It was our first magical sunset in Bodoland, Assam at the annual Dwijing fest. We knew we were standing on the land which was a blessing this year but could be a curse the next year.
“South of Bhutan and North of Guwahati, that where Bodoland is.” Something had to be told to people about the place that I was going to because if the title of most unheard place had a face, it would have been of Bodoland. But as it is said, never underestimate the power of travel, places and journeys. That is exactly what this trip would sum up to.
What and where is Bodoland?
In the land, located towards the Northern Assam, there is an unscaled space, a land untouched, of people indigenous, the Bodo people.
BTAD (Bodoland Territorial Area Districts) came into existence in 2003 after a period of social unrest in the region and recognition of complex social character and comparative backwardness.
The region is located on the foothills of Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh, by the northern banks of Brahmaputra river.By the banks of motherly Aie River, which supports 30,000 families, Bodoland still remains unknown in the world of social media and mass flow down of information. The knowledge about the region still remains at halt unlike the uncontrolled flow of this river coming from Bhutan through Chirang and Bongaigaon and finally settling into the mighty Brahmaputra.
DID YOU KNOW THIS ABOUT BODOLAND?
- The 4 Bodoland districts are Udalguri, Baksa, Chirang, Kokrajhar and Kokrajhar being the capital due to the autonomous territory status of Bodoland
- All 5 worldly varieties of Silk are found in Bodoland
- There are 14 different communities in Bodoland, Bodo being in majority.
- Second largest varieties of butterflies are found here in Bodoland after Sikkim.
Dwijing Festival: My second festival in North East India
DWI stands for ‘river’ and JING stands for ‘bank’. The bank of Aie river flowing as per its will and also below the Hangrama Bridge became the cultural ground.
The festival also brings a chance to gather lakhs of Bodo people together for a riverside picnic and embrace time and sunsets with their families.
Sprightly, surprising and serendipitous; the festival called the people to dance more than they were doing, to laugh together and also with outsiders, to celebrate their traditions, food habits and craft, to be happy for a few more days, more than they ever were and to mark their presence on the map with their distinctive and diverse culture.
Watching Bihu on a stage as big as the one at Dwijing Fest in Bodoland left me flummoxed for life. The dance starts with a synchronised conversation between folk instruments of various kinds majorly played by the males who further welcome the female folks for the dance. Apart from Bihu, the annual festival included various other dance forms of Bodo and other tribes as well.
Other components of the festival
- Musical and dance performances by Bollywood singers like Himesh Reshammiya, Kailash Kher, Malaika Arora Khan etc made sure to let people enjoy their evenings with some Bollywood magic.
- International dance performances like the Apsara dance from Thailand and Indian dance performances like Bihu left the travellers in an absolute aw.
- Food stalls offering local varieties of food from Bodoland, Bhutan, Arunachal, Nepal, Bihar etc.
- Shopping of various handicrafts made by local Bodo women and endless Bamboo souvenirs.
- Adventure water sports like parasailing, boating, jet sailing and other attractions like hot-air balloon ride, helicopter rides etc
- Amusement rides to remind you of city outskirts fairs and festivals
- Facility of Gazebo dining by the riverside
- I remember our zingy faces with broadest smiles, shouting the new year countdown by the riverside. New year goals? Take it that way because for me the excitement to realise a year changing, sitting in some remote land, is still inexplicable.
- A model Bodo home display where you will also get to see silkworm rearing along with Bodo lifestyle.
- One of my favourites elements from the festival was art installation works by the very talented Wahida Ahmed (Founder-Blurred Parameters) and her team using the local Bodo materials like bamboo, thatch, sand and presenting them with deep concepts revolving around regional lifestyle and flood cycles in Assam.
And slowly the sun would set as if lifting the veil from this magical landscape at the Dwijing fest 2018-2019. It was our first magical sunset in that land.
- Festival dates:- 27th December to 7th January (2018-2019)
- Best time to visit Bodoland:- plan your trip around this colourful annual fest where weather the remains pleasant throughout the day and dips a little during the night.
- Carry Cash from Guwahati onwards because ATMs aren’t to be found around the festival ground.
- Carry Chaat Masala if less spicy food isn’t your thing.
- Stay Options:- We stayed in 4-star Cygnett Park Meghna Hotel in Bongaigaon. One can also opt to stay in Swiss camps available at the festival ground itself.
We also met the Assam`s tourism minister Mr. Chandan Brahma to discuss possible tourism interventions and their potential in the region.
Some of them from my perspective are:-
• An Urban Designer`s intervention is needed in order to design the festival ground as per human psychology, walking and space usage habits.
• The strategic location of help booths and toilets with better hygienic conditions.
• To facilitate way-finding, signages and info-graphics are needed to be there at every point.
• Stage-side can be designed better from the audience perspective to facilitate heightened viewing experiences.
• Efforts to make the festival from 70% to 100% organic by banning firecracker show, usage of plastic at food stalls and installing potable water dispensing booths.
• Facility and allocated space to pitch travellers` own tents.
• Make the fest a calendar event in order to sustain and spread it even more.Apart from the suggestions above, I was hugely impressed to see the way in which the Aie river and its bank were being respected by allocating individual ground spaces to the activities and not forcing the river to change its course in order to get a huge collective chunk of land. The sight of bamboo being used everywhere made me feel truly to be in Assam.
A cue to sustainable tourism from Bodoland? Probably a big yes!
How to reach Bodoland?
Guwahati to Bongaigaon By Flight– Guwahati airport is the nearest airport; from here Bodoland is 180km which is 3-4 hours journey by a local taxi or a bus.
Guwahati to Bongaigaon By Railways– New Bongaigaon in Mahabirstan, Bhakarivita is the nearest railway station; Hotel Cygnett Park Meghna is just 5kms from here.
The cheapest way to reach Bongaigaon from Guwahati takes you 2h 50m, which is to take Intercity Exp from Guwahati to Bongaigaon. The fastest way to reach Bongaigaon from Guwahati takes you 2h 33m, which is to take Saraighat Exp from Guwahati to Bongaigaon.
Guwahati to Bongaigaon By Bus– There are many types of buses available on this route
Attractions in and around Bodoland
1. Dwijing Fest