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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Maheswar Basumatary (Ontai) - poacher turned caregiver from Assam

Maheshwar Basumatary (Ontai) (photo: Subhamoy Bhattacharjee, IFAW-WTI)

Maheshwar Basumatary (fondly called Ontai by his colleagues) is an animal keeper with the International Fund for Animal Welfare-Wildlife Trust of India (IFAW-WTI)’s Greater Manas Conservation Project. He is a tracker, photographer, naturalist and wildlife defender, all rolled up in one. He was honored with 2014’s prestigious Sanctuary Asia Wildlife Service Award for his contributions to conservation in Bodoland.

Born in Bodoland, an autonomous district in Assam, Ontai grew up with strife all round, which forced him out of school. Married at 19, with no job in hand, he fell in with the wrong crowd and turned to helping poachers as a tracker.

Today, he is a reformed poacher who surrendered before the Bodoland Territorial Council in 2005 assisting the authorities in reviving Manas. He assisted the Forest Department and worked with the Bodoland Forest Protection Force (a community-based organization) in Manas, before joining IFAW-WTI in 2009 to assist in the pioneering rehabilitation of a pair of orphaned clouded leopard cubs as part of the Greater Manas Conservation Project. He was also featured in the Nat Geo documentary on the project, titled ‘Return of the Clouded Leopards.’

Ontai receiving Sanctuary Asia Wildlife Service Award 2014During the past eight years that Ontai has assisted in wildlife conservation, he has helped nab a number of poachers, seize illegal products, helped out with surveys of wildlife, among many others. That Ontai has been an inspiration is exemplified by his 18 year old son. Following in on Ontai’s footsteps, the latter is also currently working to help revive Manas.

Fondly known as Ontai, meaning ‘rock’ in Bodo, owing to his calm and resolute nature, Maheshwar is currently helping hand-rear orphan rhino calves as part of IFAW-WTI’s rehabilitation programme in Manas National Park.

Vivek Menon, executive director, WTI and regional director – South Asia, IFAW says, “It is an honour for us to have amidst us individuals like Ontai. Ontai and many of our animal keepers come from difficult backgrounds and yet, have taken to fiercely protect the natural heritage in their areas. Their zeal has not only helped us achieve a number of milestones, but has also given us the strength to keep striving for what we stand for – to secure the natural heritage of India.

"I know there are many others like me who have turned to help wildlife. I thank late Rajen Islary, the founder president of BFPF, who explained to me the importance of conservation. I also thank the Bodoland authorities, the Bodoland Forest Protection Force for accepting me during those years of difficulty." - Ontai.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Eight magnificent lakes in North East India

Sangetsar Lake (Madhuri Lake) - Arunachal Pradesh

Sangetsar Lake (photo -
Sangetsar Lake is a high altitude lake in the Eastern Himalayas of Arunachal Pradesh that is considered holy by the Buddhists. About 30 kilometres North East of Tawang, the lake is also known as Madhuri Jheel named after the famous Bollywoodfilm star Madhuri Dixit. The film Koyla, featuring Shahrukh Khan and Madhuri Dixit, was shot here.

Chandubi Lake - Assam

Chandubi Lake (photo - Wikipedia)
Chandubi Lake is located at the foot of Garo hills surrounded by Assam and Meghalaya. This lake attracts sizable amount of migratory birds during winter. This lake formed during 1897 Assam earthquake.During that period the forest went down and became the lake. Best time to visit is from November to May.

Loktak Lake (Floating Lake) - Manipur

Loktak Lake (Photo - Wikipedia)
Loktak Lake is one of the largest fresh water lakes in India and the largest in North East India. The lake is also known as the floating lake due to the floating phumdis, which is the most beautiful aspect of the lake. Phumdi is a heterogeneous mass of vegetation, soil, and organic matters at various stages of decomposition. It is the only floating lake in the world.

Umiam Lake (Bara Pani) - Meghalaya

Umiam Lake (photo - Wikipedia)
Umiam Lake was created by damming the Umiam river in the early 1960s. Also known as Bara Pani meaning big water, Umiam actually means Crying River in Khasi language. It has a lovely tale of two sisters. The lake is a scenic place tucked away amidst the hills of Meghalaya and is around 15 Km from Shillong.

Palak Lake (Palak Dil or Pala Tipo) - Mizoram

Palak Lake (photo -
Palak lake is the largest lake in southern Mizoram and is situated in an almost inaccessible part of the Lakher region of Chhimtuipui district, 130 km south-west of Saiha. It is said that, the lake came into existence as a result of an earthquake or a flood. The local people believe a village which was submerged still remains intact deep under the waters of the lake.

Shilloi Lake (Lachem Lake) - Nagaland

Shilloi Lake (photo - Flickr)
Shilloi Lake is a beautiful natural lake in Phek region of Nagaland and falls in a valley surrounded with pine forest and interesting landscapes. The actual name of the lake is ‘L├╝tsam’ meaning a place where water is collected. The British called her ‘Shiloh’ but today it is officially known as ‘Shilloi'.

Gurudongmar Lake - Sikkim

Gurudongmar Lake (photo - Wikipedia)
Gurudongmar Lake or Gurudogmar Lake is one of the highest lakes in the world, located at an altitude of 17,100 ft. It lies in the district of North Sikkim in the state of Sikkim in India, only some 5 kilometres south of Chinese border.

Rudrasagar Lake (Rudijala) - Tripura

Rudrasagar Lake (photo - Wikipedia)
Rudrasagar Lake is about 55 Km. away from Agartala near Melaghar and witnesses a large number of migratory birds in every winter. Every year in July/August a famous boat race is organized. A palace known as Neermahal (Water Palace) is situated near the north-east bank of the lake. It was constructed as a summer resort by the king of Tripura Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya Bahadur in between 1935–1938.

— by Music Malt

Gangtok - a small scenic town in the North-East

A view of Gangtok (photo: Thebrowniris | Wikimedia) 

Gangtok - the capital of Sikkim, is famous for its scenic beauty and spectacular views of the Kanchenjunga. Gangtok is a unique hill resort of North-East India and undoubtedly one of the most oft-visited ones. It is the largest town of Sikkim.

This small town, lies atop a ridge, at an altitude of 5,800 ft, amidst a Himalayan setting, with the world's third tallest peak Kanchenjunga at its east, and overlooking the river Ranikhola.

Though the precise meaning of the name Gangtok is unclear, the most popular meaning of this town is "hill top" or "lofty hill". After the construction of the Enchey Monastery in 1840, Gangtok rose to prominence as a popular Buddhist pilgrimage site. After India won its independence in 1947, Sikkim chose to remain an independent monarchy, with Gangtok as its capital. In 1975, after the integration with the union of India, Gangtok was made India's twenty-second state capital.

Ban Jhakri Falls, Gangtok (photo: Indrajit Das | Wikimedia)

Gangtok enjoys a mild, temperate climate all year round. The best time to visit Gangtok is between October and mid-December when clear views of the Himalayan peaks are guaranteed or again between March and May when the flowers are in bloom. January and February means snow in the higher altitudes.

Places to visit in and around Gangtok:

◘ Government Institute of Cottage Industry
◘ Sikkim Research Institute of Tibetology
◘ Do-Drul Chorten (Stupa)
◘ Enchey Monastery
◘ Ridge Park & White Hall Complex
◘ Tashi View Point
◘ Hanuman Tok
◘ Ganesh Tok
◘ Himalayan Zoological Park
◘ Sa-Ngor-Chotshog Centre


Thursday, November 27, 2014

National seminar on Srimanta Sankaradeva's Contributions 2014

National Seminar on Srimanta Sankardeva's Contributions, Madhupr Than (Nov 23, 2014)

A National Seminar on Srimanta Sankaradeva's Contributions was held in Madhupur Than, Kochbehar under the aegis of Society for Srimanta Sankaradeva on November 23, 2014. Several scholars from both Assam and West Bengal spoke on the life and works of Srimanta Sankaradeva in the event. The scholars from West Bengal were Prasenjit Barman, former MP and Member of Kochbehar Debottar Trust, Himadri Sankar Bhattacharjee of Kochbehar, Dr Nripendra Nath Paul of Kochbehar, and Dr Sachindra Nath Roy of Kochbehar. Prasenjit Barman said that history of West Bengal was incomplete without Srimanta Sankaradeva. It was suggested by Dr Sachindra Nath Roy that a centre of research on Srimanta Sankaradeva be set up in Madhupur Than. Himadri Sankar Bhattacharjee said that the priests of Kochbehar even now recited verses composed by the saint.

There were numerous suggestions by the participants to make Madhupur a centre of attraction. Extention of Railway line and setting up of a Railway station was demanded for Madhupur. It was opined that the works of Srimanta Sankaradeva be translated to Bengali. The scholars attending the event said in unison that Srimanta Sankaradeva did not belong to Assam alone. Prasenjit Barman declared that the saint belonged to the world. Sachindra Nath Roy said that a central university should be set up in Madhupur so that the glory of this place spreads far.

Dr Kandarpa Kumar Deka, Vice Chancellor of Mahapurusha Srimanta Sankaradeva Viswavidyalaya inaugurated the seminar. He said that the multi-faceted contributions of the saint had no match. An exhibition of Sanchipat, Masks etc was held as a part of the event. It was inaugurated by Rajanikanta Dutta, Padadhikar of Srimanta Sankardeva Sangha. He appreciated the works of the Society and assured that Sangha would stand beside the Society in its effort to spread the message of Srimanta Sankardeva. The seminar was attended by Jitendra Pradhani, the newly elected President of Asom Sattra Mahasabha and Babul Bora, Chief Secretary of Srimanta Sankaradeva Sangha. Eminent author, Dr Karabi Deka Hazarika, Professor of Assamese, Dibrugarh University also participated in the seminar. Lakhikanta Mahanta, Sattradhikar of Madhupur Than, Padma Mahanta, Sattradhikar, and Bhabendra Nath Deka, Upa-Padadhikar of Srimanta Sankardeva Sangha also attended the event. Lakhikanta Mahanta lit the ceremonial lamp to start the proceedings. He expressed great satisfaction over the event and exhorted people of Assam to take care of the Madhupur Than.

There was a Lecture-cum-demonstration of Sattriya Nritya by Prateesha Suresh from Mumbai in the event. Eminent artist Pabitrapran Bora performed Sutradhari Nritya. Manoj Kumar Das of Barpeta gave solo Khol recital. Kamal Krishna Barua, Pranjit Boruah, and Lalita Barman, artists of Srimanta Sankaradeva Sangha performed different items of Sankari dance and music. Ranjan Bezbaruah recited Totay and also a Sanskrit translation of Bargeet in the event. The promo-version of a CD by him was also released in the event. The devotees of Sankardev Namghar, Kokrajhar performed Nam-Kirtan. The local devotees of Madhupur also performed Nam-Kirtan.

Dr Sanjib Kumar Borkakoti, President of Society for Srimanta Sankaradeva conducted the seminar. Earlier he hoisted the flag of the society. He said in his concluding comment that history of Assam and West Bengal were closely linked and the role of Srimanta Sankaradeva was crucial for West Bengal too. Hence West Bengal government should introduce life and works of Srimanta Sankaradeva in the curriculum, he said. Pradip Hazarika, co-ordinator of Society for Srimanta Sankaradeva compered the event. Palash Pratim Bora, an active member of the society offered vote of thanks. He hoped that the movement started by Society for Srimanta Sankaradeva would snowball to a mass movement.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Sangai Festival - promoting Manipur

Cultural dance at Sangai Festival (photo -

Sangai Festival, also known as Tourism Festival until 2010, is named after the shy and gentle brow-antlered deer popularly known as the Sangai Deer, which is the state animal of Manipur.

The festival is organised by Manipur Tourism Department every year and generally held from November 21 to 30 in Imphal, Manipur. The Festival strives to showcase and promote the best of what the state has to offer to the world in terms of art and culture, handloom, handicrafts & fine arts, indigenous sports, cuisines & music, eco & adventure sports as well as the scenic natural beauty of the land.

Apart from showcasing the culture of Manipur, the festival also conducts other events like fashion shows, rock shows, etc and participation of various Indian States, foreign traders and cultural troupes make it grand in scale and style. According to the Manipur tourism department, the Sangai Festival is the right venue for innovative people with innovative ideas meet on a common platform.

Fore more info about the festival, location, accommodation and other details visit the festival's official website -

Thursday, October 30, 2014

North East Festival 2014

 North East Festival 2014 | November 7-10, 2014

Event - North East Festival 2014 

November 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th, 2014
IGNCA, Janpath, New Delhi, India
Phone: +91 (011) 23388155
To reduce the regional gaps and to celebrate the essence of North East India, NORTH EAST FESTIVAL will be organized on 7th to 10th November, 2014 at IGNCA Ground, Janpath, New Delhi. Considered as the biggest ever festival on North East Region in the National capital, The event is aimed to highlight the positive aspects of the region which is so full of talents, resources and success stories.

For more info Click Here