Guwahati: In a moment of pride for the NorthEast region, the Padma Awards 2024 were announced on the eve of Republic Day, recognising exceptional individuals who have made indelible marks in their respective fields, breaking barriers, and serving as inspiring beacons.
Parbati Baruah: Paving the Way for Female Elephant Mahouts
At 67, Parbati Baruah, affectionately known as “Hathi ki Pari,” has etched her name in history by becoming India’s first female elephant mahout. Overcoming gender stereotypes, she dedicated four decades to mitigating human-elephant conflicts. Parbati’s expertise, inherited from her father, has been instrumental in capturing and taming wild elephants. Her scientific approach has not only aided state governments but also provided a sanctuary for rogue tuskers. The Padma Shri in Social Work (Animal Welfare) is a testament to her dedication.
Chitta Ranjan Debbarma: Transforming lives through spiritual teachings
Chitta Maharaj of Santikali Ashram (Chitta Ranjan Debbarma) in Tripura has been conferred with the ‘Padma Shri’ in the category of Others-Spiritualism. Maharaj’s profound impact extends beyond traditional boundaries as he has been instrumental in transforming the lives of many, particularly Janajati people, through spiritual teachings and the expansion of education. His commitment to spiritualism has become a guiding light, bringing positive change to communities. On a parallel note, Smriti Rekha Chakma, a Chakma Loinloom Shawl Weaver, has been honoured for her exceptional contributions. Beyond her artistic prowess in transforming eco-friendly, vegetable-dyed cotton threads into traditional designs, Chakma is a beacon of empowerment. Through her socio-cultural organization, she imparts training to rural women in the art of weaving, not only preserving traditional techniques but also fostering economic independence and empowerment among women.
Machihan Sasa: The Earthen Alchemist of Longpi Pottery
Amidst challenges in Manipur, Machihan Sasa, a Longpi Potter from Ukhrul, has earned the Padma Shri in Art (Craft – Pottery – Black) at 73. Preserving the ancient tradition of Longpi pottery, Sasa, known as the “Earthen Alchemist,” has dedicated five decades to this unique craft, contributing significantly to Manipur’s cultural heritage. Longpi pottery, dating back to the Neolithic period, is crafted without a potter’s wheel, showcasing Sasa’s commitment to preserving tradition.
Silbi Passah: Melodies of Meghalaya’s Cultural Heritage
Meghalaya folk musician Silbi Passah has been honoured with the Padma Shri in the field of art. A distinguished Khasi-Jaintia artist, composer, poet, and playwright, Passah’s contributions to traditional folk Khasi music have earned her recognition. Her dual role as a school teacher reflects a commitment to both art and education, making her a deserving recipient of this prestigious award.
Sano Vamuzo: Champion of Peace and Women’s Representation
From Nagaland, social worker Sano Vamuzo, at 83, has been conferred the Padma Shri for her distinguished service in social work. A prominent figure in promoting peace and advocating for women’s representation, Vamuzo’s leadership as the first president of the Naga Mother’s Association has left a lasting impact. Her commitment to societal well-being is rightfully recognized with this honour.
San Thankima: The Saint of Compassion
Mizoram’s ‘Saint of Compassion,’ San Thankima, received the Padma Shri in Social Work (Children) at 63. Leading Mizoram’s largest orphanage, “Thutak Nunpuitu Team,” Thankima has been a driving force for three decades. His tireless efforts in children’s welfare, addiction rehabilitation, and civic issues showcase a commitment to providing shelter and rehabilitation to the most vulnerable members of society.
Sarbeswar Basumatary: Chirang ke Krishi Chiraag
Assam’s luminary, Sarbeswar Basumatary, aged 61, has been honoured with the Padma Shri in Others (Agriculture). Known as “Chirang ke Krishi Chiraag,” he transformed from a daily wage laborer to a successful farmer, cultivating diverse crops. Basumatary’s community-focused approach and knowledge-sharing with fellow farmers contribute to increased efficiency and improved livelihoods.
Jordan Lepcha: Lepcha Maestro Preserving Cultural Heritage
In a moment of pride for Sikkim, Jordan Lepcha, known as the “Lepcha Maestro,” received the Padma Shri for his outstanding contribution to Art (Craft – Bamboo). For 25 years, Lepcha has been a custodian of the ancient craft, weaving traditional Lepcha hats and creating intricate bamboo crafts. His commitment is crucial in ensuring the continuity of the Lepcha tribe’s cultural identity.
Smriti Rekha Chakma: Weaver and Trainer
Tripura’s Smriti Rekha Chakma, a Loinloom Shawl Weaver, goes beyond her craft. Through Ujeia Jadha, she trains rural women in weaving, preserving traditional Naga methods. Chakma’s commitment ensures the continuation of eco-friendly, vegetable-dyed cotton threads into traditional designs.
Yanung Jamoh Lego: Adi Queen of Herbs
East Siang’s Yanung Jamoh Lego, the Adi Queen of Herbs, dedicates her life to reviving the traditional healing system of the Adi tribe in Arunachal Pradesh. Despite challenges, Lego provides medical care and preserves the traditional knowledge of herbal medicine.
Drona Bhuyan: ‘Ojapali’ exponent from Assam
In a noteworthy addition to the roster of Padma Awardees, ‘Ojapali’ exponent from Assam, Drona Bhuyan, is set to receive recognition in the field of art. Ojapali, a traditional form of singing and dancing, has deep roots in Assam, serving as a means to depict social events and convey important messages to villagers in ancient times. Bhutan’s dedicated efforts in preserving this nearly extinct tradition in lower Assam have not only kept the art form alive but have also involved passing it on to the new generation. His unwavering commitment and sacrifices to safeguard this age-old tradition have garnered well-deserved recognition from the central government. This acknowledgment reinforces the cultural richness and diversity of Assam, showcasing how individuals like Bhuyan play a pivotal role in ensuring the continuity of invaluable artistic heritage.
In celebrating these extraordinary individuals, the Padma Awards 2024 not only acknowledge their individual achievements but also shine a spotlight on the rich diversity and cultural heritage of the NorthEast region. These stories of resilience, commitment, and excellence are a testament to the region’s vibrant tapestry of talent and tradition.