Shillong beckons visitors as autumn gives way to winter

SHILLONG: Before giving way to winter in the hills, the season of fun and festivity has a lot in more to offer. The three-day annual Shillong Autumn Festival with the theme 'Experiencing the North East', will kick off on November 4.

"With more and more involvement of communities, we are endeavoring to turn this into a truly peoples' festival," said Robert G Lyngdoh, chairman of theMeghalaya Tourism Development Forum (MTDF), which is organizing the gala festival in collaboration with the Meghalaya Tourism Department and The Times of India Group along with others.

The popular festival will begin with 'Shillong Street Carnival' involving localities, schools and colleges besides performances by cultural troupes from the eight northeastern states. The carnival will include a cultural parade, float parade followed by fetes and festivities to conclude the carnival at the Shillong Club.

"All the localities of Shillong are invited to set up stall at the venue at subsidized rates," said Lyngdoh, adding that the MTDF was keen on reviving the tradition of the popular fetes in the city. "The theme for the carnival parade will be 'Shillong'," he said as he informed that there would be attractive prize money for the participants.

On November 5 and 6, the festival will shift to the scenic Orchid Lake Resort at Umiam (Barapani) for the grand finale. "All the states of the region will be represented in mega 'haats' constructed at the resort against the backdrop of a lake surrounded by verdant hills and blue sky. Sunday, the penultimate day of the festival, would be a 'family day', when no alcohol would be sold at the venue," said Larsing M Sawian, president of the Forum.

The North East Cultural Extravaganza would showcase the famous Manipuri Krishna Ballet, Pong Cholam and Thang-ta martial arts display. Other performances would include the sensual Hojaigiri dance from Tripura, Snow Lion dance from Sikkim and traditional games from Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland and performances by Garo and Khasi drummers.

"This year, the festival would also feature some unique performances by the North Central Zone Cultural Centre, featuring 103 dancers from Rajasthan, UttarPradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar," he informed. A fashion show by eminent designers and models from the northeast, including Bonney Darrang from Arunachal, Nandini from Assam, Daisy Momin from Tura and Keds from Nagaland would be showcased during the event.

The festival will also include entertainment in the form of adventure sports, fashion and music. "This year, visitors will witness never before seen acro flights at Umiam by ace para-glider pilots from France," Sawian said.

Prominent bands and musicians from the region and other parts of the country would entertain the visitors. The bands would include Shaiir 'N' Funk, Raghu Dixit, Reuben Mashangvaand besides the homegrown 4thElement, Streets Stories and Dossers Urge and others.

"The festival will also be an epicurean experience displaying a variety of brews and dishes of the northeast. There will be stalls of the brews from the region, local fruit wine and mouthwatering cuisines," one of the organizers said.

The Shillong Autumn Festival, which has been gaining widespread popularity over the years, attempts to showcase the diverse culture, cuisine and products of the northeast, which boasts of as many as 166 tribes and sub-tribes under one roof. It is aimed at creating a 'melting pot' and an atmosphere that reflects the natural beauty, culture and traditional products in one venue and give the visitor a taste of the exotic region.