Festivals and fairs are a great way to experience snippets of socio-cultural magnanimity of a destination within limited time-frame. So, when I got an invite from the organizers of biggest tourism event of northeast, Rongali festival, I wasted no time to jump on the flight and reach the vibrant capital city of Assam. At its fourth edition, this three day event in January 2018, Rongali festival was glamorous yet authentic with impressive line-up of acclaimed performing artists like Papon, Raghu Dixit, Zubeen, DJ Nucleya alongwith finest bands of India.
A complete spectrum of events showcasing all aspects of Assam was meticulously organized. Food competitions and food stalls for the foodie, fashion designer walks and weaver stalls for the fashionasta, boat races for the adventurous, art exhibitions for the connoisseurs, ensemble of folk dance, music and cultural presentation for the enthusiasts. Such beautiful canvas that the three days seemed less.
Food was another high-point of the Rongali Festival. Wood grilled fish and pork and amazing baked sweets made of rice and jaggery. As a Bengali, I had no problems intermingling and soon I was slurping the yummiest of fish jhol preparations
In a quick tete-a-tete with Shyamkanu Mahanta, the chief organiser of Rongali, I was fascinated to know about the focus being on entrepreneurship. My chance meeting with Mitali , a blogger and a food entrepreneur at Food Sutra, further accentuated the beleif on new wave of enthusiastic entrepreneurs of Assam. It was heartening to see the man who organized our fantastic trip, Mr Arijit Purkashthya, of Koyeli Tours & Travel win the Best Tour Operator Award. I met with his Excellency Governor Sir, who spoke passionately about the multidimensional cultural fabric of Assam, all encompassing and compassionate at the same time.
A Romantic Moment With Papon At Rongali Festival
Needless to say, being a long time fan of Papon it was a déjà vu moment for me. My utopian love with him started during my hitchhiking sojourn from Arunachal to Assam, many moons before when a random youngster was humming, “Durr, chala jata hoon mai, kahin durr chala jata hoon mai”. Song from papon’s first solo album, The story so far…
I could imagine standing on the stage and Papon singing, “tu toh bada pagal hai, tune mujh ko hai chuna”. He did sing but for the whole crowd. Well! Dreams, you can’t bind them 🙂
“Haath Jor” At Haju Temple
We took a quick slip from the cultural fervour of Rongali to visit Haju temple, about 35 kms from Guwahati, this century’s old Vishnu temple is perched atop and requires climbing about 200 stairs. At the temple, we were greeted by beautiful engraving, a pleasant view and a friendly pandit who enthralled us with mythological stories of the place. I met a 100 year old man who used to be the chief purohit earlier.
Sualkuchi – Kanchipuram of Assam
Sualkuchi is a small weaver village where every house and almost every person is involved in the process of making fabric. We were taken through the complete process of fabric making and understanding of various types of silk like Assam silk, Eri silk, Mooga silk.
After so much of foreplay, shopping toh banta hai?
Thus, inspired we ended shopping but it was every penny worth it. First, you won’t get such stuff back in city and even if you find it in exhibitions, it is almost double the cost. Yay, we got a steal deal!
And, Shopping Continues…
We enjoyed a sumptuous meal of typical Assamese thali presented in brassware at Bor Luit, a famous restaurant near IIT Guwahati that takes pride in serving ethnic Assamese cusine.
Fresh Boirali fish was flavoursome.
On our way back to hotel Atithi in Guwahati, I received a call from Mitali suggesting that I visit home studio of Indian Weavers Alliance managed by designer Saumar Sharma. Being an innate shopaholic that I am, I pleaded my hubby to come along promising ‘just to see and not buy”. Has this ever happened? He smirked and asked the driver to take a U turn.
Saumar, turned out to be passionate advocate of handloom. A fashion designer by education, he travelled the length and breadth of India to understand the fabric complexities before settling in Guwahati. He broke many a myth about handloom, the biggest one being un-affordability of the fabric.
“Handloom is as young as you are”
By the end of two hour long session, I had packed 7 sarees, need I say more?
Guhawati trip concluded with delectable food, enlightening interactions, feisty shopping and loads of love for Assam.
Picture, abhi baki hai mere doston…
We continued our journey in search of one horned rhino in Kaziranga followed by a trip to Majuli, the biggest river island crossing mighty Brahmaputra. Stay tuned.