The enchanting North Eastern states of India has been caught on film by noted art historian and filmmaker Benoy Behl for his series of documentaries chronicling the life, culture, architecture and traditions of India.
The series on the northeastern states Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Manipur and Tripura is part of Behl’s “Spectacular India” comprising 52 films that the historian is shooting for Doordarshan.
“I have travelled to the North East before. There are so many wonderful lessons to learn. For example in Nagaland we saw around 1000 different types of leaves that are not only edible but are quite delicious and nutritious.
“In the market place of Nagaland 50 percent of what is sold is forest produce,” Behl who returned from a two-month shooting trip to the North East told PTI.
Behl documents the “Lai Haroba” or the ancient dance of Manipur. The people of Manipur, he says had a unique tradition of worship throughout the ecstasy of dance.
“They believed that they were the descendants of celestial musicians and they sought communion with the Divine through music and dance,” he says.
In Tripura, Behl takes viewers through the Unnakoti, a place 178 km north of Agartala and supposed to be the site of deities in the past.
“It’s a fascinating site with the largest Shiva rock -cut reliefs in all of India. The most enchanting as[aspect of this site is its magical setting in the middle of the forest,” says the filmmaker. The historian who has previously photographed various monuments and art heritage across Asia, has also shot the remains of the Pilak Stupa located in a remote part of Tripura. The relief on the base of the Stupa represents the Vijrayana school of Buddhism prevalent during the Pala time.
Apart from the North Eastern states, Behl has captured the traditions of the Bauls of West Bengal, who have been included in the Unesco list of world’s master pieces of oral and intangible heritage.
“It is quite wonderful that villagers living in such remote places are so deeply versed in philosophy. They are ecstatically eager to lose themselves, to lose their own identity, to see themselves as a part of the greater one,” says the filmmaker.
Earlier this year Behl went on a six-week shooting trip covering extensive parts of the Kashmir Valley and the districts of Kargil, Leh, Lahaul-Spiti, Chamba and Kangra, as well as the Government Museums in Shimla and Chandigarh.
The subjects of the films this time included the Aryan Tribes in remote parts of Ladakh, Hindu and Buddhist sites of Kashmir, Guru Padmasambhava the Second Buddha and the masked ritual dance of the Lamas. The “Spectacular India” series from Kashimir to Kanyakumari is expected to be aired on Doordarshan early next year.