By Parin Somani
New Delhi: In the last few years, the North-Eastern states of India have emerged as a hub of fresh initiatives. In particular, Assam, where the BJP is in power, has become centre of several initiatives of the Government of India as also private sector. For instance, for the first time, the 65th Filmfare Awards event will be held in Guwahati on February 15.
Clearly, the North-East has drawn attention of the people like never before. This is one of the most diverse area comprising seven states, famously known as the “Seven Sisters”: Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim. Together, these states are spread over in an area of nearly 2.63 lakh square kilometres and shares 3.5% of India’s total population.
The North-East shares international borders with Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Myanmar and Tibet. The region possesess historical and cultural uniqueness commanding a special importance in India. It also holds a large tribal population, each with its own distinct traditions of culture, art, music, dance and lifestyles.
In recent years, these states have become a great tourist attraction due to fairs and festivals celebrated by the communities with their friendly nature, multiple ethnic groups illustrating unity in diversity with the multi-cultural character of the states.
This article aims at unveiling uniqueness of each state:
Arunachal Pradesh (AP), where the Sun enters India: This is the largest state, meaning ‘dawn-lit mountains’. With mountainous terrains sharing international borders with Bhutan (west), Myanmar (east), and Tibet-China (north) AP is home to some 30 communities and 47 sects, including 25 tribes. There are five cultural zones. Locals believe in a Supreme God and are animists. The Adi tribe worships the Sun-Moon God Donyi-Polo, and an oath taken in His name is binding on all. It is a unifying force for people in large parts of AP.
Buddhism is also followed by many people in regions bordering Bhutan, Tibet and Myanmar thus influencing local tradition of nature worship and food habits. Many festivals and carnivals dot AP, including the Ziro music festival. One of the largest and nearly 400-years-old Buddhist monasteries in India is located in Twang, the birth place of the Sixth Dalai Lama, Tsangyang Gyatso. The Lower Dibang Valley, full of enchanting waterfalls and lakes, is associated with Hindu mythology as the birth place of Lord Krishna’s wife Rukmini. AP also has a unique museum with the largest tribal heritage collection. AP’s village Kaho, on the eastern tip of India-China border, is believed to be the place first touched by the rays of rising Sun in India.
Awesome Assam: It is Gateway to the North-Eastern India, well-known for its oilfields. Assam boasts of India’s oldest oilfields. And who can forget the state’s great cultural icon Dr Bhupen Hazarika, who was conferred with Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award, for his immense contribution to the nation’s culture.
Assam’s world-famous gardens contribute 51% of tea cultivation in India and one-sixth in the world. Famous for its festivals and visited by many pilgrims. Assam has many river valleys and shares international borders with Bhutan and Bangladesh. West Bengal connects it with India near Siliguri through the so-called ‘Chicken’s Neck’.
The state celebrates its diversity through nature and culture. Its arts, culture and music and diverse people with different traits and ethnicities, like the Bodos, Dim etc, are its main attractions.
The most important festival bringing different castes, religions and beliefs together is Bihu, meaning peace and prosperity. The first seasonal produce is offered to the Supreme God Brai Shibrai, praying for peace and prosperity in the world. On the first day of Hindu calendar, marking spring, it is called Rongali Bihu. Gorubihu is when cow are worshipped. The Bihu Husori is a choir singing religious themed songs.
Different groups have different dance forms. The Bodos’ dance is Bagurumba, when a girl performs a religious dance at the altar propitiating deities like Lord Shiva and Goddess Lakshmi. Rongker is a festival of the Karbis who thank gods for the prosperity and well-being of the community. The main festival of Mishing community marks the start of snowfall.
The Ahom community celebrates Me-Dam-Me-Phi in the memory of their departed souls. It originated from ancestor worship. One of the most venerated shrines in India is the Kamakhya Temple, believed to be the Abode of Goddess Kamakhya; it is also a major site of tantric practices. Ambubachi, too, is an important annual festival.
The Muslims’ pilgrimage centre, called Poa Mecca, is also well-known.
In literature, Rasaraj Laxminath Bezbarua (1868-1938), also known as Sahityarathi, dominated Assam’s literature scene for a long time, devoting himself to reviving the lost glory of Assamese literature. Another is Laxminath Bezbarua, pioneer of the modern Assamese literature. Also born in Assam was K.K. Handique (1898-1982), a great Sanskrit scholar and Indologist. He was a renowned Assamese scholar and educationist.
(To be continued)…