Basar Confluence in Arunachal Pradesh: A Unique Cultural Festival in North East India

North East India is where my heart lies. Being a daughter of this land, I find myself extremely privileged when I get opportunities to show the world the rich cultural heritage of this part of India. My heart swells with pride for belonging to North East India and its rich culture that we inherit. Till a few decades ago, the idea of travelling to this part of India was an elusive one for many. With time, people are now exposed to the richness of the soil, indefinable beauty of raw and rustic landscapes, unique cultural diversity and the genuine yet simple tribal communities. North East India is no longer a distant land. Festivals like Ziro, Tawang, NH7 Weekender, Orange and Hornbill have opened their arms wide in front of the world, inviting them to come and experience this exotic land.

Arunachal Pradesh has always been one of my favorite states in North East. I spent a fair amount of time on my first visit to Tawang and the kind of warmth I received from the locals during my maiden trip was enormous. So, when I got an invite to be a part of the Basar Confluence 3.0 this year, I could not even dare to say no.

The feeling of going back to my land to explore my own backyard and the opportunity to spend time with the Galo community in the most spectacular surrounding made me hooked on to it.

Where is Basar

Located in the center of Arunachal Pradesh, Basar is inhabited by the Galo people, one of the 26 major tribes of the state. One of the most picturesque locations, Basar is less explored and still has not come under the tourist radar. Hence, the untouched charm of the raw and rustic look and the authentic lifestyle of the people are appealing. Surrounded by beautiful villages like Padi, Gori, Bam, Sago, Ego-Yamin, Nyigam and others, Basar exhibits the myriad of authentic traditions and rituals which are still found in its original forms.

In spite of being a North-Eastern girl, I had never heard of this remote land until I was invited for the BasCon 3.0 this year. I must mention here that Basar is now the headquarters of the new Leparada district. Around 150 kilometers from Dibrugarh in Assam, it takes more than five hours to reach the destination. Once you cross the Bogibeel bride, the road leads to Basar, passing Silapathar and Likhabali, followed by the hilly terrain.

What is Basar Confluence?

Unlike any other music festival of North East India, Basar Confluence in a unique one. It celebrates the mosaic of cultural inheritance of Galo Tribe entirely. The pride in displaying their rich traditions, rituals, activities, art, music, dance and sports, can be seen during the festival vividly. The enthusiasm and excitement of the adorable Galo people and participation of the people from the surrounding villages at the confluence are remarkable. Organized and hosted by the GRK, the Basar Confluence is not just an annual festival for the people, but it’s the rare opportunity for them to showcase their cultural legacy to the world. The festival proudly celebrates Folk Culture of North East India as well. The best part of the festival is that it is original, raw and rustic.

Women are busy fishing

Getting to see the various aspects of the Galo people and their lifestyle during my village exploration, attending their mega dance performance, participating in traditional community fishing, listening to Galo bands and reputed singers, watching the traditional sports, sampling authentic cuisines or sipping Poka (Rice Beer) in bamboo tumbler, the 3 days cultural extravaganza was the best introduction to Galo tribal culture in Basar.

Highlights of the Festival

I was awestruck. I was literally holding my breathe each time a new performance was presented in front of us. The wide range of traditional dances, the graceful performances by the artists, rhythmic tunes of the traditional instruments and the zeal of the audience were simply outstanding. Everything blew my mind. I kept my eyes wide open to soak in everything. Here are some of the highlights that mesmerized me completely.

Traditional Dance Performances

One of the highlights of Basar Confluence is the beautiful display of the traditional dance forms of Galo Culture. Each one of the performances is distinctly different and unique in their own right.

Mega Galo Dance

The three day cultural extravaganza started off with the most colourful Mega Galo Dance performance by the tribal women of Basar. What a sight to behold. It looked like a rainbow of colors on the ground.

Clad in their traditional attire along with beautiful jewelry, each one of them performed the Mega Dance so gracefully that I couldn’t even span my attention anywhere. The rhythmic sound of the music and perfectly synchronized steps made the audience engrossed into it completely. 

Nyida Parik, Wedding Dance

The moment Nyida Parik dance performance started with the dramatic sound and dance moves, it commanded attention completely. The attractive traditional costume and the unique headgear of the male dancers added an extra charm to the performance.

The sound they created with the clang of metal plates suddenly dominated the entire surrounding. It was nothing less than a visual delight. Traditionally, this dance is performed during Galo wedding.

Lion Dance

Lion dance is one of the most entertaining acts of the festival where two lions and a cub were rolling on the ground with the beats of the music playing in the background. It was like a laughter riot in the crowd while the performance was going on in full swing. This is the famous dance from Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh. It was spellbinding to watch the brilliant performance of the artists, disguised in those heavy lion costumes in torching sun. They thoroughly entertained the audience.

Nocte War Dance

Nocte war dance was performed by the beautiful women adorning striking red attire with their traditional jewelry. The slow yet graceful dance performance by the dancers along with the soothing music was nothing less than a visual delight.

Cultural Shows

The three day festival showcased some of the best cultural performances from different parts of North East India. Some of the highlights of the cultural shows included the Mopin Festival showcase, Bihu dance, Mishing dance and also the Traditional Dhol dance from Manipur. It was a quick introduction to those who had visited this part of India for the very first time.

Bihu Dance from Assam

I was overjoyed seeing the Bihu dance and was literally dancing along with the rhythmic sound of Dhol.


Mopin Festival showcase

Another highlight of the festival was the Mopin Festival showcase. Mopin is a very important festival of Galo tribe and it is basically a harvesting festival. The beauty of the showcase was how they performed the rituals with utmost perfection, explaining each one.

What really impressed me to the core was the excellent performance of the Manipuri Dhol dance.

The way the artist was taking a spin in the air and playing the traditional instrument with such precision, was simply outstanding.

I was in awe, watching those little girls performing their traditional Mishing Bihu dance.

Traditional Sports

The Name of this sport is Nyarka Hinam

The traditional sports are an integral part of the cultural showcase for any tribal community. The same can be seen in Basar Confluence as well. The enthusiasm and the excitement I saw among the participants from different villages were quite enthralling. I thoroughly enjoyed the Tug-of–war between different villages.

The cheering by the audience for their respective villages, the competitiveness among the participants, and the sportsman spirit of each one of them, created a different environment out there.

Agri Tourism

I really appreciate the effort by the BasCon team for specially setting up an Agri Tourism section to show people  how the Galo people work in the field, harvest and the entire after process of farming. This gives a quick glimpse of their traditional way of life. When the Galo women in their traditional attire were working in the rice fields, bathed in golden color, I went crazy capturing each moment.

I also visited the bamboo hut on the Agri tourism section where I was welcomed wholeheartedly by the adorable Galo women. I was so smitten by the colorful Galo jewelry that I requested one of the women to allow me to wear it for some time. What followed next was amazing. They not only gave me the jewelry, but insisted that I wear their traditional skirt called Gale.

Me in a Galo attire with traditional jewelry
Photo Courtesy : Niranjan Das

I always wanted to wear their traditional attire during the festival and it was a golden opportunity for me to flaunt it. I was overjoyed at their gesture.

Music Concerts

“Tuk Dekhi Mur Ga Keneba Keneba Lage”– The moment Jeli and The Band started singing these lines, I couldn’t stop myself from cheering and singing along. This is one of the most famous Bihu songs of Assam and it can make anyone groove on the tune. I was not shying away from it either. The Indian Idol fame singer, Jeli, performed some of the best traditional folk numbers at night.

“Oh Delo”, these two words suddenly became louder when the lead singer of the band, David & The Band, requested the crowd to repeat them with him. The crowd went berserk with this song. What a sight it was.

Takar Nabam

Music has no language and it was proved when we started singing “Aneg aaiye yidum lohhoo” and “Oh Delo” each day during our journey without even knowing the meaning of these lines. It was melodic to the ears and our senses.

The very first look of Omak Komut was mesmerizing. Clad in traditional attire with a colorful headgear, I waited patiently for him to sing his very first song of the evening. He is one of the famous singers from Itanagar.

His band named Omak Komut Collective is basically a fusion band that concentrates on the hypnotic fusion of traditional and modern beats and has been promoting Adi culture in the form of music. I enjoyed his fusion songs.

Photo Courtesy: Niranjan Das

When the freezing temperature couldn’t dampen the spirit of the locals and I heard the crowd shouting the name Nikom Riba, I realized that he is not just a local singer, but a legendary one in Arunachal Pradesh. He is a person who has the most sober personality. When he started singing the soothing, romantic numbers, it made the crowd euphoric. I was amazed to see the impeccable effect he had over the audience with his melodious numbers.

Eco-Friendly Festival

If I can proudly name any festival which is Eco-friendly in India, it has to be Basar Confluence. The GRK (Gumin Rego Kilaju) has done a commendable job by promoting “No Plastic Zone” on the festival ground where you will not find plastic anywhere. Even water was served in Bamboo Tumblers to the visitors.

From the information center, kiosks, food stalls, washrooms, bridges, to even stalls, you could see the abundant use of bamboo everywhere. I was amazed by the commitment and the dedication shown by the locals to make it a plastic free place in the lap of nature.

Even when the food is served in any of the stalls or during lunch time at the festival venue, it is served on leaf instead of plastic plate. Same goes for Poka (Rice Beer), which was served in those long bamboo tumblers and they are also re-usable.

I was being candidly captured by Niranjan Das while enjoying my Poka (rice beer) alone

From the gate to the stage, the whole venue is done by the people of Basar and surrounding villages. It simply shows the people’s unity and deep concern for the land, whose conscious efforts are not only setting an example for rest of the country, but it can also be a case study for others to follow in coming days.

What is GRK?

What started as a noble cause of educating the villagers about the sanitation, soon became a mission to make the villagers aware about the importance of education for the young children, Eco conservation, and encouraging more people to adopt an Eco friendly lifestyle. GRK is an organisation , formed by government officials, has come along way to improve the overall lifestyle of the people of Basar. They started with merely two villages Gori and Soi, and are now joined by 32 villages across Basar in Arunachal Pradesh to make their land a better place to live. The continuous efforts to convert the attitude, “I, Me & Myself” to “We, Our and Us”, is a commendable step to change the self-centered mindset. It has broadened the mindset of the locals, who are more receptive nowadays. Initiatives like banning hunting, promoting plastic free lifestyle to adopting community service, GRK has been doing an outstanding job. Organizing festival like Basar Confluence is the way to unite the community, encourage harmony and brotherhood among the neighboring villages. It also paves the way for more dialogues between the outside world and the locals.

What I loved about the BasCon 3.0

The way Galo community has been welcoming everyone wholeheartedly to their closed world by opening their doors, allowing them to get glimpses of their lifestyle up close, proudly flaunting their heritage, and showing their age-old traditions and rituals, is something that touched the core of my heart. The humbleness and hospitality of the Galo people in Basar is something that needs to be highlighted.The genuineness of the people, the unpretentious smile on their faces and warmth in their behavior made me feel at home. I can certainly call Basar my second home in Arunachal Pradesh.

I have not seen such beautiful community driven festival anywhere else until I attended the Basar Confluence. From adopting an Eco-friendly lifestyle to organizing the entire festival by the people of Galo community, they make a perfect example as how a community can live in harmony with nature and can create something so beautiful like Basar Confluence.

I hope that Basar Confluence remains as raw and rustic and never comes under the gamut of glamour. The authentic feel of the Basar Confluence is the most appealing feature of it and I genuinely wish that it never becomes commercialized, thereby losing its originality with the influx of tourists and money in near future


Places to see

  • Joli- The haunted place – A must visit place in Basar. It requires you to trek and walk barefoot through the deep gorge forest.
  • Bumchi waterfall – One of the most scenic waterfalls.
  • Bat Cave in Padi Village, is another attraction in Basar, which is 22 kilometers away from the BasCon venue.
  • Nguda Pokcho – This is a sacred mountain.
  • Explore villages around the Bascon venue, such as Gori (1, 2, 3), Bam, Padi and Pagi village for immersive local experiences.
  • You can trek to Hiido- Hiidi waterfall, located at the confluence of Hingen and Hipo rivers.
  • Diime-Diite waterfall at Pagi Village.
  • Trek to the scenic Odii Putu. You can see bird’s eye view of Basar from the top of it. It is in Sago village.
  • Dite waterfall– Another scenic waterfall.

Travel Tips

1. Don’t forget that you are in a remote land. Don’t expect city luxury in Basar. Instead you will enjoy the luxuries of scenic landscapes, mouth-watering local delicacies and the unbeatable hospitality of Galo people.

2. If you are an Airtel/Vodafone user, you will not get network everywhere in Basar. So, don’t panic. Rather enjoy a few days in the lap of nature when you are out of network zone.

3. The communities in North East India are pre-dominantly non-vegetarian, albeit you will find basic vegetarian food like Daal & Rice, mix-vegetables, etc., there. So, if you are a vegetarian, then please be sure about the food habits of the place. Kindly don’t judge a community for their food habits and lifestyle.

4. Please be respectful towards the people of Galo community when you are in Basar. Kindly refrain from arguing with locals.

5. Consider wearing moderate dressing and respect the culture of the place.

6. Basar is a Plastic Free Zone. Don’t use plastic and also don’t litter and throw garbage anywhere.

7. If you are visiting Basar during BasCon which is scheduled in the month of November, kindly pack heavy woolens as it gets extremely cold at night.

8. Carry a pair of two shoes at least. You never know when it can come handy.

9. Make sure that you have ILP (Inner Line Permit) before entering the state.

10. Last but not the least, try and behave like a local there.

With a local elderly man in Bam Village
Photo Courtesy : Abhinav Singh

How to reach

Nearest airport is in Dibrugarh , Assam. From there, you can take a road trip to Basar via Bogibeel Bridge, which was inaugurated by the Prime Minister of India, Sri Narendra Modi on 25th December. It has made life easy for travelers to reach Arunachal Pradesh from Assam.The distance between Dibrugarh to Basar is around 150 km and it takes more than five hours to reach your destination.

Accommodation

Don’t expect luxury hotels or hotels for that matter in Basar. It’s a remote land. But you can expect warm hospitality of Galo people in their homes as they have opened their homes to the guests. There are a couple of home-stays, all equipped to host visitors. Contact GRK for that.


Disclaimer :

The  reproduction of any of the content, including the photographs without prior consent/permission of the writer, is strictly prohibited and a violation of the same will attract legal action.

If you wish to follow my Arunachal Pradesh journey, you can simply follow hashtags #MyTravelDiary and #BasarConfluence on any of my social media platforms.

The Basar Family


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35 Comments

  1. Anini Debbarman

    Can you please say the dates for BasCon of 2020? looking forward to visit Basar and Mechuka this time.

    Reply
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  4. shristi patni

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  16. rupam { xhobdo }

    Great to read. Amazing pics.
    Hope soon visit Arunachal Pradesh.
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    Reply
  17. Gowtham Devaraj

    I am amazed by different cultures and their traditions. Your article is great. I would definitely put this place on my bucket list now.

    Reply
  18. Elefuncity

    The cultural festival seems to be amazing, thanks for letting us know about the beauty of Arunachal Pradesh.

    Reply
  19. Abhishek Prasad

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  20. Mahima Git

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  21. Richa Agrwal

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  24. Sandeepa

    A perfect guide for someone who wishes to attend the Basar Confluence next year. I especially liked how you have sensitised the readers with your Travel tips! Hope the nature of Bascon stays the same in the future.

    Reply
  25. Dorjee k Thungon

    Nicely written

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  29. Deepak Goswami

    Very energetic cultural activities in eco friendly and no plastic zone. Looking very Attractive Galo attire and jewellery you wear in your picture.
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    Reply
  30. John Colin

    I don’t even know where to start with this. The event ruins you with the several options of folk dance, social events, conventional music, conventional sports and lots of unique food options. The first day of BasCon and I basically went colour sightless seeing beautiful women clad in bright colourful conventional Galo outfits.

    Reply

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