I am beginning the series of Indian Culture Diary with the region very close to my heart. Much of North-east India is unexplored and culture intact with centuries old belief. I have some very fond memories of my time spent in Assam. I had lived there for a short during my job training. And, waking up to the rising sun beyond the mountains is a sight to behold. In today’s post, let us explore one of the seven sisters today.
Assam Culture Diary!
The state derives its name from the word “asama” of the extinct Ahom language, meaning “peerless”. Mahabharata and the local folklore predict that a great kingdom existed named Kamarupa & it had its capital at Pragjyotishapura (now Guwahati). King Narakasura and his son Bhagadatta were famous rulers of Kamarupa in the Mahabharata period (roughly 400 BCE to 200 CE).
Festivals of Assam –
Assam is predominantly an agriculture based economy. And, talking about Assam without mentioning the Bihu Festival would be incomplete! They are celebrated thrice a year –
- Rongali Bihu – Celebrated to marked the onset of spring and the beginning of the sowing season
- Kongali Bihu – The barren Bihu when the fields are lush but the barns are empty;
- Bhogali Bihu – The thanksgiving festival when the crops have been harvested and the barns are full.
Dances of Assam –
Bihu dance– Bihu is a group dance in which males and females dance together, but maintain separate gender roles.The most important musicians are the drummers (dhulia), who play a twin-faced drum (the dhol, which is hung from the neck) with one stick and a palm. Seeing the dancers in the rhythm would surely keep you enchanted. I had the chance to see the dance performed by little girls in an orphanage when we visited them on Children’s Day. Needless to say, very soon we were all trying to match the steps with them.
Bohuwa dance – Bohuwa is a traditional event of the Sonowal Kacharis. This event has been celebrated by Sonowal Kacharis every two-year in Dibrugarh, Assam. The Dance is performed in praise of Lord Shiva as he had provided new life to King Dakshya (father of Sati). This dance signifies the beginning of a new life, a clean society and the riddance of bad omen. You can read more about the legend here.
Special Mentions –
Gamosa – It translates to Gamcha & holds a special place in Assamese traditions. Rectangular in shape with red border on three sides & Red woven motifs on the fourth one. It is used a gift of respect for elderly, also adorned by Bihu dancers or as article to place objects of reverence.
Kamakhya Temple – The temple is dedicated to Goddess Kamakhya &and is part of 51 Shakti Peeth. It was here for the first time I saw the animal sacrifice with my own eyes. I hardly remember anyone around me getting uncomfortable at the sight. But, then it is ritual being followed for generations. Ambubachi Mela is held every year to celebrate the annual Menstrual Cycle of the Goddess. The temple is closed but the festive vibes in air are impossible to miss.
Assamese Silk – Muga is geographically tagged Assamese silk type, famous for it glossy looks and fine texture. We had spent hours in and around Paltan Bazaar in Guhawati to find the Muga Silk and finally found the ones which we liked the most at shop hidden away behind the stacks of uncut cloth pieces material on the shelf. Unfortunately, I have lost all the pictures of the dresses made out of the cloth material, but it did makee me stand out when I wore it to office. 🙂
If you have a non-vegetarian diet, then you are in luck. Fish, duck, chicken and pork are regular part of the diet, with fish having a prominent place in the repertoire. The palette is subtle with not too much spicy flavor.
Fondest Memory –
On a trip to Bhairabkunda in Udalguri district of Assam, we were able to cross over to Bhutan for sometime. Spending a limited time there was enough to add Bhutan to my places to visit.
There is still a lot that I can write about Assam and still the memories would be left to pen down. This is a glimpse of what I had witnessed in the short stay. And, I would suggest anyone to get their next holiday destination set to explore the unexplored Assam. 🙂
This is my first post in the #A2Z2019 series – Indian Culture Diary, where each day I would be writing a post about one of the Indian States/Union Territories.