The Basar Confluence made us selfish. In the course of its three days, we experienced a beautiful perfection. It took possession of our hearts. So much so, that we wanted to keep the Basar Confluence, Bascon for short, a secret all to ourselves. So it would stay just the way it does right now – in our hearts.
But then, what would we have learnt from the people of Basar who created this festival with one powerful element – their love for Basar, their traditions and their life. And don’t they say love only grows when shared?
So here we are, sharing this precious treasure called the Basar Confluence.
The magical location of the Basar Confluence
When we heard the name Basar Confluence, we assumed the name indicated a confluence of culture, art and traditions, which was broadly the idea of the festival. But the name also had a literal meaning to it. The venue of the Basar Confluence was at the point of confluence of the two rivers, Hei and Kidi, flowing through Basar.
On a huge open ground, the two rivers sealed two sides and a thicket of bamboo and palms covered the other two. Rice fields, ready for harvest and glowing golden in the mellow winter sun were spread out in between. In the middle was a rich flourish of colours, dance, music and fun.
Basar Confluence was a plastic-free zone
When the first sign we saw even before we entered the venue of the Basar Confluence was a board saying “Bascon 3.0 is a plastic free zone”, we knew this was a serious commitment to make Bascon a stand out eco-friendly festival.
This was further validated by a water filling station right outside the welcome arch. They would check your bags and empty any throwaway plastic bags into eco-friendly containers made of bamboo. Even inside the venue, there was a water station. The bamboo mugs had a sling attached to them so you could conveniently carry these mugs over your shoulders and just refill them at the water station.
But what made our eyes pop out were entire structures made of bamboo – the bridges to cross the Hei and Kidi rivers, benches to chill by the rivers, the media watchtowers, the seating enclosure for the invitees, the tree house to get a bird’s eye view of Bascon, even the main stage, were all made from bamboo.
The dining area had bamboo food stalls. Food was served on leaf plates. Here too, they had the bamboo mugs for water. We could then discard the leaves in a dug up pit.
All of this, every single detail was designed and built by the people of Basar themselves. Wholeheartedly. Lovingly. Voluntarily.
When they had said the Basar Confluence was a plastic-free, eco-friendly festival we hadn’t expected to see their commitment to this level.
Different sections of the Basar Confluence venue – a well thought out design
While the main ground and the stage were dedicated to cultural performances, songs and dances there were other aspects to the Basar Confluence that shed light on the overall lifestyle of the people here.
Galo is the dominant tribe of Basar. Mainly into agriculture, the Galo people have traditionally worshipped the sun and the moon – Donyi Polo is the term used. There was a dedicated Agri Tourism section with real rice fields. Women were busy harvesting the crop and let us participate in the activity. They showed us how they would husk the crop and eventually store for use through the year.
The textile section demonstrated the traditional weaving methods. It is common even now for women to weave beautiful shawls and skirts at home. We could see how these colourful patterns are delicately woven and if we wanted to we could even buy some to get back home.
An interesting aspect of the Basar Confluence, which we are yet to see at any other festival is the Artist Residency. Six artists were tastefully curated by Phoenix Rising after assessing the many applications received this year. They had spent a month in Basar prior to the festival, interacting with the people, trying to understand their lives and their stories. At the Basar Confluence, the artists – a writer, filmmaker, photographer, musician, installation artist and a painter, demonstrated their creations in a tastefully decorated Artist’s Corner.
When all the fun at the Basar Confluence tired you out you could just climb up for some rest and respite at the treehouse, order some barbecued meats and poka from the food stall up there and let the palm forest and paddy fields soothe you.
Then there was the traditional games section. We had been seeing young guys trying to scale a tall bamboo pole, sort of like Malkhamb but much higher, since day 1 of the Basar Confluence. Then there was a pole to which a rope was tied at the top with the other end to the ground. Many had tried to climb up this rope to reach its other end, at the top of a bamboo pole. All of this culminated into an inter-village traditional sports competition.
The first game was called Nyarka Hinam. A fat bamboo, around 5 feet long was held at the two ends by the two competitors, standing inside a circle. Each would try to shove the other out of the circle by pushing the bamboo.
Then there was traditional archery, know as Geppe Abnam in the Galo language. The target for the archers was an egg kept in the centre of a hole in the mud wall in front. If they made the egg yolk run, they would be the winners. It was super fun seeing the archers, young and old, try their hand at breaking the egg, but none succeeded.
The most fiercely competed event was the tug of war. Groups from different villages of Basar – Gori, Nyigam, Bam, Padi – participated. The referees had to keep a strict watch on the lines to make sure both teams were competing fairly. Amidst loud cheering by the surrounding crowds, the teams fought hard to make their village win.
The most fun sport though was the traditional fishing. The venue for this had shifted from the Basar Confluence ground to the Si river of the Gori 2 village. By the time we reached there, some men were busy pounding a tree bark to a pulp. It was the bark of the Taneer tree. Found only in a few select forests, very few of the Galo tribe now can identify this tree. Its speciality is that once pounded, it secretes a sap which when released in water temporarily numbs the fish in the river, making them easy to catch.
Though much healthier than industrial farming of fish, this technique of fishing is no longer practised. It was included in the events of the Basar Confluence only for demonstration. But if mindfully practised, this could be a healthy all natural fishing practice without damaging the ecosystem of the river.
Cultural performances at the Basar Confluence
Of course, the cultural performances were the mainstay of the Basar Confluence. They played the main role in introducing us to the Galo way of life that the people of Basar follow. There was the Galo Ponu, a welcome dance performed by the women. Nyida Parik introduced us to the war dance of the Galo men. A beautiful showcase of their main festival, the Mopin, let us experience the Mopin even in November. The mega Galo dance performed simultaneously by over two hundred women from all the participating villages of Basar looked lovely, a strong metaphor for what the Basar Confluence represented – growing forward together.
In addition to the Galo performances, artists from other districts of Arunachal Pradesh showcased the traditions of other tribes. There were troupes from the Ziro valley, the Tirap district as well as a Snow Lion dance performed by a troupe from Tawang. These human-lions running around the Bascon grounds had us in splits with their shenanigans. Artist groups from other states of the Northeast – Assam, Manipur and Tripura had also come to perform at the Basar Confluence.
We learnt of the various “mantras” called Yaan sung by the Galo people for different celebratory occasions. While a group sang a marriage Yaan, an old grandmother sang a beautiful lullaby sung in all Galo homes to the little babies.
By evening the venue of the Basar Confluence would transform into a concert ground where we swayed to Galo numbers. There is a sweetness to this language and though we didn’t know a word of the lyrics we were one with the music. As David and the band belted out the rock versions of traditional Galo folk songs, the crowd went berserk. It was only after his performance did we realise that our throats had gone dry as well, yelling and chanting his numbers. We hadn’t even realised at what point we had turned from silent spectators to an enchanted roaring audience. While Nikom Riba’s romantic numbers turned everyone’s hearts gooey, Jeli and the band’s energy was electrifying. And when despite the highly excited audience, the organisers disallowed a Bollywood number, it was confirmed that the people behind the Basar Confluence had their hearts in the right place.
The people at the Basar Confluence
We loved that the local people were at the Basar Confluence in large numbers. We felt like we were celebrating their life, with them. It was a great opportunity was us to mingle with them, have conversations and make friends. Everyone we met was as curious about us as we were about them. They wanted to know where we had come from, what we did in our lives.
They would invariably ask what we thought of Basar. They wanted to know what we had seen, what we had eaten. They wanted us to visit more of their villages, go on more treks, see more of their forests. There was an unmissable twinkle in their eye when they spoke of Basar, and of the Galo traditions.
The people of Basar lived in harmony with their past and their traditions. No, they revelled in them. They held on to their culture with pride. Their lives were one with the nature around them. And they were eager to share this rich life with the whole wide world.
What’s the story of the Basar Confluence
The “they” we are referring to in arranging the Basar Confluence are the people of an organisation called GRK – Gumin Rvgo Kwalju with the motto, “A Collaboration Of Positive Minds For Social Growth”. A group of working professionals originally from Basar came together with the intention of overall social development of Basar. The Basar Confluence was one of the means they devised to bring exposure to this beautiful region and generate economic development through tourism.
While the first edition of the Basar Confluence had only 2 villages of Basar participating, this year’s edition Bascon 3.0 saw the participation of 32 villages all of which were positively impacted by the efforts of GRK. Every village we saw was spic and span, not even a stray piece of paper was seen strewn around. Each one had dustbins in the village. The people were actively involved in nature conservation, against hunting and poaching. Every child, irrespective of gender, went to school. Many youngsters we met had come to Basar just to contribute to the Basar Confluence. They were otherwise doing their graduation or post graduation in other parts of the country.
This overall atmosphere of progress and positivity was refreshing and addictive.
Basar Confluence, in the end, turned out to be a confluence of hearts – of the people of Basar and ours. As we said our goodbyes, our hearts were heavy and our eyes were moist. Basar had been a land of warm welcomes and friendships. Of beauty and love. We had left a piece of our hearts in Basar and were carrying a bit of Basar back in our hearts.
Basar Confluence was a beautiful gift from the beautiful people of Basar to the whole world.
FAQs on Basar
- When is the Basar Confluence or Bascon held?
The dates for the Basar Confluence were 19-21 November in 2018. The organisers are planning to keep these dates fixed every year. Once we receive confirmation, we will update accordingly.
- Where is Basar and how to reach Basar?
Basar is the headquarters of the newly minted LePa Rada district in Arunachal Pradesh. The newly opened bridge at Bogibeel over the Brahmaputra river has made access to Basar even easier. The easiest way to reach Basar is to fly into Dibrugarh and then drive to Basar. The nearest railhead is Silapathar. Ahead of the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border at Likabali, road widening work is on at the moment making the drive fairly bumpy. But soon we will be driving on a wide smooth highway.
Map for direction from Dibrugarh to Basar
- Where can we stay in Basar?
There are fully functional homestays in various villages of Basar. Have a look at the GRK website and the official website of the Basar Confluence for the details.
- What else is there to do in Basar besides attending the Basar Confluence?
Lots. Exploring unheard of villages, enjoying the Galo hospitality in the homestays, jungle walks, treks to waterfalls, caves and haunted places, bird watching, photography, expanding your palette – the options are boundless.
We shall be forever grateful to the organisers of Basar Confluence for hosting us and letting us have such a special experience.