Sustainability, a newer term in the urban dictionary which is uber and chic to use while writing and discussing, but difficult to practice. It makes you sit upright and think, why and how did we as human race have to move towards unsustainable ways in the first place? I may not have the answer to this question, yet but there is a way to be sustainable while travelling. Here is a tale from the last weekend in Manas.
I had the chance to experience rustic and traditional sustainable living in its true sense during Manas Spring Festival: 7-8 April 2018. The festival was hosted by the local Bodo tribe and curated by Indian Weavers’ Alliance, SMOA, travel agencies and others to showcase the food, nature and culture of Assam. It was organized so as to boost local economy of villages around the fringe areas of Manas National Park. The entire set up was like a small village with exhibition of locally produced materials, Bihu dance performances and food. On the other side was camping for participants to stay during the 2 days of festival.
Sustainable tourism through local food
Food plays the most important part in any festival and Manas Spring Festival was no different. The local villagers showed some extraordinary culinary skills to showcase lipsmacking food with locally procured produce. Fresh water fish, eel, silkworm, chicken, pork, rice, lentils, rice beer and vegetables all grown locally were the highlight of the festival. They even demonstrated making the dishes and beer to the curious participants. All the preparation for food was done in front of us during the festival using wood stock as fuel in the traditional chulha system. This technique not only enhanced the flavors of local produce but was extremely satisfying.
Sustainable tourism through handloom business
Bodo women are known as one of the finest weavers in entire North East region. The basic raw material used is cotton and silk which is procured from markets of Guwahati city. The traditional motifs used by the Bodo are mainly inspired by nature. The Bodo colors are shades of yellow and red as the base, with green or blue as the accent, and floral patterns inspired by nature. The looms were demonstrated during the Manas Spring festival and traditional garments like Mekhela Chador (Skirt and shawl) and Dokhna (shawl) were on sale.
Sustainable tourism through culture
Bodo tribe is famous for their diverse culture which incorporates dancing and singing during festivals and otherwise. Bihu dance, Jhumur and Bagurumba are some of the traditional dances. All of these dances performances at Manas Spring Festival kept the tourists in awe and camera ready swaying on the beats of He he haiya he he haiya..
Sustainable tourism through Nature
Being on the fringe of Manas National Park, a safari was arranged for participants. You may have read my previous post ‘4 reasons to visit Manas National Park’ and I was excited to find even more reasons and spot more wildlife this time. But the rain gods spoiled our safari and we ended up spotting only a couple of elephants, Malabar red squirrel and a few birds. The safari made up for the rain when we reached Mathanguri on the banks of Manas River for the same charm as last time.
Camping in tents with no electricity, eating delicious food and knowing a tribe so close were all part of the amazing rural and sustainable tourism at Manas Spring Festival. The festival may or may not happen again, but efforts are being made to set up a permanent market of traditional clothes, dance and food for alternative livelihood of the Bodo tribe. If you ever happen to visit Manas National Park, do take some time out to visit Gungzema. The information about this center can be procured from SMOA – Swmkar Mittinga Onsai Afat – 8133069620/9365465351
Disclaimer: I was invited and hosted as a guest to participate in the Manas Spring Festival, however all opinions are my own. All photographs are copyright protected. Please contact me for permissions to use digitally or in print.
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