A steel town for a fun winter getaway?
Jamshedpur, for most people, is synonymous with steel. Few know it to be more than this little township built around India's first steel plant and named after its founder, Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata. Not surprisingly, it doesn't quite figure on vacation getaway lists! But this mini-metro, winged by the Dalma Hills to the north, and situated at the confluence of Subarnarekha and the Kharkai rivers, has always been about much more than steel, and packs in quite a few surprises!
More than just steel
Residents know that their steel city has always had a deep cultural heart, and a great love of sports. Jamshedpur has always had attracted luminaries from every field acclaimed singers, dance legends, theatre groups, artists and artists, who have come to perform here. The city is well-known among sports lovers; its golf tournaments draw enthusiasts from all over, and it has a long tradition of hosting national and international cricket matches, and is an established national center for football and archery.
Come November, this oasis begins to bloom! The air turns nippy, bringing in a fresh, bracing chill, and the surrounding Dalma hills come into clear view after the morning mist clears; and by December, parks and gardens break into a profusion of chrysanthemum and other winter blossoms; dahlias and roses nod in the breeze.
No wonder then, that the town's mood turns light and festive as winter approaches, when residents and visitors alike, are in for a feast, with the JAMSHEDPUR WINTER FEST, a bonanza of events and tournaments!
Open to All, Something for Everyone!
This year, the treat is bigger than ever before! With more than 30 programs in sports, music, dance, food and games, to cater to every taste, the JAMSHEDPUR WINTER FEST 2017 is a nearly four-month- long extravaganzathat has something for everyone!
Possibly one of the few of its kind in India, the Winter Fest is a unique city-wide festival supported by the town authorities -- Tata Steel, the Jamshedpur Utility Services Co. (JUSCO), and other Tata companies; and it is also a partnership between residents and organizers. A colorful, fun-filled fiesta of events and activities, for residents and visitors, with the organizers making every effort to ensure that the festival is truly inclusive - a celebration that includes everyone. Almost all events, with the exception of one or two, are free and open to the public.
Sunil Bhaskaran, VP Corporate Services, Tata Steel, the event patron, gives his rationale for Tata Steel's interest in this festival: “Tata Steel has always been closely involved in the life of the town, through its various programs and events. A couple of years ago, we felt that it would be good to bring residents of all ages, from all communities, together, in one big open celebration, through the Jamshedpur Carnival. This year, we have brought the Carnival and the numerous events we hold throughout the season under one giant umbrella -- the Winter Fest 2017, giving residents and visitors a reason to come together, participate, and revel in this city. We hope that this will attract visitors; that more and more people from outside the city will discover its many charms, and make this a winter destination, because it is certainly an open season of action and entertainment!”
Ashish Mathur, MD, JUSCO, the main organizing body for the festival, gives his take on the effort that goes into this festival: "We believe that the soul of a city lies with its citizens, and the Winter Fest is our way of nurturing and enriching this soul, by giving all our residents a platform to connect culturally; by allowing them to showcase their talents in diverse fields, and come together to enjoy themselves. At the same time we try to bring in good performances from outside so that residents get a chance to experience the best. We have kept it all open and accessible, even ticketed events are nominally priced! The Winter Fest, we hope, is a way for our residents to take ownership and enjoy their town, and for visitors to share in its many delights.
Destination for Sports Lovers
Winter Fest 2017 kicked off on November 5, with the annual Run-a- thon, the first in a series of stellar sporting events, with a 7and 10 km run starting at the magnificent JRD Stadium. There was even a run for the under 16 group. Since 2014, when it was first started, the run has grown in scope and prestige, attracting seasoned runners from around the country, as well as enthusiastic locals, with participants numbering over 6000 this year, and a couple of thousand more waiting behind the cordons. The Run was just a series of major sports events in the Winter Fest starting in November.
For tennis buffs, there was the All India Tennis Association's Men's National Ranking 50K Tennis Championship 2017, that followed soon after, with the Men's Open Singles and Doubles Championships, held at the local clubs. The tournament provided young tennis buffs in the city, a perfect opportunity to watch some great tennis!
Golf has long been a passion in Jamshedpur which boasts two, not one, beautiful golf courses at Beldih and Golmuri. In Winter Fest 2017, the golf season will start with the Tata Open Golf Tournament, to be held from Dec 14-17. A much sought-after professional golfing event, organized jointly by Tata Steel and the Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI), the event will have a Pro-Am feature, where Amateur golfers get an opportunity to play with leading professional golfers. And January will bring the much-awaited annual Steel City Golf Tournament in January, that brings national level golfing to the greens, and a celebratory new year's feel with evenings of dining and dancing.
This year, however, the largest crowd puller will be the Indian Super League's football matches. Starting on December 1, the city will see the newly-minted Jamshedpur Football Club, playing nine teams of the Indian Super League throughout the season, an unprecedented opportunity for football fans in the town and nearby cities! Already, Jam Ke Khelo, is the new tagline in town, and with online tickets almost sold out on the very first day, this is bound to be a truly exciting time for all!
A Feast for the Senses
In cultural events, November featured a 'Mushaira' night for poets and poetry lovers, at a local community centre. Alongside, as in the last few years, residents were treated to Jam@Streets, a street festival that pops up at 6 and vanishes by 9 am, on the main road in central Bistupur area, which is cordoned off to traffic. Along with delicious street food, Jam @Streets offers a carousel of activities - live art, roller skating, street basketball, yoga, cycling, hula hoops, all accompanied by rock music. A second edition of Jam@Streets will be served up again on December 24.
November also featured the fourth edition of Samvaad, a national Tribal Conclave that ran from November 16-19, with tribal representatives from all over India arriving in Jamshedpur. This year, 150O Indian tribal delegates from different corners of the country attended, along with tribal representatives from Zimbabwe, Canada, Australia and Kenya for the first time, guaranteeing a truly unusual experience! With 32 tribes from Jharkhand kicking off the event to the resounding roar of 111 nagaras, the event drew large crowds despite unseasonal rains, and saw exultant audiences break into spontaneous dances every now and then!
In a fitting tribute to the deep tribal roots of this region, the conclave brings cultural performances, a tribal market, cuisine and medicine,and other specialties, but the conclave goes much further than typical tribal fairs,to include workshops, focus groups, open mic sessions and lectures, and a celebrity guest. 2017 saw Nobel Economist, Prof. Mohammed Yunnus, Founder of Grameen Bank of Bangladesh, address the crowds, urging tribal youth to pursue entrepreneurship.
Another packed performance in November featured an exquisite dance by the internationally celebrated, path breaking, Jamshedpur born dancer, Sir Astaad Deboo, who brought his northeastern folk drummer dancing troupe in a hour and half's recital, that was nothing short of spectacular. With his signature slow pirouettes contrasting with the frenetic energy of the drummers, danced to the strains of piano and drums, the show was a surreally beautiful experience, resonating among old and young alike.
November has a treat in store for book lovers in the city, when celebrated author and mythologist Devdutt Patnaik, author of bestselling books such as Jaya An Illustrated Retelling of the Mahabharata, and Myth and Mythia, comes to town for the Jharkhand Literary Meet. The Jamshedpur meet is a prelude to a two-day literary fest in Ranchi, which features an impressive array of authors and columnists.
Let's Go to The Carnival!
December brings the most eagerly anticipated event every year, the centerpiece of the Winter Fest, the Jamshedpur Carnival! Complete with a Carnival Parade with floats and live bands and a vintage car rally, that winds through the heart of the town and ends in Jamshedpur's largest open space, Gopal Maidan, this year's Jamshedpur Carnival is a four- day music, dance, games and food fete where the town truly comes together.
Local businessman and philanthropist, Ronnie DeCosta, the man behind the first carnival parade looks back at 2014: "The carnival parade was our way of bringing the whole town together on the streets, with floats and music, dance and food, much in the style of a Goan carnival; and giving locals a chance to perform and share in some spontaneous fun!"
Just Dance and Sing!
The carnival itself is chock-a block with events. One of its biggest draws is the Dance Competition, where local dance academies and schools vie for a prize with performances on a theme that must combine various genres as different as Bharatnatyam, Chau, Salsa and Hip Hop! Aspiring singers participate in the local Sa Re Ga Ma competition. Each competition culminates in a celebrity performance, including a Mega Musical Night!
The past years have certainly brought some major headliners to the town. Audiences have been treated to Tanushree Shankar's modern dance troupe, Pandit Shyamal Maharaj and his group, Sir Astaad Deboo, and Doubleshakes, the African contemporary dance company, with its acrobats. While Lesley Lewis, Penaz Masani and the Sufi Brothers have attracted music lovers from all over Jamshedpur, as well as neighbouring cities.
One of the lead organizers of the carnival, and in particular, of the dance competition, Mrs. Vandana Mathur speaks to the popularity of the dance festival: ''The idea of having a dance festival is to provide a common platform to all school children, many of whom hail from humble backgrounds, and local dance academies, a chance to display their talent. The competition has become a prestigious one, opening doors for local performers; and for lovers of classical and contemporary dance, a chance to experience the performing arts by novices, as well as masters. We hope that very soon, the dance festival will attract competitors from neighbouring cities and towns as well, so that Jamshedpur becomes a regional cultural centre".
A Whirlwind of Activity The Four-day Carnival is dotted with a whole number of other colourful events!
Rock and Roll fans can enjoy an evening of thumping rock music, where bands from all over Jharkhand come to play. For kids, the Game Zone set up in the Maidan has quite a few challenges in store. Foodies can savour the delights of the food festival, organized by the Jamshedpur Hoteliers Association. Budding chefs can take part in a Master Chef cook off!
While budding artists can take part in the painting competition organized by the Jamshedpur School of Art.
If all this weren't enough, December and January bring specialty shows and events.
Flower lovers can feast their eyes on hundreds of varieties of colourful blossoms at the29th Annual Flower Show hosted by the Horticultural Society in the last week of December. Friends of the dogs can see a variety of breeds, large and small, at the International Annual Kennel Club show, one of the few of its kind to be held outside of metros in India. For budding numismatists, the Coin Collection Exhibition that comes into town every year brings a treasure to behold. And with its spirit of inclusiveness, the Winter Fest will observe World Disability Day on December 3.
In and Around Jamshedpur
In all of this, it would be easy to forget Jamshedpur's more permanent charms, best experienced in winter! A trip to the Jamshedpur Zoological Park located in Jubilee Park, the 'green lungs' of the city, for a glimpse of the zebras or lions. Those into trekking can take a trip to the Dalma Wildlife Sanctuary with the Tata Steel Adventure Foundation, where they are certain to meet Champakali and Rajni, two rescued elephants, one a senior citizen, the other, a cub. A trek or drive up to the hilltop, and one may even spot some wild elephants and flying squirrels! Dimna and Chandil lakes offer rafting and boating on placid waters. If a waterfront picnic is preferred, then it’s best to savour some snacks and hot tea from local vendors, near Dimna Dam, as lake waters lap at the shore.
And while in Jamshedpur, a visit to the Tata Steel Centre for Excellence is a must, for a look at the archives, to get a feel of how this unique town came about. As for all selfie buffs, a simple drive around Jamshedpur's many parks, scenic walkways, and the riverside should provide more than ample opportunities for clicks!
What's more, the short distances in Jamshedpur make it perfectly possible to pack in multiple activities in one day. Golfers can start the day with a round at the greens, take the kids for a visit to the zoo later in the morning, or even a trip through the highway, to one of the lakes.
Eat, Stay, Love! Visitors can stay in the numerous hotels that have sprung up, that cater to different budgets, and the local Hoteliers' Association, one of the partners in the Fest, is here to accommodate visitors who come in at this time. A variety of cafes and restaurants cater to different tastes. Getting to Jamshedpuris not a problem... Calcutta is a short train ride, Bhubaneswar is half a day's drive, while Ranchi is just a couple of hours away by road.
There's an entire season's worth of fun, packed and waiting in the Winter Fest 2017 in Jamshedpur, a town that also makes steel!