; be it people, trees, houses or mountains.
Just behind Tocklai Tea estate I met a bunch of over excited youths who showed a lot of enthusiasm about my camera. They were my guide around this mystic neighborhood and they took me to a natural lake hidden between trees and grass at Cinnamara area. This lake was first constructed by the British and it was a source of water for them. Today the lake is covered by water hyacinth, grasses, and lotus leaves, but is still well used by the locals.
My young guides took me to a building just behind the lake, which had been half gutted to the ground by a fire. A huge gate and lock guarded the house and the building wore a sad but grand look. My guides told me that this was the residence cum office of the Upper Assam Commissioner and one day a fire broke out on the first floor and spread to ground floor. The house was a grand British Bungalow built in 1852 and is one of the oldest houses in the area. It was sad to see such a huge loss of one of the only few surviving relics from the British era.
Just behind the bungalow was a ground often frequented by local boys, where there were a couple of more colonial bungalows. Though, these houses are hidden between tea gardens. At some places the tea plants have become too old and unproductive and they can’t be raked often as they could be.
The ambience at Tocklai Tea Estate is calm and soothing as the tea garden is surrounded by forest. My guide was also quick to report that elephants were often sighted venturing into the nearby areas from the Assam-Nagaland border.