Giving a boost to entrepreneurs and taking the youth back to the roots, bridges were built at Rongali 2018
Words, photographs & videos: Ambica Gulati
Even as shouts of excitement grew louder around the stage, I kept clicking pictures of the crabs being cooked on bamboo sticks. While Raghu Dixit was driving the crowd wild, I was busy trying to the find the price of these live grills. A stick with five crabs cost INR 100 which was not expensive at all. Rice beer, live grills, organic tea and more dotted the grounds of Srimanta Sankardev Kalashetra in Guwahati. This was the fourth edition of Rongali Festival 2018.
Talking about the annual festival, Shyamkanu Mahanta, founder, Trend MMS (the company behind the event), said, “Music and food bind people. This festival brings together all of Assam, somewhere bridges are built. The district councils of different tribes such as Mishing, Bodo and other came on their own to showcase their culture. In the last four years, the festival has become a catalyst for reviving Assamese culture. This year, we revived the famous boat race which is now a lost art. At another level, the young ones have been losing touch with their roots. Festivals like Rongali (meaning colour) are important in keeping the culture alive. As there is dearth of jobs, it also helps promotes entrepreneurship. We want to give a boost to culinary arts and tourism. Guwahati is well connected and it’s easier to get people here.”
The colours of Assam were an intermingling of the modern and the traditional at this festival. On one hand there was a rock band competition and on another the tribes showcased their lives. And then there was food—Priyobondhu, an organization started by Arrchana Borthakur in 2015, held a competition bringing together women from all households to showcase their platters. The organization supports rural, women and child development. Besides volunteers, Priyobondhu had taken the help of two bloggers, Mitali G. Dutta and Puspanjalee Das Dutta, who are passionate about the foods of Assam and are now a walking encyclopedia on what is available in different parts of the state. In their traditional attire, the two walked the visitors through the bamboo stall, replica of the tribal homes. Different kinds of rice, bananas, rice beer and meaty flavours were on a platter. For us the festival ended with a platter of rice, chicken, dal and some veggies, courtesy Priyobondhu.
What we missed: The live performance by Bollywood icon Papon on the closing day because we were busy exploring Assam (that’s another story) and the arts and crafts on display at the grounds. The festival also hosted fashion shows by designers from the northeast. But then there’s always next year. The festival is held in January every year.