Skip to content Skip to navigation

Assam farmer organization sows seeds of change

The shrieking crescendo calls of the Koel and the flowering of ‘Kopou’ are harbingers of spring signaling the dawn of a new year in the Brahmaputra valley. The season sees the ubiquitous orchids with bright and heavy blossoms, varying in colors, bejewel the wilderness of the Northeast. ‘Kopou Phul’ is the most sought after orchid in Assam during New Year festivities in April. Assamese women adorn the pink flowers with deep pink spot as ornamentation on their head during celebration of ‘Rongali Bihu’. Found in North East as well as South India, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia, Java and Philippines--‘Kopou Phul’ or ‘Seeta Pushpa’ in Sanskrit, Ryncostylists retusa is commonly named ‘Fox Tail’. Declared the State flower of Assam, Ryncostylists retusa is intrinsically associated with the mosaic of tradition and culture of the state’s diverse ethnic groups.

“Orchids are the most beautiful and wondrous among the flowering plants of the world and the origin of orchid dates back much longer than originally expected. The age of Vanilla is estimated at 60 to 70 million years,” says Dr Padmeshwar Gogoi, a renowned botanist of Assam. The cultural symbolism of orchids-- that have long been a symbol of love and beauty--could be traced to many tropical and subtropical countries where they are found in abundance and therefore enjoy the status of national flower. In India about 1,300 species (140 genera) are found that form 9% of our flora and are the largest botanical family. While the North-Western Himalayas houses 200 species and the Western Ghats about 300 species, Northeast India boasts of some 800 species. Among northeastern states, Arunachal Pradesh alone hosts more than 500 species. A 100 sq km area in Sessa in Arunachal has been declared as Orchid Sanctuary that preserves half of the orchids found across the state. In Meghalaya--Juwai, Jarain, Tuber, Mukhaialong, Narpuh and Raliang in East and West Jaintia Hills districts and Tura peak, Nokrek, Baghmara and Rongrenggre in the Garo hills provide habitat for wild orchids. Sikkim’s floral wealth has a treasure chest of some 600 orchids. About 300 species of orchids are reported in Assam that represents 44.39% of the north eastern species and 24.42% of species occurring in India.

Rare orchid varieties of Northeast India

Renanthera imshootiana or red vanda is one of the most rare and beautiful orchid in Northeast India. The blue vanda is equally cherished. There are many other rare varieties found in Lakhimpur district and Dibru Saikhowa National Park. Of them Rhynchostylis retusa ‘Alba’ is one of the most uncommon and rare genus of fragrant flower. This is said to be the rare albino form of”fox tail” species.  Aerides odoratum is beautiful pinkish white or pale pink waxy fragrant flower also known as ‘Draupodi Pushpa’. Papilionanthe teres, Dendrobium Transparens, Aerides multiflorum, Malaxis acuminate, micropera rostrata, Dendrobium moschatum, Eria bractescens, Thunia alba, Phalaenopsis parishii, Dendrobium farmeri, Phhalaenopsis mannii, Dendrobium primulinum, Gastrochilus desypogon, Dendrobium, Cymbidium pendulum aphyllum, Liparis plantaginea, Dendrobium densiflorum, Calanthe masuca, Robiquetia spathulata, Dendrobium aduncum, Dendrobium chrysanthum, Dendrobium sulcatum, Arundina graminifolia, Dendrobium fimbriatum, Eria fragrans are other important species found in Assam.


The many uses of orchids

Many orchids are highly valued for their medicinal properties. In traditional medicine they are used as cure for many diseases and ailments and an important ingredient in herbal remedies. Pseudobulbs of orchids are sweet, refrigerant, aphrodisiac, febrifuge and tonic and dried pseudo-bulbs are important ingredients of several Ayurvedic preparations. They are believed to be useful in haematemesis, fever, burning sensations, tuberculosis and general debility.

The dried seed pods of Vanilla planifolia are commercially important as flavoring agent in bakeries, for perfumery and aromatherapy. The underground tubers of some terrestrial orchid genus are ground to a powder and used for cooking. Some saprophytic orchid species that produce potato-like tubers are also used as food and can be successfully cultivated.

Cultivation and collection of variety of orchids on a commercial basis through intervention from biotechnology flourish worldwide forming the basis of a lucrative industry.

Conservation strategies

There exist government strategy for conservation and propagation of orchids. R. C. Goswami, a retired forest official and presently a member of Assam Biodiversity Board says --“Government plans for conservation and propagation of orchids, and development of gene bank for endangered species found in this part of the country.” Mr. Goswami gives an outline of the state policy that includes generation of data with enormous practical and scientific utility to enhance the knowledge with regard to orchids--particularly the threatened and high valued species; dissemination of information on orchids to bring awareness among people regarding importance of orchids in commerce in the national and international market; transfer of technology for ex-situ conservation through cultivation of orchids by entrepreneurs. However, nothing materialized in the implementation level. India’s biodiversity legislation has three main objectives, conservation of biodiversity, its sustainable use and ensuring equitable sharing of the benefits from use of the country’s biological resources or related traditional knowledge and to achieve this, the Biodiversity Act has a three-tier institutional structure—the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA), State Biodiversity Boards (SBBs) in every state and Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs) at local village/urban levels. Unfortunately, the SBBs or BMCs hardly play any role in the conservation of biodiversity in this part of the country. On the contrary, privately funded projects or work at NGO level has yielded better results.

The Kaziranga National Orchid and Biodiversity Park in Kohora, in the Kaziranga landscape, is such an endeavor. This Biodiversity Park inaugurated in 2015, preserves more than 600 varieties of wild orchids, a medicinal plant garden, a fishery for indigenous fishes, an extensive forest of native trees, a garden for native flowers and fruits and a rice museum.

The Kaziranga National Orchid and Biodiversity Park

The Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti has come up with a sprawling three hectare Kaziranga National Orchid and Bio Diversity Park, the one of its kind in the region. The Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti is a people’s movement committed for upholding the rights of farmers and is committed to protect the local heritage and resources.

Akhil Gogoi, leader of Krishak Mukti Sangram Samitee (KMSS)who is spearheading the anti mega dam movement in Assam is also leading another movement, this time to fight back the industrial control of our seeds. Gogoi led me to a repository of more than 200 indigenous varieties of rice in the Kaziranga National Orchid and Biodiversity Park. Very soon, he informed, KMSS would encourage farmers to cultivate those in their fields. “We need to preserve, collect, distribute and grow our traditional seed and our traditional food culture that is the collective learning of thousands of years.”

The north eastern region is the richest gene pool of many rice varieties as well as many endemic and heritage species of crop plants that include fruits, vegetables, millets, legumes, oil seeds and spices. However, much of these traditional rice varieties and endemic species of fruits and vegetables are already gone. The onslaught of hybrid seeds developed by large corporations pushed much of the crops that were grown from seeds to oblivion. There is every need to counter this industrial rapacity on our agriculture and horticulture sectors. “The basic purpose of KMSS to open this Park is to conserve the local varieties of orchids, flowers, fruits, fish as well as our colorful ethnic culture and to spread knowledge about them,” Gogoi said.

Since 2005, the KMSS has been fighting for the rights of farmers and opposing transfer of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes.  

Author info

Mubina Akhtar's picture

Journalist, activist based in Guwahati. Email:

Add new comment


Republish this content

Nagaon students against fire crackers

16 Oct 2009 - 10:59am | DigantaTalukdar

Deepavali, one of the festival celebrated all over the country by Hindu people. Deepavali means different things to people of different states of the country, in keeping with the different legends associated with this festival of light and sound. Irrespective of the reason behind the celebration, the spirit of Deepavali comes alive through illuminating sparklers and loud crackers. The celebration of Deepavali starts after Laxmi Puja and the wholesale and retail sales of crackers starts 15 days before Deepavali. The sound of crackers and rows of candle lights decorate the festival. But now-a day it is usually noticed that people pay less interest in lights and its become their pleasure to burn costly crackers. The huge sound that emits from those crackers are really disturbing and it also cause air pollution too. The interest of crackers are usually found among the teenagers or youths. But when the youths will come out to check this pollution then we can say that 75% of this problem is tackled.

Today, the students of Nowgong college in Nagaon, a city of north eastern Indian state Assam took oath that they are not going to pollute the atmosphere with crackers. They all decided to light the earthen lamp to decorate the Deepavali festival. They also urge the people to come forward to support and to save the environment being polluted with the crackers. The students of Nowgong college gathered and at around 11.30 am in the morning they pledged that they will avoid using the crackers this Deepavali.

Debojit Saha honoured in London

9 Sep 2010 - 7:19pm | Rini Kakati

Nehru Centre, London (the cultural Wing of High Commission of India) presented Debojit Saha - (Voice of India, Zee SaReGaMaPa winner 2005) with a stunning confluence of modern and golden oldies of Bollywood which mirrored the age old timeless tradition of Indian music on August 20.

Today he has become a youth icon. In the music world from Assam no other star has glittered so much within a small period of time. Debojit Saha brought the highest award to the state of Assam when he won (Voice of India, Zee SaReGaMaPa Challenge 2005) Debojit which proved to be a runaway success - breaks the linguistic and cultural divides in the North-East.

He was born to a well to do Bengali family in Silchar and raised in a culturally rich atmosphere. A civil engineer by profession, Debojit started out as a singer in All India Radio and Doordarshan Kendra in Silchar. The heartthrob of many girls, he falls for simple down-to earth Bandana Paul, his wife - a true companion. In profession, she is a fashion designer. Debojit admits "If there is anyone who has changed and influenced my life, it is Bandana".

He took the plunge to shift base to Mumbai and enrolled himself to learn Classical music from the Maestro Pt Askaran Sharma. He won the Mega Final Runner Up in a music contest, gazal-e-sara on Urdu Channel and released his first solo album.

With his disarming smile and charming manner - exudes a comfortable air - music, he says, takes him closet to divinity and accords him peace and tranquillity. It is an invigorating experience which exalts his spirits. He knew how to create that magic web of rhythmic spell-modern sleek and with lots of technology brilliance. This versatile singer is enriching the music scene of Assam and Bolloywood filmi world.

His playback extended to films in regional languages such as Assamese and Bangla. Singing jingles and songs in daily soaps such as Kyon Hota Hai Pyaar and Bhabi etc, Debojit also anchors a Bangla music reality show. He also participated in a music reality show on Star Plus, Jo Jeeta Wohi Superstar, and made it to the final four. He also took his fans by surprise by appearing as one of the thirteen contestants in the Mega Reality show, Big Boss (based on Big Brother) on Colors. He recently performed at the reality show, Music ka Maha Muquabla, on Star Plus with Shaan, Anwesha Dutta, Harshit Saxena and Shadab.

Debojit was invited to Nehru Centre by Monika Kopil Mohta (Director and Minister for Culture) to perform on Friday, 20 August, 2010 as a part of 'Celebrate Assam' which includes Assamese films and music in a month long programme. She spoke highly about the art and culture of Assam and the popular artist of the evening. The chief guests of the evening was Jitendra Kumar, First Secretary for Indian High Commission - Consular & Community Affairs, Prem Modgill, President Hindu Cultural Saociety UK, Kailash Budhwar, BBC World Service, Usha Raje Saxena, Hindi Poetic Society UK, Khurshid Alam, Chairman, Progressive Muslim Forum UK, Saroj Taneja, Director Asian Art & Culture and Divya Mathur, Vatayan Poetry UK. In a unique traditional Assamese gesture the invited artist and dignitaries were felicitated with phulam gamoscha by Geetupala Shah. The programme started by a Sanskrit slok by Geetupala Shah.

In return Debojit thanked Indian High Commission and Rini Kakati who is instrumental to bring him to this prestigious venue.

In his opening speech, Jitendra Kumar, First Secretary for Indian High Commission - Consular & Community Affairs, mentioned about the richness of the North-East specially Assam and the importance of showcasing unity in cultural diversity. He still remember his fruitful visit to Assam passing Kaziranga as a nine year old boy. And thanked Rini Kakati, the organizer for inviting him. The entire programme of Debojit's performance was covered by Zee TV UK and MATV UK.

On 22 August, 2010, Radio 92Fm arranged an interaction with Debojit. Also on 23 August, 2010, Manoshi Barua, Senior Broadcast Journalist at BBC World Service, Bush House had an interview with Debojit Saha about his musical career.

The evening commenced with Debojit starting with a patriotic song from Manna Dey - "Aye mere pyare Watan, Aye mere bichde chaman, tujh pe dil qurbaan, tu hi meri aarzoo, tu hi meri aabroo, tu hi meri jaan ... to honour India's Independence Day which moved the audience in tears and in complete thrall when he also sang "Jibone morone Moi Sirodin Asomiya".

The song from his debut album Jeena "My heart goes duma dum" and Om Shanti Om "Deewangi Deewangi" made the crowd nostalgic and given a standing ovation when Debojit joined them in hands and sing together.

The grand finale was a rendition of Assamese bihu by Debojit which made the people in the audience stood up, come to the stage and dance in the tune of dhol, pepa, gagana - joined hands with pride and honour.

Debojit Saha is an inspiration and his flawless performance is a silent but forcefull message for all our upcoming artists from the region.

DHD(J) withdraws ban on NC hills projects

21 May 2008 - 1:38am | editor
The DHD Jewel group has withdrawn the ban it earlier imposed on the rail broadgauge and National Highway construction projects in North Cachar hills district. This was disclosed by publicity secretary of the banned insurgent outfit Faifring Dimasa while he was speaking to a private satellite TV news channel.

Notably, altogether 25 people have lost their lives and four others injured during these incidents violence in the district. Twelve victims are workers with the railway broadgauge and National Highway construction projects. Moreover, the insurgent groups forced the halt of these projects saying they will not allow these works to continue. But the outfit declared its thirteen cadres as their martyrs who were killed on May 10 during an army operation.

Meanwhile, the has been withdrawn and yet the workers are scared of militant attacks in North Cachar hills district.