National integration is the awareness of a common identity among the citizens of a country. It indicates that even though we come from various castes, religions, regions, and linguistic groups, we understand that we are all one.
Such integration is important in the building of a strong and prosperous nation. National integration is a positive aspect. It reduces socio-cultural and economic differences or inequalities and strengthens national unity and solidarity, which is not imposed by any authority. People share ideas, values and emotional bonds. It is a feeling of unity within diversity.
National identity is supreme. Cultural unity, constitution, territorial continuity, common economic problems, art, literature, national festivals, national flag, national anthem and national emblem etc. promote National Integration.
National Integration most simply and briefly means national unity. It is unity in diversity. It means unifying all the forces in the country so as to give the idea of one nation.
Dr S Radhakrishnan has rightly said that "National Integration cannot be built by brick and mortar; it cannot be built by chisel and hammer. It has to grow silently in the minds and hearts of men.
The only process is the process of education" and through festivals.
Globally and nationally, festivals whether cultural, religious or sporting are believed to possess the power to bring happiness, entertain and unite people by creating a good atmosphere for friendship and also facilitate cultural and religious harmony as well contributing to national development through their trickle down effects.
No meaningful development can be achieved in any fragmented, disjointed or chaotic community or nation.
The idea of getting all the segments of the society integrated as a single whole has become crucial and the pursuit of all stakeholders in Nation building. Festival as a product in an experienced economy forms the bedrock for meaningful development.
Getz (2011) defined Event tourism as an applied field devoted to understanding and improving tourism through events. Festivals, carnivals, national day celebration, anniversaries celebration, coronation, music concert are all subsets of event tourism.
Festival on the other hand possesses the efficacy to integrate the nation due to its potential in bringing people together in a celebratory mood. It facilitates friendship, social cohesion, tolerance, shared social and cultural values and experiences.
Festivals have become a medium through which citizens consume and experience cultures. They also have attractive ways of packaging and selling cultural performance and generating tourism (Picard & Robinson, 2006).
Festivals have been examined as ways of responding to various forms of crisis; social, political, economic and as a means of remaking and re-animating spaces and social life. Tourism is increasingly complicit in the festival processes of re-invention and in forming new patterns of social existence.
According to the Policy Studies Institute as noted by Bowdin, Allen, O’Toole, Harris& McDonnell (2011) festival is viewed traditionally as a time of celebration, relaxation and recuperation which often followed a period of hard labour.
Glenn et al further suggested that, the essential feature of festivals is the celebration or reaffirmation of community or culture, while Getz (1996) defined festival as a themed public celebration, which extends leisure and cultural opportunities beyond everyday experiences and choices.
The socio-cultural impacts of festivals are divers as noted by several authors; example, Getz (1991a) outlined six reasons for special events and festivals as follows; (i) To attract people into the area.(ii) To attract people outside the main season (iii)To create media attention and raise the profile of the area (iv) To add animation and life to existing attractions (v)To encourage repeat visits (vi) To assist regeneration . In addition, festivals offer the following benefits;(a) Strengthen community ties and a sense of cultural identity (b) Serve the purpose of bringing happiness into our lives (c) Connect us as people of a nation (d) Solidify patriotic spirit in the society (e) Promote cultural and civic boosterish(f) Festival space serves as site for encounter and cultural exchange (g) Help in overcoming the challenge of seasonality in tourist’s destination.
Andy, Taylor and Woodward (2014) argued that festivals facilitate the acquisition and developments of cosmopolitan sensibilities as individuals are given access to new ways of seeing the world around them. Festivals are critical elements in the modern day socialization process.
The festivals hosting communities, festival goers, planners and all other stakeholders are all involved in this social encounter and the resultant effect of this social web is the emergence of new friendships, social cohesion, shared values and integrated opinions in the society.
When defining event-ology, Gold blatt (2011) said ‘it is the study of planned events to promote positive societal benefits.’
According to Gold Blatt, bringing people together through planned events such as festivals makes societies healthier, smarter, wealthier, fairer, greener, safer and stronger. It is the cumulative impact of the expert opinion of Gold blatt that carries the real gem that can integrate communities or nations and usher in development due to the economic benefits of festivals.
Festivals and carnivals are part of the celebrations that are well defined in the event ology concept. One of the major benefits of festivals and carnival is the formation of communities.
According to Franklin (2003) communities is used to describe a unique social bond that is achieved through touristic engagements such as festivals, carnivals, pilgrimage or holidaying.
Tourism in this concept is generally believed to encourage generalized sociability among festival goers.
Tourism as a transitory phenomenon is bound by, and shares limited spatial and temporal realities (McConnell quoted by Picard & Robinson 2006:3).
Carnival as a subset of event tourism is defined as a “series of performances and rituals with attendant discourses that are contested, negotiated and renegotiated that generate their own social realities.
Carnival as a bestialized event is examined as a way of responding to various forms of crisis - social, political, economic and of remaking and re-animating spaces and social life.
It interrogates notions of ritual and tradition, shapes new spaces, creates and renews relationships between participants and observers. Tourism is increasingly complicit in the festival processes of re-invention and informing new patterns of social existence of societies”(Picard & Robinson, 2006).
The catalytic role of tourism in fostering socio-cultural changes of our contemporary society cannot be over emphasized as it is evidently seen in the everyday life of tourist destinations.
Popescu & Corbos (2012) opines that festivals are majorly planned to address specific needs of the society. Such needs could be national integration, economic and political agenda, promotion of national image, increasing the profile of tourist’s destination and general development.
Tourism engages and involves inter disciplinary discourses and spaces. It involves movement and interaction of people from diverse cultural backgrounds and ideological positions; it will therefore be an easy avenue for acculturation or cultural fusion which will consequently result in spatial or even complete transformation of the cultural and social life of the destination where such touristic interaction or occupation is taking place.
Festivals spread brotherhood and faith among all humans, they connect us with one another as the livewire of the society.
Sangai festival (Meite: Sangai Kumhei) is an annual cultural festival organised by Manipur Tourism Department every year from 21 to 30 November is also a festival of oneness(festival of integration) among different communities of Manipur.
Although many editions of this Festival has been celebrated over the past few years with the name of Tourism Festival, since 2010 this has been renamed as the Sangai Festival to stage the uniqueness of the shy and gentle brow-antlered deer popularly known as the Sangai, a regional name given to this rare species of deer. It is the state animal of Manipur.
As this festival is being celebrated to promote Manipur as a world class tourism destination, it showcases the state's contributions to art and culture, handloom, handicrafts, fine arts, indigenous sports, cuisine, music and adventure sports, as well as the natural environment. It is celebrated in different parts of Manipur, this year it is being organized at 13 different venues.
Many tourists come from all over the world and represent their craft making.
Festivalization as a concept is fundamental to increasing fun and memorable touristic experience thereby ensuring repeat visits by tourists or event goers. It is a new trend in the event tourism industry that contains the gem of spurring growth and national integration.
It turns communities, cities and nations into festivals and also brings about social cohesion, inclusiveness, friendship, cultural exchange, promotion of national and global brotherhood, civic boosterish while strengthening shared cultural values and experience.
(The views expressed are personal. Writer can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org)