It was December 22, 2021, when I received a call from a senior colleague, who asked me if I would be interested to do a story on Karhali Gaon- a village in the Nagaon district.
"Karhali Gaon is a beautiful village. The villagers boast of promoting rural tourism in the village. Apart from a few Facebook posts, nothing much has been written about the village," he said over the phone.
He was struck with the idea about the village after he read my story on Belona, Assam's first clean and green village.
Belona's story highlighted the lack of government support in creating tourism and employment opportunities in the village.
After listening to the colleague, I asked him to share the photographs of Karhali Gaon. The photographs were exquisite!
"I am on it," I replied the colleague in a WhatsApp chat.
After a brief R & D, my friend Bikash and I went out in search of this model village on a December 25, 2021, morning. We missed the exact entrance to the village and so we travelled a few miles extra than usual.
While travelling from Guwahati to Tezpur, before reaching Puronigudam we will reach a place called Teliagaon. To our right, we will see the entrance gate of the Sri Sri Auniatiya Abholiyabad Shakha-Shatra Cum Kalakshetra Bhawan. Exactly opposite this gate is the road that leads to this model village. The road will fall to our left.
Considering the traffic, the distance from Guwahati to Karhali Gaon would be around two hours. Since there is no proper signage, finding the entry route might be a hassle in the first place. Hence, remember to note the entrance gate on the right. That is the easiest landmark to remember.
The village is around five minutes from the highway.
Tourists are welcomed by the statue of village mascot Rongmon, which has been erected along with a water fountain right before the entrance gate.
Though Karhali Gaon is just like any other normal village, the cleanliness and the creative artwork makes it different from others.
These paintings and artworks depict varieties of moral lessons, apart from showcasing the rural lifestyle, culture, and heritage.
Some of the artworks also showcase Assam's endangered wildlife and degrading ecology.
The villagers were struck with the idea to promote the village as a model village and create beautiful artworks to boost rural tourism after Raas Mahotsav last year.
"We decorated the village and installed the statues during Raas. After the festival was over, we decided to keep the statues and pledged to preserve the artworks," informed Anil Saikia, district president of BJP's Koliabor unit. He is one of the frontmen in carrying this project forward.
"Our mission is to make Karhali Gaon the hub of rural tourism in Assam. And to achieve our aims, we have chalked out a series of plans," Saikia added.
"So far, we have developed the public pond, constructed the Naamghar, build fountains in the pond and have made arrangements for a light show in the evenings," Saikia specified.
"We also aim to construct rest houses and food courts for tourists. We have already installed dustbins in front of every household. We also aim to make the village polythene-free and addiction-free village. The entire village is a no-smoking zone," he added.
"We have also installed music systems around the pond where devotional music is played in the evenings. We want to create a devotional atmosphere so that tourists and the villagers find themselves closer to the almighty and get relief from their anxieties and stress," Saikia informed.
He further said that when tourists will come for a night stay, they plan to arrange special musical shows depicting Assamese art and culture.
"We plan to bring in artists and troupes from every nook and corner of Assam. We want to present the diverse and rich Assamese culture to our guests," Saikia added.
"We certainly have a few guidelines for our tourists. The first and foremost guideline is that they can't smoke or drink and create a nuisance. Secondly, we will not allow anyone to play loud music. When someone will visit our village then they should come leaving their usual self behind and outside the village boundary," he said.
"We want tourists to come and stay with us and get a feel of the rural life. Our mission is to bring rural Assam closer to the urbanites. Our new generation is gradually getting out of touch with our roots. We want to preserve our roots and make the younger generation aware of our rich cultural heritage," Saikia said while speaking about the reason behind the installations of the statues and the artworks.
Saikia also informed that to ease out rush and pressure and maintain the hygiene of the village, only a selected number of tourists would be allowed for a night stay and bookings will have to be made beforehand.
"It feels good when people visit our village and praise our work. It gives us satisfaction and we feel that our efforts are gradually yielding fruit. We will leave no stone unturned to make Karhali Gaon the hub of rural tourism in Assam," Saikia reiterated.
As far as funding for the development project goes, Saikia informed that 60% of the funding has been provided by the state government and 40% of the funding has been arranged by the villagers.
There is also a playground and an open stage where several festivals and functions are organised.
There is an inexplicable serenity in the village. This can be felt only if you visit it in person.
Partha Prawal (Goswami) is a Guwahati-based journalist who loves to write about entertainment, sports, and social and civic issues among others. He is also a published author.