Guwahati, April 2 (IANS) Food, music, dance, lifestyle, sports, fashion, literature and scenic beauty - Assam's rich culture, beauty and lifestyle will be flaunted with aplomb at Rongali, a three-day festival starting from Friday, to give an impetus to the state's tourism as well as to change people's perception towards the Northeast.
The fest, which will be held at Veterinary Ground, Khanapara, in Guwahati, will focus on Assam's rich history, icons, music, dance, magic, handloom, handicrafts and age-old harmony between various tribes and communities.
The first edition of the festival is expected to be inaugurated by Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi. Shyamkanu Mahanta, the chief organiser of Rongali, noted that it is an "attempt to showcase the state as a tourism destination".
"We did Northeast Festival in Delhi recently, which was a big occasion with a lot of people coming in. So we thought that we must do something to attract tourists to Assam, which is a gateway of Northeast. Rongali is an attempt to showcase the state as tourism destination. We believe that Assam was not marketed well; so we aim at doing that," Mahanta told IANS.
Assam's image is often marred by reports of violence between tribal communities, terrorist groups or poaching, but Mahanta says the fest is "an attempt to change it".
"There are reports about ULFA, violence and tribal conflicts. But change is under way and the situation is improving a lot. People have also realised that tourism is quite critical. With its heritage, landscape and wildlife, Assam can be the best tourist destination in India," he added.
Visitors will get a glimpse of different aspect of life in the state with exhibitions on lifestyle, food habits of various tribes, traditional handloom and handicrafts, and delicious Assamese cuisine along with other northeastern fare.
The extravaganza is aptly timed around spring (Bihu), during which Assam is painted by myriad hues with the blooming flora and fauna.
Artists will also narrate intriguing and captivating stories, while actors from Sangeet Natak Akademi will enact a play "Ram Vijay Bhaona".
Visitors will get a chance to watch mask-making by Sibsagar artisans. Tea exhibition, magic shows from Mayong and a display of traditional jewellery from Nagaon will add a mystical touch to the fest; while dancers from across the state will present over 50 dance forms.
Literature will be of focus with display of Assamese literature by legendary writers; and Assam's traditional sport has also found a spot in the cultural gala.
Music has always bridged gaps and connected people. Hence Assam's top singers like Zubeen Garg, Papon and Simanta Sekhar will also attempt to strike a chord with their musical notes.
Rock band Indian Ocean and heavy metal band Girish and The Chronicles will also perform. A roundtable discussion in association with Guwahati University will also be held on the theme 'Development Agenda of Assam'.
Without leaving its booming fashion industry aside, the state will lay out a style statement with two fashion shows presenting creations of Assam designers, putting the state's fabric and handloom in spotlight. They have also called buyers to inject enthusiasm in the budding designers.
Mahanta points out that the festival is a small step towards ushering in a change.
"This is just a beginning and within next four to five years, we will make it a global festival where we will bring people from across the world. We expect the festival to catch up with spread of word. This will be a continuous effort," he said.
Keeping business side in mind, several reputed tour operators across India and tourists are expected to visit during Rongali, which is being organised by a socio-cultural trust of Assam Trend MMS in association with Hotel & Restaurants Association of Assam, Assam Tourism, department of cultural affairs, government of Assam, and Ministry of Youth Affairs, government of India.