The heat waves have started hitting us hard and we have started to find ways to stay hydrated and saty cool at any cost. But, as I am frequently reminded by my elders, how the sweet memories of past often help us survive a difficult present.
Thus comes the memories of recently celebrated festival in Assam. Rongali is the colour and essencein the name of a festival that celebrates Assamese new year and its colours. During the festival, Assam decks up in its own colour, welcoming all with open arms.
Rongali carnival is a must talk if one were to visit the eastern state and I was lucky. One can find a mish mash of traditional and new gen trends under one roof.
If I remember correctly, as one enters the carnival ground, one can only gape at Husori — a traditional Assamese home, under a real big tree on the bank of river Brahmaputra.
This was my first time to Assam and I had little idea of what a wonderful journey that lay ahead.
Rap battles are not well-accepted by the traditionals during cultural fests particularly like this one. However, I was totally surprised to find one here.
As I started exploring the festival ground, I found something peculiar. It was evident that the decoration of Rongalir Bakari area was not about the new year tradition.
A saddening fact came up to me. The area was dedicated to the memorial of Abhi-Neel— Abhijeet and Nilotpal, who were two natives from Assam and victims of brutal mob-lynching. Till date, the reason behind their death is not clear. While family and close friends suspect that they were duped for coming across that they were not supposed. The legal battle is yet to be over.
Sangeet Natak Akademi awardee and art and crafts maestro Nuruddin Ahmed has been the backbone for the place’s engaging decoration. One can spend hours at the Brahmaputra’s banks amidst the pleasing festival atmosphere. The carnival got a kick-start with folk dances from various states of North East. Besides dance, the people enthusiastically enjoyed enchanting musical performance by various musical groups including Tejal Verma, Sunny and Ankur, Rap Box, Twin City, Anubhav the Actors Guild, DJ Brahmin FT Minimi & Basshole, Rain in Sahara and DJ Dee North East Waste Collective.
Renowned names like Naaz, The Cultivators, Neel Akash, The Doorbeen, Zublee and Papon charmed the spectators present. One cannot help but admit that the local youth despite being hyped about the performances were warm enough to host visitors from across the nation.
Shyamkanu Mahanta, an avid enthusiast, has single-handedly organised the whole carival along with looking into smallest of the facts. According to him Assam could be the best place for tourism, thanks to the green mountain ranges, tea gardens, rich culture and the gigantic Brahmaputra.
Unfortunately, he says, Assam has not been promoted enough. “To make our presence felt in the global platform, the ongoing Rongali carnival hosted a seminar on ‘Assam as Tourist Destination’, emphasising how the rich cultural heritage of the state could be used to woo the tourists,” he adds.
PP Khanna, who has been attending the festival for the first time, feels Assam has everything to make it one of the top tourist destinations in the country like Goa and Kerala. “We have been pressurised to open up a separate sector for north east because of the increasing number of tourists. Assam’s potential needs to have a pan-India reach.
North east has everything right from the hills to rivers but the only problem is to promote them,” he argues. In his keynote, Rajesh Prasad mentioned how Prime Minister Narendra Modi is promoting the rich craft of Assam by sporting Assamese Gamocha (towel) during his visits.
The food, the celebration, the colours — everything was mesmerizing. While rains played spoiler and affected footfall, it didn’t take away the fun and enthusiasm of the visitors. The show was a sure success.
The memories it left behind seemed more precious than what was spent on the event. And I couldn’t agree more...