The number of times I have traveled to Haflong last year would be more than thrice the number of times I have visited the place before till now. And the reason behind the frequent travels was the second edition of Judima festival.
Interestingly, I went to Haflong to attend the maiden edition of Judima festival as a tourist and an outsider. And when the team behind the fest decided to go for the second edition, I got an opportunity to be a part of the organizing team.
Unlike the two days of first edition of Judima festival which was held in the month of January last year, the second edition of Judima fest was a three day long affair which ensured more coverage, more activities and music, and much larger crowd than what I witnessed in the first edition. And even in the midst of nonchalant protests by a meager section of people to ban the fest, the festival pulled a large number of crowd from both local and tourists alike.
The Chief Minister of the state was to inaugurate the fest but he couldn’t make it due to some last minute exigency. However, a few ministers from his cabinet graced the inaugural event of the festival.
Nonetheless, our cities and for that matter any part of the country even being the remotest of the regions can get a face-lift if an important leader makes their visit. And Haflong being the only hill station of Assam got its fair share of makeover too.
I just wonder how it would have been if the CM’s cancellation of visit would have been announced even few days prior, say at least three days in advance- no need to guess, the roads and beautification would have been left incomplete in the middle.
However, in spite of the absence of the CM, the fest started off well. A few ministers from his cabinet graced the inaugural function.
The first two days of the fest was really warmer than what normally the temperature would have been around this time of the year. The fest started with Dr Ronald Bathari’s singing of “We welcome you to Dima Hasao”, this welcome number from him was raw and refreshing at the same time, I guess that’s where the uniqueness of the place lies too.
They even have an interesting and very nicely made YouTube channel, click the link below:
Judima fest prep with Dr Ronald (The guy behind in purple sweat shirt is Dr Ronald)
Conventionally any given day the fest in this part of the world starts with a welcome speech, the speech by the guests and a customary vote of thanks. But what got my attention as always was the prayer offered to Barai-Sibarai (Goddess Shiva) by the elderly village head to mark the beginning of the festival. However, I felt the prayer recitation was not flawless unlike last time.
The showcase of ethnic cultural dance and music was initiated by 100 plus Dimasa drummers and dancers assembled together. It is indeed a sight to witness this synchrony live, and perhaps I now understand better why your feet starts to tap and your arms want to sway the moment you listen to Khram-Muri (Dimasa drum and flute).
There was a Judima tasting experience for the tourists, however, at the same time the second edition also ensured that no wine was being sold to any minors. It is a symbolic step as Judi in Dimasa community is intrinsic to the everyday use in offerings in rituals or offered to the guests at home as a gesture of respect.
Dancers and singers from various other tribes and communities added more charm and shades of various colors with their performance. The surrounding hillocks echoed their rhythm.
(Photo credits: Dr Chandan Sharma & Mr Bankim Phonglo)
Although the day was very sunny, the pleasant winter evenings compensated for all the complaints, and made the ambience ready for some scintillating time ahead. From Daniel Langthasa’s (Digital suicide’s front-man) satirical take on the current socio-political guitar solo to Koloma’s folk fusion kept everyone wanting for more. While the former presented some intelligent slapstick through his music and the latter performed some refreshing Thripra songs to listen to (it is their second performance in the fest).
Another fusion rock band from Guwahati by the name ,Celestial Way, performed Steppenwolf’s ‘Born to be Wild’ and indeed made the crowd go wild with the energy to warm up the night. And when it was time for the show stopper rock band from Dimapur- Dima Project to perform, I was waiting for them to play my favorite number ‘Lailangkha’. They reminded me of the rock bands from the 90’s. The last day of the event saw completely two opposite genres performing, one was Rain in Sahara- a hip-hop fusion band and the other was the veteran of Blues- Spreading Roots. And only one thing was common between them- their electrifying performance!
The festival was thronged by lads and damsels with their enchanting spirit and beauty, and it was an ocean of rainbow all the way. Spellbound!
The other attractions of Judima were the trekking events and heritage walk to the abandoned railway track (another unique tourist attraction which is yet to be utilized to the fullest by the tourism dept of DIMA HASAO).
Apart from the above itineraries, there were fun and thrill filled sport activities for young and old alike, like boating, zip-lining, burma-bridge, and wall climbing which was well supported Assam mountaineering association and Climbing circle group.
For trekking enthusiasts both the treks to Barail hill range, and Trek to the picturesque Samparadisa was successfully organized. It not only gave the nature loving tourists a taste of varied flora and fauna of the region but also introduced them to the typical Dimasa village and a peek into their daily lives.
Interestingly there was a section of people who were against the celebration of Judima festival as according to them this celebration is parallel to promoting consumption of liquor amongst the youths. And as I write this piece these handful of people are still wondering how to handle the progressive and inclusive nature of the present generation who are already tired of the hypocrisy and double faced political leaders.
Fortunately, their negative publicity could not deter the much awaited second edition of Judima fest which was celebrated in the right spirit without any untoward incident eventhough this place is known for its political and social disturbance in the past.
My mother urges me to work for the development of this community which has a foundation of rich culture, and I too empathize with her. Only thing that concerns me is the lacklustre attitude of the so called leaders who are busy reaping the public fund and ill informed people who are yet to understand the inclusive all round development of the region and the community.
With the belief that I will be able to contribute more to this lovely initiative taken by the Judima fest team and the beautiful people of Haflong, I am positive that things will change and Haflong will be visited more by the rest of the world.
Note: All the pictures are the property of the photographers, the featured image is also being clicked by Pappa Raozza Karigabxa