Saturday, September 8, 2012

Exploring forest and tribal culture in Saputara festival.

Payal Gwalani, TNN Sep 4, 2012, 01.31AM IST
NAGPUR: What do you do when you have a state's landscapes as diverse as a hill station and a desert, the pride of being the only home to the Asiatic lion along with a rich cultural heritage? Gujarat decided to show it to all the world and improve the lives of some of its marginalized citizens in the deal.
Continuing the tradition that was started by the Tourism Corporation of Gujarat Limited (TCGL) with the introduction of fests like Tarnetar, Navratri, Ranotsav and the International Kite Festival, the state agency concluded another festival called Saputara Monsoon Festival. The only hill station of the state, that is at the peak of its beauty during the season, was thronged by lakhs from both Gujarat and Maharashtra as well as many from as far as Kolkata and Bangalore during the second edition of this just concluded monthlong fest.
"Monsoon is generally a slack period with regards to tourism in the state. So, we decided to tell people that we have a beautiful, deciduous forest, which is mentioned in both Ramayana and Mahabharata, that they can explore. This year, there was a 29% growth in the number of tourists who visited the town during this festival," said Dineshbahi Dasa, a member of the board of directors of TCGL. Most of these tourists are from Maharashtra, he added.
Everyone associated with the festival as well as the locals do not get tired of singing praises of chief minister Narendra Modi, who they say was foresighted enough to understand the importance of tourism in boosting the economy of the region and the state. The list includes local coordinator for the festival SV Patel.
"The state has also planned various projects worth Rs110 crore for rest houses, sunset/sunrise point and many such points of attraction. The lives of the locals, the Dang tribe, have also changed after more tourists have started pouring in, with most of them working at the hotel, lodges, etc," he said.
The festival also encouraged the tourists to get to know the district's rich folklore, tribal culture, music and dance, and handicraft. Every evening from August 4 to September 1, there were different cultural events like puppet shows, dances, musical programmes, Gujarati ghazal show, laser shows among other activities. Several of the visitors said they have been trying to attend the festival earlier but could not do so as no accommodation were available in the entire town. Several locals vouch for the improvement in their standard of living due to tourism.
If only Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) could learn a lesson from neighbours like Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh and bank upon the immense scenic beauty and acres of forested land within its jurisdiction, things would be much better for many a tribe of the state.

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