Have you heard of Ziro? Do you love music? How about camping, do you enjoy that?
The answer to all of them is one unique experience which is calming and thrilling at the same time. The ZIRO music festival takes place at the ZIRO valley of Arunachal Pradesh, India. Ziro is the most famous music festival you have never heard of. This four day festival is one of its kinds, for me it is all the more special. You will come to know why when you read along.
When does Ziro Festival happen?
Generally Ziro Festival happens in the 3rd week of September for Four days and night. For 2018 the festival starts Thursday September 27th to September 30th.
In year 2016 when we visited the event was from Sept 24th to Sept 27th.
These four days would be one of the most memorable experiences of your life.
Price of the tickets of the Ziro Festival of Music (ZFM)!
The Festival tickets for 2018 are INR6000 for four days. (2016, we paid INR4000)
However there are different packages available which might suit your needs.
Some of the great packages are:
- Accommodation (camping) + Festival tickets.
- Bring your own tent price:
- Carefree package from Guwahati (Guwahati-Ziro-Guwahati by road transfer + Camping + Festival Ticket + ILP) etc.
These are some fabulous deals. There are some hotels and home stays around the festival area but I would suggest stay in the camps. The camping site is beautiful and close to the festival venue. It is a fun experience and helps you connect with a lot of people. Ziro is a beautiful place and so waking up in a camp with a beautiful sunrise and green valleys and rice paddy fields is a refreshing experience.
You have options to bring your own tent. You can buy tents and sleeping bags here
Tents and Sleeping Bags.
You can book your tickets using their official website http://zirofestival.com/tickets
How to Travel to ZIRO Festival of music- ZFM.
Ziro is a valley in Arunachal Pradesh, north-east part of India. The journey to this place is a little difficult and tests your zest to visit the festival. As many people associated with ZFM say that they have kept the festival in the difficult to access valley to weed out the unwanted to crowd. The people who are genuinely interested in the music and the culture called ZFM would make their way to the festival place and would and enjoy and cherish their journey. The travel adds to the thrill and the experience.
The first stop:
From anywhere in India or abroad you can reach to Guwahati which has great connectivity. You can reach here through train or flight. We had taken an early morning flight from Kolkata to Guwahati; it was an -hour flight. There are some alternate travel stops as well. Like you could reach Dibrugarh and take a taxi from there.
The second stop:
The second leg would be to reach Naharlagun railway station, there is a night train from Guwahati around 9:20 PM which is the most convenient, and the tickets get booked quite early so you need to book early. The journey take around 8:35 hours and would reach Naharlagun station around 6:00 AM. The price of the train ticket was appx INR1000 for sleeper.
For us the train journey was where the festival started. There were a lot of musicians with their musical instrument etc who were travelling that night. The whole train was mainly occupied by the people who were travelling to the festival .Discussion, chats, friendships and music all started in the train itself.
You could take a taxi from Guwahati directly to Ziro depending on the amount of money you want to spend. Also the roads at some places might not be in the perfect condition. There are packages available at the ZFM official site by vendors which includes travelling as well.
The final stop:
The last leg of the journey would be to take shared taxi or book a cab from Naharlagun to the Ziro festival itself. The full taxi costs almost INR 10K and could be a little expensive. It is very easy to get a shared taxi from the station itself as there are many people in the train who would be happy to share. We had taken a shared taxi and the price for us was around 600-800 INR for each person. The driving distance is around 110 Kms and can be reached within four hours. However the time is very difficult to guess, the roads have improved over the last two years, but when we were travelling, there were landslides and mudslides. At a particular spot there was a mudslide and we waited an hour there for 4×4 vehicles to clear and make way for us. But that was an experience as we realized people from small untouched places are. Everyone was helping each other, trying to create a way across the mud filled land so people could travel .Some of us were walking around and taking the pictures of the untouched beauty around us.
You realize that journey matters as well, and you already start feeling away from the “unreal world”, you disconnect from the 9-5 job hours and you regular city life.
The camping experience at Ziro Festival of Music.
The festival happens in one of the green valleys of Arunachal Pradesh and the whole area is created just for the festival, a few days later the festival you would not even know something so surreal is going to happen. It is green and it is cloudy and misty and the whole places as beautiful structures. You see a lot of wood or bamboo is the place. The local rice beer which you have is served in Bamboo glasses. The make-belief washrooms and bathroom have bamboo on the floor to avoid the wet grass. The small bridge connecting the Festival place to the camping site is a beautiful wooden bridge. The place is raw and the place is beautiful.
When you reach the camping site, you see beautiful colour camps lined up and the place looks beautiful. A picture perfect shot. The greenery, the blue, green tents and the clouds in the background. The washrooms and bath areas on one side. A beautiful campsite. This was my, our actually kind of a first campsite. Over the next few days you learn a lot and lose a lot of inhibitions. You feel like a winner when you go the Ziro village and buy the gum boots to make going to the loo easier and winning over the fight with wet mud and dirt. The small tap of water, the bucket and the small set up to balance your clothes and toiletries in the shower tents become your best friends.
The fire in the late nights after the shows are over with wooden chairs around it, sharing a local- rice beer and a few people playing on their guitar, sharing the innermost dreams of what we envisioned are lives to be, and feeling the basic raw feeling of happiness and friendship which gets a back seat in the rat race of our daily lives, earning a living etc. Here you are your own self; there is nothing to compete for except maybe for that gum boot, or a bucket in the hours of need.
Definitely pack flashlights, comfortable shoes , a long wrap around(for coming out the was shower tents, would be impossible to dress there), some cash, easy to use toiletries, a gumboots and pack light, do not bring trolleys to this place as difficult to manoeuvre, easier to carry rucksacks and bags.
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We had taken three people sharing tent, and it was so much fun and learning to dress up inside the tent, half crouched and half upright. Sleeping in the sleeping bags and waking up in the middle of night and coming out of the tent to not miss the moon lit sky or the clouds or the night view of the valley. It was beautiful and such a memorable experience.
The un-real yet so real experience.
This is a place where you are not time bound. You want to sleep, you sleep. You want to enjoy music, follow your ears, and if you hungry eat. We do not need a watch to keep track of things. For that matter we do not need connectivity, we love the fact that that internet and mobile services are so poor in this valley. You do not care about the social status of people or their last names. You don’t want to know if a person is a CEO or an analyst or how much money they are making. All of this becomes un-real in the real and basic life at the valley. This is the music of ZFM, this is the soul and that is why people all over the world want to experience this 0% connection with the rest of the world but 100% connection with oneself.
The food and drinks at Ziro Festival of Music.
There are a variety of stalls which local put throughout the day with amazing spread of local food. The prices might seem a little expensive, but you help the locals and they earn their living through this music festival. When you speak to the locals you would realize ZFM is such an integral part of their lives, they look forward to meet the people from different cities and they are the friendliest lot.
For vegetarians there are limited options and you might just want to survive on the cheese sandwich or the hot soup maggi. They are amazingly made, there are some french fries etc which you may find. My favourite was the cheese sandwich which was grilled well and tasted yummy.
For non-vegetarians who are especially adventurous and open to try different kinds of food, you would not be disappointed. There were fried frogs, grasshoppers, snails and silkworms to taste as well. The grilled chickens and fish varieties were obviously present. People really enjoyed the food and I remember some of my friends were generally located near the food stalls rather than the concert stage
There were canned beers and berry and grape wines and other hard drinks available for buying. The drink we enjoyed the most was the local rice beer called Apong and served in bamboo glasses. They make you reach a happy high best suited for the festival, though control the amount you are having, as you do not realize how strong they are and might miss the festival completely , sloshed somewhere in the valley.
The music festival itself.
There are two different kind of performance which takes place every day in two different kinds of set ups. The one in the afternoon is the local folks music from different parts of India, there would be a few budding artists and few well established ones. The concert stage is the best set up I have seen. The stage is set up at the valley with the sun at different angles being the lights for the stage. The seats are the small hills around the valley where you sit, lie down and enjoy the performance.
The line -ups change every year and is well planned and designed for an overall experience and to match the musical needs of every one. These performances were the most enjoyed by us. This was my kind of music, with forgotten instruments and folk classical music, especially the valley background was so mesmerizing that it created an overall pleasure for your eyes, nose and ears. All around during the performance, you could see people enjoying drinks and dancing to the music, lost in their own worlds and embracing life.
The evening performances were on a stage and the performance line-up would be more like the music on which you can dance and move your feet. The beats, the rock the metal music. There were a few sitting arrangements around but mostly people would stand around the stage and dance their hearts out. The whole place had beautiful lights and the acoustics and speakers were amazing. There were areas around the valley where you could pour your hearts out and leave everything behind. You could sit and explore the meaning of life, friendships and love.
The Big Proposal!!
On one such night, amidst the music and valley, a little high from all the food, drinks and music, Vish (my boyfriend at that time) and I were sitting near the fireplace at the campsite. Some hard-rock band was playing and we both were not too keen to listen to them. Holding hands and gazing at the valleys and flickering lights of the stage at far, there were not many words spoken. At that moment, with our hearts happy and minds cleared, Vish proposed to me saying whatever happens we would be together. A promise to spend our lives together under the moonlit sky. Obviously I agreed.A very happy moment.
The pictures are taken by one of my friends who travelled with me. Thanks to Joydeep for wonderful pictures.