The Mighty Brahmaputra
One of the great rivers of Asia, the Brahmaputra commences its 3,000-km journey to the Bay of Bengal from the slopes of Kailash in western Tibet, a mountain venerated by Hindus and Buddhists alike as the incarnation of 'Meru', the core of the universe.
As Tibet's great river, the Tsangpo, transverses east across the high-altitude Tibetan plateau north of the Great Himalayan Range, carving out myriad channels and sandbanks on its way. As it tumbles from the Himalayan heights towards the plains of the subcontinent it twists back on itself, cutting a deep and still unnavigated gorge, until finally turning south it emerges in Arunachal Pradesh as the Dihong. Just beyond Pasighat, it meets the Dibang and Lohit where it finally becomes the Brahmaputra.
Now an enormous wash of silt-laden water so wide in places that one cannot see the far bank, it passes through the heart of Assam, creating an ever-fluctuating pattern of sandbanks and islands on its way, skirting the hills of Meghalaya to enter Bangladesh, and finally heads due south, spreading across the flood plain as land merges with sea at the Bay of Bengal.
The river is both a blessing and a curse to the people of Assam. Every year during the monsoon it bursts out of its wide, shallow channel into the flood plain, wreaking destruction and havoc, then leaving wonderfully fertile land in its wake. Decades of uncontrolled logging in Tibet by the Chinese have caused irreparable environmental damage: topsoil and water cascades down the denuded slopes into the Brahmaputra. Flood historians have noticed an alarming trend since records began in the 15th century.