It was drizzling. The cloud-covered hills and yellow rice fields were refreshing treats to the eyes. The fresh raindrops on the grass, muddy pathways, stilted houses, and children running around were a usual scene in the Padi Village. Instead of opting for trekking to Bat Cave on a rainy day, I decided to wander around the picturesque village.
As I began to walk around, the locals started greeting me in the Galo language by saying ‘Aldurey‘ (How are you). While exchanging smiles, I nodded my head in reciprocation. Though I failed to communicate in their language, but the feeling of warmth was felt strongly.
Sometimes you don’t need any language to communicate. The unpretentious smile on their face and the welcoming nature of Galo people can ensure that you feel at home. That was my first introduction to this unexplored paradise in Arunachal Pradesh named Basar.
I visited Basar on an invitation to attend the famous Basar Confluence, one unique cultural festival, which showcases the myriad of the rich cultural heritage of the Galo community. Ever since I came back from this surreal land in the heart of Arunachal Pradesh in North East India, I can’t stop raving about this place. I call it my “Second Home” and you will get to know why.
Located at the center of Arunachal Pradesh, Basar is the headquarters of the new Lepa Rada district. Around 150 kilometres from Dibrugarh in Assam, it takes more than five hours to reach Basar on a hilly terrain. Due to the newly inaugurated Bogibeel Bridge, reaching Basar has become quite easy.
Basar is a small place, mainly inhabited by the Galo tribe. Tucked far away from the quintessential popular places of Arunachal Pradesh, Basar has still not come under the tourist’s radar and it makes this destination a land of unheard stories, fascinating facts, and authentic cultural practices and age-old traditions, deeply rooted in its ancient forms.
Who are the Galo People?
The Galo tribe is one of the major tribes of Arunachal Pradesh. Located mainly in West Siang, Lepa Rada, and Lower Siang district, Galo people are believed to be descendants of Abotani, the primal ancestor of Tani tribes.
They mostly speak their native language, which is Galo, but the younger generation is well versed in Hindi and English. Most of the Galo people can also speak in the Assamese language. This ancient tribe believes in community living, so you will find a cluster of houses together in separate villages.
The stilted thatched roof houses comprise one common room with a central fireplace. The bamboo huts are completely eco-friendly. You will find Mithun’s horns, skulls, bones, warfare attires, and claws on their wall. There is no concept of separate rooms in a traditional Galo household.
The family members mostly hurdle around the fire where the food is being cooked. Whether it is spending time with the family, sipping Poka (local drink), having dinner, discussions, or sleeping, everything revolves around the central fireplace. They also dry meat, fish, and sometimes even vegetables hung above the fire. The Galo community is polygamous and patriarchal in nature.
They practice Donyi Polo, though Christianity has been catching up in the community slowly. The Galo people are very much ingrained in their ancient traditions and they take pride in practicing the age-old rituals in today’s modern era.
Enjoy Galo Hospitality
The Galo people are one of the most hospitable and friendly tribes in Arunachal Pradesh. The sense of hospitality will stun you once you visit a Galo household. The warmth in their behavior and the smiles on their faces make all the difference to their guests. They are very welcoming in nature.
I cherish my very first Galo hospitality in Padi village where the lunch was prepared in their community center by the men of that village. I got a taste of Galo delicacies and also sipped Poka (local drink) for the very first time on the same day. After that I don’t remember how many rounds of Poka I had, sitting next to the fire.
I felt a strong sense of belonging in Basar. During the week-long stay there, I met locals, laughed, interacted and even indulged in long conversations over food and drinks on various occasions. One of the most heart-felt hospitality was at Bam village when we were invited for a storytelling session with Mr. Marjum Bam at his house.
What a night it was. We spent the entire evening listening to the fascinating tales of the past, the origin of Galo tribe, religion, food habits, and culture. The narrative was so intriguing that we were engrossed in it completely. It was followed by mouth-watering starters, a round of Poka, and super delicious Galo food. It was an enriching experience.
Live like a local by opting for Home-Stays
When in Basar, don’t miss the opportunity to live a few days with the locals in their homes. You will be welcomed to their traditional houses where they show you the Galo way of life, proudly presenting their cultural heritage and unfathomable faith in their traditions. It is very important to respect their culture when you live with them.
In Galo household, there are separate entries for men and women. So, it is advisable to follow the rules when you opt for a home stay there. The home-stays are a perfect choice if you would like to know a community up-close.
Basar offers a few homestays for guests in different villages. I had the best day in Basar when I landed in Sago village in the late evening on a freezing cold day. As soon as we stepped out of the car, a few locals were there to welcome us. As we entered the Galo household, almost everyone from that village was sitting around the fireplace. We were greeted with big smiles and offered Laal chai, followed by Poka. It was overwhelming listening to the elders, meeting the young generation, and interacting with the women. Soon we introduced ourselves and the strings got loosened for conversations. We laughed, talked, and drank. They also performed folk songs for us. We lost count on hours till we all retired for the night and slept on the floor around the fireplace. It was an exceptional experience for me.
The incessant rain on the previous night made the forest look refreshing green while making the village roads muddy and slippery. As planned, a few of us opted for a trek to Odhi Puthu. I decided to join Mirik, one jovial gentleman of Sago village, who took us around the village and also showed us the warfare attires, which they use in dance performances these days. The drenched forest, pregnant overcast, and the scattered thatched-roof stilt houses made it one of the prettiest villages in the remote corner of Arunachal Pradesh.
Relish Galo food
When in Basar, sampling the authentic Galo food is mandatory. I tasted it on the very first day when I went to explore Padi village. The Galo food is simple. Since they are into rice cultivation, the staple food is rice. The most authentic way of cooking their food is in the bamboo hallows over the fire, without much spices and oil. Though it tastes bland sometimes, it consists of chicken (cooked in bamboo hallows on fire), boiled rice, and boiled vegetables on the platter.
When it comes to breakfast, the pitha (rice cake) and laal chai (black tea) is a common item in each household. But with the passing time and the effect of modernization, the food habits are also changing, especially amongst the youth. You might find basic Daal and Rice in a few homestays, but it is always advisable to try their local food whenever you are in Basar. If you are a non-vegetarian, Basar can give you a great gastronomically satisfying experience.
Enjoy Forest Picnic
If you are an explorer and open to new experiences, you would love the idea of having a meal in the forest. I had the most beautiful picnic experience in the rustic set-up in Sago village when the whole village came together to prepare a meal for us in the forest.
The food was getting cooked in freshly cut bamboo hallows on fire. No oil, no spice and everything was organic. Whether it was rice or chicken, everything was slowly cooked on fire in those bamboo hollows. The world should learn how to live an Eco-friendly lifestyle from the Galo tribe. And, also how they celebrate minimalism beautifully.
The fermented local drink Poka was served in bamboo tumblers; lunch was served on Ekkum leaves. The bamboo chicken, boiled rice, vegetables, and tomato chutney, everything tasted delicious. As I was holding the oik leaf where the lunch was served, I was wondering how a simple meal by the villagers in the forest is much more worthy than a multi-course meal in posh restaurants or hotels in the city.
It was not just the meal, but the outpouring love and hospitality of the villagers which made the picnic one of the most memorable takeaways from Basar.
Explore offbeat places
Basar is gifted with an abundance of nature. There are no dearths of offbeat terrains. If you love to tap into unexplored places, Basar will surprise you with its treasures. Whether you are a trekker, landscape lover, culture enthusiast, or a lazy traveler, Basar has a lot to offer.
Apart from attending the fantastic cultural festival likes Basar Confluence, I had some of the best unique experiences in Basar. One of them is the trek to JOLLI- a haunted place. This is quite an offbeat place which you will not find mentioned in Google. Jolli is near Gori village, a deep gorge forest through which the HIE river passes.
We trekked down a hillock to reach the gorge covered with tall huge trees and creeping vines. It is believed that YAPOM are some kind of spirits that dwell in deep forests like this and any human interference in their territory is strictly prohibited and violation of that causes severe punishment by them.
There are stories of atrocities by these spirits on humans who dared to venture into their dark gorge forest. It is also said that the YAPOMS of JOLLI would throw wet pebbles at people passing through this gorge which indicates that something bad will happen to that particular family. But Jolli is no more the sacred abode of YAPOMS.
I must confess that walking barefoot in the freezing cold water to reach the haunted place through the gorge was one exceptional experience for sure. Apart from this offbeat destination, there are a few places you must explore whenever you visit Basar next.
Places to see
- Bumchi waterfall
- Bat Cave in Padi Village
- Nguda Pokcho – This is a sacred mountain.
- 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. It is in Sago village.
- Dite waterfall– Another scenic waterfall.
Do you need more reasons ?
How to reach
The 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.
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.
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