THE VALENTINE OF ASSAM

Survey, Beltola, Guwahati


Valentine’s Day is a day of love and romance for the world. Lovers across the world buy roses for their sweethearts. Marriage or ring exchange ceremonies are popular and roses and chocolates are a regular gift on this day which is observed on 14th February every year. Although it was not a part of the Indian tradition, today it is celebrated by the young couples in most of the places across the 
country.

The cause of Valentine’s Day started with St. Valentine. St. Valentine was a Roman priest during the third century when Rome was ruled by the Emperor Claudius II. The Emperor wanted to build a huge and powerful army so he wanted every of his countrymen to join. Many men disagreed to join the army as they did not want to leave their loved ones. Even after trying forcefully, many men did not sign which made the Emperor ferocious. He passed a crazy law not to allow any more marriages in his territory. 

Although the young people in his territory felt the new law as a cruel and preposterous one, they did not dare to whisper a single word. But St. Valentine kept on with his job of a priest. He continued performing marriage ceremonies secretly. The news somehow reached the ears of the soldiers. St. Valentine was thrown into the prison after he was caught and punished with the death sentence. People who believed in love came to the prison to visit St. Valentine and threw flowers and notes up to his window. Even the daughter of the prison guard also visited St. Valentine and helped him to keep his spirit alive. She supported the secret marriages and bowed to continue with it even after his death. So the Valentine’s Day marks the life and death of St. Valentine. It reflects the love not only for the soul mate but also for parents, siblings, children and friends. 

There are several of martyrdom stories related to love. Romeo and Juliet is one of the best love stories written by William Shakespeare. There are many such Indian fictions too like Heer Ranjha and Laila Majnu. Even there are many poems based on true lovers like “The Highway Man” by Alfred Noyes. Movies based on true love is liked and admired by most of the people. For the world, India stands as a symbol of love. The great Tajmahal in Agra built by Moughal Emperor Shahjahan in the year 1632 reflects his love for his wife, Mumtaz. 

Assam too shares a true and real love story which is hardly known to the outer world. The love and devotion of Princess Joymoti towards her husband is too admirable. The people of Assam named her ‘Sati’ which means the ‘Martyr’. She scarified her life for the sake of her husband so that he can establish a peaceful empire for the people. The people of Assam were struggling against oppression, corruption and mal administration in the 17th century when King Sulikphaa owned the Ahom throne. To secure his throne from the other Ahom princes, Sulikphaa issued an order either to make the other princes handicapped or to kill. Many princes were caught and arrested. Some of them were made handicapped where as some were killed. Prince Godapani, the husband of Joymoti was a young, dynamic and energetic prince with the ability to take decisions. Facing the threat from the Ahom king, Joymoti made her husband escape to the Naga hills. When the king failed to trace Godapani, Joymati was arrested by his men and taken to the palace. She was asked for several times about her fled husband but she refused to utter a single word. She was frightened many times by the soldiers but she did not whisper a sound. At the end she was taken to the ‘Jerenga Pathar’ and tied with thorny kotkora plant and inhuman torture was inflicted on her. But Joymoti tolerated this persecution without a complaint until last drop of blood in her veins. When her husband was informed about her torture, he came to Jerenga Pathar in the form of a Naga man and implored her to speak the truth. But Joymoti did not break her silence and implored her husband with signs to leave that place. She was brutally beaten and even was dipped in hot water. Finally she was tortured to death on 27th March 1680.


The kind of persecution melted on Joymoti had no other parallel in the history not even in Indian epic of Ramayana and Mahabharata. Her sacrifice was not merely to protect her husband but also to protect an able king, who could bring a brighter future to the people of his province. Godapani succeed the Ahom after the great sacrifice paid by his wife. Later in the year 1697 her son Rudra Singha dug the Joysagar Lake (believed to be the largest manmade lake in the world) in the memory of his mother on the land where Joymati was tortured and killed. 27th March is observed as ‘Joymoti Diwas’ in Assam every year, which is the actual Valentine’s Day for the people of Assam.



About the author: Dr. Gitartha Roymedhi from Guwahati, Assam, writes occasionally in The Assam Tribune, The Sentinel, North East Today and The Eastern Chronicle. Earlier he used to write in Seven Sisters’ Post regularly.[Read More]

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