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Assam Festival

Magh Bihu an annual agrarian festival celebrated in Assam

The Magh Bihu is an annual agrarian festival celebrated in Assam and several other northeastern states of India. Also known as ‘Bhogali’ Bihu, it marks the end of the season of harvesting.

Nomenclature

Since this festival is observed in the Assamese lunar month of ‘Magh’, it is known as ‘Magh Bihu’. It is also called Bhogali Bihu’.

The term ‘Bhogali’ means to feast. This festival is known as ‘Maghar Domahi’ also.

Time

This festival signifies the end of the harvesting season. The celebrations are held in January.
Magh Bihu celebrations commence on the last day of the previous ‘Pooh ‘ month. Hence, it generally falls on the 29th day of Pooh.

During this festival, the masses gather around bonfires, prepare various dishes and merry.

Roots:

The roots of Magh Bihu can be traced to the Indo-Aryan and Tibeto-Burman cultures. It has been also traced to the agrarian Magan festival of the Kachari community.

Rituals:

Besides the feasts and bonfires, this festival has socio-cultural and religious connotations. Several rituals are also performed.

Bhelaghar & Meji

The youth prepare ‘Bhelaghar’ and ‘meji’ during this festival. These makeshift structures are constructed from bamboo, thatch, and leaves. Nowadays, the Bhelaghar is designed to reflect the popular and relevant themes, and issues of the day.

The youth dine and merry inside the Bhelaghar during ‘uruka ‘ – the night before Magh Bihu.

These structures are burnt the next morning.

These pyres are a traditional practice to offer prayer to ‘Agni’ (Fire God) and ‘Surya ‘ (Sun God).
The womenfolk offer pithas and various delicacies prepared from beaten Bora rice, seasame, and molasses at the bonfire as a mark of reverence to ‘Agni ‘.

The day preceding uruka is known as ‘Goru Bihu. On this day, the cattle are bathed. Then, they are provided new ‘pagha’ (teathering rope).

Delicacies

The delicacies of Magh Bihu comprise hurum, laru, chira, pitha, and curd.

Traditional Games

During Magh Bihu, various traditional games are held. Mention may be made of bullfighting, and egg breaking among others.

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Assam Festival

Brahmaputra Beach Festival An Annual Event Held In Guwahati

The ‘Brahmaputra Beach Festival’ is held in Guwahati – the gateway to the Northeast region of India.

Venue & Time:

The ‘Brahmaputra Beach Festival,’ is an annual event. This socio-cultural, entertainment and adventure carnival is generally held on the ravine beaches of the Brahmaputra River in the month of January.

Inspiration:

The organisers of this Festival have been inspired from the various festivals organised in the south Indian states.

Characteristics:

The Festival is a confluence of the conventional with the modern. It further showcases the tradition and culture of the state of the Assamese.

Objective:

The prime objective of the festival is to promote indigenous crafts and culture. The festival also popularises traditional sports of Assam.

Organisers:

The organisers of the this Festival is ‘ABRRA’ (Assam Boat Racing and Rowing Association). Its collaborator is ‘ATDC’ (Assam Tourism Development Corporation).

Varied Events:

The festival includes various events like Beach cricket, Beach volleyball, water rafting, canoeing and wind surfing, ice skating, kayaking and Aero sports like ballooning, paragliding and hang gliding. Visitors and tourists can participate in these events and show their skills.

Aero Events:

The aero events of this Festival are ballooning, hang gliding and paragliding.

Traditional Assamese Games:

Visitors to the Festival can try their skills also in several Assamese traditional games like cock fighting, egg breaking, and elephant races.

Modern Games:

Besides, technically advanced and modern games are held for the enthusiastic visitors to the Festival.

Competitions For Children:

For children, the organizers of this Festival holds events like kite flying and on-the-spot drawing competition.

Exhibitions:

During the ‘Brahmaputra Beach Festival’, the traditional craft is also exhibited.

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Assam Festival

Porag festival celebrated by the Mishing community of Assam

Porag is an agricultural festival. It is celebrated by the Mishing community of Assam in India.

Duration:

Porag is an annual post-harvest celebration. It continues for five days.

Alternative Nomenclature:

Porag is also known as ‘Nara Singha Bihu’. The folk festival is marked by dances and songs.
On the other hand, the Mishings are also known as Mising. Earlier, the community was called ‘Miri’.

The Murong:

The community hall of the Mishings Is known as ‘Murong’. The Mishing youth, particularly the boys construct this structure. In the run-up to the Porag festival, the ‘Murongs’ are decked up.

The Murong is constructed with bamboo and locally available biodegradable natural items like straw among others. The tie-beams and posts are decorated accordingly.

Significance:

The Porag festival is celebrated to express gratitude to the Almighty.
During the festival, the youth and other members of the Mishing community.
Seek blessings from the Almighty and their forefathers. Besides appeasing the Almighty, the youth in their traditional colorful attires participate in a cultural programme involving songs and dances.

The Process:

Following a systematic and formal process known as ‘Daghik’, a new set of executive members are appointed for the smooth conduct of Porag. The designations are ‘Bar Puwary’ and ‘Migam Bora’ besides ‘Tiri Bora’, ‘Bora’, ‘ Tamuli’, and ‘Bar Barani’. In the days of yore, the ‘Miboo’ used to be the guardian of Porag festival

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

Metropolis Asia A Globally Acclaimed Winter Festival in Assam

‘Metropolis Asia’ is globally acclaimed winter festival.

Time & Duration

The urban cultural mega event of ‘Metropolis Asia’ is annual.
The annually organized music, craft and arts festival held in the month of January.
This festival is usually held for three days.

Founder

The founder of this festival is noted artist Ranjan Engti.

Tracing The Roots

The roots of this festival can be traced to 2011.

Venue:

The venue of ‘Metropolis Asia’ is generally the gateway to North East India and the metropolitan having the capital of Assam – Guwahati. However at times, the venue is shifted as it happened in 2018.

It was then decided to hold the three-day highly popular socio-cultural musical festival in Shillong – capital of the ‘Scotland of East’ – the scenic land. Shillong is situated in the north-eastern State of Meghalaya.

Objective

The prime objective of this festival is to create massive attitudinal changes among mankind especially those dwelling in the metropolises.

Conscious attempts are made in this direction via cultural shows that are quite popular among the youth of the north-eastern region of India. This aspect is equally highlighted in the fairs and campaigns besides various other attractive events organized throughout the three days of the festival.

Goals

This festival endeavors to achieve four major goals besides several other objectives.
Each edition of ‘Metropolis Asia’ comes up with new targets.

The Four Goals:

The four prime goals are as follows:

1. Environment and climate change
2. Exploration of greener processes
3. Initiation of attitudinal changes among mankind
4. Creation of hype for sustainability

Environment & Climate Change

This festival concentrates on creating awareness of environmental conservation.
The event further explores various burning issues connected with the change of climate.

Greener Strategies

The organizers of this festival underline the absolute need to adopt ‘Greener Strategies‘. This is more so the case in the production processes of the globally acclaimed festival.

Fostering Attitudinal Changes

Another major objective during this festival is to generate attitudinal changes among the masses.

This is attempted by engaging the participants as well as the gathering masses in various initiatives that are ‘GREEN’.

Creating Sustainability Hype

Specific models of ‘Greener Initiatives’ are highlighted during ‘Metropolis Asia’.

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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Festival

Raslila Dance the Intimate Connection with Lord Sri Krishna

Raslila is a form of dance intimately connected with Lord Sri Krishna also known as Bhagavan Sri Krsna.

WHO IS LORD SRI KRISHNA:

Lord Sri Krishna is the eighth reincarnation or avatar of God Vishnu. Lord Vishnu is worshiped as a supreme deity in Hinduism.

WHEN WAS LORD SRI KRISHNA BORN:

Lord Sri Krishna was born The deity was born right at midnight on the eighth day of the ‘Bhadrapada’ month (also known as ‘Ashtami’).
This is determined according to the Hindu lunar calendar. The Hindus celebrated this holy occasion as ‘Janmashtami’.

WHERE WAS LORD SRI KRISHNA BORN:

According to Hindu belief, Lord Sri Krishna was born in a dungeon at the Gokul township at Vrindaban in Mathura. It is in present day Uttar Pradesh in India. Gokul is 9.3 miles (15 kilometres) south-east to Mathura. As per the ‘Bhagavata Purana’, Lord Sri Krishna spent his childhood in this Indian town of Gokul.

SIGNIFICANCE OF LORD SRI KRISHNA’S BIRTH:

According to Hinduism, the birth of Lord Sri Krishna in Vrindaban near the present day Mathura (in northern India) at around 3,228 BCE) has a major significance. It marks the commencement of the ‘Kal yuga’ (the present age) and also the end (passing) of the ‘Dvapara’ age in Hinduism.

WHERE IS VRINDABAN LOCATED:

Vrindaban is located between Agra and Delhi. It is situated at around 10 kilometres from Mathura, the actual birthplace of the ancient Hindu deity, Lord Krishna.

ETYMOLOGY OF ‘RASLILA’:

The Sanskrit word “rasa” refers to ‘aesthetics’ , ’emotion, ‘juice’, ‘nectar’, or ‘sweet taste’. ‘Lila’ means the ‘sweet act’ (of Krishna). It is often freely rendered as “the dance of love”. ‘Lila’ can variously connote ‘dance’, ‘play’ or ‘act’. Roughly translated, ‘Raslila’ can be termed as the “Dance of Divine Love”. The concept of ‘Raslila’ is elaborately described in Hindu scriptures.

TRACING THE ROOTS:

‘Raslila’ as a dance form has it’s roots in ancient Hindu literature like the Bhagavata Purana and scriptures such as the ‘Bhagavata Purana’. Raslila or the dance of ‘Ras’is also known as ‘Krishna Tandava’. Raslila is closely linked with Lord Sri Krishna.

RASLILA DESCRIPTION:

While performing ‘Raslila’, Lord Sri Krishna dances with Radha and her close friends (sakhis) known as ‘Gopis’.

RASLILA & MANIPURI CLASSICAL DANCE:

The Raslila of Brindavan or ‘Natwari Nritya’ later evolved into the Kathak. Kathak is one of the eight principal forms of Indian classical dance. Similarly, the Manipuri classical dance also has connections with Raslila’. This rich classical dance form was revived by prominent Kathak dancer, in the 1960s. It is evolved from the ‘Raslila of Braj.

WHEN IS RASLILA PERFORMED:

Raslila is performed in a particular night. During this occasion in Vrindavana (on a full moon night), Lord Sri Krishna plays his musical instrument – the flute in a forest. On hearing the music of His flute, the Gopis sneak away from their homes and proceed to that forest. Then, they dance with Krishna throughout the night. Thereafter, Lord Sri Krishna used his supernatural powers to stretch that mythical night to the length of a ‘kalpa’.

WHAT IS A ‘KALPA’:

According to the Hindu unit of time, a ‘kalpa’ lasts approximately 4.32 billion years.

IMPORTANCE OF RASLILA:

In the traditions of Krishna ‘Bhakti’, the raslila is believed to be a splendidly beautiful depiction of soulful love. According to these traditions, in the material world, romantic love between mankind is a reflection of the soul’s original love of Lord Krishna. It is the spiritual ecstatic love of Lord Sri Krishna, God in the spiritual world.

BHAGAVATA PURANA & RASLILA:

According to the Bhagavata Purana, when any living being (particularly human beings) hears or describes the Rasa lila faithfully, she or he attains the pure loving devotion known as “Suddha-bhakti”.

RASLILA & ‘SUDHABHAKTI’:

There us a close connection between Raslila and ‘Sudhabhakti’. It is akin to a child willingly playing with its reflection in a mirror, just as Lord Sri Krishna sported with the Gopis. This is believed to be exactly the same as the many shadows of Lord Sri Krishna’s own form.

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 Dehing Patkai Festival of Assam

The Dehing Patkai Festival is ideal for tourists.

TIME OF FESTIVAL:

This annual fest having avenues for adventure, feast and fun are held from January 16 to 19.

VENUE:

The Festival is organized at Lekhapani in the Tinsukia District of the northeastern state of Assam.

NOMENCLATURE:

The Festival is christened after the majestic and lofty Patkai range of the Himalayas and also the unpredictable Dihing River.

SPONSORS:

The Festival is sponsored by the Government of Assam.

HISTORY:

The Dihing Patkai Festival began in December 2002. It was inaugurated by the chief guest — the then President of India Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam.

EVENTS:

The festival features fairs of the indigenous Assamese communities, adventure sports, tea heritage tours
wildlife pleasure trip, and golfing, besides a lot of other exotic and equally exciting packages.

A chief attraction of the Dihing Patkai Festival is a trip to the Cemeteries of World War-II. Tourists also queue up to proceed on a trip to the historically famous Stillwell Road. Once upon a time, this Road built by the Britishers was the passage to Myanmar — the golden land of Asia.

Tourists can opt for elephant safaris into the serene wildness along the foothills of the Patkai range and the banks of the swift-flowing Dihing River. Many visitors also enjoy the Crafts Fair and the Food Festival. You can also groove to the music in the cultural functions held during each of the days of the Dehing Patkai Festival.

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

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.

Categories
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.