Northeast travels: Dambuk – the orange valley of Arunachal Pradesh

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Dambuk village, nestled by the banks of the Dibang and the Sisseri rivers in the Lower Dibang Valley of Arunachal Pradesh used to remain isolated for nearly eight months each year. Until recently, the picturesque and sparsely inhabited village had no access to electricity and mobile connectivity. Heavy rainfall during summer would cause the rivers to swell and transform the village into a serene island, rendering it virtually inaccessible.

It was truly fitting to refer to this mesmerizing village of Dambuk as ‘saat samandar paar’ – a phrase meaning ‘beyond seven seas’ – owing to the numerous rivers that one had to cross on a ferry, in order to explore the enchanting and relatively uncharted territory. Thanks to the construction of Dr Bhupen Hazarika Setu (Dhola-Sadiya Bridge), the journey to Dambuk from Dibrugarh has been dramatically reduced to a mere four to five hours, albeit the ride may prove a bit bumpy.

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The tranquil village of Dambuk owes its name to two indigenous words – ‘midam’ (meaning generous people) and ‘auk’ (meaning a new place of settlement). This pristine hamlet is predominantly inhabited by the Adi and Idu Mishmi tribes, who have coexisted harmoniously with nature for generations.

dambuk arunachal
Image via My Good Times India

Nearly half a century ago, a local farmer, Pankeng Pertin introduced oranges to Dambuk. Due to the losses he incurred from paddy cultivation, he began thinking of a crop harvested in winter that wouldn’t require annual work, and could be transported to market when the rivers subsided. He decided to experiment with oranges and began planting some borrowed seeds in his orchard.

Image via Orange Festival Official FB Page

The Himalayan weather proved ideal for the fruit and within a span of eight to ten years, bright and luscious oranges flooded the village and gradually it became the main cash crop for the people. Since then, the Dambuk valley has gained recognition for its production of juicy and sweet Khasi – Mandarin oranges, which are particularly exported to Middle East countries.

The fame that oranges brought to the village led to the start of Orange Festival of Adventure and Music (OFAM), which is celebrated during the orange harvest month of December. High-octane activities such as music concerts, river rafting, parasailing, para motoring, dirt cycling, scuba diving, elephant rides, zip lining and ATV riding attract large number of city dwellers during the festival.

Image via Rollingstone India

The four-day festival which has featured incredible artists like – Flipsyde, Trance Effect, The Big Mountain, The Iron Maidens, Bombay Basement, Arko Mukherjee, Bipul Chhetri and many more is treat for the eyes and ears and a therapy for the soul.

Image via Wide Angle Vigilante

The adrenaline-fueled event of OFAM, the JK Tyre Orange 4×4 Fury Championship, has been the main attraction for adventurous drivers who pilot off-road vehicles such as converted Gypsies, Jeeps, and Polaris dune buggies through rough terrain, creating unforgettable memories to cherish for life.

The Orange festival in Dambuk also provides an opportunity for food lovers to savour over fresh, traditional local tribal food.  The local rice wine, called Poka, is a must try for those looking to quench the thirst of their taste buds.


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