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Subhabrita Ghosh Report

Excerpts from December 2012 Report


Dec 22nd, 2012

A club of Tulshibari at Rongiya organized a Nagaranam program for their annual function .They invited two nagaranam groups. Among these the troupe of the Ramcharan Bharali presented the episode of ‘the birth of Narada’ of the Mahabharata which is described .Once Mahadeva went to a sacrificial ceremony conducted by Parvati in the guise of a woman as entrance of males was prohibited in the ceremony. But Parvati suspected this deceit and decided to test each of the women present in the ceremony by placing her hand over their heads. Then when   Mahadeva’s turn came, he became pregnant and thus his deceit was caught. At last Mahadeva delivered the baby with his fingernail and the newborn child came to be known as ‘Narada’.


Dec 30th, 2012

I went a program which was arranged by a club of North Guwahati .They organized various programs such as boat competition, Nagaranam etc throughout the five days. The group of Ramcharan Bharali was also invited there. On that day, they performed a story of Mahabharata which is-Dharmaraj Judhisthir making an oblation. Narad muni went to heaven and informed all gods, after praising Judhirsthir  that there was no king in the three world as good as he, listing that the father of judhirsthir ‘Jome’ would appear before his son disguise as ‘Maya’. Then Judhirsthir asked Jome regarding pleasing a guest, creation of religion, and real friend of human beings etc. Father Jome answered his son that of pleasing a guest as fire, earth, grass, and then land regarding creation of religion as that of truth and charity and at last real friend of man are his parents, wife, children and education.


Jan 1st, 2013

I was present at a function of a female Nagaranam troupe whose lead singer was Gitanjali Kalita .This program took place at kalaskhetra of Guwahati and the group presented a story of  Ramayana .



Excerpts from January 2013 report

 January 30, 2013

I attended a program arranged by a club in Mirza of south Guwahati . They invited the pathak Ramcharan Bharali and his nagaranam group. The troupe of the Ramcharan Bharali presented the episode of ‘the birth of narada’ & ghunucha jatra of the Mahabharata .

Sri Krisna brought Lakshmi to Abanti nagar after marrying her and also promised he to marry Ghunucha ,the daughter of king Indradinna. When Lakshmi heard this she attacked and massacred the kingdom of Indradinna with her soldiers. On the other side Sri Krisna came back to Lakshmi after staying with Ghunucha and surrendered to her. Then Lakshmi shut the door and told him, “you can come only if you pay the money of punishment.” Then Krisna laughed and paid her. After receiving the money, Lakshmi relented. (Ghunucha jatra—2nd story).


January 31, 2013

On this date, a club of Jagra at Nalbari organized a nagaranam program for their annual Mela. This program was occurred at Jagra of Nalbari. They invited two nagaranam groups. The group of Rumi Boruya was also invited there. On that day, they performed a story kirtan pala the story of which is—Brahma’s son was Bhrigu. Once Bhrigu wanted to know who among the trinity was the greatest: his father, Vishnu or Shiva. He decided that he would be the examiner because he did not want others to decide on his behalf.

Bhrigu began his examination with his father. While Brahma was reading the scriptures, Bhrigu came before him in a very haughty way, without bowing. Brahma said, “What! You are coming into my room without showing me any respect? I never thought that you would be so insolent and arrogant!” He scolded his son harshly.

Silently Bhrigu went away, saying to himself, “This proves that my father cannot be the greatest of the three.”

Next Bhrigu went to see Shiva. When Shiva saw Bhrigu coming towards him, he did not know how to greet him. Why? Shiva was filthy. In spite of this, Shiva grabbed Bhrigu and embraced him. “You are so dirty and filthy! Why do you have to make me dirty also?” protested Bhrigu.

Shiva became furious. “You have to call me dirty and filthy? This is what I get for embracing you! I came to you with such affection! I love you. You are Brahma’s son. Now you have to say all kinds of things against me?” Shiva was so furious that he wanted to kill Bhrigu.

Bhrigu hastily left Shiva’s presence. On the way, he concluded, “Like my father, Shiva is also not great. Both of them have not conquered their anger. Since they have not conquered their anger, what kind of spiritual greatness do they have?”

Vishnu was the last member of the trinity to be examined byBhrigu. When Bhrigu arrived at Vishnu’s abode, Vishnu was fast asleep. Bhrigu thought to himself, “Since both my father and Shiva showed their anger, let me see if I can also make Vishnu angry. I am sure it will be quite easy.”

While Vishnu was still asleep, Bhrigu started mildly kicking him. Vishnu did not wake up. Then Bhrigu kicked Vishnu extremely hard right on his chest. Vishnu woke up and immediately grabbed Bhrigu’s feet. “Are you hurt my child? Please tell me. You kicked me so hard! I am deeply concerned that you have hurt yourself. Please tell me what I can do for you.”

Bhrigu replied, “My Lord, among the trinity— Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva –you are by far the greatest.”

This was Bhrigu’s realization. His father scolded him because he showed no respect to his father; Shiva became enraged because Bhrigu insulted him; but Vishnu, in spite of being kicked ruthlessly, forgave Bhrigu and showed him such compassion and concern.

It is said that the mark of Bhrigu’s foot is still visible on Vishnu’s chest. Because of this incident, Bhrigu became known as Pada Bhrigu. ‘Pad’ means ‘foot,’ so Pada Bhrigu means ‘the sage who used his feet to examine the gods.’





Excerpts from February 2013 report

Lakshmi had four descendants. One day, the king asked his four sons a question, and youngest daughter Puspoboti said that she was spending her days by her own fate not by the luck of king.

Hearing these, the king was very angry. Then a beggar came begging to the palace. The king sent the beggar with some wealth and his youngest daughter Puspoboti.

After that the beggar took the princess, Puspoboti to his poor house. Next day that beggar decorated his house.

Few days laer, princess went to the pond for bathing, keeping her ornament on the bank. In the mean time, a sparrow, seating on the top of the tree, thinking the ornament as food picked it and flew away.

On the other hand, that beggar, finding no other way, brought a dead snake and kept it in her room.

At that time, the sparrow saw dead snake, came down and kept the ornament, took the dead snake and flew away.

The beggar recognized the ornament belonging to the king’s house and went to the palace to return it to the king. Then the king became very happy and appointed that beggar as the royal priest. In this way the beggar became very rich.


Excerpts from April 2013 report


My project guide Dr. Kishore Kumar Bhattacharjee suggested that I collect information about the process of making Nagara (folk drum) and the performance of Nagaranam (A folk form about dramatic narration).

I went to the shop of Brojen Boruya (an experienced craftsman) in Kakoya with my collaborator. In that time the others workers of his group also were present in his shop. I observed that they were busy for making Nagara and Brojen Boruya, the main craftsman of their group also helped them and arranged them properly. My collaborator Ramcharan Bharali informed me that The Nagara (folk drum) is a member of the percussion group of musical instruments. This folk Drum consists of at least one membrane, called a drumhead or drum skin,that is stretched over a shell and struck, with a drum stick, to produce sound. There is usually a resonance head on the underside of the drum, typically tuned to a slightly lower pitch than the top drumhead. He also told me that other techniques have been used on the drums to produce sound, such as the thumb roll. Drums are the world’s oldest and most ubiquitous musical instruments, and the basic design has remained virtually unchanged for thousands of years.


Mr. Brojen Boruya also informed me that in many traditional cultures, drums have a symbolic function and are used in religious ceremonies. Drums are often used in music therapy, especially hand drums, because of their tactile nature and easy use by a wide variety of people.


The shell almost invariably has a circular opening over which the drumhead is stretched, but the shape of the remainder of the shell varies widely. The most usual shape is a cylinder, although timpani, for example, use bowl-shaped shells. Other shapes include a frame design, truncated cones (bongo drums,), goblet shaped (djembe).

Drums with cylindrical shells can be open at one end, or can have two drum heads. Single-headed drums typically consist of a skin stretched over an enclosed space, or over one of the ends of a hollow vessel. Drums with two heads covering both ends of a cylindrical shell often have a small hole somewhat halfway between the two heads; the shell forms a resonating chamber for the resulting sound. Exceptions include the African slit drum, also known as a log drum as it is made from a hollowed-out tree trunk, and the Caribbean steel drum, made from a metal barrel. Drums with two heads can also have a set of wires, called snares, held across the bottom head, top head.

My research questions were-

To highlight the process of making Nagara.

To highlight the custom, culture, tradition and the performance of this art form Nagaranam.

To highlight the feedback or reaction of audiences.


On 14thMay, I met my collaborator Ramcharan Bharali and his group members, talked with them about the process of making Nagara and their performance of Nagaranam.

After that I took an interview of my collaborator. He informed me that the Nagaranam is a group performing institution of Assam. It is a collaboration of songs, music, and dance etc. performed by the group. There are some essential musical instruments which are used by the artists in their performance.

He also told me that the all Assam ‘Nagaranam Sangha’ has formulated some guidelines to perform Nagaranam by the groups. These rules and regulation must be abided by a Nagaranam performing group. These are-

a)     There must have at least 20-30 members in each Nagaranam group.

b)     The members of the each group should be uniform wearing Dhoti, white shirt, Gamosha for the male members and Mekhla, Chadar and Gamosha for the female members.

c)      The usual time of performing the Nagaranam is 7 p.m. and onwards.

d)     Before performing the Nagaranam each of the pathak (main singers) should recite ‘Krishna Vandana’ from the holy book ‘Kirtan Ghosha’ and ‘Nam Ghosa’.

e)     The Pathak are allowed to perform their various nams from the religious books like Bhagawata, Ramayana, Mahabharata, Gita and other different puranas but these should be completely religious in nature.

f)      The groups are allowed to blow the Nagara, Kurkuri, Bhortal as the only musical instrument in their performance.

g)     In case of many groups performing the Nagaranam the first group will sing the ‘Aparadha Marjana Ghosha’ at the end of the performance. Then the other groups will bow their heads to the God Hari and everybody will recite “Hari Dhani”.


Excerpts from May 2013 report


Dr. Kishore Kumar Bhattacharjee advised me to collect the process of making Bhortal (Supporting instrument of Nagaranam performance), Kurkuri (A small folk Drum like Nagara), and also the process of making Nagara (Main folk Drum of Nagaranam performance) in more details. He also suggested that to collect photos and videos of the Nagaranam performance of the Ladies group.

On 24th May, I met my collaborator Ramcharan Bharali in Guwahati. Then I went to the house of Niren Deka (an experienced potter) in North Guwahati with him. I observed that he was busy making Kurkuri with his helpers. From him I came to know that the kurkuri (A small folk Drum like Nagara), belongs to the same category of the Nagara but it is very small in size. It is also made of clay and sewed with the hide of the cows like the Nagara. It is round in shape and size like Nagara and its lenth and radius is generally 1&1/2 to 2 feet. It is blown by beating with a small size bamboo stick which is called ‘Kurkuri mari’.

I went to the house of Bhupen Boruya (an experienced cobbler) at Jagara in Nalbari with my collaborator and learnt about the process of making Nagara(Main folk Drum of  Nagaranam performance). He said that the Nagara is the main instrument of this art form giving the name Nagara nam to the art form. As per the classification of musical instruments it can be included into the ‘Abanadhya Dadya’, but there is no any evidence to get the relevant data about the origin of Nagara instrument. Some mention that Nagara is a smaller version of ‘Daba’ but Daba is a large instrument and is used by the people in the Math-Mandir, Namghars and the Kirtanghars for invoking the gods and goddess. Therefore, it may be assumed that the Nagara has its origins in the Daba. As it was newly formed from the Daba so, it was called ‘Nagahra’ or ‘Nagara’.

Generally, the Nagara is made from the hide of cows and for this purpose some strings made from the same hide are used called Dowans. With the help of the Dowans the sound of the Nagara can be adjusted to the proper scale. The Nagara is beaten with a wooden stick by a man who is called ‘Nagaru’.

In this month I spoke to my collaborator, Niren Deka (an experienced potter), Bhupen Boruya (an experienced cobbler) and came to know about the tradition, uses and process of making Kurkuri, Nagara, Bhortal. I got information about the Nagaranam performance of the Ladies troupe from my collaborator.


This month I also took photos and video footage from the Ladies group performance of Nagaranam, held at Gop-Gopalthan club in Buddhapurnima festival on 25th May which was arranged by club Secretary, Pranjal Barman in Jagara (Nalbari).

My research questions emerging from this documentation and fieldwork are-

a)     To highlight the process of making Kurkuri (A small folk Drum like Nagara), Nagara (Main folk Drum of  Nagaranam performance).

b)     To highlight the Ladies group performance of Nagaranam.

c)      To highlight the process of making Bhortal (Supporting instrument of Nagaranam performance) and its origin.

On 25thMay, I met my collaborator Ramcharan Bharali and asked with him about the process of making Bhortal(Supporting instrument of Nagaranam performance)  and its origin.

He informed me that the Bhortal is one of the essential instruments of Nagaranam institution. Different types of tals are found –Bhortal, Bartal, Chabtal, patital, Khutital, Mandira etc. Generally Bhortal are used in the Nagaranam performance and in the performance of Joy Dhol, Bar Dhol, Khole etc.

The Bhortal is made mainly at Hajo and Sarthe bari area of Assam. Generally, the maximum weight of a pair of Bhortal is 4 k.g. to 5 &1/2 k.g. There is a hole in the middle portion of each Bhortal and is connected with a jute string for blowing this instrument. Besides, there are two parts of each Bhortal e.g one is called ‘Bati’ (which is round and high portion) and the other part is called ‘Pati’ (the edge of the cymbal). Each group of Nagaranam uses at least 5 to 8 pairs of Bhortals during the performance. The main artist (pathak) exhibits his supremacy with the help of Bhortal before the audience at the time of ‘Nam’ performance. Thus, the Bhortal has been playing a significant role in the performance of Nagaranam.

He said that according to the classification of musical instrument it can be included in the class of Tala badya or Ghana badya. One assumption is that the name Bhortal is derived from the Hindi word ‘BHOR’ which means morning. Generally, the Bhortal blows in the morning time at the Namghars and the Kirtanghars for worshipping God till date. Some people call it as ‘Bartal’ due to its large size and shape.

Some scholars are of the view that these big cymbals are used in Bhutan. Bhutias offered a pair of Bhortals  to Srimanta Sankardeva and he used to use the Bhortal especially during the worship of Vishnu in the mornings and evenings at the Namghars. As it was presented to Sankardeva by the Bhutias ,it was called ‘Bhottal’ or ‘Bhortal’ from then onwards.


Tata Fellowships in Folklore

National Folklore Support Centre’s Tata Fellowships in Folklore are meant for Post Graduate degree holders in Arts and Humanities, capable of delivering folklore research and documentation. This program facilitates a scholar belonging to one community to work collaboratively with another community’s elder or an artists to document the community elder/ artists folklore/tradition for a year-long period.

Eight fellowships have been awarded in the academic year 2011- 2012.

Twenty two fellowships have been awarded in the academic year 2012-2013