Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Tiwa Community Festivals

Festivals constitute a significant part of the culture of the Tiwa people. There are many festivals of Tiwa tribes. Tiwa people celebrate several occasions and festivals. The main festivals of the Tiwa tribes are: Three Pisu (Bihu), Borot Utsav, Sogra Phuja, Wansuwa, Jonbeel Mela, Kabla Phuja, Langkhon Phuja, Yangli Phuja Etc.

Tiwa Pisu (Bihu):
Tiwas of different areas observe Bihu in different days of the week. Though there is similarity with other communities as the main agricultural festivals, in some dance form and rituals the Tiwas bihu is distinctive. Some of the distinctive Bihu features of Tiwas are Boka Nach, Jora Tola ceremony, Bheti Karha ceremony, Gosai Utiowa utsav etc.

Jonbeel/Jonbil Mela:
Jonbeel Mela is one of the most attractive festivals of Assam. Jonbeel Mela is held every year during the winter season at a historic place known as Dayang Belguri at Jonbeel. Jonbeel is like the crescent moon that is why the mela on the side of the bill is named as Jonbeel. Jon and Beel are Assamese terms for the Moon and a wetland respectively. It is a 3-day-long community fair held at the weekend of Magh Bihu. This is traditionally the Gobha Haat of barter exchange. On the Jonbeel Mela, a huge market or bazaar is held where the people of different tribes interchange their merchandise with the local people in barter system.

Before the mela takes place, an Agni Puja or fire worship is performed for the well-being of the mankind. The mela starts with community fishing in the Jonbeel wetland. People from the Tiwa community catching fish during the “Community Fishing”. The theme of the mela is harmony and goodwill among the various tribes and communities scattered in the Northeast India. During the mela, the king of the Tiwa tribes popularly known as Govaraja along with his courtiers visits the mela and collects taxes from his subjects. During this festival people from various tribes perform their traditional dance and music and makes the whole atmosphere joyful.

Borot Utsav:
The word Barat originated from Sanskrit word Brata. The meaning of the word Brata is penance observed to satisfy the God. Barat utsav is a community utsav of Tiwa Tribes, which bears a traditional religious-cultural character. Brata festival is celebrated in the full moon day called Purnima of the month of Puha. The festival is observed to make the society free from pestilence, epidemic or aggression of wild animals.
In the beginning of the festival, young people from different villages even from distant areas come to the place of festival with decorated birds of wood and bamboo fixed to a long bamboo or read. Peerajuj is one special feature of the Barat utsav. It is observed in the end of the festival.

Sogra Phuja:
Sagra Phuja is a spring festival of Tiwa community. This festival is observed in the month of Fagun. In this festival mainly the bachelors participate. This festival is full of music and dance. It is known that the bachelor’s dormitory Samadai becomes the centre of this festival. This festival starts with worship of Langkhun and Mahadeo with sacrifices of goat, fowl and other birds.

One of the biggest clan of tiwas the ‘Amkhawali’ people are used to celebrate ‘WANSUWA’ festival in the interval of every five to six years. This festival celebrated during the month of May and first part of July and generally its start on Tuesday and completed on Thursday. The main function occurred on Wednesday at the residence of ‘SHANGDOLOI’. Where the ‘SHAM’ (wooden mortar, UROL in Assamese) are buried nearly half portion at the open ground in a circle. The youths of same clan came from different villages took parts in the dance of ‘Wansuwa’ and with the rhythm of KHRAM, PANGSI and THURANG they used to grind the wet rice with ‘Lomphor’ (wooden pestle / Ural mari in Assamese) till rice became powder. Then the ‘Pisai’ (office bearer) of the villages distribute this ‘wankuri’ to every household and the household cooked it in water vapors and in the next morning bring the ‘Wan rusa’ (cooked rice cake) in the house of ‘Shangdoloi’ and performed the rituals activities by offering the ‘Wan rusa’ to ‘SODONGA RAJA’ and ‘MALDEO’. Then they mixed all the ‘Wan rusa’ and again distribute it to every household of the village. As such by late evening of Thursday the ‘WANSUWA’ festival come to an end. Next morning the villagers pay respect and farewell the youths from different villages who have participated in this ‘WANSUWA’. It is to be noted that this festival is performed under strict supervisions of ‘Shangdoloi, Shangmaji, Huruma, Khuramul’ and others officials of the village.
Now, let us know the beautiful legend behind this festival. Once there was a couple called ‘Ram Pha and Ram Ma’ and as they do not know what to be eaten to survive, so their health became worse, out of hunger. So, the couple went to the ‘Sodonga Raja’ and ‘Maldeo Raja’ and asked for a solution to remove their hunger. ‘Sodonga Raja’ and ‘Maldeo Raja’ asked them to try the roots of thatch and grass; they also tried but failed to remove their hunger. They again went to ‘Sodonga Raja’ and ‘Maldeo Raja’ and prayed to give alternative solution to remove their hunger. ‘Sodonga Raja’ and ‘Maldeo Raja’ asked them to eat roots tuber; they also tried but failed to remove their hunger. At last ‘Sodonga Raja’ and ‘Maldeo Raja’ thought them how to use ‘SATBUNI & BAROBUNI’ (RICE) to remove hunger. So, they tried with ‘SATBUNI & BAROBUNI’ and they succeed to get ride from hunger. Then they understood that ‘Sodonga Raja and Maldeo Raja’ itself used to eat ‘SATBUNI & BAROBUNI’, that’s why they are healthy and strong. So, ‘Rampha & Ram Ma’ decided to offer the ‘SATBUNI & BAROBUNI’ to the human being. But, first they have to learn how to cultivate the ‘SATBUNI & BAROBUNI’. So, ‘Ram pha & Ram Ma’ invited ‘BAROKHONDEO’ (the Deo & Devi) to come down into the earth to cultivate the ‘SATBUNI & BAROBUNI’. ‘BAROKHONDEO’ also accept the invitation after having due permission from ‘SHARIBHAI PHA MAHADEO’ and came down to cultivate ‘SATBUNI & BAROBUNI’; they began to cultivate from ‘SERA SERI MAKHA’, then WASI WARI, KHARPHADA, BORSIRA, BOR LEMPHRA MATHAL PARO, MATHAL PISA, MAKHA KOJA, MAKHA KHOJOM, SHARIBHAINE THASAM HULA’NE MAKHA, THOLPARO, THOLPISA, KHODYATHULI, KHANGKI, MINDAIMARI, TEKHONDEO, MADHABPARA, BORNUDI, BORKHOLONG, THINDULI MAKHA, TUMRA MAKHA etc places. They cultivate for long 12 years restlessly. Even their lice grownup as bigger as pig and flew away to the sky, their sweats flown to a stream and river, but they didn’t stop working.
One day ‘Ram pha & Ram ma’ visited to their working field and asked ‘BAROKHONDEO’ about their cultivation. Then ‘BAROKHONDEO’ replied that, despite of our hard work we have failed to make productions of ‘SATBUNI & BAROBUNI. ‘Ram pha & Ram ma’ advised ‘BAROKHONDEO’ to take help of ‘MAHAMUNUS’ (human being) for cultivation of ‘SATBUNI & BAROBUNI’. ‘BAROKHONDEO’ then engaged ‘BAROJONA PANTHAI & BAROJONA KHORLA’ to cultivate SATBUNI & BAROBUNI along with them. Within a year they faced success by huge and surplus productions of SATBUNI & BAROBUNI. ‘BAROKHONDEO’ was quite happy and satisfied with the ‘BAROJONA PANTHAI & BAROJONA KHORLA’, so they gave all the productions to them and asked them to live happily with SATBUNI & BAROBUNI. ‘BAROKHONDEO’ thought ‘BAROJONA PANTHAI & BAROJONA KHORLA’ how to build the ‘SHANG’ of ‘SHARIBHAI’ the ‘SHAMADI’ to administer the village and protect, preserved and practice the God gifted culture of ‘MAHAMUNUSH’. ‘BAROKHONDEO’ specially thought the idea of ‘WANSUA MISAWA’ and asked them to celebrate the festival at the interval of every five years to keep the memory of our joint adventure for cultivation of ‘SATBUNI & BAROBUNI’. And such, after giving suggestions and ideas to human being ‘BAROKHONDEO’ flew away to the place of ‘SHARIBHAI PHA MAHADEO’.
After leaving of ‘BAROKHONDEO’, the ‘BAROJONA PANTHAI & BAROJONA KHORLA’ holds a meeting and decided to build a ‘SHAMADI’ as per direction of ‘BAROKHONDEO’. But as they do not have the necessary instrument such as Ruwa (axe), Khangra’ (knife) etc so they went to the ‘KHAMAR MINDAI’ with a ‘JULAW-JUTHAM’ (rice beer in a certain pot), ‘KOIPANTHA-PHANPANTHA’ (package of Beatle nut and leaf) and request him to provide the necessary instrument for building of ‘SHAMADI’. ‘KHAMAR MINDAI’ accepted their plea and gave them whatever they need. After getting the necessary instrument they came back to their village and again hold a meeting and they selected ‘Shangdoloi’, ‘Shangmaji’, ‘Huruma’ and other officials of the village amongst themselves.
One Tuesday morning ‘Shangdoloi’, ‘Shangmaji’, ‘Huruma’ and the villagers went to look for main three ‘THOMKHUNDA’ (big wooden post) in the nearby forest. First they select the tree in the name of ‘Shangdoloi’ and under the tree they offer ‘Ju’ (rice beer) on the bamboo leaf. Then by taking the name of ‘Sharibhai Pha Mahadeo’ Shangdoloi first give a cut on the particular tree and they try to hear any sound from the cutting place. If no unusual sound from the tree is heard then they start cutting the tree (It should be noted that if some unusual sounds heard from the particular cutting place then they leave the tree and find another one. The tiwas believed that such tree shouldn’t be used as posts of a house or ‘Shamadi). Same procedures are also maintained for the post of ‘Shangmaji and Huruma’. After cutting of the trees, make pieces of its as required measurement and then by making a hole in the lower side of the post and tight it with a strong rope, the villagers dragged the same with the rhythm of songs and music of ‘Khram’ (drum), Pangsi (flute) and ‘Thurang’ (special long flute of two holes only) to the place where “Shamadi” is proposed to be build. Then decorators were appointed to decorate the ‘THOMKHUNDA’ of ‘Shangdoloi’, ‘Shangmaji’ and ‘Huruma’ and after completion of decoration of the post, these were erected and after a week they completed construction of the ‘Sharibhai Shang’ the beautiful ‘SHAMADI’.
As construction of ‘Shamadi’ has completed, so they discussed about performing the ‘WANSUWA’ and finalized to start the same on next to next Tuesday. They invited the entire headman and the clan people of neighboring villages to witness and took part in the festival. Then the particular day has come and they celebrated the ‘WANSUA MISAWA’ as thought by the ‘BAROKHONDEO’ and such the festival come to an end as mentioned earlier. Since then the Tiwas of Amkhawali clan celebrating the ‘WANSUWA’, as to mark the joint adventures of cultivation of ‘SATBUNI & BAROBUNI’.

(This write up is dedicated to Late Lonsing Bordoloi Pumah, the first Radio Artist from Tiwa community. And my heartiest thanks always go to my beloved mother Msjo Sundi Pumah for her restless efforts to make me know about the folktale, folklore, legends, art & cultures of our community.)

Moinari Kanthi Misawa (Kabla Phuja):
One of the major clan or group of Tiwa’s the Makrowali believed ‘Kabla’ as their main deity. Amongst all deities of tiwa’s only Kabla do not accept any phuja and sacrifices performed facing in the east side. Kabla gifted the ‘Moinari kanthi misawa’ to the people of Makro and asked them to performed ‘Kabla Phuja’ at the interval of every five year. ‘Moinari kanthi misawa’ is a beautiful and typical dance amongst the dances of tiwa’s. In general participations of girls in the dances are very rare, but in the dance of ‘Moinari kanthi misawa’ participation of girls is must. In place of Khram (drum), Pangsi (flute), Thurang (long flute having only two hole) the Makro people used Muhuri (wooden trumpet/ like kaliya in assamese), Tumding (small drum made of soil) and togor (like tabola small drum wear in waist, beat with two small sticks).
As every festivals of tiwa’s, there is a beautiful legend behind the ‘Moinari kanthi misawa’ too. Once, a poor woman was lived alone nearby forest of ‘Makro’ village after death of her husband. One Wednesday afternoon an old man came to her house and asked for food and shelter for a night. She gave shelter to him but failed to offer food. Then the old man introduced himself that he is no other then ‘Kabla’. He told her if she is ready to accept him as a deity and offer him phujas and sacrifices as his desired then there will be no poorness and she will became richest woman of the nearby villages and everywhere there will be always festive situation. After hearing to the ‘Kabla’ the woman agreed to offered ‘phuja and sacrifices’ as per his directions and desired.
Immediately after giving consent the whole scenarios of the woman’s house has changed. Automatically appeared everything whatever needed for a luxury livelihood. Suddenly a group of young boys and girls came down from the sky with Muhuri, Tumding and Togor and began to dance by singing songs. The woman was quite happy seeing the changes of her conditions and promised to offer phuja and sacrifices by next day. Then ‘Kabla’ thought the woman about the procedures of phuja and to performed the phuja he created a man and appointed him as ‘Loro’ and such after giving details the ‘Kabla’ and the boys and girls disappeared before sunrise. On the next day, the woman and the Loro completed preparation of phuja. But, by afternoon a man of Maslai clan appeared in the house of the woman and asked for a shelter for a night. The woman denied him but the Loro asked her to give shelter in return he will have to give his hand to perform the phuja and sacrifice. The Maslai jela also agreed the proposal. On evening the ‘Kabla and the boys and girls again appeared in the house of the woman. Kabla was happy to see the preparation of phuja and asked the boys and girls to start the ‘Moinari kanthi misawa’. Within this festive mood Loro started the phuja with the help of Maslai jela and the woman as per procedures thought by the Kabla. But, they could not complete the phuja on that night, so Kabla asked Loro to adjourn the phuja for next evening and as yesterday Kabla and the boys and girls disappeared from the house of the woman before sunrise.
Next evening of Friday Kabla with the boys and girls again appeared in the house of the woman and as yesterday dance and phuja again started as per procedure. By late night phuja was completed. ‘Kabla’ was quite happy to have the phuja and sacrifices as his desired. So, he decided to gift the ‘Moinari kanthi misawa’ dance to the Loro and the woman. On the other hand the Maslai jela was surprised and impressed by observing the phuja and ‘Moinari kanthi misawa’ and he asked permission to perform this festival in his village also. ‘Kabla’ agreed to his plea and asked them to become part and partials of the Makro Loro. The Loro will teach you the procedures of phuja and the sacrifice. And by giving directions to hold the festivals at Phatmakro’ together with the ‘Phamhola’, Kabla disappeared from the house of the woman.
Since then the ‘Moinari kanthi misawa’ festival is celebrating by the Makrowali at the interval of every five year. As the woman who gives shelter to ‘Kabla’ was of ‘Soleng’ clan so till date only from ‘Soleng’ clan the Loro of Makro is being selected. The Maslai jela who has given his hand to perform the phuja and sacrifice and adopted the ‘Moinari kanthi misawa’ from the Makro Loro was of ‘Phamhola’ (branches) of ‘Phat Makro’. The present ‘Phamhola’ villages of ‘Phat Makro’ are Ulukhunji, Silaguri, Maslaikhunji, Kromkhunji and Khumraikhora of Karbi Anglong district. It is mandatory that boys and girls, men and women from these ‘Phamhola’ villages have to participate the ‘Moinari kanthi misawa’ when performed in the house of ‘Makro Loro’ at ‘Phat Makro’.

(This collection is dedicated to late Obra Malang who stands first for the separate homeland of Tiwas. He was kept behind the bar of Nagaon Jail for six month for raising voice for homeland in the year of 1952).

Yangli Phuja:

Langkhon Phuja:
It is devided into two parts. One is observed in Kati (October-November) and the other is observed in Fagun.

In the festivals Tiwa communities sing two types of songs. These are --->

1) Lo Ho La Hai  songs of the ceremony of name giving, wedding and harvesting etc.
2) Lali Hilali Lai – song of marriage ceremony, Karam and such other festivals.

*Songs and dances are the life spirit of the Tiwa community; the tribe is considered to have one of the richest reservoirs of folk songs and dances in Assam.

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