Pangsau Pass Winter Festival–A treatment of ethnocentrismHow often have you been bitten by wanderlust and decided to simply pack off to a place that can rejuvenate you? Well, if you are bored of the humdrum existence of city life and fringe benefits of pollution, with a desire to go somewhere far from the madding crowd to nourish the mind and soul, then the place that can provide the only opportunity to transcend the mechanical and trivial existence of our daily life is to explore the Pangsau Pass Winter festival - the treasure isle of culture. Words can not do justice to the beauty of the place and describe the emotion of being a part of the festival. To grasp the magic and perceive the festive mood, one has to experience it firsthand. This carnival is not only an effective antidote for ennui; it is a treatment of ethnocentrism. It lifts the veils of custom from the outside world and exposes the latter to view with all its wonders, excitement and novelties.
The Pangsau Pass Winter Festival unearths the magnificent things of this secluded place. It has so many things in reserve for the people who adore surprises. The locals are naive and courteous. Honesty and simplicity still survive in this part of the world. The Pangsau Pass Winter Festival is not only a platform to unravel the clandestine world of the Tangsas but also an occasion to rejoice in ethnic life and simplicity. It is the gateway to the shrouded paradise of Arunachal Pradesh.
With a vision to create awareness about global warming and to save the environment, the annual Pangsau Pass Winter Festival (PPWF) kicked off to a colourful start from the 20th of January 2010 and lasted for three sizzling days. The Winter Carnival was organised by the PPWF committee in collaboration with the State Tourism Department amidst the breath taking beauty of Nampong, nestled in the Patkai range, a small town in Changlang district just 12 Kms away from the border with Myanmar. Mother Nature has been generous to bequeath abundant natural resources to this land. Though, the ride through the winding one-way roads might be harrying for some, it is worth it when the destination is reached. Nampong is truly a place with a sublime pulse. There is an aura about it that grips every visitor. For the visitors, the long lasting perennial affair with the place gets an added verve every time they return to it. For, in its bubbling cauldron of plenty is the latest in the arts, theatre, culture, cuisine, entertainment and above all the winter carnival. As unpredictable as the weather, there is always something different happening, which isn’t quite expected. It was a perfect toast of the winter carnival as it was celebrated for the fourth time in a row with the number of tourist inflow shattering all the previous records. Along with the festival there are so many other things that one can visit or see. The historical Stilwell Road does not need any introduction as it was an imperative route of trade for the entire North East. Gliding through the serpentine track of the historical Stilwell road magnifies the excitement manifold, and while on the move, on the way to the festival ground, there is another place of utmost importance - the WW-II Cemetery that reminds us of the sacrifices made by the brave soldiers to protect our tomorrow.
This year, the festival was inaugurated in Tangsa traditional blazon by the State’s Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu along with Union Minister of State for Defence M.M. Pallam Raju in the presence of a host of dignitaries from India and abroad. The festival included a host of activities ranging from a vintage car rally to a public seminar highlighting the importance of preserving and sensitizing the public about the need to conserve the age old culture, tradition and to protect the environment.
Speaking on the occasion, Chief Minister Khandu called peace the prerequisite for all round development and the only mantra through which one can expect more inflow of tourists to the state. He also advocated for a long term policy to boost the tourism potential which is abundant in the state. Taking his mission for a clean Arunachal a step ahead, Khandu exhorted for a clean and plastic free environment. He further called on the youth to preserve their unique tribal culture and tradition besides preserving wildlife and forest wealth in view of the ill effects of global warming. The Chief Minister urged upon the Union Minister of State for Defence M M Pallam Raju to put up the matter with the concerned ministry for early action in reopening the historic Stilwell Road connecting India with other South East Asian countries as this would boost the economy of the state through the tourism industry.
Union Minister of State for Defence M M Pallam Raju while addressing the gathering as the Guest of Honour said that the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre is actively considering the reopening of the historic road and necessary exercise is going on at the highest level.
In his keynote address the Finance Minister who is the brain behind the mega event urged upon the Chief Minister and the visiting MOS to impress upon the Centre to make the festival a national festival in line of various other tourism festivals.
PPWF General Secretary Abboo Kimsing gleefully termed the festival as an event to highlight the tourism potential with the significance of WW-II era ruins, Kimsing hoped the festival would enhance socio-cultural relations with Myanmar as well also the open doors of this land locked region for the world to come and explore.
On being interviewed, Choulathun Maiphuwgha a tourist and a trader from Myanmar who was at the Pangsau Pass carnival to sell his goods said in his broken English that such a festival in the coming years will improve the border trade between the two nations.
At the sidelines of the programme, visitors from far and near could not help but be amazed by the traditional values and ethos the people in this part of the world are still keeping intact despite the onslaught of modernisation.
Pangsau Pass impressions
Thousands of people from various parts of the state besides people from different states of the country and Myanmar thronged the venue of the festival and witnessed the inauguration of the renovated historic World War II cemetery at Jairampur and flagging off of the car vintage rally from Nampong to the famous Lake of No return by Union Minister of State M M Pallam Raju and the state’s Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu. The cavalcade clad with a theme for world peace comprised of 6 jeeps and 7 motor bikes of the WW-II era traveled from the mountainous winding and dusty road from Nampong to the ‘Lake of No Return’ (locally known as Nongja). To add more flavor to the Pangsau Pass event, a bike rally from Jairampur to Pangsau Pass was also organized by the 18th Assam Rifles, where around 30 bikers negotiated the historic Stillwell Road up to the Pangsau Pass and returned to Jairampur amidst a thunderous reception.
One could feel the heat of the Pangsau Pass Winter festival as people from far and near thronged to the striking traditional bamboo huts of the various tribes to taste the mouth watering tribal delicacies specially the local made beverages known as apoong (black wine). Besides the splendors of the traditional blazon, the festive evenings witnessed a cultural extravaganza comprised of a Mizo Bamboo dance, a Bhangra dance, a Bihu dance from NEZCC Dimapur, traditional dances from Tangsas, Khamptis, Noctes, Wangchos, Singphos which added much vigor to the festival. However, the main attractions of the festive night were ROCK ON contest finalist Avinanda Sarkar and Anish John. The energetic duo captivated everyone and made them sway to their Bollywood numbers. But of the all captivating shows which left the spectators spellbound and grasping for breath, nothing beat the fashion show wherein beautiful local girls sashayed down the ramp to showcase the trendy Tangsa traditional rich multicolored apparel. The surprises do not end on the festival grounds; there was more in the package. As the journey deepened into the Tribal territory, the fragrance of the wild orchids enthralled the weary mind, the ballet of colorful butterflies gladdened the heart, the throng of lively birds hypnotized the glances, the barking of deer stunned the wandering thoughts. The festival, a potpourri of culture, tradition, hospitality and indigenous cuisine created a lot of enthusiasm among the visitors; each of whom had something to enjoy. You have to visit the place to comprehend the charisma of the festival and to believe the beauty of the hidden region called Arunachal Pradesh. A festival that is really different and vibrant in a concealed place which is surrounded by peace and happiness, home to different tribes brimming with life.
Dodum Yangfo, a reporter and fellow journalist has rightly mentioned that this festival is the mother of all the festivals of Arunachal Pradesh.
Chow Bilaseng Namchoom
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