Excerpts from November 2012 report
The requirements for the documentation and research work have been discussed with the collaborator so that the elderly artiste can assess the needs for the project and can provide guidance, support and information accordingly.
After the above discussion a few probable dates and days have been identified for documentation, as the performance of the Bhari Gan play is organised only on certain occasions of the year in certain areas. It has been decided to have a detail discussion with the collaborator on the practices and tradition of his group on 21st November 2012. The event that has been identified for the recent oncoming days is the Ai Than Mela, a three day traditional religious fair, to be held during 2nd week of January 2013 (starting from 11th of the Puh month of the Assamese Calendar) where Bhari Gan performances are a part and parcel of the event.
As per the prescheduled programme the village of the collaborator has been visited on 21st November, 2012 for field work. The name of the village is Khamari and the location is P.O.: Chotomatia, Dudhnoi, District Goalpara, Assam-783126. As requested, the Bhari Gan group of the collaborator has organised a demonstration performance for discussion and documentation. The name of the Bhari Gan performing group is Khamari Nayapara Bharigan Dal comprising around 33 members where the collaborator Sri Ushini Rabha is the chief performer called Mul or Ojah. This group performs two plays namely Dodhi Mathan and Sita Puri Ravan Badh Nat. The Dodhi Mathan play deals with the childhood episode of Lord Krishna and the Sita Puri Ravan Badh Nat is the story of the purity test of Sita from Ramayana. While the Dodhi Mathan play is generally enacted in day hours, the Sita Puri Ravan Badh Nat is performed in the night.
Most of the members of the troupe assembled in the residence of the collaborator and performed some portions of the Sita Puri Ravan Badh Nat. The collaborator and other elderly performers of the troupe have explained various aspects of the Bhari Gan tradition of their group like the time of origin of their group, occasions or events of performances, rehearsal and management system, different stages/ sequences of the play, salient features, musical instruments, masks, beliefs etc. These have been documented through still photography apart from the noting down the important aspects.
Besides the enactment of the principal play they also perform some humorous scenes in between, which they called Bhaona, for the amusement of the audience. There may be more than one such comic scene in a single performance depending upon the responds of the audience and the theme of the scenes also of varied in nature. The troupe also enacted a humorous scene on the theme those who steal fish from others may be harassed by ghost. Starting from costumes to dialogue, here the principal effort throughout the scene is remains to create humour. There are no fixed dialogues for the conversations which the characters create instantly during the performance. The humorous scene the group has performed during the field visit has been documented through still photography.
It has revealed in the discussion that sometimes the Bhari Gan performances are presented without the dramatic representations. Such performances only with recitation of the songs are known as Padawali.