Harmony in the face of Diversity
We take great pride in proclaiming the diversity of our country, especially our region – the northeastern periphery of India. The different tribes and communities – both indigenous as well as those from outside – and their own distinct traditions manage to lend an altogether different charm to the entire place. At the same time, with so many different groups of people living together and sharing various aspects of their daily life, and given the immense diversity in thoughts and belief systems of these different sets of people, some amount of discord is bound to creep in. But the very fact that people here have been living in harmony and mutual understanding for generations altogether, notwithstanding rare, sporadic and inevitable conflicts of thoughts and idealism, adds to the singular aspects of our society.
Stressing the need to acknowledge the positive aspects of our culture and society, a unique cultural festival was held in the commercial capital of Nagaland, Dimapur, last month. Organized to mark the 60th anniversary celebrations of Naga Council, Dimapur, the two-day festival was based on the theme of harmony and brotherhood. The event, which invoked mass participation and support from people of the different tribes and communities of Nagaland, was a cultural extravaganza in the truest sense of the term, and saw the participation of 19 different tribes and communities living in the city. Though it is not every day that you get to hear of such unique initiatives I felt the choice of the festival’s theme was apt, especially with Dimapur being a melting pot of people of diverse communities – be it any of the 16 indigenous tribes of Nagaland, Marwari traders, migrants from the northern part of the country or elsewhere, Tibetans, Muslims, Nepalis and the like.
Having been invited to judge the traditional food competition there, I was simply left awestruck by the mellifluous and grand display of cultures and traditions. Right from the display and presentation of folk dances and folk music of the different communities; from ethnic fashion shows to ethnic cuisine competitions; from Classical music to rock concerts, the two-day festival had it all.
Now one might ask: what was so special about this festival? After all, almost all communities and tribes host their own festivals – be it dance, music, cuisine, fashion, et al – at regular intervals. True, and this is what makes this particular festival stand out. Dimapur – one of the fastest growing cosmopolitan cities of the region – has, till date, never seen such a huge conglomeration of tribes and communities gathering together for the cause of peace and harmony. And the Naga Council, which has been working tirelessly to spread the message of peace and reconciliation in the strife-torn State of Nagaland, is undoubtedly the most appropriate body for the job.
Established in 1949, the Naga Council, Dimapur is a leading conglomeration of 19 Dimapur-based Naga tribes, viz. Angami, Ao, Anal, Chakhesang, Chang, Lotha, Mao, Khiamniungan, Konyak, Phom, Pochury, Poumai, Rengma, Rongmei, Sangtam, Sema, Tangkhul, Yinchungru, Zelians, and two organizations – Dimapur Naga Students Union (DNSU) and Dimapur Naga Women Hoho (DNWH). With a membership base of 7,00,000 members, the council today is considered as an institution, in its own right, that promotes harmony, peace and justice, free from any political affiliations. Over the last six decades, the council has effectively dealt with much of Dimapur’s social turmoils, thanks to the hard work and sacrifices of the tribal leaders to promote unity among the people of different tribes and communities.
The efforts of Naga Council, Dimapur towards peace and reconciliation, and the success it has achieved, never ceases to amaze. In his welcome speech at the festival, Naga Council president Savi Legise had remarked: “A truly amazing streaks runs in the Naga Council. Every single tribe has a unique character, taste and inclination. It is not easy, and neither is it expected in a cauldron of 19 tribes, to see eye to eye on every issue. Yet, at the Naga Council, a strange force binds the member tribes together, forming a major patriarch commanding sway over how justice and equality must flow to every group, tribe and individual. Even I am amazed at times to see how tribes under the banner of the Council have learnt to tide over conflicts so well. This is the beauty of unity in diversity, the beauty of brotherhood. For us, trust and respect for each other is a two-way traffic. This is why accidents and collision hardly take place. This is the beauty of the presence of God amongst us.”
Nagaland Chief Minister Nephiu Rio was the Chief Guest for the cultural extravaganza, which began with the blowing of traditional horns and an enthralling performance by the Nagaland Chamber Choir. While the folk dance competition kicked off soon thereafter, another interesting event was taking place in another part of the Urban Haat Cultural Complex – the venue for the two-day festival. I am talking about the ethnic cuisine competition, which was surely a veritable delight for the taste buds as well as the senses. As we moved around the different food stalls sampling the different gastronomic delights laid out before us – some appealing, some not-so-appealing and some downright repulsing – I was once again acquainted with the immense diversity of our region, and was thankful for the thread of unity which binds us all. More on the gastronomic delights later on! The other events of the two-day festival included a traditional attire competition, folk music competition, exhibition stalls of the different tribes and communities, a recital by Nise Meruno, a musical rendezvous programme and a rock show concert. Nagaland governor Nikhil Kumar formally brought the event to an end by distributing the prizes to the winning troupes of the different competitions.
The 60th anniversary celebration of Naga Council, Dimapur was indeed a magnificent display of traditions and cultural heritage. While it is true that the Naga Council’s commitment towards maintaining peace and reconciliation among the different tribes and communities of the State cannot be imitated, I feel we can all take a leaf from their recent festival and start nourishing the spirit of brotherhood and harmony with our brothers and immediate neighbours. I don’t think there can be any better way to welcome in this festive season. Wish you all a merry Christmas!
Posted on January 15, 2010, in Concerts/ Reviews and tagged Aiyushman Dutta, culture, dimapur, food, naga, naga council, north east cuisine, northeast india, traditions. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.