Assam – the gateway to the northeast
You would have often heard the term that Assam or Guwahati is the gateway to the Northeast. Home to the mighty Brahmaputra River and the Land of the Ahom Dynasty, Assam is also called the Shangri La of North East and the doorkeeper to the other states. The term has become synonymous with the state but do you know why it is called so?
Firstly, Guwahati is the largest city in the region, the most populated, and has seen the best economic development. Being the financial and trade center of the North East region, Guwahati is a microcosm of the remaining states. Assam boasts of the largest and the best educational institutes, hospitals, manufacturing, agriculture activities, etc. and all major employment in the region is generated in Guwahati.
A unique geographical position puts Assam in such a location that it shares a border with 7 states (Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura, and West Bengal) and 2 countries – Bhutan & Bangladesh. Isn’t that fascinating? And because of this, Assam is well connected to all states via road, airports, and major railway heads.
Recent efforts by the Government of India have led to the expansion of airline services across the seven sisters but even now the major airports are located in Assam, namely the Guwahati, Dibrugarh, and Silchar airports. These airports are strategically located, connected to major Indian cities, and cater to travelers from all seven states. Travelers going to Upper Assam, Eastern Arunachal, and Eastern Nagaland can fly to the Dibrugarh Airport and from there complete their trip by road.
If you want to visit Tripura, Mirozam, and Manipur then the Silchar airport is a good option. The rest of the places like Western Assam, Arunachal, Bhutan, and Meghalaya can be covered by flying to the Guwahati airport. All airports have a comprehensive system of private cabs, shared cabs, and local buses that offer last-mile connectivity to other states. The Guwahati airport, Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International airport also serves international flights to countries like Bhutan, Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand.
With a good domestic airport coverage, Assam even the largest railway stations of the region. Guwahati, Dibrugarh, and Tinsukia railway heads ferry a majority of the rail travelers to the Northeastern states. The Northeast Frontier Railway is part of the 18 railway heads in India and Guwahati is the hub for all rail operations in the region.
Due to its low-lying areas and lack of mountainous terrain, Assam has the largest network of railways in the seven sister states. All other states are yet to have a fully functional railway system and this remains to be a challenge due to their hilly landscapes and dense jungles. Anybody wanting to travel to any of the northeastern states via Indian Railways will have to either get off at Guwahati or travel to Upper Assam and continue their road trip from there.
Even the highway system is highly developed in Assam and all states in the North East can be traveled to via these roadways. With a total coverage of about 4,000 kilometers, Assam is well connected with good roads that not only zig-zag through local destinations but are also connected to the other northeastern states. Major national highways such as the NH-10, NH-515, NH-31, NH-44, etc. Even though there aren’t any 6-lane highways, the state has seen extensive development of 2-lane and 4-lane state and national highways. In 2017, the Dhola Sadiya bridge was inaugurated and it is currently the longest bridge in India over water and connects Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. Currently under the proposal stage is the Dhubri-Phulbari bridge that will connect Assam and Meghalaya. If and when it is completed it will become India’s largest bridge over water and is expected to be at least 19 kilometers long.
With good infrastructure and comprehensive connectivity to other states, Assam definitely deserves the title of Gateway to the Northeastern states. No matter where you travel to in North East India, you will end up crossing Assam. And the same goes for all northeast people traveling to the rest of India!