September brings alive the happiest and hippest outdoor music fest in the country, regarded as “a template for outdoor music fest in India” by Condé Nast Traveller, Ziro Festival of Music is scheduled to be held from 26th to 29th of September this year. As Nat Geo Traveller would aptly put, “it’s the break you’ve been hankering for”. The stage is set in the picturesque Ziro valley, home of the Apatani tribe.
This is how a local would describe, “Tucked inside the eastern Himalaya, Ziro is a picturesque valley characterized by vast expansion of paddy fields, dotted with wooded hillocks and surrounded by pine covered gentle rolling hills. It is the headquarters of Lower Subansiri District of Arunachal Pradesh in northeast India and situated at an elevation of 5538 ft to 8000 ft above sea level. It was the place where the name Arunachal Pradesh was given to the erstwhile North East Frontier Agency (NEFA) in 1972.” –Dr. Tage Kanno. The name Ziro is derived from an Apatani clan which was one of the first settlers in the valley, it is believed that the Apatanis (the indigenous people of Ziro) must have settled here for more than 500 years. Ethnicity: Apatani Population: 42,000 Area: 1058 sq. km Languages spoken: Tanii, Hindi, English.
These 4 Days of music fest is a perfect getaway for music aficionados, one who loves to travel or explore local food, art & culture. The main stage is set in a meadow with knolls of endless prairies to sit on. Come September, the vast expanse of paddy fields stretching across the whole valley would turn golden, ready to be harvested- it surely is a treat for sore eyes. Whilst you sit on the grass and enjoy the show with your friends, you can quench on locally brewed rice beer in a bamboo mug. You may also get a little adventurous & put your taste bud to test by savouring on to some local food in one of the dozen food stalls. Yes, the sun will eventually set, but the festival & the celebration would go on and on. Cut yourself off from the world, come and relax.
Apart from the hip music fest that already is, there is a lot more to Ziro. The music fest typically starts in the afternoon, so you have the whole morning to yourself to explore. Ziro- the Apatani Cultural Landscape is in the tentative list of UNESCO’s world heritage site. This in itself has a lot to offer. To name a few you can:
That’s not even a question to ask. Ziro is incredibly safe, the Apatanis are very warm and welcoming. You will be surprised by their hospitability. However, take care that the local cultures are respected. That goes for every other place you visit too.
The temperature will be in the early 20 degree Celsius. However, mornings and evenings may get a little colder, hence pack in some warm clothes. Rains can be expected, hence raincoats and gumboots (you can get in Hapoli in Ziro too) are recommended. Pack in your personal toiletries. What else, umm yes a camera, it has many instagramable places. If you are a musician, don’t forget your instrument/s, its jam time. All kinds of music enthusiasts will be there, perhaps you will get a chance to meet your future bandmates. And lastly, come with an open mind, don’t pack that in ;)
Yes, you need an ILP pass. Inner Line Permit (ILP) is mandatory for Indian citizens to enter Arunachal Pradesh, so you need to get one for yourself. You can easily apply online or get one upon reaching Naharlagun if you come by train. But it is better if you get it ready in advance to avoid last minute hassle.
Okay, I am on my way, where should I put up?
Logistics is a challenge in Ziro during this time of the year. Although there are few hotels and resorts, it can’t hold all the inflow of people during the fest. And all these places are usually booked well in advance by fest attendees. Few camps are set up by locals and also some travel operators during the fest. If you are looking for one, come and join us for this camping expedition and trip.
You Board train at Guwahati by night.
you reach Naharlagun by 6:00 in the morning, after which, hop into Tata Sumo or Similar vehicle for our next leg of the journey towards Ziro. It will be a 3-4 hours ride, depending on the condition of the road.
Upon reaching Ziro you head to our campsite. There we freshen up, have lunch, take rest and rejuvenate ourselves for the long night ahead. Stretch your recharged body and walk to the festival ground which is 1 Km away from the campsite. Nexus of music, food, drinks and beautiful people from across the country happens here. Enjoy the evening there.
Wake up after a good night’s sleep. After breakfast, walk around Apatani villages-for those who are interested in seeing unadulterated Apatani ways of life. Taste some locally brewed beer or wine. Enjoy the beauty of the surrounding. Head to the festival ground for round 02. Come back to the campsite, meet new people, enjoy some live music, sip on some beer or sit by the bonfire if you feel cold. Lights out!
Unzip the tent, freshen up, have breakfast. Feeling bloated yet? Okay, let’s go trek to Hakhe Tari or may be Tarin with our local guide. Come back, attend round 03 of the music fest. Come back to the campsite when you think the barbecue is ready. If you are in the mood, take the stage, sing some songs & let go of yourself.
Sigh! Last day of the fest. Okay! If you are in Ziro and you don’t get to go to the paddy field, you are missing out on something. So it’s a fishing day for us. Yes, we will go to the field and catch fish bare hands. That’s it? No, after we catch them, we roast them and we eat them. The rest of the day, do whatever you want to do, it’s the last day, and it’s your day!
We are coming back from Ziro. We shall reach Naharlagun Railway station by evening and board our train journey towards Guwahati.
1. Apatani village walk
3. Fishing in a paddy field