Date: 10 Nov 2019
What is North East Festival in Delhi?
We just visited North East Festival 2019 held on the gorgeous lawns of Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts or “IGNCA”. The North East Festival, IGNCA, is a huge hit in Delhi NCR.
North East Festival is now a regular feature on Delhi’s event calendar. It is a fun event that showcases a variety of interesting activities over a period of three days. While the focus is on the Seven Sisters of North East –Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Tripura – their music, food, art; the festival is open to everyone. Sikkim is the eighth member after being granted statehood in the year 1975. The North East Festival also inspires us to travel to North East from Delhi as soonest as we can. The Festival was held during 8 – 10 November, 2019 this year.
Why do we need North East Festival in Delhi?
To answer that question, let us adopt a practical approach. India is a treasure trove of diverse fun experiences and one life time is not enough to know this paradox. Sitting in Delhi, the Seven Sisters of North East are somewhat distant. Much as we would want, it is tough for us to visit every corner of North Eastern states. And yet North Eastern India is a unique culture. A culture that has over ages formed through lifestyles of local population and hosts of tribes that dot these states. These local cultures also bear influence from neighbouring Bengal and Bangladesh, the Christian religion of this region and most definitely the diverse terrain comprising mountains and rivers and the abundance of flora and fauna.
North East Festival in Delhi is virtually North East travel. It is a grand showcasing of North East Culture in Delhi. Over a period of 3 days or so, we are transported to the art, handloom, handicrafts, dance and music and last but not least, food of the North Eastern states. After all, how many of us have been to Majnu ka Tila for momos, Assam Bhavan for Assamese food ? North East Festival is for all of us.
The other not so happy reason, but then we cannot avoid mentioning, is the random incidents of violence against North Eastern people. This is a clear case of misplaced xenophobia that stems out of lack of awareness about people from various parts of India. There are many many North East Students in Delhi who are perhaps most vulnerable.
The North East Festival is a positive step in this direction to create understanding and sensitivity about the culture and people of this region. It bridges the gap among communities. In the process we do not condemn but celebrate the diversity of the demographic fabric of India.
What makes North East Festival so famous
There is a lot of curiosity about North East culture and people in Delhi NCR. We personally find North Eastern band music lot of fun. And not only band music; the divine Sattryia dance from Assam, the most graceful classical dance in India – Manipuri and the feisty Bamboo Dance from Mizoram – we dig that all. Many of us have heard about the Hornbill Festival in Nagaland and are trying to make plans every year. In terms of fabrics, fashionistas worth their salt in Delhi are aware of Muga silk from Assam. Coming to food, the North East food stalls in Dilli Haat are popular for their momos of course. They also serve the best pork ribs in NCR and have a loyal ever-increasing clientele who come just for this dish. Many aspire to travel to Arunachal Pradesh for water sports or Kaziranga in Assam for wild life. So, there is already an aura about North Eastern states in Delhi. And we want to learn more and more sitting in the comfort of our city before embarking on this adventure.
This is exactly what the North East Festival caters to every year. It showcases various fun aspects of North East life, food and travel. No wonder the event is a roaring success. Below is a broad list of all that we did here during the beautifully managed North East Festival 2019.
North East Food at North East Festival
The food court at the festival had way more stalls that we could count. Along with the popular North Eastern items such as momos and dumplings, thukpas and noodles, there was a host of offbeat dishes that all looked so enticing. This was perhaps the biggest food area that we have come across at a North East festival and the area was choc-a-bloc with people. Delhites took the opportunity to move beyond momos and try out new items. The fish, chicken and rice platter meals were among the most popular dishes that people were having. These were followed by unique fritters from that region, pickles and beverages.
Fashion Shows at North East Festival
North Eastern India is among the most fashionable regions of India. To showcase fashion from this region, regular fashion shows were held in the evenings. Every state of this region has its own repertoire of unique weaves. The designers used handloom from this region and created modern and contemporary pieces of clothing. The understated elegance of their lines is so what the party season needs this season.
Live Performances at North East Festival
Delhi is oblivious to the rich repertoire of classical and modern music and dance of North Eastern India. We have already mentioned Manipuri and Sattriya that have been recognized by Sangeet Natak Academy as classical dances among the 8 classical dance forms of India. That apart, there are countless varieties of classical and modern music and dance forms from this region which are equally engaging. To showcase the music and dance, there were programs held every evening and the temporary audience gallery ran full to the brim.
The showstopper was the Bollywood singer Papon who hails from Assam. He sang a mix of Assamese and Hindi numbers and enthralled the packed house to a grand finale on the last evening of the Festival.
Handicraft and Handloom of North East at North East Festival
North East has a huge repertoire of handloom and handicraft. In fact, every community there has a unique weave which also marks as a symbol of recognition. It is nigh impossible to display all of these in a single space. However, some of these were shown at the North East Festival. We could identify Muga, Kaziranga and Gari weaves from Assam, Moriang Phee from Manipur and Endi silk weaves from Meghalaya.
Shopping at North East Festival
A host of makeshift stalls were selling handloom and handicraft items from various North Eastern states. These comprised of classical clothing like sarees and mekhla-chador to modern skirts, jackets, shirts and ties. Young and old alike, many shoppers, who wanted to stand out among the party crowd were busy trying out the clothing and accessories. A scarf, a purse or a tie from here would definitely make a statement.
North East Travel Guide
The tourism departments of all the states had set up stalls and kiosks. They provided practical travel information including transport, accommodation as well as activities to potential travellers. Their brochures are full of alluring photographs and we are already impatient to travel. Maghalaya stall won the best stall among all.
North East Festival 2020
The grand event ended on a optimistic note that there would be a North East Festival 2020. Given the huge footfall and the connect the festival has obviously created with the people of Delhi NCR, we look forward to many such editions. Here is wishing more power to North East Festival, Delhi.