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Assam Festival

Busu Dima Festival an annual cultural festival of the Dimasa Kachari

The Busu Dima Festival is the annual cultural festival of the Dimasa Kachari community of the northeastern state of Assam in India.

OTHER NOMENCLATURES

The Busu Dima has many other nomenclatures. It is variously known as Bushu, Bishu, and Bushow.

BUSU DIMA FESTIVAL

The Busu Dima is the largest festival of the Dimasa Kachari tribe. It is an agricultural fest observed during the post-harvest period. All the Kachari hamlets celebrate Busu Dima which also attracts large number of tourists.

The festivity is an integral part of culture and society of the Dimasas.

TIME:

Busu Dima usually falls in January.
The Busu Dima event commences on January 28 and ends on January 29.

THE BUSU DANCE FESTIVAL

The Busu Dima dance festival incorporates singing. It is accompanied by the rhythmic beat of drums known in the Dimasa language as ‘Kharam’, and the wooden bugle (Muri).

The Busu Dance festival continues during the first to third days.

The Dimasa youth (girls and boys) congregate at the venue. They don their participate in the event. The festival continues the entire night during the fest period.

MEANING OF DIMASA

The term ‘Dimasa’ etymologically means “Son of the big river”. The Dima Kachari word ‘Dima’ means river, while ‘sa’ connotes son). The river is the mighty Brahmaputra (which means the son of Lord Brahma – the Hindu deity who is believed to be the creator of the universe.

The writer — Nilutpal Gogoi is an entrepreneur, senior journalist, writer, translator (from Assamese to English & vice versa), avid traveller, British English Accent & grammar trainer, educationist, and martial arts (Taekwondo) practitioner.

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Assam Festival

The Bwisagu Festival of the indigenous Bodos of Assam

The ‘Bwisagu’ festival is celebrated by the indigenous Bodos of Assam. It is a seasonal celebration.

ETYMOLOGY:

The Bodo term ‘Bwisagu’ is derived from two other Bodo words – ‘Bwisa’ and ‘Agu’.
‘Bwisa’ connotes ‘age’ or ‘year’ while ‘Agu’ means ‘start’ or ‘commence’.
Hence, the meaning of the combo Bodo word ‘Bwisagu’ is the ‘commencement’ (start) of a new year.

TIME:

The Bodos celebrate the popular seasonal festival of ‘Bwisagu’ around the middle part of April.
Significantly, ‘Bwisagu’ is observed at the commencement of the first month of the Boro lunar calendar.

BAISAKH:

The first day of socio-cultural and religious festival of ‘Bwisagu’ marks the beginning of ‘Baisakh’ – the first month of the 12 month lunar calendar of the Bodos.

THE CONTINENTAL CONNECTION:

The annual socio-cultural and religious festival of ‘Bwisagu’ has connections with similar celebrating across Asia and southeast Asia.

Various aboriginals in the nations there too celebrate their new year according to the solar calendar. These celebrations also have similar rites.

CHARACTERISTICS:

The prime characteristics of ‘Bwisagu’ are merry making, singing and dancing to the rhythm of Bodo folk music.

THE BODO ETHNIC MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS:

Bwisagu Festival Bodo girls dance

Notably, during these ‘Bwisagu’ celebrations, the Bodos play their ethnic musical instruments.

The ethnic musical instruments played during ‘Bwisagu’ of the Bodos are the ‘Sifung (flute), Serja (the four-stringed musical instrument, ‘Tharkha’ (made from split bamboo piece), and the ‘kham’ (drum).

The Bodo males play various rhythmic beats on the ‘kham’, and the ‘Tharkha’. Similarly, the Bodo youth also plays folk tunes on the ‘sifung’.

The Bodo girls dance to the beats and times played during the annual seasonal ‘Bwisagu’ festivities.

THE BODOS & BWISAGU:

The Bodos welcome their new year according to the sola-lunar calendar by celebrating ‘Bwisagu’.

ANNUAL FESTIVAL:

The ‘Bwisagu’ is a seasonal and annual socio-cultural religious festivity of the ethnic Bodo tribe of north-eastern region of India.

BWISAGU & THE BODO GIRLS:

During the ‘Bwisagu’ celebration, the Bodo girls dance together in bands.

THE BWISAGU MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS OF BODO GIRLS:

They play the ‘Gongonã’ and the ‘Jotha’.
The ‘Gongona’ is
somewhat akin to the Jewish harp
and the ‘Jotha’ refers to the small-sized Bodo ethnic cymbals.

THE BWISAGU RITES:

The Bodos perform a number of rites while celebrating ‘Bwisagu’.

BWISAGU CHARACTERISTICS:

Scholars have classified the festivals linked with Bwisagu into five patterns. These are stated below:
‘Gwkha-Gwkhwi Janai’; ‘Mwsou thukhwinai’; worshipping of deities and also of ancestors, and last but not the least merry making.

Merrymaking is an integral part of the ‘Baisagu’ festival of the Bodos.

‘GWKHA-GWKHWI JANAI’:

The ‘Bwisagu’ pattern of ‘Gwkha-gwkhwi janai’ refers to the eating of sour-tasting and bitter wild vegetables especially on the day prior to the first day of the Bodo new year (also known as ‘Sankranti).

‘Sankranti’ holds significance for the Bodo-Kacharis.

‘MWSOU THUKHWINAI’:

‘Mwsou thukhwinai’ refers to the rituals connected to the bathing of cattle during Bwisagu.

The Kacharis celebrate the ‘Bwisagu’ festival in fixed patterns over a period of several days. These are known as ‘Makhau’, ‘Mansi’, ‘Saima’, ‘Oma’, ‘Dao’

MAKHAU:

The first day of the Bwisagu’ festivities is dedicated for cattle (also known as the ‘Mashau’ or ‘Makhau’. On this first day of the Bathow celebrations, the Bodo-Kacharis bathe their cattle in the river.

MANSI:

The second day is meant for man (known as ‘Mansi’ in Bodo-Kachari language.
Mentionably, the occasion commences with the worshiping of their deities.

SAIMA:

Similarly, the Bodos dedicate the third day of the ‘Bwisagu’ festivities for the dogs (called ‘Saima’).

OMA:

The term ‘Oma’ refers to swine. While celebrating ‘Bwisagu’, the Bodos dedicate the fourth day for the ‘Oma’.

‘DAO’:

The Bodos delicate the fifth day of Bwisagu for the ‘Dao’.
The Bodo term ‘Dao’ refers to fowl; and the sixth day for various species of birds including the duck.
On the seventh day of ‘Bwisagu’ celebrations, the Bodos meet and receive friends and relatives. They clean their houses, perform various rites linked with cattle.
The Bodos also worship the Bathow and offer food to their ancestors.
‘Bathow’ is the supreme fiery of the Bodo-Kacharis.

‘CEREMO’:

The Bodos further observe the Bathow pattern known as ‘ceremo’.
It connotes the process of cooking and eating cooked fowl with ‘Khungkha’ (a locally available bitter herb or other wild vegetables. They use varied flavours in the cooking process.
On this day of ‘Bwisagu’, the Bodos also offer this dish to their visitors.

The Bodos are one of the indigenous tribes of the north-eastern Indian state of Assam.

LANGUAGE:

Most of the Bodos generally speak Assamese besides their own language.
Hence, the majority (over two-thirds) of the Bodo-Kachari community are bilingual ie., they speak two languages. They speak Assamese as a second language

PROFESSION:

The general profession of the larger Bodo tribesman is agriculture.

LARGEST PLAINS ETHNIC GROUP:

On the other hand, the Bodo ethnic community is also the largest dominant plain tribe group of the north-eastern Indian State of Assam.

THE BODO-KACHARIS & THE ASSAMESE CULTURE:

The Bodos are also deemed to be one of the roots of the versatile and rich present-day Assamese culture.

WHERE CONCENTRATED:

The Bodo-Kacharis belong to the Indo-Mongoloid stock.
They are mostly concentrated on the northern bank of river Brahmaputra.
Some of the Bodo-Kacharis also dwell on the southern bank of the Brahmaputra River.

LINEAGE:

The Bodos follow the patriarchal lineage.

EARLIEST IMMIGRANTS:

The Bodos are one of the earliest immigrant tribes to arrive in undivided Assam

TRACING THE ROOTS:

The Bodo-Kacharis are prehistoric settlers in Assam.

MIGRATION ROUTE:

Scholars opine that the earlier forefathers of the Bodos arrived in Assam from Tibet. Their migration route was via the passes of the Himalayan country of Bhutan.

THE LAST KING OF BODO KACHARIS:

The last of the Kachari Kings, Raja Gobin Chandra was the last king of Bodo-Kacharis.
Some rebellious people assassinated Raja Gobin Chandra at Haritikar in Cachar on April 24, 1830.
They killed some of his attendants too.
Raja Gobin Chandra did not have natural heirs.
Therefore, according to the terms of an agreement executed in 1826, Raja Gobin Chandra’s kingdom lapsed to the British raj.

THE LAST CAPITAL OF THE BODO-KACHARI KINGDOM: SILCHAR:

Khaspur in the present-day Silchar was the last capital of the Bodo-Kachari kingdom in the 19th century.
The ruins of the kingdom at Khaspur are tourist destination spots today.

The Bodos perform certain rites (rituals) during the BwisAgu festival. These are cited below:

THE ‘SANTRAVALI’ TUNE & SNAKES:

Since the Bodos perform the festival of Bwisagu for the welfare of the people of their village, they ensure that snakes are annihilated.
They do this by performing a musical ritual.
The Bodos believe that snakes are foes of all living beings, particularly creatures.
So, they perform this particular ritual by playing the flute during Bwisagu.
The Bodos produce a particular tune on their flute. This tune is known as ‘Santravali’.
They strongly believe that playing this tune during Bwisagu destroys the eggs of snakes and thereby limits the number of snakes.

THE OTHER BWISAGU RITES:

The other rites performed during Bwisagu are paying obeisance to and seeking blessings from their deities as well as from their ancestors.
During the Bwisagu festival, the Bodos further pay respects to their teachers and elderly persons. Besides they exchange love and affection among themselves.

A major aspect of the celebrations during Bwisagu is merry making.
Hence during Bwisagu, the Bodos sing their folk songs and dance to their folk tunes played on their ethnic musical instruments.

BURAH BATHOU MAHARAJA:

During the Bwisagu celebrations, the Bodo-Kacharis worship their supreme deity – the fiery BurAh BAthou MahArAjA).
They seek blessings from Burah Bathou Maharaja for a bountiful harvest.
On the seventh day of the Bathow celebrations, the Bodos finally bid farewell to the festival of Bwisagu.
The Bodos perform elaborate cattle rites during BwisAgu.

CATTLE RITES PERFORMED DURING BWISAGU:

During BwisAgu, the Bodos perform certain elaborate rites for the well-being of their cattle. These rituals are performed on the last day of the ‘Chaitra’ month. The Bodos call these rituals ‘Bwisâgu’ for their cattle and cows.

On this day, the Bodos take their cattle to the river or the tank for bathing. However, prior to leading their cattle to the river or tank, the Bodo people offer paddy to their cattle. Then, they smear the hooves and horns of their cattle with mustard oil. On the same occasion of Bwisagu, the Bodos route the Bodos the cow is routed with black marking. The ingredients of the black coloured mixture are mustard oil and black ashes. The Bodos mark their cattle with this blackish mixture. While doing this essential mandatory act during Bwisagu, the Bodos use stems of the Eri tree as the marker.

The cows are also decked up with garlands made of cut brinjals and gourd. The cattle owner pays respects to them prior to leading them from the cow shed to a tank or the river. While taking the cattle to the water reservoir or the river for bathing, the cowherds beat them lightly with branches having leaves of the ‘Dighalati’ plant. Simultaneously, they sing songs. Before taking the cattle to the river or tank, the cattle owner offers them paddy and smear their hooves and horns with mustard oil.

The cow’s body is marked with a blackish mixture prepared from mustard oil and black ashes. While doing this, the cowherds use the stem of Eri tree as the marker. The cows are also decked up with garlands made of sliced and unsliced brinjals and gourd. The cattle owner pays respects to them prior to taking them from the cowshed to the river or water tank for bathing.

While leading the cows to the river for bathing, the cowherds beat them lightly with the “Dighalati” plant. They also sing Bodo folk songs. The cattle owner clears the cowshed of the dunk cakes after the cattle are taken away from the cow shed. They throw away the dunk cakes and clean the cowshed. The cattle owner also replaces the old ‘phaga’ (ropes). These are essential rites or rituals connected with cattle during the Chaitra phase of Bwisagu.

During the celebration of ‘Bwisagu’, the Bodo community offers prayers to their deities according to the rituals of ‘Bathouism’ (also known as ‘Bathou’).

ETYMOLOGY:

The term ‘Bathouism’ has been derived from the Bodo (word ‘Bathow’ or ‘Bathou’). The supreme god of the Bodos is ‘Bathow’ ‘Bathou Brai’ or ‘Sibrai’.

TYPES OF KACHARIS:

The Kachari group is the largest plains tribe of northeast India. There are some small pockets of the Bodo-Kacharis in Nepal as well. The Kachari ethnic group of Assam includes the Bodos, the Dimasas, and also the Sonowal Kacharis. It may be mentioned that former Chief Minister of Assam – Sarbananda Sonowal belongs to the Sonowal Kachari community.

THE BODOS:

The Bodos belong to the ethnic Bodo-Kachari Indo-Mongoloid group of the north-eastern State of Assam.

TRACING THE ROOTS OF ‘BATHOW’:

The roots of the word ‘Bathou have been traced to the two Bodo words ‘Ba’ and ‘Thou’ or ‘thow’ ‘Ba’ means ‘five’; while ‘thou’ or ‘thow’ connotes ‘deep’ or ‘principles’. Therefore, ‘Bathow’ or ‘Bathou’ refers to the five principles of ‘Bathouism’.

THE FIVE PRINCIPLES OF ‘BATHOW’:

The five principles of ‘Bathow’ or ‘Bathouism’ are air (called ‘bar’ in Bodo language), fire (‘orr’ in Bodo), earth (‘ha’), water (‘dwi’) and ether (‘okhrang’ in the Bodo language).

BODOS, BWISAGU & ‘BATHOUBWRAI’:

During the socio-cultural and religious ceremonies of ‘Bwisagu’, the indigenous tribe of Bodo-Kacharis offer prayers to their deities.

The supreme God in ‘Bathouism’ is ‘Bathoubwrai’.

‘BATHOUBWRAI’:

The Bodo nomenclature ‘Bathoubwrai’ is a combination of two other Bodo terms – ‘Bathou’ and ‘bwarai’.
Hence, the nomenclature ‘Bathoubwrai’ refers to ‘Bathoubwrai’ – the omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent.
The Bodo-Kacharis believe that ‘Bathoubwrai’ is the supreme deity. Mentionably, Bathoubwrai remains invisible.
The Bodos – whose vocation is basically agriculture – consider ‘Bathoubwrai’ as the protector of paddy fields”.

MAINAO:

Mainao is the daughter Bathoubwrai. The Bodos consider Mainao as the protector of paddy fields.

GODS, GODDESSES AND GURUS:

During Bwisago, the Bodos offer prayers to several other god and goddesses as well as gurus.
The prominent household deities are Bathoubwrai, Mainao, Bura Bagh Raja and Song Bwrai/Burai.

THE SIJOU TREE:

The sijou tree holds special significance in Bathowism, and hence also during the celebration of ‘Bathow’ .
The Bodo-Kachari community revers the sijou tree as they believe that it represents their supreme god –Bathoubwrai. This practice is common among the Mech Boros living in the Goalpara region.
However, this practice is not so common among the Bodo-Kachari community in Darrang.

SONG RAJA:

The Bodo-Kachari womenfolk offers their devotion to Song Raja. The deity is usually placed inside the house. An altar is constructed specifically for Song Raja. This altar is known as ‘dham’.
The Bodo-Kachari womenfolk specifically offers prayers and offerings to Song Raja during their menses.
The gods-goddesses in Bathowism are listed below in an alphabetic manner.

  • Agrang Bwrai-Agrang Burwi
  • Aham Bwrai-Aham Burwi
  • Bwlli Bwrai-Bwlli Burwi
  • Deva Bwrai-Devi Burwi
  • Eheo Bwrai-Eheo Burwi
  • Emao Bwrai-Emao Burwi
  • Gongar Bwrai-Gongar Burwi
  • Hasung Bwrai-Hasung Burwi
  • Hafao Bwrai-Hafao Burwi
  • Hazw Bwrai-Hazw Burwi
  • Joumwn Bwrai-Joumwn Burwi
  • Khuria Bwrai-Khuria Burwi
  • Mainao Bwrai-Mainao-Burwi
  • Mohela Bwrai-Mohela Burwi
  • Mwnsinsin bwrai-Mwnsinsin burwi
  • Rajong Bwrai-Rajong burwi
  • Si Bwrai-Si Burwi Song Raja-Song Rani

The ‘sijou’ plant is a woody species of (Euphorbia). It is deemed the living embodiment of the Bodo supreme deity ‘Bathoubwrai’.

Hence, during the annual socio-religious and cultural celebration of ‘Bwisagu’, the Bodo families that follow ‘Bathouism’ have this tradition.

They plant a sijou shrub at their courtyard. It is kept in a ‘sijousali’ (the Bodo equivalent of altar).

BWISAGU, BATHOW, SIJOU & THE BODO COMMUNITIES:

The indigenous people of the Bodo-Kachari communities on Assam and certain pockets in Nepal plant a Sijou plant at Aland that specifically belongs to the respective communities.

These Bodo-Kachari communities following ‘Bathouism’ generally plant a sijou shrub at a community land.

Then they fence that spot where the Sijou shrub is planted.

The fence the spot of the Sijou shrub with pairs of eighteen bamboo strips. The pairs of bamboo strips are joined with five fastenings.

Each pair stands (symbolizez) a pair of god-goddess. These five pair of deities are minor ones in the pantheon of ‘Bathouism’.

THE SIJOU SHRUB & ITS FENCE FASTENING RITUALS:

The five fastenings that keep together the eighteen bamboo strips symbolize (from bottom) five significant stages or/and feelings.

These five stages of life or/and feelings (in ascending order) are birth, pain, marriage and peace/pleasure followed by death.

Significantly, the three fastenings at the bottom are known as ‘Bando’ in the Bodo language.
The three ‘Bandos’ at the bottom of those fastenings represent those life-stages that are inevitable in a man’s lifespan.

In other words, they are those stages of life or/and feelings that a person cannot get rid of them in her/his life.

On the other hand, one can control or tackle the remaining two stages of life or/and feelings.
These are represented by the two fastenings at the bottom at the top portion of each of the fastenings.

The annually organised ‘Bwisagu’ festival of the indigenous Bodo-Kachari community of the northeastern Indian State of Assam and also at certain pockets in Nepal has witnessed continuous phases of revivalism.

TRADITIONAL BATHOUISM:

  • In the days of yore, while performing various modes of worship, the Bodo-Kacharis did not follow any written scriptures or religious books.
  • Nor did they possess any particular place(s) of worshipping (temples).
  • Worship in the traditional form of ‘Bathouism’ was performed at the ‘sijousali’.
  • The modes of worship also involved the practice of offering rice beer as well as fowls and animals.
  • Therefore, the ethnically performed old format of worship in ‘Bathouism’ did not follow any written tenets.
  • Hence, the worshipping modes did not have any single systematic pattern.
  • These ceremonies were performed by the Bodo-Kachari priests traditionaly known as the ‘Douri’ (male priest) and the ‘Doudini’ (female priest).
  • Mentionably, the age-old practices of ‘Bathouism’ varied from one Bodo-Kachari village to another.

PROMINENT RELIGIOUS FESTIVALS:

Two of the prominent socio-cultural and religious festivals of the largest ethnic community of Assam – the Bodo-Kacharis are the ‘Kherai’ – the biggest festival, and ‘Bwisagu’.

REVIVALISM & REFORMATION OF ‘BATHOUISM’:

These revival attempts are concentrated at reformation of the ethnically believed ‘Bathouism’.
Such revivalism are aimed at bringing about reformation in the ‘Bathouism’ keeping in tact its basic tenets.
The revivalism and/or reformation efforts have been on for several years now in tune with present times.

TRACING THE ROOTS:

The roots of such revivalism and/or reformation of ‘Bathouism’ can be traced to 1990s.
The effects of these modern thoughts are clearly reflected in the observance of ‘Bwisagu’ these days.

THE PIONEER:

The pioneer of ‘Bathouism’ faith is the ABRU (All Bathou Religious Union).
The organization –ABRU — was formed in 1992.

Since it’s formation, the ‘All Bathou Religious Union’ has been dedicatedly bring in steps to revive and reform their traditional religion of ‘Bathouism’.

THE MODERN FORM OF ‘BATHOUISM’:

The modern form of ‘Bathouism’ as initiated by the ‘All Bathou Religious Union’ has been accepted by the new generation of the Bodo-Kachari community.

THE REFORMS IN ‘BATHOUISM’:

The reforms in ‘Bathouism’ are particularly marked in five significant areas.
The reforms are evidently witnessed during the celebration of the annually held socio-cultural and religious ethnic festival of ‘Bwisagu’.

GWTHARI ASARI:

The socio-cultural and religious organization of ‘All Bathou Religious Union’ has introduced the religious institution of ‘Gwthari Asari’.

‘Gwthari Asari’ has replaced the role of the traditional Bodo-Kachari religious institutions known as the ‘Douri’ (male priest) and ‘Doudin’ (male priest).

The ‘All Bathou Religious Union’ appoints the newly introduced socio-cultural and religious institution of ‘Gwthari Asari’.

‘BATHOU AROJ’:

The ‘All Bathou Religious Union’ also introduced a musical form known as the ‘Bathou aroj’.
The ‘Bathou aroj’ is the nomenclature of a practice that is rendered by a band of Bodo-Kachari singers.

‘THANSALI’:

Significantly enough, the ‘All Bathou Religious Union’ has brought about reformation even in the traditional Bodo-Kachari religious venues. Owing to the concerned initiatives of the ABRU, the been introduced in the Bodo-Kachari society.

WHAT IS THANSALI:

The term ‘Thansali’ refers to an indigenously envisaged culturally representative place of worshipping in the age-old system of ‘Bathouism’.
The ‘Thansali’ refers to the architectural design of such places of worship.
The design and construction of ‘Thansali’ – the present-day Bodo-Kachari worshipping venues resemble that of the churches, mosques and temples.
The ‘Bathou aroj’ practice is carried out in the ‘Thansali’.

NEW MODE OF SACRIFICES:

The ‘All Bathou Religious Union’ has brought about significant reforms in the ethically observed practice of sacrifices.
Since the days of yore, the ethnic tribe of Bodo-Kacharis have been sacrificing birds like fowls and animals.

RICE BEER:

The Bodo-Kachari community were also offering rice beer as part of ‘Bathouism’.
However, the ‘All Bathou Religious Union’ stopped these age-old sacrificing modes.
In its place, the socio-cultural and religious organization of ABRU introduced the offering practice of fruits and flowers

INCENSE BURNING:

Simultaneously, the ‘All Bathou Religious Union’ introduced the practice of incense burning an important and indispensable mode of worship.

PRASAD:

The ‘All Bathou Religious Union’ further brought about about far-reaching transformations in the practice of partaking during the socio-cultural and religious festivals of modern-day ‘Bathouism’. It introduced ‘prasad’.

The writer — Nilutpal Gogoi is an entrepreneur, senior journalist, writer, translator (from Assamese to English & vice versa), avid traveller, British English Accent & grammar trainer, educationist, and martial arts (Taekwondo) practitioner.

Categories
Assam Festival Manipur Meghalaya

Gaan Ngai festival celebrated by The Zeliangrong Community

The Zeliangrong community celebrates the Gaan Ngai festival. For the Kabui/Rongmei Naga tribe, Gaan-Ngai is the prime festival out of many festivals celebrated. It is mainly performed by the devotees and followers of Zeliangrong Indigenous religion of ‘Heraka’ and ‘Tingkao Ragwang Chap-Riak’ cults.

THE COMMUNITIES CELEBRATING GAAN-NGAI

The Zeliangrong community primarily inhabit the northeastern Indian states of Manipur, Assam, and Nagaland.

ALTERNATIVE NAME

The Gaan Ngai festival is also known as Chakaan Gaan-Ngai among the Zeliangrong Nagas.

THE FESTIVAL

Gaan-Ngai Festival

Gaan-Ngai is a post harvest festival. It is held annually.

  1. To mark the end of harvest season.
  2. To organize sports and games for the youth of the village in stone throwing, long-jump, race on the opening day of the festival with Hoi procession through the village.
  3. To mark the heralding of the new year and new fire is produced by rubbing of dry wood and split bamboos pieces. and the new fire is distributed to every household.
  4. To perform commemorative dances for those who are declared queen and kings of the Phaak (a kind of grass) after a trekking competition in a nearby hill or mountain peaks (long—Luimei).
  5. To worship Tingkao Ragwang, the Almighty God as a thanks-giving for the good harvest and prayer for a successful and long life in the coming year.
  6. To the girls who are going to be married.
  7. To those members of the dormitory who died in the previous year.
  8. To those members of the male dormitory of the rank of Khangbon who are given farewell.
  9. To organize a feast of the womenfolk and other ranked institutions.
  10. To organise singing competition of folk songs between boys and girls at girls’ dormitory.
  11. To perform the sacrifice and worship for the deities of the village.
  12. To perform the art of Drum Beating to different types.
  13. To perform rituals and rites such as Raren Loumei i.e. the worship of all the Gods on the last day.
  14. To teach the boys and girls how to maintain strict discipline in the society by the elders.

THE ZELIANGRONGS

The socio-cultural agricultural fest of Chakaan Gaan-Ngai is the principal annual event among the followers of the indigenous Rongmei community.

It is celebrated in the Rongmei lunar calendar of ‘Gaan-Bu’. According to the Gregorian calendar, Gaan-Ngai falls in November-December.

On the other hand in Manipur, Gaan-Ngai is celebrated on the 13th day of ‘Wakching’ (according to the Meetei Manipuri Calendar)

The writer — Nilutpal Gogoi is an entrepreneur, senior journalist, writer, translator (from Assamese to English & vice versa), avid traveller, British English Accent & grammar trainer, educationist, and martial arts (Taekwondo) practitioner.

Categories
Assam Festival Meghalaya

Rongker Festival of the Karbis of Meghalaya and Assam

Rongker Festival is observed by the Karbis of Meghalaya and Assam in India.

TIME:

Rongker is an annual winter time festival.

ETYMOLOGY:

‘Rongker’ is also known as ‘Dehal’ in Ri-Bhoi District of Meghalaya and Kamrup Metropolitan District (‘Dumra Longri’ in Karbi language) in Assam.

PURPOSE:

rongker festival deities Prayer

  • Rongker Festival is celebrated to appease the local deities.
  • This festival of merriment is celebrated for three prime purposes.
  • It is observed to seek blessings from the local deities for a bountiful harvest of crops, rid the villagers of all omen and evil happenings, as well as for welfare of the villagers.

DURATION

The Rongker celebration is held for three days.

THE SITE SETUP

The set-up of the Rongker prayer site is prepared with utmost respect and attention to details.

THE TEN EARTHEN ALTARS

At the Rongker prayer site, the Karbis set up ten earthen altars.
Each of these 10 earthen shrines is dedicated to the 10 of the 12 deities of the Karbis.

DIRECTION OF THE TEN EARTHEN ALTARS

These 10 earthen altars are installed on the eastern side of the site where Rongker is to be observed.

CONSTRUCTION OF THE ALTARS

The altars of Rongker are constructed in a row. They are placed heading the south-north direction. The 10 earthen altars are christened after the deities.

SHAPE OF THE ALTARS

The 10 earthen altars are shaped in such a way so that the respective deities are able to rest comfortably there.

WHY ONLY 10 EARTHEN ALTARS

There is a reason as to why only 10 earthen altars are constructed whereas in the Karbi pantheon of deities there are 12 deities.

This reason is that the Karbis deem the two deities – Hemphu, and Rasinja – as siblings (brother and sister).

On the other hand, the deity – Mukrang – is the husband of Rasinja. Therefore, the sibling deities Hemphu, and Rasinja as well as the deity Mukrang share a common shrine.

THE GOURD & RICE BEER

Rongker Festival Rice Beer

For observing Rongker Festival, the Karbi priests choose 10 gourds with tapering mouths. The 10 gourds are filled with the first-made rice beer. Then the rice beer- filled gourds are placed on the Rongker altars. Each rice beer-filled gourd is offered in the name of the respective gods.

VARIOUS ITEMS USED DURING RONGKER

Mentionably, nothing else except the gourd (full of rice beer), is placed on the altars.

EXCEPTIONS:

However, branches and leaves of particular plants and a tree are utilised while constructing the altars of Rongker deities.

For instance, bamboo are placed on the altar of Ningding Sarpo. Similarly, the Karbi priests erect a few bamboo sticks and also place some branches of Basil on the altar dedicated to the deity, Murti.

On the altar of Arlok, the Karbi priests place a branch of Fongrong (a locally available tree who’s branches are deemed holy).

THE RONGKER RITUALS:

The Karbi priests observe various rituals while observing the Rongker celebrations in the four parts of ‘Sadi’, ‘Karkli’, ‘Kurusar, and Rongphu-Rongling-Kangthin.

SADI

In the ‘Sadi’ process, the Karbi priests invoke all the 12 deities.

KARKLI

While performing the ‘Karkli’ process of Ronger celebrations, the Karbi priests worship the Karbi deities in two methods.

These two worshiping methods are known as ‘Kibo-kaba’ and ‘Koi-abida’.

In the first worshipping manner of ‘Kibo-kaba’ while performing ‘Karkli during the Rongker celebrations, the Karbi priests offer meal to the Karbi deities. On the other hand, while performing the ‘Karkli manner of worshipping during the Rongker celebrations, the Karbi priests offer areca nuts and betel-leaves to the deities.

Mentionably, the entire man folk of a Karbi village participate during these ‘Karkli’ celebration during Rongker.

It is the duty of all males of each Karbi hamlet to bring all the required items to the site where the Rongker generations are to be held.

The male folk of the Karbi villages gather at the predetermined site of Rongker festivities in the morning. Then, each of them deposit the articles with the appointed person at the Rongker site.

KURUSAR

The ‘Kurusar’ is the main priest of the Karbis.

Hence during the Rongker festivities, the principal task is performed by the main Karbi priest.

Of course, the ‘Kurusar is assisted by a number of other specialists adept in the Karbi religious rite and rituals.

THE RONGKER SPECIALISTS:

During the Rongker festivities, the ‘Kurusar’ plays a very prominent role.

Besides the ‘Kurusar’, the other specialists of Karbi religion are the Gaon Burah (village headman), the group known as ‘Thek-kere’ (elderly villagers who are versed in the processes of worshipping the Karbi deities), the youth leader, and an official of the Karbi Kingdom.

THE PURIFICATION PROCESS:

Notably, it is not necessary that one must take bath before performing the Rongker rituals.

However, each person must be purified. This is done in a special manner.

The purification process involves sprinkling of water with basil leaves – deemed sacred.

THE KARBIS:

The Karbis are a patrilineal society. They are composed of five major clans or Kur. They are Engti (Lijang), Terang (Hanjang), Enghee (Ejang), Teron (Kronjang), and Timung. The five clans have a number of sub-clans.

SACRIFICES DONE DURING RONGKER:

During the Rongker celebrations, the Karbi community offers sacrifices to their deities.

THE SACRIFICES:

The Karbis offer sacrifices on each of the three nights of Rongker. These are elaborated.

BAMUN

The Karbi deity, Bamun, is vegetarian. Hence, no sacrifice is offered to Bamun during Rongker.
Except Bamun, sacrifices are offered to all the other deities during the Rongker celebrations.

POST-SACRIFICE RITUALS:

After the sacrifices are offered to the deities during Rongker, the religious specialists (thek-kere) predicts the future of the villagers.

They do this by looking at the intestines and hearts of the animals that were sacrificed.
Once the Rongker rituals are over, the villagers have a feast.

THE SECOND NIGHT OF RONGKER:

On the second night of Rongker, a ritual known as ‘Ajo-Rongker’ or ‘Rongphu-Rongling-Kangthin’ is performed.
Dancing takes place to chase the evil spirits for all sides of the village. Then, an altar is constructed. It is made at the last portion of the village road.

Finally, they sacrifice a chicken at the altar. This sacrifice is made in the name of ‘Ajo-Angtarpi’.

THE THIRD NIGHT OF RONGKER:

Rongker Festival of Karbis

On the concluding and third night of Rongker Festival, the Karbis sacrifice a cock to the tiger deity – ‘Arnam-teke’.
This is performed on an altar that was constructed earlier beside a ghat.
The sacrifice is made seeking protection from the deity against tigers that may attack the village.

The writer — Nilutpal Gogoi is an entrepreneur, senior journalist, writer, translator (from Assamese to English & vice versa), avid traveller, British English Accent & grammar trainer, educationist, and martial arts (Taekwondo) practitioner.

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Assam Festival Lifestyle

Koni juj popular ethnic game of the indigenous Assamese people

Koni juj is a popular ethic game of the indigenous Assamese people. It is celebrated during Rongali Bihu.

Time Of Game

It is played during the Rongali Bihu in mid-April. It is played with several other ethnic games like cock fight and bullfight, ‘hati juj’ (elephant fight), ‘kori khel, and archery besides several other interesting games.

Terminology

The Assamese term ‘koni’ means egg while the other term ‘juj’ refers to fight. Therefore, ‘koni juj’ connotes egg fight.

This popular game signifies the basically agrarian spirit of the Assamese community and is linked with the fertility of agricultural land.

The Assamese people dwell in the north-eastern Indian state of Assam.

Occasion

This iconic ethnic game is played on two occasions: on the day of ‘Goru Bihu’ (the agrarian festival of Bihu when the cattle are bathed in natural water sources); and on the day of Bhogali Bihu – celebrated after the lighting of the ‘meji’.

Rongali Bihu is celebrated during both of the three Bihus: one falling in mid-April (before sowing); and the other celebrated in mid-January (after harvesting).

Literature evidence: Several authors have written about this ethnic game. Assamese author Hem Borgohain penned descriptively about this game in his book “Bihu Akou Aahil”. Royals were very fond of this game just as the general citizens were.

The writer — Nilutpal Gogoi is an entrepreneur, senior journalist, writer, translator (from Assamese to English & vice versa), avid traveller, British English Accent & grammar trainer, educationist, and martial arts (Taekwondo) practitioner.

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Assam Featured Lifestyle

Gamosa a colourful ‘japi’ symbol of the indigenous Assamese people

The ‘Gamosa’ (also called ‘Gamusa’) along with the colourful ‘japi’ is one of the symbols of the indigenous Assamese people of Assam.

Assam is one of the eight north-eastern of the Indian States of India.

TERMINOLOGY

The Assamese term ‘gamosa’ has been derived from two words – ‘ga’ connoting body; and ‘musa’ refers ‘to wipe’.

Hence when translated, ‘gamosa’ means ‘something to wipe the body with’.

Nevertheless, it would be a misnomer and quite misleading to call ‘gamosa’ as a towel.

TRACING THE ROOTS

The roots of the Assamese term ‘gamosa’ or ‘gamusa’ can be traced to the Kamrupi word ‘gamsaw’.

However, the Assamese term ‘Gamusa’ originated from the Tai people.

It has been also traced to other people in South-East and East Asia. The people of these nations also ‘Gamusa’, that is almost similar to the ‘Gamosa’.

SHAPE, COLOUR & FABRIC

The general shape of it is rectangular piece of cloth and is usually white in colour.

Three borders of the ‘gamosa’ are red in colour.

On the other hand, the fourth side is woven with red motifs (besides the already present red background.

Of course, various other colours are also used.

The most commonly used material used to weave or make is cotton yarn.

But for special occasions, the weavers also make it using ‘Pat’ silk.

In fact, it is now the longest hand-woven piece of cloth in the world.

Significantly, world history was etched when a 1,455.3 meter long ‘Gamosa’ was displayed in Delhi.

Gamosa During Bihu Dance

USES

The ‘gamosa’ is used on a number of occasions. These are listed below.

  • Even though the ‘gamosa’ is often used on a daily basis to wipe water from the body after one takes bath – deemed as an act of purification, but the use of it is not restricted to just this act.
  • In fact, wiping the body with the ‘gamosa’ helps blood circulation and also the rubbing ears up the pores of the skin.
  • It is used to cover the altar at the নামঘৰ prayer hall or cover the scriptures. An object of reverence is never placed on the bare ground, but always on a ‘gamosa’.
  • Used by the farmer, hunter or fishermen as a ‘tongali’ (waistcloth) or a ‘suriya’ or also known as ‘gamsa’ (loincloth).
  • A Bihu male dancer wraps ‘gamosa’ around his head in a particular style. It ends up with a fluffy knot.
  • It is also hung around the neck.
  • This is a mandatory practice when the faithful congregate in the ‘naamghar‘ (নামঘৰ) the prayer hall.
  • In the past, the elderly Assamese malefolk used to keep the it over their shoulders. It signified their social status.
  • The Assamese community welcome their guests by offering a ‘gamosa’ along with betel nut (tamul).
  • They also offer it to elders as a mark of respect.

This article is commonly mentioned as the ‘bihuwaan’. This is particularly so during the time of Bihu. Hence, the ‘gamosa’ very much represents the indigenous culture and life of the Assamese people.

Gamosa Display

CULTURAL IMPORTANCE

All the Assamese people, irrespective of their ethnic and religious backgrounds, equally use ‘gamosa’.

It is an exquisitely woven and beautifully designed symbolic piece of cloth.

It has eye catching graphic designs.

It is used by the various ethno-cultural, cultural groups, and sub-systems as well.

Many other traditionally symbolic morifs and designs, now extant among others only in art, literature, architecture, and sculpture besides used specifically for religious purposes (in particular occasions only).

TYPICAL DESIGNS

The Assamese weavers give typically traditional designs to it. These include the Tai Ahom insigna of ‘flying dragon, Assamese-lion, and flying-lion among others.

These symbols woven on it are used for various occasions and purposes.

In November 2019, a ‘gamosa’ was published in a geographical indication journal. But it had not received the geographical Indication tag till then.

The ‘gamosa’ has now got ‘GI’ tag.

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Assam Festival

Kaziranga Elephant Festival by the Tourism & Forest Department, Assam

The Kaziranga Elephant Festival is an internationally popular event. The event is held in globally known as the National Park of Kaziranga in Assam.

SPONSOR

The Government of Assam sponsors this Festival.

The event is jointly managed by the Tourism and the Forest Department of Assam.

VENUE

This Festival is organised annually.

TRACING THE ROOTS

It was first held in 2002.

TIME

The ‘Kaziranga Elephant Festival’ is generally held in the month of February.

OBJECTIVE

The prime objective behind this Festival is to create awareness about the causes of man-elephant conflict especially in the areas and fringe locations surrounding the National Park.

The tourist attraction fest further focusses on the conservation an protection of the highly endangered and exotic Asiatic elephant.

THE FESTIVAL

Kaziranga Elephant Festival

The yearly elephant festival held in the Kaziranga National Park of Assam has an objective. It is to highlight and find ways to resolve the increasing man-elephant conflicts.

HIGHLIGHTS

The highlight of ‘Kaziranga Elephant Festival’ is the herd of hundreds of Asiatic elephants (domestic). They offer a majestically colorful picture.

Each of them is decked up from head to toe.

These pachyderms joyfully participate in in the mega event. They take part in races, parade, dance, and sports like football.

KAZIRANGA NATIONAL PARK

The ‘Kaziranga National Park’ is the oldest park of the north-eastern State.

Spread across 430 sq km, the Park is situated across two districts of the Indian State. These are Golaghat and Nagaon.

The extensive National Park meanders along the Brahmaputra River on the northern side and the hills of Karbi Anglong district on the southern direction.

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Assam Festival

The Techxetra a techno-cultural festival held in Tezpur University

‘TechXetra’ is held in Tezpur University, India. It is a national level techno-cultural festival.

TERMINOLOGY

The term ‘TechXetra’ is coined from two words: ‘Tech’ and ‘Xetra’. Therefore, ‘Tech’ points to ‘technology’ while ‘Xetra’ connotes terrain. TechXetra’ is often referred to as ‘Tx’ across the social networking websites.

PURPOSE

It offers a common platform to both non-engineering and engineering students across India to exhibit their intellect, skill and knowledge.

TechXetra is a blend of various management and technical events. The participants also enjoy cultural events during each day of the mega event.

ROOTS

TechXetra was founded in October 1988.

SPONSOR

It is sponsored by the management of Tezpur University.

ORGANISERS

The Techxetra Techno Cultural Festival
Photo Credit Kavya Barnadhya

The non-profit techno-management and cultural annual event is organised entirely by the students of the Central higher educational institution of Tezpur University in Assam – one of the eight north-eastern states if India.

MOTTO

The motto of ‘Expanding the Frontiers of Technology’.

WEBSITE: The official website is techxetra.in

MAJOR EVENTS

The major five events of Techxetra are Robotics, Full Throttle, D’ Colloseum, Impulse, Creation, management events, various workshops, and Nirmaan.

ROBORICS

In Robotics the participants compete to build and design Robots according to laid down norms. They can do so automatically or manually.

D’COLLOSEUM

‘Colloseum’ is a highly solicited gaming event. It features five globally popular PC games.
The participating teams test their skill and mettle against other teams in various gaming events.

MANAGEMENT EVENTS

The teams competing during ‘TechXetra’ showcase management brains. The events are ‘Dalal Street’, ‘B-plan’, and ‘Ad vantage’. These prime attractions feature high voltage drama.

The personality test is known as ‘D Hot seat’.

WORKSHOPS

TechXetra features technical workshops. The topics are quite challenging each year.

CREATION

During ‘Creation’ the participants exhibit their creativity in the event christened ‘Digi-shooting’. Here, they use cameras. They can do so by mobile shooting as well. There is also ‘Wrangle’ – the debating event, and imaginative events like the ‘Mirage’ and ‘Wordsmith’.

NIRMAAN’ & ‘CONROLIX’

During ‘Techxetra’, these are the structure maker contests while ‘Circuitrix’ tests software skills, and decoding expertise.

CULTURAL EXTRAVAGANZA

Techxetra features four cultural nights of cultural events. These are confluence of classical, rock, western and eastern genre of music.

Well-known musicians of the country are invited to participate during these cultural nights. Besides, a ramp show is held where the participants exhibit attires. The icing on the cake is the Dj nite. Award-winning movies are also screened in the auditorium of the Tezpur University during this festival.

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Assam Festival

‘The Guwahati Theatre Festival’ an annual festival by G Plus

‘The Guwahati Theatre Festival’ is held by G Plus – a weekly tabloid news magazine published from Guwahati – the gateway to North-East India.

Objective

The objective of this festival is to give a common platform to various groups involved in theatre.

This opportunity enables the participating performing groups to showcase their talents before the audience in Guwahati and the north-eastern region of India.

Founder

The founder of ‘The ‘Guwahati Theatre Festival’ is Sunit Jain.

Frequency

The fest is held annually. It was inaugurated in 2016.

Venue

Guwahati Theatre Festival

The Festival is held at the Pragjyoti ITA Cultural Complex, Machkhowa.

History

During the inaugural edition on 23 September 2016, ‘The Guwahati Theatre Festival’ had entries from acclaimed dramatist directors like Saurabh Shukla, Kalki Koechlin, Neil Bhoopalam, Rajat Kapoor, Jim Sarbh, Shernaz Patel, and Sadiya Siddiqui.

This edition of the festival further featured globally acclaimed The Vagina Monologues written by written by Eve Ensler and Shakespeare play Hamlet – The Clown Prince, directed by Rajat Kapoor.

Other plays staged in the maiden edition if the festival were The Living Room, 2 to Tango 3 to Jive, The Truth of Womanhood, and One on One.

Life In A Theatre Award

The organisers of this festival further constituted the ‘Life in a Theatre Award’. It was posthumously awarded to noted Assamese dramatists Kulada Kumar Bhattacharjee in 2016 and to Padma Shri Arun Sarma in 2017 and posthumously awarded to Sukracharjya Rabha for his contribution in theatre direction.

Patrons

The primary sponsors of ‘The Guwahati Theatre Festival – 2016′ were the State Bank of India, Ballantine’s, and Audi.

The main sponsors of in the year – 2017′ were the

Indian Oil, Apollo Hospitals, Airtel, and Ballantine’s.

The sponsors for the – 2018’ were

  • the Mahindra & Mahindra,
  • Apollo Hospitals,
  • And the North East Small Finance Bank.
Categories
Assam Festival

Namami Brahmaputra a Festival of gratitude to the River Brahmaputra

Namami Brahmaputra was held to express gratitude to the lifeline of Assam – the Brahmaputra River.

Nomenclature

The Sanskrit term ‘Namami’ means ‘Namaskar’ or a type of praise.

The word ‘Brahmaputra’ connotes the son of Lord Brahma – the three-headed Hindu deity who is deemed to be the creator of the universe.

Significance

Namami Brahmaputra Sarbananda Sonowal

The festival of ‘Namami Brahmaputra’ was organized by the Government of Assam in 2017. The socio-cultural event was held due to the active initiative of the then Chief Minister of the north-eastern State of Assam in India. He was Sarbananda Sonowal. Incidentally, this was the first BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party)-led Ministry in the State.

Mentionably, this was the maiden time when such a mega public event was held to express gratitude to the Brahmaputra.

The Event

Namami Brahmaputra Boat Race

The maiden edition of the ‘Namami’ Brahmaputra’ was organised for five days from 31 March-4 April 2017. The festival was inaugurated by the then President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee, inaugurated the festival.

Venue

The primarily five-day ‘Namami’ Brahmaputra was held on the banks of the River Brahmaputra. The fest was held in all the then 21 district headquarters of Assam. The primary venue was Kacharighat in Guwahati – the gateway to the seven of the eight north-eastern States.