A Testimony to Socio-Cultural Diversity and Economic Development
In the rich tapestry of India’s cultural diversity, the Northeastern region stands as a magnificent mosaic, woven together by a plethora of indigenous festivals that celebrate the region’s rich heritage, socio-cultural diversity, and economic development. Nestled amidst the lush greenery and picturesque landscapes, the festivals of the Northeast are not just mere celebrations; they are testimonies to the deep-rooted traditions, the country’s idea of unity in diversity, and the remarkable economic progress, the region has made.
The Cultural Diversity of Northeastern region, combined with its geographical features, makes it a highly incredible experience for the tourists, who come from different parts of the globe. Let it be the observation of rituals that are unique to the tribal communities of the region, or the festivals common to the entire states, nature lies in the core of every observation in the region. The region’s geography enriches the food and agriculture sector through a variety of products, that are either unique to the land (say, products like the Lakadong Turmeric) or found best at this part, like the Pineapple of Meghalaya or the oranges of Dambuk in Arunachal Pradesh. The region thus welcomes wide rang of tourists, through community-created festivals, which the Governments of different states lends their support or collaboration. Let it be the Hornbill Festival of Nagaland, that fosters inter-tribal interactions and preserve the cultural heritage of the state, or the beautiful Cherry Blossom Festival of Meghalaya that blankets the visitors under a pink and purple tale of beauty in the month of November; these festivals give the visitors, an experience, they would not forget throughout their lives.
The region is a hub to adventure tourism activities like trekking, paragliding, skiing, jungle safari, kayaking mountain biking and cycling and so on. Recently concluded Megha Kayak Festival in Meghalaya marked the presence of kayakers from countries like Sri Lanka, Switzerland, New Zealand, UK, USA, Australia, and many others. The ecosystem of the region is a major factor, driving economic contribution to the states. Specially, during the winters in Northeast, the festive season’s economic upsurge ignites multiple industries, spanning from retail and hospitality to tourism and the advancement of infrastructure. By capitalizing on the possibilities offered by festivals, communities and governments utilizes these cultural festivities to stimulate economic expansion, bolster local enterprises, and safeguard cultural traditions. As per the Official Records by Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, more than 1.2 crore tourists visited Northeast in 2022 itself, which includes over 1 lakh tourists from foreign countries. Thus, from a socio-economic perspective, festivals are more than just moments of joy; and in this part of the country, they serve as potent drivers of financial well-being and facilitators of sustainable progress. On this increasing trend of number of tourists in Northeast India, Honourable Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi said, “Gladdening trend. Increased tourism means increasing prosperity.” New-age Travel enthusiasts like Tanya Khanijow, Akash Malhotra and various others travel vloggers and bloggers have spoken about the adventures of travelling across the North-East, with its undiscovered spaces, culture, music and art-forms being the major factors that attract them towards this part of the country.
The WTTC estimates an expected contribution of Rs 16.5 trillion by the Travel and Tourism Sector in the Indian Economy in 2023. And Northeast India, full of festivities and Government’s active support, like that of the organisation of Cherry Blossom Festival by the Department of Tourism, Government of Meghalaya, makes a significant contribution to this growth, injecting back multiples of the seed money, to the country’s economy. The success of the same can be ascertained through the pool of artists that come to perform in these festivals. And year after year, there is significant upscaling of the same. This year, the Shillong Cherry Blossom Festival, 2023 will experience a melange of six international and 50 national and local musicians to the city.
The Raas Festival of Majuli, the Sangai Festival of Manipur, the Ziro Music Festival of Arunachal Pradesh, the Saga Dawa of Sikkim, the Kut Festivals of Mizoram, or the festivals based on the vegetation like Pineapple Festival of Meghalaya, Orange Festival of Arunachal, have now become an important part of not only the cultural calendar of the respective states, but also the bucket lists of the people of other regions of the country.
A factor common among festivals, other than the rich ethnicity, art forms, culture, and dance practises, is the hospitality, that attracts the tourists towards this region. Kanishk Gupta, a leading travel vlogger shares his experience of visiting a village in Meghalaya. He said, “I was thousands of kilometres away from my home. I was even away from those who spoke my language. But still, I didn’t feel any lack of belonging here” Every home that surrounds the major venues of the festival, welcomes, and provide shelters and ethnic food to the tourists, setting a great example of how the diversified North-East is united by the values of warmth and love.