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The Basar Confluence made us selfish. In the course of its three days, we experienced a beautiful perfection. It took possession of our hearts. So much so, that we wanted to keep the Basar Confluence, Bascon for short, a secret all to ourselves. So it would stay just the way it does right now – in our hearts.

But then, what would we have learnt from the people of Basar who created this festival with one powerful element – their love for Basar, their traditions and their life. And don’t they say love only grows when shared?

BasCon, Basar, Arunachal Pradesh, India

So here we are, sharing this precious treasure called the Basar Confluence.

The magical location of the Basar Confluence

When we heard the name Basar Confluence, we assumed the name indicated a confluence of culture, art and traditions, which was broadly the idea of the festival. But the name also had a literal meaning to it. The venue of the Basar Confluence was at the point of confluence of the two rivers, Hei and Kidi, flowing through Basar.

On a huge open ground, the two rivers sealed two sides and a thicket of bamboo and palms covered the other two. Rice fields, ready for harvest and glowing golden in the mellow winter sun were spread out in between. In the middle was a rich flourish of colours, dance, music and fun.

Venue of the Basar Confluence or Bascon in Arunachal Pradesh, India
Venue of the Basar Confluence or Bascon in Arunachal Pradesh, India
Look at these benches made of bamboo!
Venue of the Basar Confluence or BasCon, Basar, Arunachal Pradesh, India

Basar Confluence was a plastic-free zone

When the first sign we saw even before we entered the venue of the Basar Confluence was a board saying “Bascon 3.0 is a plastic free zone”, we knew this was a serious commitment to make Bascon a stand out eco-friendly festival.

This was further validated by a water filling station right outside the welcome arch. They would check your bags and empty any throwaway plastic bags into eco-friendly containers made of bamboo. Even inside the venue, there was a water station. The bamboo mugs had a sling attached to them so you could conveniently carry these mugs over your shoulders and just refill them at the water station.

A board announcing the the Basar Confluence was a plastic free zone at BasCon, Basar, Arunachal Pradesh, India
Map illustration created by the super talented Jene Hai from Basar
Ecofriendly reusable bamboo mugs at BasCon, Basar, Arunachal Pradesh, India
Water filling station at the Basar Confluence, BasCon, Basar, Arunachal Pradesh, India

But what made our eyes pop out were entire structures made of bamboo – the bridges to cross the Hei and Kidi rivers, benches to chill by the rivers, the media watchtowers, the seating enclosure for the invitees, the tree house to get a bird’s eye view of Bascon, even the main stage, were all made from bamboo.

Bamboo bridge at BasCon, Basar, Arunachal Pradesh, India
Bamboo bridge at BasCon, Basar, Arunachal Pradesh, India
Tree house made of bamboo at the venue of the Basar Confluence, BasCon, Basar, Arunachal Pradesh, India
Galo woman drinking water during fieldwork, Basar, Arunachal Pradesh, India

The dining area had bamboo food stalls. Food was served on leaf plates. Here too, they had the bamboo mugs for water. We could then discard the leaves in a dug up pit.

Food is served on leaf plates in food stalls built with bamboo at the Basar Confluence, BasCon, Basar, Arunachal Pradesh, India

All of this, every single detail was designed and built by the people of Basar themselves. Wholeheartedly. Lovingly. Voluntarily.

When they had said the Basar Confluence was a plastic-free, eco-friendly festival we hadn’t expected to see their commitment to this level.

Different sections of the Basar Confluence venue – a well thought out design

While the main ground and the stage were dedicated to cultural performances, songs and dances there were other aspects to the Basar Confluence that shed light on the overall lifestyle of the people here.

Galo is the dominant tribe of Basar. Mainly into agriculture, the Galo people have traditionally worshipped the sun and the moon – Donyi Polo is the term used. There was a dedicated Agri Tourism section with real rice fields. Women were busy harvesting the crop and let us participate in the activity. They showed us how they would husk the crop and eventually store for use through the year.

Galo ladies working in the field, Basar, Arunachal Pradesh, India
Galo ladies working in the field, Basar, Arunachal Pradesh, India
Playground for kids at the asar Confluence, BasCon, Basar, Arunachal Pradesh, India
Play area for the kids so their parents could enjoy the festival to the fullest!

The textile section demonstrated the traditional weaving methods. It is common even now for women to weave beautiful shawls and skirts at home. We could see how these colourful patterns are delicately woven and if we wanted to we could even buy some to get back home.

An interesting aspect of the Basar Confluence, which we are yet to see at any other festival is the Artist Residency. Six artists were tastefully curated by Phoenix Rising after assessing the many applications received this year. They had spent a month in Basar prior to the festival, interacting with the people, trying to understand their lives and their stories. At the Basar Confluence, the artists – a writer, filmmaker, photographer, musician, installation artist and a painter, demonstrated their creations in a tastefully decorated Artist’s Corner.

Artist Imon working on his installation at BasCon, Basar, Arunachal Pradesh, India
Resident artist Imon creating his installation of Donyi Polo
Artist corner at the Basar Confluence, BasCon, Basar, Arunachal Pradesh, India
Dara Okat playing the flute at the Artist Cornet at Basar Confluence, BasCon, Basar, Arunachal Pradesh, India
Dara Okat playing some enchanting notes on his flute

When all the fun at the Basar Confluence tired you out you could just climb up for some rest and respite at the treehouse, order some barbecued meats and poka from the food stall up there and let the palm forest and paddy fields soothe you.

Tree house at the Basar Confluence, BasCon, Basar, Arunachal Pradesh, India

Then there was the traditional games section. We had been seeing young guys trying to scale a tall bamboo pole, sort of like Malkhamb but much higher, since day 1 of the Basar Confluence. Then there was a pole to which a rope was tied at the top with the other end to the ground. Many had tried to climb up this rope to reach its other end, at the top of a bamboo pole. All of this culminated into an inter-village traditional sports competition.

The first game was called Nyarka Hinam. A fat bamboo, around 5 feet long was held at the two ends by the two competitors, standing inside a circle. Each would try to shove the other out of the circle by pushing the bamboo.

Then there was traditional archery, know as Geppe Abnam in the Galo language. The target for the archers was an egg kept in the centre of a hole in the mud wall in front. If they made the egg yolk run, they would be the winners. It was super fun seeing the archers, young and old, try their hand at breaking the egg, but none succeeded.

The most fiercely competed event was the tug of war. Groups from different villages of Basar – Gori, Nyigam, Bam, Padi – participated. The referees had to keep a strict watch on the lines to make sure both teams were competing fairly. Amidst loud cheering by the surrounding crowds, the teams fought hard to make their village win.

Traditional sports at the Basar Confluence, BasCon, Basar, Arunachal Pradesh, India
Traditional sports at the Basar Confluence, BasCon, Basar, Arunachal Pradesh, India
Traditional sports at the Basar Confluence, BasCon, Basar, Arunachal Pradesh, India
Traditional sports at the Basar Confluence, BasCon, Basar, Arunachal Pradesh, India
Traditional sports at the Basar Confluence, BasCon, Basar, Arunachal Pradesh, India

The most fun sport though was the traditional fishing. The venue for this had shifted from the Basar Confluence ground to the Si river of the Gori 2 village. By the time we reached there, some men were busy pounding a tree bark to a pulp. It was the bark of the Taneer tree. Found only in a few select forests, very few of the Galo tribe now can identify this tree. Its speciality is that once pounded, it secretes a sap which when released in water temporarily numbs the fish in the river, making them easy to catch.

Traditional fishing at Basar Confluence, BasCon, Basar, Arunachal Pradesh, India
Pounding the Taneer bark for traditional fishing at the Basar Confluence, BasCon, Basar, Arunachal Pradesh, India
Traditional fishing at Basar Confluence, BasCon, Basar, Arunachal Pradesh, India
Traditional fishing at Basar Confluence, BasCon, Basar, Arunachal Pradesh, India
Traditional fishing at Basar Confluence, BasCon, Basar, Arunachal Pradesh, India

Though much healthier than industrial farming of fish, this technique of fishing is no longer practised. It was included in the events of the Basar Confluence only for demonstration. But if mindfully practised, this could be a healthy all natural fishing practice without damaging the ecosystem of the river.

Cultural performances at the Basar Confluence

Of course, the cultural performances were the mainstay of the Basar Confluence. They played the main role in introducing us to the Galo way of life that the people of Basar follow. There was the Galo Ponu, a welcome dance performed by the women. Nyida Parik introduced us to the war dance of the Galo men. A beautiful showcase of their main festival, the Mopin, let us experience the Mopin even in November. The mega Galo dance performed simultaneously by over two hundred women from all the participating villages of Basar looked lovely, a strong metaphor for what the Basar Confluence represented – growing forward together.

Galo Warrior dancers at BasCon, Basar, Arunachal Pradesh, India
Mopin festival performance, Basar, Arunachal Pradesh, India
Galo women all set to perform the Galo Ponu at teh Basar Confluence, BasCon, Basar, Arunachal Pradesh, India
Ladies helping each other for performance at BasCon, Basar, Arunachal Pradesh, India
BasCon, Basar, Arunachal Pradesh, India
BasCon, Basar, Arunachal Pradesh, India
Post a picnic lunch by the riverside these women just broke into an impromptu traditional dance

In addition to the Galo performances, artists from other districts of Arunachal Pradesh showcased the traditions of other tribes. There were troupes from the Ziro valley, the Tirap district as well as a Snow Lion dance performed by a troupe from Tawang. These human-lions running around the Bascon grounds had us in splits with their shenanigans. Artist groups from other states of the Northeast – Assam, Manipur and Tripura had also come to perform at the Basar Confluence.

Galo women at backstage at BasCon, Basar, Arunachal Pradesh, India
Performers of the Snow lion dance from Tawang who performed at Basar Confluence, BasCon, Basar, Arunachal Pradesh, India
The vivacious Parnashree (My Travel Diary) posing with the snow lions

We learnt of the various “mantras” called Yaan sung by the Galo people for different celebratory occasions. While a group sang a marriage Yaan, an old grandmother sang a beautiful lullaby sung in all Galo homes to the little babies.

Wedding yaan being sung and performed at the Basar Confluence, BasCon, Basar, Arunachal Pradesh, India
Wedding yaan being sung and performed at the Basar Confluence, BasCon, Basar, Arunachal Pradesh, India
Grandmom singing a lullaby at Basar Confluence, BasCon, Basar, Arunachal Pradesh, India

By evening the venue of the Basar Confluence would transform into a concert ground where we swayed to Galo numbers. There is a sweetness to this language and though we didn’t know a word of the lyrics we were one with the music. As David and the band belted out the rock versions of traditional Galo folk songs, the crowd went berserk. It was only after his performance did we realise that our throats had gone dry as well, yelling and chanting his numbers. We hadn’t even realised at what point we had turned from silent spectators to an enchanted roaring audience. While Nikom Riba’s romantic numbers turned everyone’s hearts gooey, Jeli and the band’s energy was electrifying. And when despite the highly excited audience, the organisers disallowed a Bollywood number, it was confirmed that the people behind the Basar Confluence had their hearts in the right place.

BasCon, Basar, Arunachal Pradesh, India
Nikom Riba belting out romantic numbers at the Basar Confluence, BasCon, Basar, Arunachal Pradesh, India

The people at the Basar Confluence

We loved that the local people were at the Basar Confluence in large numbers. We felt like we were celebrating their life, with them. It was a great opportunity was us to mingle with them, have conversations and make friends. Everyone we met was as curious about us as we were about them. They wanted to know where we had come from, what we did in our lives.

They would invariably ask what we thought of Basar. They wanted to know what we had seen, what we had eaten. They wanted us to visit more of their villages, go on more treks, see more of their forests. There was an unmissable twinkle in their eye when they spoke of Basar, and of the Galo traditions.

The crowds waiting for the performances to begin at the Basar Confluence, BasCon, Basar, Arunachal Pradesh, India
Galo woman at the Basar Confluence, BasCon, Basar, Arunachal Pradesh, India
Galo woman at the Basar Confluence, BasCon, Basar, Arunachal Pradesh, India
Jewellery of a Galo woman at the Basar Confluence, BasCon, Basar, Arunachal Pradesh, India
Galo woman at the Basar Confluence, BasCon, Basar, Arunachal Pradesh, India
Galo woman at the Basar Confluence, BasCon, Basar, Arunachal Pradesh, India

The people of Basar lived in harmony with their past and their traditions. No, they revelled in them. They held on to their culture with pride. Their lives were one with the nature around them. And they were eager to share this rich life with the whole wide world.

What’s the story of the Basar Confluence

The “they” we are referring to in arranging the Basar Confluence are the people of an organisation called GRK – Gumin Rvgo Kwalju with the motto, “A Collaboration Of Positive Minds For Social Growth”. A group of working professionals originally from Basar came together with the intention of overall social development of Basar. The Basar Confluence was one of the means they devised to bring exposure to this beautiful region and generate economic development through tourism.

While the first edition of the Basar Confluence had only 2 villages of Basar participating, this year’s edition Bascon 3.0 saw the participation of 32 villages all of which were positively impacted by the efforts of GRK. Every village we saw was spic and span, not even a stray piece of paper was seen strewn around. Each one had dustbins in the village. The people were actively involved in nature conservation, against hunting and poaching. Every child, irrespective of gender, went to school. Many youngsters we met had come to Basar just to contribute to the Basar Confluence. They were otherwise doing their graduation or post graduation in other parts of the country.

This overall atmosphere of progress and positivity was refreshing and addictive.

Basar Confluence, in the end, turned out to be a confluence of hearts – of the people of Basar and ours. As we said our goodbyes, our hearts were heavy and our eyes were moist. Basar had been a land of warm welcomes and friendships. Of beauty and love. We had left a piece of our hearts in Basar and were carrying a bit of Basar back in our hearts.

Basar Confluence was a beautiful gift from the beautiful people of Basar to the whole world.

FAQs on Basar

  • When is the Basar Confluence or Bascon held?
    The dates for the Basar Confluence were 19-21 November in 2018. The organisers are planning to keep these dates fixed every year. Once we receive confirmation, we will update accordingly.
  • Where is Basar and how to reach Basar?
    Basar is the headquarters of the newly minted LePa Rada district in Arunachal Pradesh. The newly opened bridge at Bogibeel over the Brahmaputra river has made access to Basar even easier. The easiest way to reach Basar is to fly into Dibrugarh and then drive to Basar. The nearest railhead is Silapathar. Ahead of the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border at Likabali, road widening work is on at the moment making the drive fairly bumpy. But soon we will be driving on a wide smooth highway.

Map for direction from Dibrugarh to Basar

  • Where can we stay in Basar?
    There are fully functional homestays in various villages of Basar. Have a look at the GRK website and the official website of the Basar Confluence for the details.
  • What else is there to do in Basar besides attending the Basar Confluence?
    Lots. Exploring unheard of villages, enjoying the Galo hospitality in the homestays, jungle walks, treks to waterfalls, caves and haunted places, bird watching, photography, expanding your palette – the options are boundless.
The Bat Cave in Basar, Arunachal Pradesh, India
Trekking to the Bat Cave
People of Village Sago in Basar, Arunachal Pradesh, India
Staying in a Galo home in the Sago village of Basar
Basar, Arunachal Pradesh, India
A traditional Galo lunch picnic
Trekking to Jooli, the haunted place during BasCon, Basar, Arunachal Pradesh, India
Trekking to the “haunted place” Jooli
Village Gori II, Basar, Arunachal Pradesh, India
Walking around the villages of Basar

We shall be forever grateful to the organisers of Basar Confluence for hosting us and letting us have such a special experience.

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Sandeepa and Chetan. Married. Indians. Exploring Travel as Lifestyle. Featured by National Geographic, Yahoo. We hope that through our travel stories we inspire others to make their dream into a reality.

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9 Comments

  1. It is a wonderful places. Very beautiful post for the blogs.

  2. Hope to visit in future- great photos and coverage!

  3. It looks straight out of a story book. Those bamboo benches, the treehouse, the leaf plates and the fact that there is so much love : for nature, for their homeland, for each other 馃檪 I have been following your social posts on BASCON and the love you have for it is infectious 馃檪
    The concept of an artist鈥檚 corner is simply superb 馃檪
    This post made me realise what the hullabaloo was all about! The simplicity , the pride of being eco friendly, the magic, the charm can be seen from the way you weaved your words here. And the pictures needless to say, are fantastic!

  4. SUVRUTT P GURJAR

    Saneepa and Chetan – excellent blog as always.

  5. Take me back to BasCon! Relived the experiences. ?

  6. Charudatta Ghatge

    啶ぞ啶班い啶距い啷啶 啶呧い啷嵿く啶傕い 啶膏啶傕う啶 啶呧ざ啶 啶︵啶班啶侧啷嵿し啶苦い 啶ぞ啶椸ぞ啶む啶 啶ぞ啶`じ啶, 啶む啶ぞ啶傕啷 啶膏啶膏啶曕啶む, 啶栢ぞ啶︵啶, 啶啶灌ぐ啶距さ 啶嗋ぃ啶 啶ぞ啶傕が啷傕啶 啶夃い啷嵿い啶ぐ啷啶む啶ぞ 啶曕啶侧啶侧ぞ 啶掂ぞ啶ぐ, 啶嗋お啶 啶嗋お啶侧啶ぞ 啶夃い啷嵿い啶 啶啶熰啶椸啶班ぞ啶啶氞啶ぞ 啶ぞ啶о啶ぎ啶距い啷傕え 啶夃啷囙ぁ啶距い 啶嗋ぃ啷傕え 啶嗋ぎ啷嵿す啶距げ啶 啶む啶ぞ 啶ぐ啶苦じ啶班ぞ啶曕ぁ啷 啶嗋啶班啶粪た啶 啶曕啶侧啶.
    啶оえ啷嵿く啶掂ぞ啶 啶氞啶むえ 啶嗋ぃ啶 啶膏啶︵啶ぞ !

  7. So good to learn about a new place, festival , culture and its people. Thanks so much for posting this. 鈽

  8. This is the most beautiful post, I have seen since a while. As I had fallen in love with India, 2 years ago on a solo trip, this post speaks so much to my heart. Thank you both for such wonderful work you do. Namaste

  9. Everything looks awesome – from the bamboo bridges and mugs and tree-houses to the outfits of the various tribes. It’s pretty impressive that they’re practising conservation to this level. Out of curiosity, is Basar a plastic-free area even otherwise? Did you find out more about the conservation initiatives even outside of BasCon? On a slightly unrelated note, that style of fishing may be all-natural, but there’s something a bit gruesome about beating the tree to a pulp and then temporarily poisoning the river to get the fish out :O :O And on a completely unrelated note, some of the women’s eye-liner game is totally on point!! 馃榾

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