It is really a land untouched! Bodoland is a place that has a simplicity and raw beauty in it and exploring such a place had never been so exciting. Northeast India has been one of our favourite destinations and we were quite fortunate to explore the paradise in 2018. After Bascon 3.0, it was the time to explore another festival of the northeast – Dwijing Festival. Were we excited? You bet we were. Because of my fondness for cultures and festivals and Agni’s inclination towards adventure, we were both excited about the Dwijing Festival which has a slice of both. Above all, we were proud to be the part of the Ambassadors of Bodoland to explore Bodoland and bring the place in the tourism map of Assam.
What is Dwijing Festival?
Dwijing Festival is the annual river festival celebrated on the banks of the Aie River near the Hagrama Bridge in Chirang district located near Bongaigaon. It is a 12 days cultural spectacle aimed at promoting tourism in Bodoland. Along with music, the festival also has interesting events like the exhibition of local life, art exhibition, local trade, games and adventure as well as river camping. Dwijing Festival is actually a kaleidoscope of the cultural life of the Bodo people.
Dwijing literally means “river bank”.
The festival is celebrated on the banks of the Aie River and thus named so. The Aie river is considered to be the mother in the Bodo region. In fact, Aie means ”mother” in the Bodo language. The River starts from the Bhutan Himalayas flowing through the Chirang and Bongaigaon district to finally meet the mighty Brahmaputra. Aie actually is like a mother to the 30000 odd families in Chirang district being inexorably linked with their lives and livelihood. She creates as well as destroys. During the monsoon, the river creates havoc with its flow causing damage to people and properties. In other times, the river and its banks become a source of livelihood for the people. So it is very natural, that the Dwijing Festival is celebrated on the banks of the Aie River.
An interesting fact is that the river changes its course every year.
The venue of the festival is near the Hagrama Bridge, one of the longest bridge in the state of Assam. This 12-day event was started in 2016-17 and enters its third year this season. Previously it was known as the Aie-River Winter Festival. The timing of the festival too is quite appropriate – 27th December to 7th January. With the new year, comes new hope and a new zeal for the people of Bodoland and Assam. And the best way to celebrate is through the grand festival.
Events at the Dwijing Festival
Dwijing Festival is a 12-day extravaganza that is full of excitement and fun. There are musical performances, art exhibition, food and handicraft stalls, ethnic games and cultural activities. Popular Bollywood artists like Kailash Kher, Amit Trivedi, Malaika Arora Khan, Himesh Reshammiya, Neeraj Shridhar, Bhoomi Trivedi, Shweta Pandit and also the Great Khali were a part of this edition of Dwijing Festival 2018-19. The presence of the stars generated quite a buzz, but the festival was much more than this.
Dwijing Festival through the eyes of 2 Backpackers
Before we went to the Dwijing Festival or even Bodoland, we did not know anything about the festival or place. The name ‘Dwijing’ definitely struck a chord with us. And this time, we wanted to visit there without any presumptions. We were happy that we did so. As we arrived at Guwahati Airport, we could see large hoardings of the festival. It was going to be big!
The first glimpse of the Hagrama Bridge and the river bank had us totally fall in love with the place. As we entered the gate, we could see the shops and the stage at some distance. The river flows in between and there are bridges to cross to the other side. Everything was on a grand scale. On the other side of the river, were the art exhibition, adventure sports and the riverside tents. There were few food stalls beside the river with gazebo type seating arrangements. We enjoyed a great time sitting at those stalls during the New Year’s Eve watching the lights and firecrackers lighting up the sky. Towards the back of the two huge stages, were the fairground.
A part of the festival was dedicated to the art installations by Ms. Wahida Ahmed and her team of modern artists. They had art installations of life situations shown from a unique perspective. What caught my attention was the “Weathering House” created by Dhrubajit Sarma. The rural Assam is a place that is devastated by floods every year. The locals build their houses only to know that their houses will be destroyed and they have to build them again the next season. This situation was depicted by a unique art form made of dangling bamboo sheets. A house was painted on it. As the air blew, you could see transient images of the house – a perfect allegory to the rural houses on the river banks of Assam fighting with floods.
There were other art installations as well open to your own interpretation. The ‘probability house’ was another interesting art form. It was a huge structure and it could be anything. It was open to your interpretation of what that house could be. What it meant could actually have hundreds of probability!
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Fairs are always interesting and fun. It definitely reminds us of our childhood. Dwijing Festival had a huge fairground. Starting from handicrafts and handloom stalls to food stalls, there were a number of shops that were always bustling with the crowd. But the major attraction for me was probably the giant wheel, mini toy train and a couple of other amusement rides. We revisited our childhood days as we enjoyed on the rides. I think the cacophony we made was more than the kids in the fair!
There was a gambling stall as well, where the prize was livestock. Yes, you could actually win a chicken, goat or fish there!
Adventure at Dwijing
There were a number of adventure activities in the venue like parasailing, boating and hot air balloon. You could also take a helicopter ride and get an aerial view of the venue. Horse ride and camel safari were also available at a fixed price.
Dwijing festival had a great line-up of cultural festivals. There were soulful musical performances by local artists and traditional and folk dance performances. Bihu dance is always our favourite and we watched the performance in awe. But our favourite one was the African dance performance by a group from Gujarat. These dancers were actually of African origin, now settled in a village in Gujarat. Though we could not interact with them much, but we wish to visit the place sometime soon. The elegant ‘Apsara dance’ was performed by a troupe from Thailand. And the performances of the Bollywood stars were an added attraction for the locals (though we were not attracted by them and did not see any of their performances!) So overall, Dwijing Festival was a complete package.
A festival can never be complete without food and northeast is a place that has a plethora of choices (but, mostly for the non-vegetarians). There were a number of food-stalls serving lip-smacking Assamese and Bodo delicacies. Well, for the vegetarians, there were a few stalls that served chaats and other items.
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If you are adventurous in the matter of food, then you will have a great time here. Although I am not so much intrepid regarding cuisines, I tasted pigeon, silkworm and snail here for the first time! And then there were the delicious tekeli pithas, a sweet dish made from rice, sesame and jaggery. The pithas were literally my favourites!
Camping by the riverside
If you so wish, you can also stay at camps beside the river. A campsite is erected beside the river and we are sure that staying by the river can be a wonderful experience.
Mini Bodo village
There was an exhibit of a Bodo village all adorned with Bodo huts, worship place, barn and other structures. There was also a model of weaving. We came to know about their house structures – the elders of the house live on the northern side. All the valuables are kept in that part of the house. The kitchen is on the south side.
Where is the Dwijing Festival held?
Dwijing Festival is held at the Aie River Bank at the Hagrama Bridge in Chirang near Bongaigaon. Guwahati is the nearest airport. From Guwahati, you have to travel to Bongaigaon either by road or railways. Bongaigaon is around 186 km from Guwahati and takes around 3-4 hours to reach.
The nearest railway station is New Bongaigaon which is well connected by trains from all major stations.
Is Bodoland safe to travel?
When I told my family and friends about visiting Bodoland, all their reaction was of surprise.
‘Why are you going there? It is not safe.’ – this was all I got from them. But let me tell you, the insurgencies of Bodoland are now a thing of the past. Bodoland is safe just as any other place in India. I always keep telling that Northeast is one of the safest places to travel. They treat their guests with much respect. I have travelled solo in parts of Garo Hills and at Arunachal Pradesh without facing any problems. You just have to keep your eyes and ears open and trust your gut while you travel.
A little bit about Bodoland – who are the Bodos?
The Bodos are an ethnolinguistic group belonging to the Tibeto-Burmese origin and believed to be the earliest inhabitants of Assam. They had for long safeguarded their original ethnic identity even after other tribes had gradually come to their land. However, in the 20th century, they had to tackle a series of issues such as illegal immigration, encroachment of their lands, forced assimilation, loss of language and culture and the Bodos became an ethnic minority in their own land. In 1920, a delegation of the educated Bodos met the Simon Commission requesting for seats in the Legislative Assembly of Assam, which was not met by the then British government and later by the Indian Government too. Later a group of Bodos had taken up arms and there was violent movement all around the region.
However, in 2003, the Bodo leaders bid farewell to arms with the formation of Bodoland Territorial Autonomous District (BTAD). Various rounds of talks were held because peace is not an easy thing to attain. But now, Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) promises of lasting peace in the Bodo areas and across the Assam Valley as well. The peace has brought changes in the life of common people as well. Some of the wildlife poachers have now turned conservationists of wildlife and forests. It is a commendable example to follow. This interesting story about poachers converting to conservationists comes later.
Things to do in Bodoland around the Dwijing Festival
Bodoland is simply beautiful. While visiting the Dwijing Festival, you can also make a few trips around the beautiful Bodoland.
Kalamati : Take a visit to Kalamati near the Indo-Bhutan border. The place is beautiful and the river flows sprightly making you feel as great as the place is.
Manas National Park: Take a wildlife safari in the wild Manas National Park. The place is not yet so crowded as Kaziranga and you get a better connection with the wildlife. Well, we had a near death experience at Manas National Park this time when our group was chased by a wild elephant!
Visit a Bodo village: You can visit a Bodo village and experience their life and culture. You can see them weaving, fishing, cooking food and making rice beer. Believe me, it is great to know about their culture and traditions.
Take a trip to Kokrajhar and the many other Wildlife sanctuaries. You can visit the site of Bodoland Tourism for more details.
Dwijing Festival is a great platform to promote river tourism and village tourism at Bodoland and Assam. This part of Assam is usually ignored by most visitors. The festival thus aims to attract tourists to Bodoland.
The event is jointly organized by Assam tourism and Bodoland tourism and promises to be bigger and better in the coming years. And we are quite hopeful of the same too. The festival is grand, the location is beautiful. The arrangement of security is top notch. Infact, this is one of the festivals where we have seen the best security arrangements. There is much scope for improvement in the field of waste and plastic management. Although all the structures were made from eco-friendly materials like bamboo and hay, the event was not totally plastic free. But the organizers aim to make the even eco-friendly and plastic free in the next editions. Let’s hope for the best.
Where to stay?
There are tents available at the festival ground where you can stay. If you do not want to stay in tents, then many hotels are available at Bongaigaon. Public and private transport is available from Bongaigaon to the festival venue. We stayed at Cygnett Park Meghana in Bongaigaon.
The trip was organized by the Bodoland Ambassadors group in association with Bodoland Tourism and Assam Tourism. It was a venture to promote Dwijing Festival and Bodoland through a few selected bloggers. We were proud to be a part of Ambassadors of Bodoland along with several other bloggers. Opinion and views about the place and festival are however entirely our own.
Hope you have enjoyed reading our post, do leave us a comment on your thoughts about the festival and Bodoland.
A few more pictures from Dwijing Festival for you!
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