Hello From Dwijing!

After my recent trip to Bodoland with the Bodoland Ambassador Program S02, I am back with yet again, another story, another adventure and another experience, from a completely unexplored destination in India – BODOLAND! I am opening my Bodoland series with a blog post on one of the coolest festivals in the country – the Dwijing Festival. I hope you like it!

The Dwijing Festival is an annual winter festival hosted on the bank of river ‘Aie’ in the Chirang district of Bodoland, Assam. ‘Dwi’ means ‘river’ and ‘Jing’ means ‘bank’. Thus, the name Dwijing. This festival saw its first ray of light in the year 2016-2017 when the Bodo community themselves organised it under the name “Aie River Winter Festival”. The festival received such a massive response and a huge footfall that it grabbed a spot on the annual celebration calendar of Assam. Today, the Assam Tourism Department and the Bodoland Territorial Council jointly promote the Dwijing Festival as Assam’s biggest annual festival.

Hello From Dwijing!

A Concoction of Art, Music, Food and Shopping

The Dwijing Festival is a true reflection of the culture of the Bodo people and the Assamese. It is here where the locals come together to bid goodbye to their woes and start their new year with a festive-like celebration. The festival usually runs for 10 days from the last week of December up until the first week of January. And the size of the river bank shall not be underestimated! Spanning over several acres of land, the festival ground is so vast that it almost seems like it kisses the horizon. It is that big!

When I first entered the Dwijing Festival, I couldn’t help but wonder in awe as I walked on the grey sands of the bed of a river that once kissed the Hagrama Bridge during monsoon. Where was I? What was this vast expanse of grey occasionally studded with colors? How was it possible that a river bed had been turned into a festival ground? All these questions fluttered my mind as I wandered aimlessly like a little girl lost in the woods.

Dwijing Art
Dwijing Art

It took some time for me to sink in the thought that I was actually attending a river festival for the first time in my life! There were numerous stalls on the ground and picking one was difficult. I didn’t know if I had to go over to the Art Installation section, or try some local delicacies at the food stall section, or simply sit back and watch the cultural performances on stage. I have never been this confused but this confusion brought me joy. Because there was so much to do and so many experiences to create. So, being the organized person that I am, I first went over to the Art Installation section which had portrayals of art with a powerful story or message behind it.

Art Installations

Dwijing Art

Pic Credits: Soumya Gayatri from https://www.storiesbysoumya.com/

In my travel experience, I have personally never seen any art installation at a festival. So I was curious to know what it was all about. The Art Installation section at the Dwijing Festival was closer to the entrance. One had to take a right turn  at the entrance and cross a cute little bridge after which one would see pyramids of oranges stocked by the local vendors. If you’re thinking whether or not to buy the oranges, I would say, just go for it. They will be the sweetest oranges you would have ever had in your life!

Once I reached the Art Installation section, I saw a few bizarre structures. Some were quite straight forward like the art that honored the martyrs of the Pulwama attack, and the tools used by the Bodo people in their day to day lives. Others were a bit mysterious. So I walked over to each one of them and tried to make sense of the meaning of that art and why it was created in the first place.

Dwijing Art

Tools Used by the Bodo people

The first installation that grasped my attention was that of a maze laden in green cloth with red paint on the ground. ‘What could this be?’, I thought to myself and then headed over to the board. This wonderful piece of art was dedicated to a Bodo woman who fought the conventional norms surrounding menstruation and emerged successful in doing so. This reaffirmed my faith that all it takes to bring about a change in the world, is one powerful voice.

Dwijing Art

Next, I saw colorful leaf shaped installations mounted on the scanty patches of river Aie. ‘What do they signify?’ I thought to myself. And then, I saw a small but powerful board that said ‘Let My Land Bloom’. This brought in several interpretations in my mind. Did it mean that the Bodo people wanted peace and prosperity for the rest of their lives? Did it mean that they wanted successful agricultural produce throughout the year? Or did it mean that they wanted their economy to rise to a soaring high? Irrespective of what it truly signified, leaving the visitor to take a guess could have perhaps been the motive. But ironically, this ambiguous message reinforced more clarity in my mind. Such is the power of art.

Dwijing Art

My favourite art installation was that of bamboo dust bins spanned over a small area with a message to encourage people to reduce, reuse and recycle. In fact, these dust bins are actually used all across Umswai Valley, in the tribal villages, which I came to know later after visiting them in the following week. It is so amazing to see that so many people are concerned about waste management and are bringing these messages to festivals that have a large footfall.

Dwijing Art

Food

After visiting the Art Installation section, I walked over to the food stalls with my friend. To be honest, I wasn’t comfortable eating at the festival ground because most of the foods were deep-fried and kept in the open. However, luck threw itself my way, when I found a lovely Bodo woman steaming hot rice cakes right in front of her food stall. And, they were vegan! These cakes are called ‘Pitha’ or ‘Bodoland Khek’ and are made from finely pounded rice, black sesame seeds, coconut and sugar. They taste amazing and are quite filling as well.

Dwijing Food
Pitha

Pitha

We also had ‘Sal Roti’ at a Gurkha’s stall. And boy, they were delicious! They are basically fried donuts that taste sweet. I still remember that chilly night on New Year’s Eve where my friends and I ravenously gobbled up 6-8 pieces! And the best part was that they were served with sweet radish, pickle and sesame seeds mixture. Yummm! You will also find several other vegetarian food stalls ranging from South-Indian to Rajasthani to Chinese. But make sure you pick a good one and go for something that is not kept out in the open for too long.

Sal Roti

Sal Roti

Raj Kachoris at a Rajasthani Stall

Now, although this is a vegan blog, I have to mention about the two special foods consumed by the Bodo people, which are widely present at the festival ground – silkworms and pigeons! Yes. The Bodo people consume silkworms as a delicacy, and pigeon and pork as a part of their meal. If you are someone who is adventurous and keen on trying different foods, the Dwijing Festival ground will be a perfect place for you!

Dwijing Food

Stir-fried Silkworms!

BBQ Pigeon

BBQ Pigeon

Shopping

Alrighty, if you are someone who likes to pick an outfit or a souvenir from every place that you travel to, I have some good news for you. The Dwijing Festival is a hub for all the shopaholics who want to indulge in some rich and traditional Bodo designs and take back home something memorable. When I visited the Dwijing Festival, I scoured every stall to find that one perfect crop jacket with the traditional design of the Bodo. And I did! I found my place near the backstage and treated myself to a blue-violet crop jacket with a yellow and red Bodo design.

Dwijing Festival
Dwijing Art

The Jacket That I Bought

Apart from clothes, you can also buy organic tea, home decor made from bamboo, and jute bags. Keep in mind that the Bodo people cultivate bamboo, tea, jute and silk and if you buy any of these products, you will be helping them improve their livelihood. If you are vegan, you can avoid silk and buy the other products instead.

Sports

Dwijing Festival

Pic Credits: Jimmy Kamballur at https://www.instagram.com/jimmykamballur/

The Dwijing Festival took me by surprise when I found a boxing ring inside the premises. ‘Do they have boxing matches here?’ I exclaimed. How cool is that! In fact, we did watch a couple of matches where men and women competed aggressively for the winner’s title. Apart from boxing, there were other activities too such as hot-air balloon riding, paragliding, helicopter riding and river rafting. If you’re a sports junkie and are interested in some fun adventure sports and other activities, you will definitely not be disappointed. The Dwijing Festival caters to the adrenaline need of all you sports enthusiasts!

Dwijing Fest

Celebrity Performances

The Dwijing Festival deserves quite a mention for its stage performances. From traditional dance performances to fashion shows to live music performances by the top artists of the country, this river festival has all of its Bodo people rocking and grooving at their cultural fiesta. The energy soars to an all new high and the crowds go mad in the chilly weather.

Dwijing

We were quite lucky to witness the performance of Assam’s renowned folk singer Kalpana Patowary at the festival. She is a very famous Indian singer who trained under the tutelage of the legendary singer Ustad Gulam Mustafa Khan. She has sung in more than 30 languages although Bhojpuri has been her most dedicated foray. On 31st night of 2019, we danced and grooved to her traditional folk music and welcomed 2020 with an open arm to embrace music of all cultures.

Kalpana Patowary Performing

Kalpana Patowary Performing on Stage

The Dwijing Festival also invites Bollywood celebrities ever year. This year, they invited the infamous duo Vishal Shekar, the fabulous Mika Singh, the funny Kiku Sharda and the talented Neeti Mohan. All in all, if you are someone who wants to sit back and watch the cultural performances on stage while soaking in the beauty of the tradition, or glue yourself to the stage as the singers uproot the energy from your veins, the Dwijing Festival certainly seems to be promising and should be on your list as your next must-visit festival in the country.

Dates of the Festival

The Dwijing Festival usually runs from the 27th of December to the 7th or 8th of January, every year. The duration of the festival ranges from 10 – 12 days with new activities and performances planned for each day. For more details about the fest, check out the official Dwijing Fest website.

Dwijing Fest

How to Get There

In order to reach the festival ground, you will have to first arrive at Bongaigaon and then drive to the festival ground. Bongaigaon is a major city of Assam in the Chirang district of BTAD. From Guwahati, there are two ways of arriving at Bongaigaon:

  1. By Train: The distance from Guwahati to Bongaigaon is approximately 150 km and the journey takes about 2.5 hours. For more details visit the Indian Rail Info website.
  2. By Car: The distance from Guwahati to Bongaigaon is approximately 184 km and the journey takes about 4 hours. You can either rent a car or drive to the destination.

If you are arriving from other states or cities other than Guwahati, then the best option would be to take a train to Bongaigaon.

Dwijing Fest

Pic Credits: Utkarsh from http://www.thesoultrails.com/

Where to Stay

Here are some of the best hotels to stay at when you’re in Bongaigaon:

  1. Cygnett Park Meghna: If you’re looking for comfort, luxury and great food, look no further and book this 4-star property in Bongaigaon. It has a swimming pool, a gym, and a spa, and is also quite close to the festival ground. Click here to book Cygnett Park Meghna.
  2. Hotel Himalaya: This is a 3-star property with good amenities and good reviews on the Booking.com website. Click here to book Hotel Himalaya.

Since Bongaigaon is relatively unexplored, there are very few options for stay. I have recommended only those which have good reviews and where we stayed at when we visited Bongaigaon. If you want to check out other non-reviewed stay options, click here.

Featured Image - Dwijing Festival

Disclosure:

This post contains affiliate links to the Booking.com website, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you book the hotel through my website. This will help me travel and keep my blog running at no extra cost to you. I will always be grateful for your support, thank you!