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Assam Featured Festival

Karbi Youth Festival celebrated by the Karbi People Assam

Karbi Youth Festival, as the name of the event connotes, the festival is celebrated by the indigenous Karbi tribe of Assam in India. This festival is also regarded as the richest, oldest, and most vibrant ethnic festival of North East India.

Speciality

The Karbi Youth Festival is the oldest ethnic festival in the region in particular and India in general. Several other communities and tribes also showcase their rich culture in the festival. Over 5000 cultural activities participated in it during this 5 days festival and in the 4 stages.

Venue

This almost annual fest is held in the districts of West and East Karbi Anglong from 15th to 19th February of every year. The venue is the Karbi People Hall, Taralangso in the headquarters of the district – Diphu.

Sponsor

This Festival is organised by the KCS (Karbi Cultural Society). The society is popularly known as ‘Karbi Riso-Nimso Rong Aje’.

Zonal Fests

The Karbi Youth Festival is also organized in smaller or zonal versions. These zonal fests are first held in the different regions of Karbi Anglong. Finally, the selected participants and cultural teams congregate in the main edition at Taralangso. The attractions of these fears are fairs, cultural events, and songs and dances among others.

Aim

The aims of this festival is to promote and share the cultural heritage of all the people of Karbi descent with the global community. Karbi culture and traditions are socializing because they never depress and neglect the other culture and tribe, but others did to them.

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Assam Featured Festival

Me-Dam-Me-Phi a festival observed by the Tai-Ahom, Assam

Me-Dam-Me-Phi: The Ancestor Worship Celebration Of The Ahoms

The martial Ahoms along with their brethren of the Tai stock perform ‘Me-Dam-Me-Phi’ in the memory of their ‘Ancestral Spirit’ (Phi-Dam), their ancestors and the departed.

When Is ‘Me-Dam-Me-Phi’ Observed:

People of the Tai stock, including the Ahoms, celebrate ‘Me-Dam-Me-Phi’ on the last day of January every year.

Significance Of ‘Me-Dam-Me-Phi’:

‘Me-Dam-Me-Phi’ is the most significant socio-cultural and religious communally celebrated festival of the Ahoms.

Tracing The Roots Of ‘Me-Dam-Me-Phi’:

The roots of this annually observed socio-cultural and religious celebration of ‘Me-Dam-Me-Phi’ observed by the Tai Ahoms can be traced to the days of yore.

By observing the festival of ‘Medam-Me-Phi’, the Tai Ahom community also remember the contributions of their forefathers to the society.

The Concept Of Ancestor Worship:

The concept of ‘Me-Dam-Me-Phi’ as celebrated by the Ahom community has its roots in the ancient tradition of ancestor worship.

How & When Is Ancestor Worship Is Done:

The indigenous martial race of Tai Ahoms in Assam and certain parts of Arunachal Pradesh worship their ancestors in five elaborate ways.
These worshipping processes are carried out in the traditional Tai Ahom system.

‘Bailung’:

The chief priest of the Tai Ahoms, the ‘Bailung’ along with his associates perform these worshipping processes.

Rituals & Language:

The rituals of all these four ancestor worshipping processes are carried out strictly according to the Tai Ahom tenets and in the Tai Ahom language.

‘Phi-Dam’:

While observing the ancestor worship processes, the Mongoloid martial community of Tai Ahoms offer prayers and various items to their ‘Ancestral Spirit’ known in the Tai Ahom language as ‘Phi-Dam’.
The Tai Ahoms offer prayers to also their forefathers by observing four worship.

Four Ancestor Worshipping Processes:

Besides ‘Mae Dam Mae Phi’, the Tai Ahoms offer prayers to their forefathers by also performing ‘Umpha’, ‘Phuralong’, and ‘Rik-khwan’ worship.
These four ancestor worshipping processes are annually organised in different months.

Elaborate Rituals & Rites:

The Tai Ahoms organize these elaborate processes of ancestor worship according to Tai rituals and rites.

Earliest Reference:

Researchers have traced the earliest reference to Me-Dam-Me-Phi in the script written in Tai Ahom language — the ‘Lit Lai Peyn Kak’.

The Tai Ahom community (of the northeastern Indian State of mainly Assam and some bordering areas of the neighbouring State of Arunachal Pradesh) organizes their ancestor worshipping processes, including ‘Mae-Dam-Me-Phi’ on four different occasions.

Etymology Of ‘Mae-Dam-Me-Phi’:

The term ‘Me-Dam-Mae-Phi’ has been derived from the following four Tai Ahom words: ‘Me’, ‘Dam’, ‘Me’, and ‘Fi’.
The Tai Ahom term ‘Me’ connotes ‘offerings’; ‘Dam’ refers to ‘ancestors’; and ‘Phi’ points to ‘deities’ or ‘gods.
Therefore, the word ‘Mae Dam Mae Phi’ means oblations offered to the Ancestors spirits.

Custodians Of The Tai Ahom Religion:

There are three custodians (priestly clans) of the ethnic Tai Ahom religion.
These three priestly clans are known as the Mo’sam, Mo’hung, and the Mo’Plong.

The Four Tai Ahom Worshipping Occasions:

During the four annually observed ancestor-worshipping processes of ‘Umpha’, ‘Phuralong’, ‘Me-Dam-Me-Phi’ and ‘Rik-khwan’, the Tai stock of people offer their respects to their ancestors.
The Tai Ahoms also reflect on the contributions of their forefathers.

Social Gatherings:

On such socio-cultural and religious events, the Tai Ahom community along with their friends from other communities of the larger Assamese society congregate at the respective venues of ‘Me-Dam-Me-Phi’ and the other three events.
All participate in the social proceedings and also partake of the feast that culminates the events.

The Tai Ahom Scriptures:

There are four Tai Ahom scriptures. These are te ‘Lit Lai Peyn Kaka’, ‘Lai Lit Nang Hoon Pha’, ‘Lai-Phala’ and the ‘Phra-Long’.

Major Events:

During all the all four ancestor worshipping customs, the Tai Ahoms follow four events.
These are ‘Phi Dam’ or ‘Ancestor worship’; ‘Aai Sing Lao’ or ‘Prayer’; ‘Ban-Phai’ or ‘Lighting Lamps’; and ‘Po-Tai’ or ‘Animal/fowl sacrifice’.

‘Choklong’:

The rich culture of the Tai Ahoms is witnessed particularly during their marriages when the Tai practice of ‘Choklong’ is inevitably followed.

A significant section of the Ahoms – belonging to the ‘Tai’ stock – in Assam has been following the neo-Vaishnavite religion known as ‘Xangkori’.

Nevertheless, there are still many among the Ahoms who simultaneously follow the Tai Ahom tradition of including ‘Mae-Dam-Me-Phi’.

These age-old annually observed ‘Tai’ practices strictly follow the religious tenets of the ancient Tai practices).

Social Events:

The Tai Ahoms deem all their four ancestor-worship processes as social events.
Members of the community turn in large numbers during these socio-cultural and religious events.

Location Of The Tai Ahoms:

The Tai Ahom community is spread across the north-eastern Indian States of Assam and also Arunachal Pradesh.

Indigenous Community:

The Ahoms or Tai Ahoms are indigenous people of India.

Where Located:

In Assam, the Tai Ahoms are generally found in the middle and upper Assam districts.

The Ahoms are located in Morigaon, Nagaon, North Lakhimpur, Dergaon, Sivasagar, Jorhat, Golaghat, Demow, Charaideo and Tinsukia besides other places of Assam.

In Arunachal Pradesh, the Tai Ahom community is found in the neighbouring places adjoining North Lakhimpur, Dibrugarh and Tinsukia districts besides other places of Assam.

Caste:

In Assam, the indigenous community of Tai Ahoms belong to OBC (Other Backward Caste).

Diet:

The Ahoms are basically rice-eaters and non-vegetarians.

Lineage:

The Tai-Ahoms follow the patriarchal lineage.

Profession:

The profession of the majority of the Tai Ahoms is agriculture.
However keeping in tune with modern times, the up-and coming generation among the Tai Ahoms has been taking various modern-day vocations.

Language Of The Tai Ahoms:

The Tai Ahoms generally speak the Assamese language.
Nowadays, various attempts have been made to teach the children the original Tai language.
There are also moves to impart the basics of the Tai language at the primary school level in several places in upper Assam.

Idolatry & The Tai Ahoms:

Idolatry has no place in the Tai religion followed by the Ahom community.
However, the Tai Ahoms do regard with deep respect the Ahom King, whom they deem as their titular deity.

‘Xangkori’ Background:

Mentionably, the liberal-minded Ahoms also practise the ‘Xangkori’ tenets.

The Tai Ahoms & The Concept Of Heavenly Kingdom:

The Tai Ahoms have a concept of a heavenly kingdom or heaven. They refer to this abode as ‘Mong Phi’.

Roots Of The Ahom Religion:

The roots of the ethnic religion of the Ahom community can be traced to 1228.

Sukaphaa & His Traditional Imprints:

It was in this year (1228) that Tai prince Sukaphaa along with a group of his martial horsemen and two clans of priests entered the then undivided region of the Brahmaputra valley. Later, a third clan of priests also arrived.
These early Tai Ahoms brought with them their scriptures, religion, tenets, rituals, and practices.

Bailungs:

The Tai Ahom priests are known as ‘Bailungs’.

Greater Axom:

Subsequently, Tai prince Sukaphaa laid the foundation of greater Axom (Assam).

Farsightedness & Liberal Political Outlook:

Tai prince Sukaphaa was able to create greater Axom (Assam) with his farsightedness and liberal political outlook.

Adaptability Of Tai Ahoms:

Under the guidance of Sukaphaa, the Tai Ahoms mixed with the local residents and also adapted significant aspects of their culture and religion.
In this way, the Tai Ahoms started adopting these rich socio-cultural and religious elements into their own ethnic culture.
This adaptability of the Tai Ahoms is also reflected in their costumes and cuisines while also preserving their own.

‘Ban-Phi’ In ‘Mae-Dam-Me-Phi’:

The Tai Ahoms follow the ritual-oriented ancestor worshipping tradition while performing ‘Mae-Dam-Me-Phi’.
This annually observed socio-cultural and religious event requires sacrifices of animals and fowls.
The sacrifice is known as ‘Ban-Phi’ in the Tai Ahom language.

‘Phuralung’:

Along with ‘Ban-Phi’, the indigenous Tai Ahoms of North East India, also religiously follow a tradition that has Buddhism influence.
While oblations are offered to the spirits of ancestors, sacrifice is forbidden in this ancient Buddhism ritual.
This ritual of the Tai Ahoms is known as ‘Phuralung’.

Ancestor Worshipping & The Animistic Concept Of ‘Khwan’:

The Tai-Ahom community closely follow the animistic concept of ‘Khwan’ while worshipping their ancestors.

Similarities With The Tai Stock:

Significantly, the Ahoms of North East India share the two concepts of worshiping the ancestors as well as that of ‘Khwan’ with their brethren of the Tai stock.

Ancient Roots Of Mae-Dam-Me-Phi’:

The Tais including the Ahom community of the north-eastern Indian States of Assam and certain bordering areas of Assam in Arunachal Pradesh have been celebrating ‘Mae-Dam-Me-Phi’ since quite ancient times.
The socio-cultural and religious annually observed ‘Mae-Dam-Mae-Phi’ is the occasion when the indigenous community of the Tai Ahoms offer oblations to the spirits of their ancestors.

Primary Events Undertaken During ‘Mae-Dam-Me-Phi’:

The primary events undertaken during ‘Mae-Dam-Me-Phi’ are ‘Phi Dam’ (Ancestor worship); ‘Aai Sing Lao’ (Prayer); ‘Ban-Phai’ (Lighting of earthen oil lamps and candles); as well as ‘Po-Tai’ (Animal sacrifice).

Revivalism Among The Tai Ahoms:

Owing to a revivalism movement among the Tai Ahoms and efforts from several scholars, significant portions of the age-old practices of the Tai-Ahom religion have been revived.

The revivalism moves gathered strength and accelerated since the 1960s and 1970s.

History Of Ancestor Worshipping & ‘Buranjis’:

Researchers have been following the Tai Ahom chronicles known as the ‘Buranjis’ to know various details of the Tai ancestry.

First Community In Assam To Write Chronicles:

Incidentally, the Tai Ahoms are the first community in Assam to practice writing chronicles. This was carried out under the patronage of the Tai Ahom kings.

Origin Of Ancestor Worshipping:

The Tai Ahoms have their own faith and tenets.

Divine Ancestry:

The royal ‘Buranjis’ (chronicles) render a divine ancestry to the Tai Ahom rulers.

‘Mong Phi’ & ‘Mong Ri’:

The Tai Ahom ‘Buranjis’ claim that ‘Mong Phi’ – the ruler of the heavenly kingdom made a decision to send two of his grandsons – Khunlung and Khunlai – to ‘Mong Ri’.
‘Mong Ri’ is identified with the present-day ‘Xishuangbanna’ in China.

Ye-Cheng-Pha:

At that moment, Ye-Cheng-Pha – the Tai Ahom deity of knowledge — suggested that Khunlung and Khunlai should worship their ancestors.

‘Mae-Dam-Me-Phi’, ‘Phuralong’, Rik-Khwan’ & ‘Umpha’:

The Tai Ahom deity of knowledge – Ye-Cheng-Pha – pointed out four specific Ancestor worshipping processes known as ‘Mae-Dam-Me-Phi’, ‘Phuralong’, Rik-khwan and ‘Umpha’ to Khunlung and Khunlai.
The Tai deity of knowledge further recommended that Khunlung and Khunlai should perform the four worships annually – but in different months.
These four annually observed worships are occasions when the Tai Ahoms pay respect to their ‘Ancestral Spirit’ known as ‘Phi-Dam’ in the Tai Ahom language.

Significance Of ‘Mae-Dam-Me-Phi’:

‘Mae-Dam-Mae-Phi’ variously reflects the customs and manners of the Ahoms.
This ancestor-worship worshipping event further build bridges among various communities of the region.
Hence, the socio-cultural and religious annual event of ‘Mae-Dam-Mae-Phi’ aids in fostering mutual understanding, brotherhood communal harmony, and unity among the up-and-coming generation.

There are a number of instances when the Ahom Kings performed the ancestor worshipping festival.
These instances are enumerated in the Ahom chronicle known as ‘Buranji’ that was translated by G.C. Boruah.

Suhungmung In 1563:

The ‘Buranji’ mentions that after routing the Kacharis on the banks of the Dhansiri River in 1563, Ahom ruler Suhungmung occupied the entire region of the Dhansiri Valley.

This occupation further included the entire porthern portion of river Kolong.
Following the Tai Ahom tradition, Ahom king Suhungmung decided to commemorate this victory.
Hence, Ahom king Suhungmung performed the traditional Ahom ancestor-worshipping worship of ‘Mae-Dam-Mae-Phi’ as well as that of the Rikhwan festival in his capital.

Ahom king Suhungmung took this important decision to seek the blessings of ancestors for the longevity and welfare of his subjects ànd also his own.

Sukhampha In 1606:

Tai Ahom ruler Sukhampha also popularly known as the ‘Khora Raja’ also performed this customary Ahom ancestor-worshipping worship of ‘Mae-Dam-Mae-Phi’ at his capital in 1606.

Sukhampha did this to offer his gratitude to the ancestors on the successful signing of a political and military alliance with the mighty Koches.
The signing of this strategic treàty ensured a formidable front against any incursion by the Koch ruler.
Pratap Singha: Tai Ahom ruler king Pratap Singha performed the ‘Me-Dam-Me-Phi’ festival thrice.

Pratap Singha In 1606:

Tai Ahom ruler Pratap Singha performed the Ahom ancestor-worshipping worshipping festival of ‘Me-Dam-Me-Phi’ for the first time in 1606 A.D.
He took this decision after defeating the Mughals at the confluence of Kopili and Mora Doiyang rivers.

Pratap Singha In 1615:

Tai Ahom ruler hi Singha again performed the socio-cultural and religious annually observed festival of ‘Me-Dam-Me-Phi’ in 1615 A.D.
He took this important decision to express his gratitude to the ancestors after the Mughals retreated following their defeat at the hands of the Ahoms in the battle at Agia Bandha.

Pratap Singha Performing For ‘Me-Dam-Me-Phi’ For The Third Time:

On the other hand, Tai Ahom ruler Pratap Singha performed the Tai Ahom traditional ancestor-worshipping festival of ‘Me-Dam-Me-Phi’ for the third time seeking blessings from his ancestors following his defeat by the Mughals.

King Supangmung:

performed because suspicion arose in his mind that during his reign the State faced many dangers including
During the reign of Tai Ahom ruler King Supangmung, many people lost their lives in two battles, including the one at Hajo, against the Mughals.
Suspecting that omen had befallen the Tai Ahom kingdom as he did not offer worship to his deceased brother Surampha before each of the two battles,Tai Ahom ruler King Supangmung performed ‘Mae-Dam- Me-Phi’ subsequently.

King Sunyeophaa:

It so happened during the reign of Tai Ahom ruler, King Sunyeophaa that a beam made of wood suddenly collapsed in the royal court.
Then, the royal astrologers suggested that the king should perform ‘Mae- Dam-Me-Phi.
The king did accordingly.

King Sudingphaa:

Tai Ahom ruler King King Sudingphaa performed ‘Mae-Dam-Me-Phi’ after his brother Suklingphaa was cremated at the traditional royal cremation spot – Charaideo.

He performed the socio-cultural and religious ancestor-worshipping festival of ,’Mae-Dam-Me-Phi’ under a Nuni tree.
Hence, the Tai Ahom royally sponsored chronicles known as ‘Buranji’ has recorded how and when the Ahom rules performed ‘Mae-Dam-Me-Phi’ on various occasions.
The occasions were as varied as for averting any danger (imminent) or for commemorating victories in battles, and also seeking blessings from ancestors for longevity of life.

Me dam me phi Festival

The Tai Ahoms

The ‘Indravamsa Kshatriyas’:

The Sanskrit compound term ‘Indravamsa kshatriyas’ means ‘the martial descendants of the ruler of Heaven – Lord Indra (according to Hinduism).
It is coined from the two words: ‘Indravamsa’ and ‘kshatriyas’.
The Sanskrit word ‘Indravamsa’ means ‘the people having the lineage or blood of Lord Indra.
The other Sanskrit word ‘kshatriyas’ is a generalised reference to a ‘martial race’ or ‘community’.
The Hindu priests first applied this newly coined terminology of ‘Indravamsa kshatriyas’ for the Tai Ahoms sometime between the later part of the 16th Century and the first half of the 17th Century.

Increasing Influence Of Hinduism:

Incidentally, the regular process of jotting down important events of the Ahom times was possible primarily due to the growing influence of Hinduism in the royal court.

Unparalleled Event

This process of jotting important events of the Tai Ahom kingdom in the Assamese language commenced during the reign of Tai Ahom ruler King Suhungmung (1497–1539).

Watershed:

This historical watershed of keeping tract of various events marks the beginning of the ‘Buranji'(written in Assamese).
Prior to this historically significant literary process, there was no such record in the then undivided Axom.

Overwhelming Influence Of Hindu Priests In The Tai Ahom Court:

The increasing influence of Hinduism and especially of the Hindu priests in the Tai Ahom ruler and consequently on the royal court was particularly overwhelming.

The New Lineage:

The Hindu priests conjured the new lineage for the Tai Ahom rulers.
While doing so, the Hindu priests also kept in tact the heavenly connection, although with their own interpretation.
Thus, the Hindu priests were successful in bringing the Tai Ahoms into their caste system. In doing so, they ensured that the Tai Ahom kings – traditionally believed to be possessing a divine lineage – was kept intact.

Lineage Traced To Lord Indra:

The new Brahmanical lineage traced the Tai Ahom rulers to the union of Lord Indra (whom the Hindu priests identified with Lengdon) and Syama (a woman of low-caste).
Therefore, the Hindu priests declared the Tai Ahoms as ‘Indravamsa kshatriyas’.
They created this lineage exclusively for the Tai Ahoms.

‘Swarganarayan’:

The Assamese term ‘Swarganarayan’ means ‘Lord of the heavens’.
This nomenclature of ‘Swarganarayan’ was first adopted by Tai Ahom ruler King Suhungmung.
Subsequently, the later Tai Ahom rulers too started using this prefix of ‘Swargadeo’ before their respective Hindu names.

It was during the reign of Swagadeo Suhungmung that the Buranji entitled ‘Sri Sri Swarganarayan Maharajor Jonmokotha’ was written.
In this Buranji written in Assamese, the source and lineage of the Tai Ahom kings were connected to the Hindu deity – Indra, Lord of the Heaven.

‘Chao-Pha’:

The subjects of the Ahom kingdom used to call the Tai Ahom rulers as ‘Chao-Pha’ or as ‘Swargadeo’ in Assamese.

‘Asam Raja’:

On the other hand, the external historical accounts of the mediaeval period referred to the Tai Ahom rulers of the then undivided Assam as ‘Asam Raja’.

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 Tourism

Jonbeel Mela an attractive unique festival of Assam

The Joonbeel (Joon and Beel are Assamese terms for the Moon and a wetland respectively) is so-called because a large natural water body is shaped like a crescent moon. From 15thCentaury AD, the JunbeelMela is organised at DayangBeguri at Jonbeel. JunbeelMela is one of the most attractive unique festivals of Assam. It is the only fair in India where the barter system is alive.

Before the mela takes place, an Agni Puja (fire worship) is performed for the well-being of mankind. The mela starts with community fishing in the Chunbîl (Joonbeel) wetland. People perform their traditional dance and music, making the atmosphere one of joy and fun.

During the occasion a huge bazaar is held. A few days before the mela starts, indigenous tribal communities of Assam Hills and neighborhood like Hills Tiwa, Karbi, Khasi, and Jayantia of the northeast come down from the hills with products and interchange their merchandise with the native indigenous Assamese people in a barter system.

Jonbeel Mela is celebrated during the month of January every year. Jonbeel Mela is a three-day annual indigenous Tiwa Community fair held the weekend of Magh Bihu at a historic place known as Dayang Belguri at Joonbeel.

The mela is said to have begun not later than 15th century AD. It was first organized ago by the Tiwa (Lalung) to discuss the prevailing political situations. The Mela was initiated by our predecessors to maintain cordial relations among all the indigenous Assamese communities.

The theme of the mela is harmony and brotherhood among the indigenous Assamese communities and tribes scattered in the Northeast India.

How to Reach

Joonbeel is 3 km from Jagiroad in the Morigaon district of Assam and 32 km from Guwahati. The National Highway connecting the mela is NH 37. You can hire a Taxi from Guwahati to reach Joonbeel or catch bus from Adhabari Guwahati.

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Assam Featured Tourism

Celebrating Rabha Hajong Chandubi Festival in Assam

Five-day Chandubi Festival is a showcase of the myriad folk culture of different communities of the State. The Festival allows knowing their traditions, ethnic culinary delicacies, folk musical instruments, ethnic fineries, and traditional games and sports.

Rabha Hasong Autonomous Council organises the Chandubi Festival, which is held on the bank of ChandubiBeel in Kamrup every year. Rabha and Hajong are main communities of the region. They showcase their ethnic culture in the festival.

The Chandubi Festival also attracts visitors by showcasing the traditional art and culture of the Rabha community and Mouth-watering ethnic dishes which adds another attraction to the festival.

The Festival presents a good platform for organizing exhibitions on traditional craftsmanship on bamboo and cane and handloom textiles which in a way boost the growth of traditional industries. The festival features bamboo and cane exhibition, traditional games and sports, cultural programmes, garment stall etc.

Assam Governor Prof Jagdish Mukhi said that Chandubi Festival has turned into a bridge of unity among the indigenous communities living along the border between Assam and Meghalaya.

He also hailed the efforts of the organizers in achieving this goal of transforming the Chandubi Festival into bridge of unity.

A brief about Rabha and Hajong

Rabha people

The Rabha are a Tibeto-Burman community to the Indian states of Assam, Meghalaya and West Bengal. The Rabha community have a rich, multi-faceted and distinct culture of their own. They primarily inhabit the plains of Lower Assam and the Dooars, while some are found in the Garo Hills.

Most of the Rabhas of Dooars refer to themselves as Rabha, but some of them often declare themselves as Kocha. The women love to wear colorful clothes that they weave themselves and they wear a lot of beads and silver ornaments. The Rabhas are non-vegetarians and rice is their staple food.

Hajong people

The Hajong people are an ethnic group from Northeast India and northern parts of Bangladesh. The majority of the Hajongs are settled in India and are predominantly rice farmers. Hajong people are said to have brought wet-field cultivation to Garo Hills, where the Garo people used slash and burn method of agriculture.

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Assam

A Short Historical View of Assam Legislative Assembly

The Assam Legislative Assembly came into being on the day of its first sitting on April 7, 1937, in the Assembly Chamber at Shillong, the erstwhile Capital of the composite State of Assam.

Situated in the North East of the Country, Assam has had a glorious history of her own. Popularly known as the ethnological museum of India, Assam has been described as Mini-India, having a rich cultural heritage with diverse races, religion, and culture. Assam under the provisions of India Council Act, 1861 did not have its own democratic institution but was tagged with East Bengal in 1905 and the Institution was then called “Legislative Council of Eastern Bengal and Assam”, which started functioning from December 18, 1906. In 1909, the Council had a strength of 40 members and out of 40 seats, Assam was allotted 5 seats. In 1912 Assam was reconstituted into a Chief Commissioners’ province. In the year 1913, Assam was granted a Legislative Council under the Government of India Act. 1909, the Assam Legislative Council came into being with a strength of 34 members of which 13 were nominated by the Chief Commissioner and 21 were elected by the people. The Legislative Council of Assam first met on 6th January 1913 at 11 a.m. at Shillong, which was presided over by Sir Archdale Easle, the Chief Commissioner of Assam. Under the Government of India Act. 1919, the strength of the Legislative Council was raised to 53 members with effect from Ist April 1921 of which 41 were elected members and the remaining 12 were nominated.

The Government of India Act, 1935 was adopted by the British Parliament on 2nd August 1935 and was implemented in 1937. The Government of India Act 1935 made provisions for a Legislative Assembly in each province and as a result, the Legislature in Assam became bicameral. The Assam Legislative Assembly had the strength of 108 members and all of them were elected members. the strength of the Legislative Council (Upper House) was not less than 21 and not more than 22 members.

After the partition of India, the Sylhet district of Assam was transferred to the then East Pakistan by a referendum, and the strength of the Assembly was reduced to 71. However, after Independence, the strength of members was again raised to 108. The bicameral Assam Legislative Assembly became unicameral with the abolition of the Assam Legislative Council in 1947. In the years that followed, Assam was truncated to several smaller states. In 1963, Nagaland came into being as a separate State. With the passing of the North-Eastern (Reorganization Areas) Act in 1971 by the Parliament, Meghalaya became a full-fledged state. Subsequently, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh also followed suit. After the creation of Meghalaya as a separate state, Shillong continued to be the joint capital of both Assam and Meghalaya. However, in 1972, the Government of Assam decided to shift the Capital to Dispur, Guwahati. Accordingly, the first sitting of the Budget Session of the Assam Legislative Assembly was held at the temporary capital at Dispur on the 16th March 1973.

With the changing geographical boundaries together with the shifts in the population graph of Assam, the strength of members of the Assam Legislative Assembly has fluctuated during the last fifty-odd years. In 1952-57 it was 108, reaching still lower to 105 in 1957-62 (the Second Assembly) and then to 114 in 1967-72 (the third Assembly) until it reached a strength of 126 members in 1972-78 (the fifth Assembly) and it has continued to maintain that figure till the 11th Assembly.

Although Article 172 provides the duration of the State Legislative Assembly as 5 years due to the imposition of National Emergency in 1975 the fifth Assam Assembly lasted for 6 years.

Late Babu Basanta Kumar Das was the first Speaker of the Assam Legislative Assembly.