The Festival of India gets off to a roaring start with a salute to the colourful northeastern state
The Festival of India in Thailand began spectacularly this month with “Celebrating Assam” at the Grand Millennium Hotel, highlighting the art, culture and fashion of the exotic state of Assam in northeast India.
It’s a region visited several years ago by Her Royal Highness Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, and the festival itself is this year commemorating the Princess’ 60th birthday.
Indian Ambassador Harsh Shringla declared in his opening address that this year’s festival would show “young, contemporary India” rather than the traditional India that forms its usual focus.
And for that reason the chief guest at the opening was the dynamic young parliamentarian from Assam, Gaurav Gogoi, son of the state’s chief minister.
Gogoi said he was proud to “represent the hopes and aspirations of young India” and to be a member of the Ahoum tribal community, many of whom speak in a Thai dialect called Tai. Having brought a delegation of farmers to Bangkok recently, he was also proud that his home state was being celebrated in a country he loved and admired.
The event presented the best of Assamese music, dance and fashion, bringing the best artists in their respective fields.
Acclaimed dance guru Dr Mallika Khandali, who has performed in numerous countries around the world, performed the opening Satriya classical dance, while Madhurima Chaudhury and her well-known troupe presented the colourful Shih and Jhumur dances.
The musicians included the outstanding violinist Sunita Bhuyan, who has done everything from corporate workshops and music therapy to multinational projects. Versatile singer Mrinmoyee Goswami, who has performed with the top bands of India, sang both folk and pop at the opening.
The highlight of the evening was a scintillating fashion show by three top designers in Assam – Meghna Rai Medhi, Kankana Kanwar and Payal Goswami. The textiles included local cotton in the characteristic Assamese off-white tone and the rich, lustrous Assamese muga, sador, tussar and paat silks.
The exquisite weaves and thread-work were striking, as were the unique motifs and designs. What was interesting to see were the new ways to wear a traditional outfit like the sari, the sensual cuts of the blouses, the use of ethnic stoles and sarongs. The exotic Assamese Mekhela Sador half-sari has become a rage in India, while the two-piece full sari is in demand in Dubai and London.
As for contemporary wear, the cigarette-pants were exciting, not to mention the short skirts, long jackets and sleek dresses. The outstanding jewellery was another highlight, including the dud dud gi gold jewellery with its splendid lukparoh peacock and other designs.
It was indeed a brilliant display of the cultural and sartorial riches of this little-known Indian state. The entire event was organised by the North East India Fashion and Design Council, whose founding president, Medha Saikia, and her team have raised the fashion industry in their state to a dazzling level by spotting talent, training models and giving full support to the fashion designers and craftsmen.
The Festival of India in Thailand has three major cultural performances this month, all presented without admission charge.
The Raghu Dixit World Music Concert at CentralWorld on Tuesday introduced an exciting and innovative band that plays folk, rock and ethnic music sung in diverse languages.
On Friday at the Aksra Theatre the outstanding dance production “Sari”, by one of the most acclaimed artists in India, Daksha Sheth, encompassed classical and martial dance forms as well as a unique aerial technique.
The show told the story of the evolution of the famed Indian sari, backed by evocative music, lighting and stage design created by her Australian composer-husband Devissaro.
Next Sunday, March 22, sees the Indian Fun Fair at Thammasat University, opening at 3pm. The highlight will be a performance by the folk-music ensemble Rajasthan Josh, whose rich and vibrant repertoire includes Punjabi, Rajasthani and Sufi rhythms.
The Fun Fair will have all the ingredients of a great Indian mela, as country fairs are known there, with a huge range of food, fashion and craft stalls, all set up by Bangkok’s dynamic Indian Social Club.
Coming up next month is an art mega-event, and in May there’ll be a writers’ meet which Princess Sirindhorn will attend.
The Festival of India is organised by the Embassy of India and Teamwork Arts in cooperation with Chulalongkorn University.
For full details, see www.FestivalOfIndiaInThailand.com