Namami Brahmaputra: A festival like never before in Assam

With a guest list of international stature and performances by priests from various temple towns of the country, the festival connects the north-east to the rest of the country.

Even heavy rainfalls have not been able to dampen the spirit of celebrating the river Brahmaputra in Assam.

Lakhs of visitors from across the state and the country are already visiting Guwahati and various locations identified for celebrating 'Namami Brahmaputra', the festival of the river.

'The Namami Brahmaputra River Festival', the biggest river festival of India in the North East was inaugurated by President Pranab Mukherjee in presence of Bhutan's Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay and Chief Minister of Assam Sarbananda Sonowal.

The Namami Brahmaputra Festival which will continue till April 4 will comprise of several cultural programmes including traditional exhibitions and film shows.

This river festival is organised in the 21 districts of Assam through which the mighty Brahmaputra river flows.

The river is intrinsic to the economic and socio-cultural aspects of the state.

An overwhelmed Sarbananda Sonowal could not stop thanking the 14th Dalai Lama for gracing the festival and blessing the people and state of Assam.

Himanta Biswa Sarma, Finance, Education, Tourism, Health and Family Welfare Minster of Assam said, 'What incredibly delightful enthusiasm of the people of assam. We are indebted to the mighty Brahmaputra for nurturing our culture and enriching Assam's lifeline. In reverence, we celebrate Namami Brahmaputra.'

The cost of the festival has already run into several crores and landed the festivities into controversy too.

Former Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has questioned the use of public money for such events.

'Namami Ganga Festival was celebrated to accelerate the cleaning of the sewage and industrial wastes from the Ganga river so that people could benefit from it but here, Namami Festival is organised just for the sake of merry making. Brahmaputra is responsible for erosion, floods and making thousands of people homeless, landless leading to deaths in the area. It affects the whole economy. Assam's economy has been badly affected by Brahmaputra floods and every year we lose around 8000 hectares of land. Already, we have lost around 4 lakh hectares of land. We do not want a festival but a rejuvenation of Brahmaputra so that the Assam economy gets benefitted, people get benefitted in navigation as well as in river transportation," said Tarun Gogoi.

Senior IAS officer at the helm of affairs of the entire festivities Ashutosh Agnihotri exclaimed, 'The gathering on the banks of river Brahmaputra across the state is unseen and unheard of in the history of Assam. This is a new and beautiful beginning of paying more respect to the river and nature.'

The entire city of Guwahati is illuminated and streets are full of people celebrating the life and livelihood the river has given them over the centuries.

With a guest list of international stature and 'aarti' performances by priests from various temple towns of the country, including Varanasi, this is perhaps a unique way of connecting the north-east to the rest of the country.

Despite the political differences between the political parties, this festival is a victory of the river and not the revered.

(With inputs from Anuraag Baruah in Guwahati)