Excerpts from December 2012 Report
Collection of Folk calendar of Plain Karbi community
Chokordo is an area where Plain Karbis are living. This place is famous for plain Karbis and their folk custom. World famous deepor beel is situated here. I met Ajoy Bey and his Mother Dipali Beypi. Both of them are relatives of my collaborator Sri Lakshman Teron. At first I discussed with them about the folk customs of plain Karbis which are mainly related with environment. In fact all the customs of plain Karbis are basically related to environment. The customs are-
1) Dehalor Rongker Puja 2) Johong Puja 3) Bat-Bheta Puja
4) Community fishing 5) Lakhimi Adora Puja.
Then I collected the folk calendar (local calendar)of plain Karbi community. This calendar will help me to collect information cum data in a scedule. AjoyBey and DipaliBeypi informed me that basically community fishing starts on the month of Magh(January-February). Dehal or Rongker Puja starts on the first Tuesday of Fagun (February-March), Johong Puja starts on Bohag month ( April), Bat Bheta Puja starts on middle of Jeth month (May-June) Above all the customs arranged as socially but Lakhimi -Adora Puja aranged as personally .
Deepor beel- diverse natural beauty of plain Karbi community Dipor Bil, also spelt Deepor Beel (Bil or Beel means “lake” in the local Assamese language), is located to the south-west of Guwahati city, in Kamrup district of Assam, India. It is a permanent freshwater lake, in a former channel of the Brahmaputra River, to the south of the main river. It is also called a wetland under the Ramsar Convention which has listed the lake in November 2002, as a Ramsar Site for undertaking conservation measures on the basis of its biological and environmental importance. It is located 13 km South West of Guwahati on the National Highway (NH 31), on the Jalukbari-Khanapara bypass, alongside its north western boundary. PWD road skirts the northern fringe of the Rani and Garbhanga Reserve Forests on the south. The National Highway 37 borders the beel on the east and north-east and the Engineering College Road on the north. Also, minor roads and tracts exist in the vicinity of the beel. The Beel is about 5 km from the Guwahati Airport (GNB Int. Airport). Broad Gauge Railway line skirts the lake.The plain Karbi community of this area are very much depended on this world famous beel. In fact, both the plain Karbis and deepo rbeel are interrelated. This deepor beel relates also with the customs of plain Karbis of this area. This beel becomes a part of daily life style of plain Karbis. Ordinary people start their daily life with a hope of living and this hope gives only this Deepor beel. Without this Deepor beel, there are no existences of plain Karbis of this area.Not only people are depended on this beel, but also cattle or animals like elephant, deer, and cows are depended on this beel. The Dipor Bill is reported to provide, directly or indirectly, its natural resources for the livelihood of plain Karbi communities located in its precincts. Freshwater fish is a vital protein and source of income for this community; the health of these people is stated to be directly dependent on the health of this wetland ecosystem. ‘MIGRATORY BIRDS’- one of the most attractive thing of this Deepor beel. Migratory birds are coming into this beel from the month of October last and early November, when winter season arrives. The birds are coming from the side of Australia, Europe, and America etc. There are two types of birds coming into this season. One is Indian and other is foreign. The first one is coming from the various parts of India, i.e., Ladakh, North-East India side and second one is coming from the various parts of world. Bernswellew, purple heron, little egret, intermediate egret, greater egret, cattle egret, black kite etc. birds are local but coming from different parts of our country. Ruddy shell duck, Pelican, Northern Pintail, Gadwall, Tufted duck, Plover etc. birds are migratory, coming from different parts of world.viz, Ruddy shell duck is a beautiful bird and this migratory birds comes from Ladakh, Combodia and China side. Pelican is also a migratory birds, coming from Australia.
Excerpts from January 2013 report
I met my collaborator Lakshman Teron and discussed with him also about my research work for January . He informed me about the community fishing of Jonbeel area and also informed me the Jon beel fair , which is a symbol of unity of various tribes. He informed me that the plain Karbis are situated also in Jonbeel and Sonapur area and for the community fishing the plain Karbis of different places meet together. Interestingly, the other tribes like Tiwa, Boro, Kacharis are also meet and fish together.
Community fishing of Jon beel –
This place actually is a wetland and this area 5 k.m. far from Jagiroad in Morigaon district of Assam and 32 k.m. far from Guwahati. This wetland is famous for community fishing; which is held on occassion of ‘BhogaliBihu’ (of the month of January). The famous ‘Jonbeel fair’ held on here. This fair is famous for ‘Exchange system’ (‘Binimoypratha’).I visited the wetland to focus on community fishing. In fact, the wetland Jon beel is a place of unity of different tribes. On the day of community fishing various types of tribes viz, Plain Karbis, Tiwa, Boro etc. and also non-tribal people like Assamese meet at the Jon beel -the wetland together. They are all meet together for community fishing.
‘Community fishing’ is one of the characteristics of the folk customs of plain Karbis. The plain Karbis meet and start to fish collectively on the occassion of ‘MaghBihu’ or ‘Bhogalibihu’ (in ‘Makarsankranti’ – January month). Actually it is a recreation of plain Karbis. Their enjoyment, happiness is reflected through community fishing. The plain Karbis are always trying to protect their environment. Hence, in this community fishing they always use their natural fishing equipment rather than commercial equipments. They use ‘Polo’, ‘Jakoi’, ‘Khaloi’ etc. natural equipments; but they have been using the ‘Jaal’ (net) since a long time. ‘Polo’, ‘Jakoi’, ‘Khaloi’ are made from bamboo. There are a fixed measurement for making these equipments. 1 and 1/2 or 2 feet is necessary for making ‘Polo’ and ‘Jakoi’. ‘Khaloi’ is actually a pot type, where caught fishes are stored. In Chokordo area it (community fishing) is among plain Karbis. But in Jon beel various tribes (Plain Karbis, Tiwa, Boro )congregate. In fact, through this community fishing of Jon beel it reflects the unity of the tribal culture. The famous and historic fair ‘Jonbeel’ starts with community fishing in the Jon beel wetland. The theme of the community fishing is harmony and brotherhood amongst the various tribes and communities scattered in the North- East India. My collaborator LakshmanTeron informed me about the famous Jonbeel fair and also about the community fishing and the motive of that community fishing. So, I visited the historic place and observed the community fishing of various tribes. I collected the still photographs of community fishing and also recorded the video shoots on community fishing and the fishing equipments. I met the people of various tribes and talked with them regarding the community fishing and their feelings about it. I met Arjun Rongpi, a Plain Karbi and asked him about community fishing. He informed me that it was a great experience because on that day various types of people like Plain Karbis, Tiwa ,Boro etc. came from different places and all the communities caught fish together. He also informed me that the community fishing is one of the important customs of Plain Karbis. I took an interview of him on community fishing and recorded his information. Mr. Rongpi is not a fisherman, but he came here only for the occasion.Then I met Leelabala Deka and Jyoti Saikia (Koch women). I asked them also about that community fishing and their feelings. They informed me that they were very happy because of that occasion. They were coming Jon beel for catching fish only on that special day every year. I met Anup Deka, a local boy (Assamese boy). He was coming Jonbeel with his uncle for community fishing. I asked him regarding the fishing equipments. He informed me about the names of fishing equipments .Then I met two other plain Karbi people , Haren Bey and Krishna Rongpi . Both of them are inhabitants of Sonapur . I asked them about the names of fishing equipments. They informed me about the fishing equipments and their exact measure. They informed me that ‘Jakoi’ and ‘Polo’ are made from bamboo and their measurement basically belongs to 1 and 1/2 to 2 feet, and the measurement of ‘Khaloi’ is 1 feet. I took an interview on the information and recorded it. I met various types of people like plain Karbis, Tiwa, Koch, Assamese etc. and observed that they were all busy in community fishing ; they were doing it without any hesitation; in fact, there was no restriction in catching fishes.
The ‘Exchange system'(barter) is one of the important activity of this fair. Actually one can say that the ‘Jonbeel fair’ is an important part of folklore. The ‘cock fighting’ is an interesting folk game. The plain Karbis, Tiwa, Kacharietc tribes play this folk game. This folk game is an important part of the folk customs of plain Karbis. I visited the famous ‘Jonbeel fair’ . This fair is in fact a community fair. Various tribes viz, Plain Karbi, Tiwa, Boro, kachari etc. tribes are coming here from the different places.
The hill tribes (hill Karbis, hill Tiwas, khasietc) come here and carrying their hill produce food items and exchange it with the food produce items of plain tribes like Plain Karbis, plain Tiwa, boro, kachari etc. It is one and only exchange system where exchange beyond on food items of hill and plain tribes rather than money. Then I observed the traditional folk game – ‘Kukurajujh’ (cock fighting). It is a folk game of various tribes like plain Karbi, Tiwa, kachari etc. I met Kushal Bordoloi and asked about the cock fighting and the rules of the game. He informed me that this traditional folk game is not only of Tiwas but also Plain Karbis enjoy and plays this game .In fact the folk game is a part of folk custom of plain Karbis. It enriches the customs of plain Karbis.
Excerpts from February 2013 report
RONGKER- a festival of plain Karbis
Rongker is an annual springtime festival of plain Karbis. It is observed in order to appease the local deity(Lord Shiva) , associated with the welfare of the village and their harvest , and to get rid of all evil. This festival is held on the first Tuesday of the first week of ‘Falgun’ month (i.e., on February month ). This festival is an interesting and important part of folk custom of plain Karbis. In this festival, goats and cocks are sacrificed to Lord Shiva.I met my collaborator Lakshman Teron and discussed with him about the ‘Rongker’ festival. He informed that ‘Rongker’ festival is the main and important festival of plain Karbis of entire Assam. This festival is in fact a worship to appease Lord Shiva. The Karbis of hill call it ‘Rongker’ and the plain Karbis call it as’Dehal Kasidom’ . ‘Dehal’ means ‘Devota’ (Lord) and ‘Kasidom’ means ‘Sewa/ Puja kora’ (worship).My collaborator informed me about the rituals of this festival. On the day of festival all plain Karbis gather and engage in activity connected to the festival i.e. some of them collect banana leafs, some collect areca nut, bamboo, some of them cut the bamboos for different purposes; for storing water, drinking etc., collect fruits, cocks and goats for sacrifice etc. Lakshman Teron informed me that plain Karbis are very much associated with environment and nature. ‘Rongker’ festival is also associated with the environment and nature. The plain Karbis use bamboo, banana leafs, areca nut, different types of fruits etc. According to plain Karbis banana leafs, Tulsi, areca nut etc. are sacred. In fact they use bamboos for different interesting reasons, i.e., for keeping water and drink rather than artificial glass etc.
The day before Rongker festival , the plain Karbis gather and collect ‘dhol’ (drum) , ‘kali’ (whistle) etc. from the house of ‘Banthai’ and go to the river bank to sanctify them (‘Dhol’,’Kali’ etc.) and purify themselves with holy water. They come to the house of ‘Banthai’ and sacrifice a cock to God. I went to Dholbama village and met Bipul Kathar and observed the rituals related to’Dehal Kasidom’ or ‘Rongker. All plain Karbi people met that day and went to the bank of the river for ‘Birkilut’. ‘Birkilut’ is a ritual of plain Karbis ; it is related to ‘Dehal Kasidom’. Actually from this process people sanctify themselves. Then they prayed and offer an egg and their traditional drink (‘Juguli’) to God. When they came to the residence of Banthai, the main priest sacrificed a cock and offer to God in ‘Dehalghar’ of Banthai.
On the day of fastival ‘Dehal Kasidom’, the main priest sharpens the holy weapons (‘BOLI KATA DAA’) in themorning. Then people are busy making ‘Mala’ and cut the bamboo, banana tree and leafs into proper pieces. They collect varieties of fruits and rice etc. for this festival. In fact, main ‘Puja’ is started from evening. People are busy in different works (related to fastival) from morning. From midday people are busy in arranging and tying areca nuts with ‘Tulsi’ leafs and betel leaves. The main priests are busy in arranging ‘Axon’ to God. People play Dhol and Kali throughout the puja. Moheswar Teron informed me that Rongker and Dehal Kasidom are the same. They informed me about the rituals which are related to Dehal Kasidom. First the Malas are offered to God and then plain Karbis are also wear it. I met Ronjit Rongpi and Sosen Teron and they told about the subject of sacrifice. Goats and Cocks are used for sacrifice to God. I also met the main priest Nobin Ingti and discussed about the ‘Axon’ (plates which are full of banana, apple, areca nuts leaves, coconuts etc. and these ‘Axon’ are offered to God). He informed me that ‘Axon’ are arranged for both ‘Dehal ghar’ (main temple or holi place) and also for ‘Baro Gopal than’. ‘Baro Gopal than’ is situated near the main Dehal ghar’. Goats and cocks are sacrificed in both places.
Excerpts from March 2013 report
‘Bohag maah’ – is the new year of plain Karbis (Bohag month is also new year of other tribes ). It carries a new hope, new beginning for them. So, plain Karbis are busy before one month (from ‘Choitra maah’ i.e., March to welcome this new year ).The life of plain Karbis reflects their own identity . The plain Karbis are very much simple by nature and so their life style is also simple. They believe and have faith in nature. Hence, it can be said that their folk custom is mainly related to environment. I met my collaborator Lakshman Teron and discussed with him how plain Karbi prepare to welcome their new year. He informed me that plain Karbi women are busy weaving new cloth during this time like ‘Mukhsha’ (towel) , ‘Mekhla’ (goun), ‘Chador’ etc. On the occasion of new year plain Karbi women present ‘Mukhsha’ to their love ones. In this ‘Chaitra’ (March) month plain Karbi people go to the hills to collect fire wood for the rainy season. The plain Karbi people are very simple in nature. The plain Karbis are mainly farmers by profession. They use simple equipments for cultivation rather than modern and scientific equipments. They use ‘Kodal’, ‘Moi’, ‘Nangol’ etc. for crop cultivation.
I met Nabin Ingti (the priest of Dehal ghar of Dholbama) and discussed their preparation before new year (Bohag month- middle of April month).He informed me that women are busy in this time to collect fire woods from hills. This is the time of preservation of fire wood for the rainy seasons. They go to ‘Chaeraerae Gosai Pahar’ (name of the hill) and collect fire wood .But they never climb this hill. Because they believe that this hill symbolizes their deity. If they collect fire woodthen ill luck would befall them. I met Ganeshri and Mamoni Ingti and asked about their weaving. They told me that they were weaving ‘Mukhsha’ and ‘Mekhela’ for the occassion of Bohag month. They use green thread, ‘Ranch’ (made from bamboo, using for weaving), ‘Chaeraeki’ ,’ugha’ for this weaving. In this time people are busy in making ropes for tying cows in the New Year. It is a ritual to tie the cow with a new rope. This rope is made from ‘Odal’ tree, not from jute. I went to see with Sunil Ingti,to the ‘Odal’ tree and how ropes are made from it. Sunil Ingti informed me that people dry the trunks (parts of this tree) in the sun and prepare very thin strands out of it, thus creating fine rope from these tree trunks. Then Sunil Ingti informed about their instruments used for farming. Kodal, Moi, Nangol etc. are generally used in farming. Then I met Neela Rongpi Ingti and I observed their kitchen. From this kitchen reflects their lifestyle. They do not use modern kitchen equipments for cooking.
Excerpts from April 2013 report
I met my collaborator Lakshman Teron and discussed the Johong Puja. He informed me that Johong Puja is an important ritual of the folk custom of plain Karbis. It is related to the environment as it is held to please Almighty Johong (Lord Shiva) and other 33 crore gods to keep the environment safe. They believe that through this Puja their crops and surrounding nature and environment will be protected. So it is held in a new month i.e. ‘Bohag’ month.This Puja is held for seven days. The first day of this Puja, they wash cows etc. in the morning and in evening they go for ‘Birkilut’ (sanctifying them) on the bank of the river. They believe that through this ‘Birkilut’ their sins would be absolved. Then they come back to ‘Gosai Than’ (Holi place of the village) and light diyas, offer rice, ginger, mustard oil and bananas to the Almighty. They offer these items on banana leaf, which is called ‘Axon’. They arrange 33 ‘Axon’ for the name of 33 crore gods. On the second day of this puja, in the morning, people make ‘Mala’ for offering the deity. The mala is made from ‘Odal’ (Odal tree) and ‘Nahar’ and in the evening, they clean the holy place and again light diyas and offer rice, ginger, betel nut , leaves and ‘Sansiri’ (a mixture of ground rice made by frying the rice without oil and then ground)to Almighty. They offer all these items on a banana leaf on 33 plates (‘axon’).People play ‘Dhol’ and ‘Kali’ during Puja time. Then they place the ‘Mala’ on sharp holy weapons (‘Boli Kata daa’) and on the pots(made from bamboo) of drink. They sacrifice the cocks to the Almighty Johong and a white goat for Goddess Parvati, wife of Lord Shiva (Johong).?Then they fry the meats and ‘Posola’ (made from banana trank) and offer to Almighty and put these on 33 plates for the 33 crore gods. The third, fourth, fifth and sixth day of this Puja, only main diya is lit in the holy place. The last day of this Puja, i.e. seventh day is called ‘Johong bidai’. In the evening , people dance and play ‘Dhol’ and ‘Kali’ , prepare an item called ‘Chatni’ (pickle from ‘Posola’ and offer on 33 plates. They also offer rice and drink.
On the second day of Johong Puja plain karbis are busy making ”malas” in the morning and in the evening, they are busy arranging ‘‘Axon’’ (Ashan) i.e., the special place for Almighty . They arrange 33 ”Axon” for the 33 crore Gods. They bring a cock for sacrifice and a white goat for Goddess ”Parvati”. During the puja time people play ”dhol” and ”Kali” .After the puja they dance. I met my collaborator and asked about the puja . He told me about the rituals of puja . He showed me the worshiping place and it is held in his front yard. Then I met Sanjoy Bey and Ajoy Bey and asked them about the value of making ” mala’’, they told me that ” mala” is made from the ”Odal” tree and ”Nahar” tree, not from jute. Then I observed the works of making ”mala” .In the evening I observed that people were coming and started to arrange ”axon” .They make a pack of rice, ginger, betel nuts and leafs and tulsi leaves and keep it on the ”axon” .Then I observed people brought cocks to sacrifice and praying in front of ”axon” , sacrificed them.
The last day of Johong puja is known as Johong bidai. On this day people gather at the residence of Banthai and women fry rice without oil and grind it. Men make malas for offering almighty. The main priest arranges axon .Then they bring fried dry fish and mix with ‘‘posola’’,and they keep it in axon with the holy drink . Then the priests chant mantras and people pray to keep the environment good .During the puja time they play dhol and kali and dance. On that day I met first Golapi Kathar and asked her about puja rituals. Numoli Fangsho infromed me that the first day of Johong puja known as ”Birkilut” day, second day is known as ‘jugan’ , 3rd day is known as sacrificing day ,4th day people meet and have community feast. 5th and 6th day people dance and the 7th day is known as johong bidai . It seems that the rituals of Johong puja varies from place to place .Then I met Nabin Ingti and his family. I asked Nabin Ingti regarding the same topic because he is a priest of Johong Puja. He told me about the rituals of Johong Puja and specially about the Johong Bidai .I observed from the evening people were coming to the residence of Banthai and women were busy in frying rice without oil and grinding it. Men were making mala to offer the almighty. Then the main priest Khargeswar Fangso came and started to arrange the axon. They put rice and banana on the axon .Then Nabin Ingti offered the mala to almighty as well as the people gathered and showered rice powder along with the chanting of mantras .All the time people were playing dhol and kali. Finally they prayed and danced.