Unlike the past, the Sabala and Kreta Suraksha carnival at Madarihaat, Alipurduar district, India, was different this time.

The ongoing annual festival, locally known as ‘mela’ got to witness some events from Bhutan on November 20.

Led by the Chukha dzongkhag, Phuentsholing drungkhag and thromde administrations, cultural events were performed at the carnival to observe the 50 years of Bhutan-India diplomatic ties.

The Sabala carnival showcased several entertainment programmes, set up various tribal handicrafts and food shops, and engaged Bhutanese delegates, business community representatives, and the people from India.

Chukha dzongdag, Minjur Dorji, said they brought the Bhutanese cultural programmes to celebrate the 50 years of relation between the two countries.

“We wanted to have people to people relationship built through this carnival,” he said.

The dzongdag said that while the government-to-government engagement is more at the policy level, local engagement would be more people-centric that would have cultural exchanges at individual levels. “There would be better understanding at people to people level through such programmes.”

During the programme, the deputy magistrate of Alipurduar, Pushpa Lama said it was a new experience to local people and officials since Bhutan was participating for the first time.

“Along with exchange of cultural ideas between the two countries, the carnival also stalled different handmade products,” she said. “Bhutanese side also can bring their traditional items and showcase their skills.”

Several Bhutanese and Indians from the Phuentsholing business community were also present at the carnival.

Business community representative of Phuentsholing, Lobzang Tshering, said the carnival was a good example of Bhutan-India friendship.

“Such programmes should continue even after the 50 years celebrations,” he said, adding that such programmes would open up cultural and innovative ideas between people. “We can also organise such programmes here in Bhutan.”

Meanwhile, a major celebration to observe the 50 years diplomatic ties would be organised at Alipur next month, officials from both the places have confirmed.

Rajesh Rai | Madarihaat