THE AFTERMATH OF THE KARBI YOUTH FESTIVAL

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by: Amphu Terangpi
Rongtharve, Diphu

The Karbi Youth Festival is one of the largestethnic festivalsheld in north-east India. It is done by the Karbi tribe, in their main town of Diphu in Karbi Anglong Assam. This festival is very energetic, and gracefulspirits of the tribe perform several cultural events at this festival. The art and crafts of the local Karbi artists are also displayedduring this festival. It is held in the month of February, but the main events of the festival take place within four days, from the 15th to the 19th.

The festival takes place in Taralangso, on the outskirts of Diphu town. It is a beautiful landscape filled with greentrees, plants and beautiful streams by the hill side. People from all across north-east India as well as mainlandIndia, and sometimeseven from foreign countries,travel long distances to see this festival in Taralangso.

This festival is animportant occasion for theKarbi tribe.Held in the month of February, it celebratesthe’Karbi New Year’ which fallson the 1stof the month. Many other major festivalsof the Karbisare also heldevery year on the same date in Karbi Anglong. This festival was first introducedin 1977 by the Karbi Cultural Society.And since then, it has been heldevery year in the beautiful town of Diphu. The entire population of the Karbis try andattend this festival, in order to experiencethe authentic heritage and culture of their ancestors. Cultural performances are held by the young Karbimen and women during this festival. The cultural artefacts, arts and handicrafts made by the local Karbi artists,available during this festival, also make for an important tourist attraction. One can experience the traditional folk dances, music, drama, ethnic food, drinks, arts and crafts, textiles, cultural exhibitions, and a lot more. Beside the traditional events, there are alsomore contemporary events includingrock concerts, fashion shows, beauty pageants and body building shows… And muchmore‚Ķ.

The local craftsmen, folk musicians, dancers and weaversare the centre of attraction during this festival. So for them, this festival is a big opportunityto showcase their skills and traditions that they have inherited from their ancestral generations. However, after the festival, where do they have to go? How can they continue their traditions? Does it resolve their financial troubles for a year?Can they afford to continue practicing their craft? The fact is that, after the festival they all go back to their own villages and hometowns. There is no platform for them to continue their art and craft. They either work day jobs, or work as labour, or farm their lands,in order to sustain their own livelihood.Throughout the year, they do not get a single opportunity to work, discuss, share and hone their skills with other artists and craftsmen. What can we do for them? Can weestablish an institution where they can teach their skillsto youngsters andanyone who wants to learn? Will people be willing to go to their rural areas, tolearn their skills and traditions,and also be willing to financially reward the teachers? What can be other possibilities, which we can do, to help the folk artisans in these rural areas? They are so talented in their own fields, but it is difficult for them to show the path to the new generation of Karbis. If we continue to neglect it, the traditional arts and crafts of the Karbis will gradually will perish away in the generations to come.

Even on the grounds of the festival, at Taralangso, have you seen what they do with the art that had so gloriously adorned the festival for a week? They ruin the beauty of the festival, as soonas the festivitiesare over.In fact, sometimes they don’t even wait till it’s over? The art installations are burnt to the ground, and the ethnic architectural structures are all destroyed.All the work that the artists had spent so much time and effort over, to represent our rich heritage, are mercilessly turned to ashes. Even the bamboo bridge, on which we halted for a while, absorbing the beauty of the stream below and the valleys beside, is thoughtlessly brought down.Is it such a big problem to let good things stay in our place? This year in KYF, a beautiful sculpture of a Praying Mantis was built as an installation art, in front of the entrance gate of The Traditional Exhibition Complex. The art was a representation of our tribe’s connection with nature. The little praying mantis, which we often see climbing around the leaves on our beautiful hills, was beautifully presented as an emblem of our nature loving tribe. But as soon as the festival was over, the Mantis where burnt within a minute.

Aren’t we being stupid to commit such a sin.Should we grow flowers when guests arrive, and kill them after the guests are gone? The flower does not hinder us, but still we destroy it so meaninglessly. Analogically, we should not destroy the beauty of the festival. Let the art, architecture, and the beautythat comes with it remain even after the festival. Taralangso is the heart of the Karbi tribe. If we do not understand itsartistic and aesthetic value, then what will be the future of our tribe? How willwe lead our younger generations and teach them about our rich heritage?