Celebrating Assamese life & culture with the biggest river festival in India

Celebrating Assamese life & culture with the biggest river festival in India

By Keith Armando Gomes | | 1 April, 2017
Namami Brahmaputra festival, Assam, cultural heritage, Sarbananda Sonowal, Brahmaputra river, Pranab Mukherjee, J.N.V. Subramanium
The vibrant tea gardens of Assam are nourished by the fertile land along the Brahmaputra river.
Celebrated across the 21 districts along the banks of the Brahmaputra, the Namami Brahmaputra festival aims to showcase the cultural heritage of the state of Assam, as well as project the region as a future tourism and business hub of India, writes Keith A. Gomes.
Assam, located in the Northeastern region of the Indian subcontinent, with its famed Assam tea and Assam silk, lies on the path of one of India’s major rivers, the Brahmaputra. Having been nourished by the waters of the river, Assam has flourished, and has also become a home to flora and fauna that have been saved from the brink of extinction. The multifarious cultural practices, livelihood and day-to-day lives of the citizens have entwined with that of the river. And, it is only befitting to dedicate a grand celebration to the great river. The Namami Brahmaputra, as the event is called, pays tribute to and celebrates the Brahmaputra and the life of Assam, as has been under the care of the river. Furthermore the event will serve as an ideal platform to showcase Assam’s tremendous potential as a state brimming with trade, tourism, cultural and business opportunities. This will also be the biggest river festival of India.

 Namami Brahmaputra, is being organised under the leader ship of the Chief Minister of Assam, Sarbananda Sonowal. “The Brahmaputra is the lifeline of Assam and it is on the banks of the mighty river that ancient and great civilizations flourished,” says Sarbananda Sonowal. “Livelihoods revolve around the ebb and flow of the Brahmaputra.” The celebration will stretch both temporally as well as spatially: it will be a five-day long event, which began on 31 March, lasts till 4 April, and it is taking place along a stretch of the 21 districts that rest along the banks of the Brahmaputra in its entirety, starting from Sadiya all the way to Dhubri, which is more than 800km in length.

The Brahmaputra river.

The Brahmaputra provides fertile space for tea gardens, but few know that the area was ruled by the Ahom dynasty for more than 600 years, uninterrupted from 12th century to 1826 till the British took over. It is also home to the largest river island, Majuli, with its own unique customs and eco-systems. The opening ceremony was held on 31 March, at the riverfront of Bharalumukh, Guwahati — land of Kamakhya Temple, one of the most important and popular Shakti-peethas in India. The even was inaugurated by Pranab Mukherjee, the President of India.

The event aims to showcase the potential of the river and the state along with its heritage. “There will be traditional Assamese sports on display, music and dance forms. Tea festival, local cuisine spread and film festival screening the best of Assamese films along with river cruises, rafting, visits to the sprawling tea gardens and their English bungalows with abutting golf courses will enchant tourists,” says J.N.V. Subramanium, Goalpara Deputy Commissioner.

The Brahmaputra is known as the “lifeline of Assam”, which also implies that the river not only provides the state with the necessities of life but also with a variety of opportunities. These opportunities are among the highlights of the event. Business opportunities are bound to be an attraction for many. The National Waterways, namely NW-16 and NW-2, are going to bring in a chance for enormous economic developments. The NW-2, which stretches from from Dhubri to Sadiya, is a bridge to drive economic progress in Southeast Asian markets, as part of India’s “Act East Policy”. These waterways will not only make Assam the hub of India-ASEAN collaboration but also attract major investments from around the world. The river is also a source of current and potential hydroelectric power generation. It will certainly give a boost to the power infrastructure in the state.

The event will serve as an ideal platform to showcase Assam’s tremendous potential as a state brimming with trade, tourism, cultural and business opportunities, and will be the biggest river festival in India. 

The rivers of the world are fast becoming hotspots for travellers, and the Brahmaputra is surely one of them. A river cruise on Brahmaputra is an eclectic blend of luxury, comfort and nature’s never ending delights. The extraordinary cruise experience on Brahmaputra can be further heightened by watching migratory birds, visiting temples, tribal villages, monasteries, touring breathtaking tea estates and more. The river’s tributaries, like Manas, Jia Bharali and Kopili, are ideal for white water rafting.

A number of Central ministers, including Nitin Gadkari and Mahesh Sharma are participating in the river festival.  Chief Ministers and Chief Secretaries of all states have also been invited. The Assam Government is expecting a host of dignitaries from Southeast Asian nations as the Centre aims to give leverage to its “Act East Policy” through this festival. Invitations have been sent to ambassadors and high commissioners. Representatives from Japan, Vietnam, Laos and Singapore have confirmed their participation. Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama will attend the festival, as will the yoga guru Baba Ramdev.

Sarbananda Sonowal, Chief Minister of Assam.

“Namami Brahmaputra has been conceptualised to offer our collective gratitude to the mighty river which has given so much and which has potential to give much more for our development and prosperity,” says Anand Prakash Tiwari, Managing Director, Assam State Transport Corporation. “A number of states of the country have launched attractive and vibrant campaigns to create a positive perception and ecosystem for promotion of tourism and attracting investments. Through this festival, we are promoting our state and our culture, custom, tradition, tourism, inland water potential, trade, investment option, commerce and industry etc.,” he adds.

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