The Bathow Puja is annually performed by the Bodo-Kachari community. Known in Assamese as the ‘বাথৌ পূজা’, it is an important religious festival of the indigenous Bodo-Kachari community of Assam – a north-eastern State of India.
During the Bathow Puja, the faithful offer obeisance to a deity. The deity is addressed by several names: the Damra, Gila, Sri Brai (Shib bwrai), Khuria Bwrai, and Bathow Bwrai among several other nomenclatures.
Forms of Bathow Puja
The various forms of this Bodo-Kachari festival are Kherai, Garja and Marai. Among these fests, the Kherai is the principal form.
The pre-Bathow puja ritual that is performed is the ‘Garja’. Accordingly, the Bodo villagers decide the date to perform the Kherai Puja.
In this Kherai Puja, the ‘Bwrai Bathow’ or cactus is encircled with a small boundary of bamboo offered Flowers, some cereals and fruits are offered. Various leaves of mango and tulsi besides a special grass are dipped in a pot full of water. This pot is placed nearby. Incense and Dhuna (coconut peel) are burnt in a small hardened burnt clay holder. The burnt incense and dhuna emanate fragrance.
While performing this puja, the oracle popularly known as the ‘Doudini’, is possessed by the deities. The ‘Doudini’ performs the principal role. Then enchanted with the mantras by the priest (Deuri), the ‘Doudini’ starts performing the Kherai dance in front of the cactus known as the ‘Bwrai Bathow’. The oracle music is accompanied by the music performed by men from a distance.
The musical best follow the precise rhythm initiated by the Doudini or the oracle. The Bodo community deem the cactus as the holy symbol of Lord Shiva and call the plant ‘Bathow Bwrai’.