Chilli festival at Sira-rakhong, Ukhrul

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IMPHAL, Aug 25: While neighboring Assam is initiating a large scale harvest of the world’s hottest chili, ‘Bhut Jolokia’, locally U-Morok, demand for which is said to be on the rise in the Arabian and European countries a small hamlet in Manipur’s hill district Ukhrul has started to preserve and promote an exclusive chilli variety.

In a move to showcase the sensational look and taste of the chilli having the most distinguish character besides setting up of a collection centre in the markets of the NE India, the first ever Chilli festival or Hathei phanit was held at Sira-rakhong village, 80 km north of here in Tangkhul inhabited Ukhrul district, on August 24.

The festival was held under the aegis of Sira-rakhong Sinao Long(SSL)-a women’s body of this western village of the Tangkhuls. International Fund for Agricultural Development’s Ukhrul based official Ticychicus Vashum and Tangkhul Sinao Long President Silla were the chief guest and president of the festival.

“Our objective of organizing such a gala festival is to reintroduce the sensational look and taste of the chilli having the most distinguish character in the region”, V Aphi, president of the SSL said.

Even though the festival was organized in a small manner comparing to other festivals such as Orange or Lemon or ginger festival in the state, active participation of the village’s 240 households speaks the exclusive character of the chilli variety.

Sira-rakhong,a Tangkhul community village is known for it’s exclusive variety of chilli, brinjal, cotton and an endangered rice variety called –changlei-thi in tangkhul dialect.

“We’re also trying to give awareness on the volatile status of our aged old agricultural plants as our villagers here started to face continuous invasion by the exotic varieties”, a key functionary of the organizing body felt.

The dry red chilli powder of Sira-rakhong village has it’s own colour. So it requires no turmeric which is another additional distinguish character of it.

Though the Guinness Book of World Records acknowledged ’Bhut Jolokia’ as the hottest spice in 2007, Sira-rakhong villagers believed the chilli variety which was available in their village since time immemorial is one of the best health concern chilli unlike other variety.

Also known as Hathei in Tangkhul dialect was one of the four main agricultural crops in the hill village. Unlike the past the village has been harvesting a minimum of 10,000 kilograms every season without any technical inputs or chemical fertilizer.

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