The picturesque hamlet of Chuikhim in Pabringtar GP, West Bengal came alive with INDRADHANUSH, Chuikhim Earth Festival from November 16- 19, 2012. Snuggled in the Kalimpong hills, Chuikhim is a village adorned with plush green valleys, flower filled meadows and misty woods. With a population of just 1200, it's a paradise indeed offering enormous potential as an eco-tourism and cultural destination.
A one of its kind Festival which brought together Sports, Environment, Culture, Tourism, and Livelihood all at one place was organised by Literacy India, a not-for-profit organization. INDRADHANUSH was conceived with the vision of creating a Festival which is By the People, Of the People and FOR the People.
INDRADHAUSH, Chuikhim Earth Festival got off to a flying start on November 16, 2012 with a walk to River 'Juranti' where an offering was made to Goddess Durga for the success of the Festival. Musicians with traditional drums and trumpets and dancers attired in colourful traditional costumes led the river walk which was joined in large numbers by the village folk and visitors.
The Festival was inaugurated by Capt. Indraani Singh, Managing Trustee, Literacy India, at The Chuikhim Playground. Speaking on the occasion, Capt. Indraani Singh said. "INDRADHANUSH- Chuikhim Earth Festival 2012, is the realization of a pledge which was made by Literacy India to the people of Chuikhim. It was wonderful to see a holistic and inclusive festival which touched everyone who was part of it. The Festival would not have been possible without the support of Chuikhim Welfare Society (CWS), our sponsors SBI Cards, Master Card and Air India, the Forest Department, Gorkha Territorial Administration enthusiastic volunteers , every villager and the visitors without whose participation, INDRADHANUSH would not have been a success. INDRADHANUSH amalgamated aspects of Learning, Tourism, Culture, Sports, Micro-enterprise and Environmental Awareness in a holistic manner".
For the sports enthusiasts, the Chuikhim Cup Tournament created a lot of excitement. After the knock out rounds among various football teams, the football match between the Ratey Team and the Pemling team had the audience on the edge of their seats with both teams playing extremely well. Finally the Ratey team took home the Chuikhim Cup. A football workshop was organized on the sidelines of the INDRADHANUSH Football Tournament to help the players polish their game.
The cultural programme, which had both a competitive section and a non-competitive round was held every day during the festival and had the villagers and visitors enthralled. One after the other, school children from places near and far such as Mumpel, Kalimpong, Barbat, Charkhol, Samthar, Khupigaon etc. gave wonderful performances. These included playing musical instruments such as the violin, flute and drums, singing and dancing. The dances which saw participants dressed in stunning costumes and jewelry were beautifully choreographed. The performance also included a 'khukri' dance, which showcased the local martial art form through dance.
The highlights of the cultural programme were performances by professional troupes which included folk and tribal dances. Folk dances included the Lion dance, Snow Lion dance and the Yak dance. The dancers often ran into the audience with squeals of laughter from the children and adults alike. So popular were the dances that the audience requested for repeat performances. Additionally, tribal dances like 'Gurung', 'Lepcha', 'Chabrung' and 'Tamang' regaled the audience.
Under the livelihood section, a Village Fair was organized during the entire three day festival to provide opportunities to villagers to sell various items to the visitors including tourists. From toys to craft items, from food stalls to local produce, business was brisk. Local cuisine like 'momos' and 'thupka' saw many takers.
Mr. Kalyan Kumar Dewan, Member 41 Constituency, Kalimpong Agriculture Department, Gorkha Territorial Admisnistration, Kalimpong was the Chief Guest at the Festival. Addressing the audience he said that, "This wonderful festival, INDRADHANUSH Chuikhim Earth Festival organized by Literacy India is something that we have not seen earlier. Such Festivals are very important in bringing benefits to the community. The people of Chuikhim should recognize that it is very important to take this effort forward. They should also pledge to keep both their physical environment clean, particularly by keeping it plastic free and also provide the right social and cultural environment to help tourism flourish".
A unique aspect of INDRADHANUSH was the extremely relevant workshops organized for the villagers to help them in knowledge enhancement, skill up gradation and opening livelihood opportunities. The workshop onf 'First Aid' was conducted by a team from St. John's Ambulance at the Mine Junior High School. A workshop on Agriculture was conducted at a Village Farm to help disseminate knowledge on crop protection and improving crop yield.
INDRADHUNUSH-Chuikhim Earth Festival has given an impetus to Tourism. Many visitors to the festivals stayed in village home stays. Visitors showed a keen interest in forest treks, bird watching and village walks. Villagers have realized the importance in working together to create a tourism infrastructure which will help provide livelihood to many who can take care of the tourist requirements.
The curtain came down on INDRADHANUSH-Chuikhim Earth Festival, 2012 with prize distribution to winners and certificates to volunteers and participants, followed a lively performance by a band from Siliguri and a Campfire. While many were sad that the three day festivities had come to an end they made a promise to themselves to work with full determination to create a bigger Festival in 2013.
Festivals such as INDRADHANUSH respect the local eco system, encourage understanding between tourists and hosts, help in creating employment benefits and enhance local pride and confidence. Such festivals also embrace India's diversity and make positive contributions to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage.
As part of this sustainable tourism effort, Chuikhim residents are being trained by the Literacy India team to use the indigenous resources available to them to create herbal oils and products to meet the demand from the beauty industry. Tourists to Chuikhim will be able to enjoy unique spa treatments in the midst of rolling hills and lush meadows.
Additionally, with support from Literacy India, as part of this sustainable tourism initiative, Chuikhim will offer cultural shows, cooking sessions, adventure sport etc. to tourists.
Involving local people in decisions that affect their lives and life chances makes INDRADHANUSH extremely special. It is this unique aspect of the Festival, which has attracted Lead Sponsorships from SBI Card, MasterCard and Air India.
According to Mr. Sanjeev Jain, CEO, GE Capital Business Processes Management Services, "INDRADHANUSH has been planned as an inclusive festival which aims at creating linkages between the corporate sector, villagers (adults and children), tourists, sportspersons and policy makers. SBI Card along with GE Volunteers has been supporting Literacy India in many initiatives. We are glad to partner in this noble endeavour and wish the festival great success".
Commenting on the initiative, Pallav Mohapatra, CEO, SBI Cards & Payment Services Private Limited, said, "At SBI Card, we are of the belief that a strong community linkage is an important aspect of growth. We are glad to partner with Literacy India in this unique festival".
Echoing these sentiments, T V Seshadri - Division President - South Asia, MasterCard added, "MasterCard has always believed in supporting organisations such as Literacy India that do essential work in raising educational and overall standards within society. The Chuikhim Festival is another example of a wonderful initiative to bring together and empower various stakeholders within the community through Sporting, Environmental and Cultural activity."
The Festival has also seen support from many organisations. These include Tupperware, Genus and theIdeaWorks.
Notes to Editor
About Literacy India (www.literacyindia.org)
Literacy India, a not for profit organization was set up in 1996 with the objective of empowering underprivileged children from economically weaker communities to live a life of dignity and self-reliance through a broad based learning framework. Today Literacy India has 10 learning centres across NCR and counts more than 10,000 beneficiaries across India.
Literacy India has clearly set the three E's i.e., Education, Empowerment, and Employment as its goal in the next decade. It endeavours to meet this objective through imparting basic education and through exposing our students to a variety of vocational skills in performing arts, computer animation, etc.