We in India have a multitude of festivals almost on a daily basis. Thus, the chilli connoisseurs of Manipur every year, since the last eight years, have been diligently hosting a three-day-long festival to celebrate the unique chilli called hathei, which is grown only in Sirarakhong village of Ukhrul district of the northeastern state.
The eight edition of the chilli festival got kick-started in the village with great pomp and show on Wednesday. The festival, which saw display of large quantities of organically-grown king chillis for the public on the first day, has been hosted by a local organisation, Sirarkhong Shanao Long.
Apart from being grown exclusively in the village, the eight-inch chillis are unique as they are used to add colour and flavour to non-vegetarian delicacies.
While inaugurating the festival, commerce and industries minister of Manipur, Thongam Biswajit Singh, said that all forms of assistance from the state government will be given to the chilli growers.
Singh asked the chilli growers to work harder, and said that he will certainly discuss various ways and methods with the chief minister N Biren Singh to promote the festival, increase production of the chilli and to provide a market.
The minister also spoke about the uniqueness of the chilli variety grown in the village and said the chilli is not found anywhere else. He added the chilli is indigenous to Sirarakhong village and the same variety, when planted at other places, loses its uniqueness, as well as taste, flavour and size.
Asem Bhakta Singh, who works for an NGO, Garden Care, said, "Hathei is a peculiar kind of chilli not grown in other parts of the world; it is the pride of Ukhrul."
In the festival, there are altogether 18 stalls, including four selling organic chillis.The hathei chillies, produced by local self-help groups, are displayed at 14 stalls.
While the dry hathei chillis were sold at Rs 480 per kg, the fresh ones were sold at Rs 60 a kg in the festival. Fresh organic chillis, harvested in Ukhrul recently, were sold at Rs 440 per kg.