By: Rukmini Barua Deka
“The rivers have been the carriers of civilizations as all the major civilizations of the world grew on river banks. The Egyptian civilization developed by the side of the river Nile and the Babylonian civilization by the side of the rivers Tigris and the Euphrates. Here, the river Brahmaputra, being the lifeline of the people, has greatly helped in the development of culture and economy of India’s northeast, witnessing the rise and fall of mighty empires. The quintessence of the multi-hued culture and traditions of the people of this region is to maintain unity in diversity. Namami Brahmaputra festival will identify and develop the potentials of river Brahmaputra, promoting Act East policy of the government of India in the long run”, said Pranab Mukherjee, President of India, soon after lighting the ceremonial lamp and inaugurating the five-day Namami Brahmaputra festival on 31st March by the side of the river Brahmaputra at Guwahati. Pranab Mukherjee highly appreciated Sarbananda Sonowal, Chief Minister, Assam for conceptualising the wonderful idea of holding this festival after identifying the ingredients and simultaneously holding it in 27 venues of 21 districts of Assam through which river Brahmaputra flows. It attempted to showcase the resources and potentialities of the river, he said.
“Bhutan has historic ties with India and with Assam Bhutan shares more than 690 km long boundary. This festival has been organised, giving due recognition and upholding the economic potentials of river Brahmaputra by which Bhutan will also be benefitted. The close ties between Bhutan and Assam needs to be enhanced and so we have requested the government of India to allow us to open our Consulate in Guwahati,” said Tshering Tobgay, Prime Minister of Bhutan, soon after the inauguration of the festival. Bhutan is determined to be guided by the values and priorities that have helped it to remain a unique country in a rapidly changing world and it hopes to survive by clinging on to age-old values that the rest of the world has lost. Gross National Happiness, being its motto, Bhutan seeks to make progress in terms of happiness of its people. Namami Brahmaputra festival should not only be the biggest river festival but also the most powerful river festival, said Tobgay. Banwarilal Purohit, the new Governor of Assam is deeply amazed, witnessing the unique culture, traditions, hospitality and prestigious position of the people of Assam. The government of Assam is leaving no stone unturned to maintain transparency and accountability while functioning threadbare, he said. Sarbananda Sonowal appeared hale and hearty and called it a historic event for people of Assam, living by the side of the river Brahmaputra, soon after inaugurating the festival. Dr. Mahesh Sharma, Union Minister of Tourism and Kiren Rijiju, also attended the festival and Union Minister of state for Home Affairs, Chandra Mohan Patowary, Minister, Trade, Industries and Transport, Dr. Himanta Biswa Sarma, Minister, Finance, Tourism etc. also spoke on the occasion. On the day of inauguration, a Japanese delegation visited the site of the festival, at Guwahati and showed interest in purchasing Assamese silk, visiting the stalls that displayed handlooms and handicrafts. On the second day of the festival, even though there were incessant rains, the mood was upbeat in most of the venues all over Assam. At Guwahati, though some of the programmes were postponed due to heavy rains, the evening prayers were held by the side of the river. “People living beside rivers are dependent on them and they express their views when environmental problems arise. Many major rivers of Asia have their origin in Tibetan plateau. Water is a basic need of all human beings and crores of people live beside these rivers which are clean in Tibet, having no pollution. But, rivers flowing out of Tibet have polluted and contaminated water that give rise to alarming issues that are serious”, said Dalai Lama, addressing the gathering at Pragjyoti ITA Centre for performing arts, Guwahati as part of Namami Brahmaputra Festival on April 2. Braving incessant rains, thousands of people including women and children visited the main venue of the festival here to see Dalai Lama. Paying tribute to river Brahmaputra, he said that the upcoming generation should be taught how to keep the river clean. Dalai Lama highly appreciated the hard working ability and the dynamism of Sarbananda Sonowal, Chief Minister, Assam and his government. Boat races were held on that day including other cultural programmes. Yoga Guru Ramdev highly praised the government of Assam and said that it was doing all that was needed to make this state one of the best in India. He said that he was keen to work for Assam for promoting the economy, providing employment to people. The mega herbal and food park at Tezpur has already started production, commencing a few months back. He addressed the people along with Union Minister Babul Supriyo at Guwahati on April 3, performing yogas at the main venue of the festival. This event was delayed by two hours in the evening due to a severe hailstorm. On April 4, in the morning, Zubin Garg, noted singer of Assam enthralled the audience, making people spellbound by his soulful rendition at Pragjyoti ITA Centre for performing arts, Guwahati. On that day a tripartite agreement was signed between the Assam government, Inland Waterways Authority of India and National Highways Authority of India for dredging the river Brahmaputra. It was done in the presence of Nitin Gadkari, Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways and Shipping, Sarbananda Sonowal and other dignitaries. N. Biren Singh, Chief Minister, Manipur was also present. To boost trade with South Asian countries, the Brahmaputra National waterway (ii) would connect Haldia port in West Bengal and Chittagong portion Bangladesh to change the entire economic scenario of Assam. The government of Assam has thanked all the sections of the society for making Namami Brahmaputra festival a grand success. Visualising the concept, the government of Assam harnessed all manpower and resources for achieving overwhelming response, making it a success. The entire world took notice of the limitless potential in trade, tourism and culture, demanding to organise this festival every year.