Mountains and hills have a magical impact on the soul. And like many others, it never ceases to enthrall me and I always find my inspiration amidst the gorges and clouds.
For me at least, a sudden travel plan always work wonders. However, it’s not that often that your impulsive urge to travel brings you ecstatic feeling when you go through your memories later.
The last weekend was not ordinary as we witnessed the first ever Judima festival was being organized in the picturesque Dibarai village of Haflong. I belong to Dimasa tribe, and obviously Haflong is one of the important natives of the tribe. However, before this I had been here only twice. Once, to attend a funeral function and on the other occassion for work.
But this time I wanted to be a part of it, not just to have fun but also wanted to experience my own culture. Being born and brought up in Guwahati and having stayed outside for work have only necessitated the urge more. They say, one needs to return to their roots. I thought of starting with Judima Festival.
We planned the perfect plan- The perfect plan was we didn’t plan at all. I just told the HR head that I am taking a break for some days, for me Christmas holiday started early. Shubhadeep, my office colleague was more excited than me, he never tasted Judima before. This was his maiden chance!
Judima is the traditional brew of the Dimasa kachari tribe, I won’t call it rice beer because it ain’t so! It tastes like wine, the old the better. Judima is prepared with Bora or waxy rice which is indigenous to the region. The maiju variety of rice is considered the best for premium quality Judima. The yeast needed to prepare Judima is from the bark of a plant called Thembra (Acacia pennata).
Anyway, after the last minute hassle we boarded the direct train to the New Haflong railway station. Earlier we had to reach Lumding to catch the ‘Hill Queen’ meter gauge train to reach the hill station. They say it was one of a kind experience as the train makes its way through narrow gorges and 37 major tunnels. I never had the chance to experience it. Pheww!
With the total duration of 8 hours the journey is smooth, and you would not like to miss the scenic beauty of these majestic hills by dozing away after you cross Lumding. The rendezvous with nature when the train is trying to make its presence felt while crossing the bridges over the stream, passing by the dark deep tunnels, one can feel the sorcery of the hills working on you.
Fifteen minutes’ drive from New Haflong station and we reached Dibarai high school field where the event was to take place. Lush green field and the aroma of smoked pork was awaiting us.
When I was elaborating about Haflong I asked my friend to keep his expectations to the minimal because you really need to allow this hill station to sip in to your nerves before it starts giving you pleasure and that takes some time. In fact it can be compared to Judima which needs undivided attention of yours to touch your taste buds and senses. And when it does it can give you the unforgettable hangover of a lifetime.
The first ever Judima festival is a result of the collaboration between YADEM and Dibarai Mahila Samiti with the focal point being to discuss the true potential of Judima and its commercial aspects, and also to promote trekking, cycling, and also to create an avenue for sustainable eco-cultural tourism by creating different infrastructure facilities. Also, the need to obtain the GI(geographical indicator) rights of Judima for Dimasa community for successful exploration of future commercial benefits for the indigenous Dimasa people. (Source: Bankim Phonglo). I believe this can be a backpacker’s wonderland and an untapped potential of being the hot spot for adventure sports.
It was time for fun now! The festival started with some traditional flair followed by dances and folk tunes by different tribes. However, we were waiting for the official opening of Judima stall to start relishing the taste of wine.
As the time started catching up and the day began to ripe a little we were joined by new friends and we were smitten by the hospitality of the people around us. The lady of the house where we staying as guests gifted us a bottle of Judima. We were delighted!
The real deal was on the second and final day. Best thing to do in any trip is to be there without any expectations it boosts the rush of excitement when you get to see the unexpected. Thanks to the brothers for a free breakfast and to the Highlander bikers for a free ride to different magical spots of Haflong.
The throttle of Highlanders was making each moment count and the knowledgeable and the warm gesture of the riders made these experience all the more richer. It was four hour ride to various places starting from the mesmerizing Muolpong watch tower, Devi mandir, the Lover’s point- Fiangpui with wholesome meal of Puri Ghugni at the boat house, to the mysterious hills of Jatinga and finally concluding the ride at the New Haflong railway station.
We were simply thumped by the unexplored beauty of Dima hasao. If Shillong is the ‘Scotland of the East’ then Haflong is considered as ‘Switzerland of the East’ but then I would say forget about the comparisons and just be ready to get enthralled because I don’t have any adjectives nor metaphors to define it.
Music is in the soul of any hill station, and especially it stands true for any region of Northeast. So the evening concert saw the right spices of music -from traditional songs of the tribe to folk fusion by the band Koloma from Tripura. Then it was the time for ‘No Boundaries’ to play some covers from AC/DC to Iron maiden. Special mention to Mr. Hagjer who played along with No Boundaries and enchanting the crowd with his harmonica. It was followed by Nishant Hagjer’s drum solo and after hearing him live for the first time I have no doubt why he is regarded as one of top ranking drummers who are high-flyers of India.
And yet the biggest gift of the evening was yet to come in the form of Soulmate- the blues band from Shillong and internationally renowned for their genre. We didn’t miss this opportunity to get high over blues and tripped from every song to the other, set me free, voodoo woman and Go, Johnny, go was just apt for the mood to set ablaze the floor. We danced, we tapped, we waved and we sang along. Blues off to Tipriti and Rudy!
Finally, it was time to say our goodbyes. We had to skip that late night invitation for a bonfire jam by our friends as we had a early morning bus to catch. Nevertheless, it was one of those unforgettable weekend escape which leaves you with memories to cherish and some fresh ideas to hover upon. Look out for this festival to grow big and become a tourist destination. Until I am ready for the next trip to the magical hills of Dima Hasao its three cheers of Judima to all my friends in Haflong to both the old and the new. Peace & Love!
How to reach Haflong from anywhere:
More or less you have to reach Guwahati first, this is for those who are travelling from North.
- A total of 5 trains ply between Guwahati to New Haflong station.
- The most punctual train in this route is Kanchanjanga Exp with an average delay of 6 minutes.
- The least punctual train in this route is 15602 NDLS SCL PSK EXP with an average delay of 5 hours and 46 minutes.
- Minimum fare from Guwahati to Haflong is Rs 110 in second seater, and maximum up to Rs 1160 in First AC.
Disclaimer: The writer holds no responsibility for any discrepancy of the timings and name of the train. The data is as per the update provided by Indian Railways.
Note: This post is the writer’s experience from the maiden Judima festival held in the month of January, 2016. Rajiv is a life coach, and writer and will be heading the session of guided meditation in the second chapter of Judima Festival!