FOLK FESTIVALS AND SOCIAL INTEGRITY IN ASSAM- A STUDY ON THE PACHETI MOHATSAV OF DARRANG DISTRICT

Nabanita Deka
Assistant Professor (contractual), Kharupetia College Department of Political Science, Darrang, Assam, India
                  
Abstract
Assam has a rich cultural heritage as it is a land of great social and cultural diversity. Assamese people celebrate most colourful festivals because Assam is a perfect fusion of heritage of different tribes and sub-tribes from time immemorial. The festivals of Assam are mainly agricultural but also include religious and social flavors. A number of folk festivals are celebrated in Assam these are Bihu, Boisagu, Ligang, Bisu, Baiku, Jon-Bil Mela, Me-Dam- Mefie, Chomagkan, etc. These festivals play a important role to strengthening social integrity through participating all sections of people in the festival. Besides these festivals Pacheti Mahotsav of Darrang District is also a important one.Pacheti Mahotsav is held in Khatara Satra of Darrang District. This festival plays a significant role in increasing social interaction in Darrang District. People of different areas like Udalguri, Baksa and Kamrup districts are come to participate in this festivals. This festival is not only a popular festival but also a symbol of communal harmony. If the Central and State Government jointly undertake development schemes for the improvement of Khatara Satra than it become a significant ground to strengthening social integrity in Assam. In this study the researcher followed the descriptive research. An attempt has been made in this paper to highlight the role of folk festivals specially Pacheti Mahotsav of Darrang District in promoting social integrity in Assam and analyse the role of Government to promoting pachet Mahotsav as mass and popular festival of Assam.

Key words: Cultural heritage, Tribes, Folk festival, Integrity, Diversity
1.Introduction
Assam being a land of composite culture reflects a chain of festivals of different tribes and communities throughout the year. Most of the festivals celebrated in Assam have their roots in the diverse faith and belief of the inhabitants but a spirit of accommodation and togetherness characterizes the celebration of all festivals. The perfect fusion of heritage of numerous races has made Assam the home of the most colourful festivals. Which are passionate, compelling and mesmerizing reflecting the true spirit, tradition and lifestyle of the people of Assam.

The simplicity of Assamese people is reflected in their celebration. Festivals take place in a Communal way usually in a Namghar or in Open space. Bamboo sticks and banana leaves are profoundly used and rather than offering cooked food, nutritious food such as sprouted grams and fruits are offered during worship.

Festivals remained as an important part of every group of people since time immemorial. The objectives functions and the overall structure of festivals vary due to diverse ethnic group or communities. The people throughout the world celebrate their own distinct festivals and exhibit their culture comprising dance, music, customs, rituals etc. R.J Smith rightly opined that “the festival is often the only occasion of the year in which the inhabitants of a region wears their traditional dress include the decorating carrying in procession of an image a feast and drink” (ibid, 168-1972). Festivals also play an important role to attract tourists to the country (Kumar, 2012).

Festivals associated with various aspects of their life are celebrated with dance and music. The festivals of Assam are mainly agricultural but also include religious and social flavors. A number of folk festivals are celebrated in Assam these are Bihu, Boisagu , Ligang, Bisu, Baiku, Jon-Bil Mela, Shinjra, Me-Dam- Mefie, Chomagkan, Siami etc.Festivals are the Integral part of every culture. These festivals play an important role to strengthening social integrity through participating all sections of people in the festival. Besides these festivals Pacheti Mahotsav of Darrang District is also a important one (Pathak, 2011). Pacheti Mahotsav is held in Khatara Satra of Darrang District. It plays a significant role in increasing social interaction in Darrang District. People of different areas like Udalguri, Baksa and Kamrup districts are come to participate in these festivals. These festivals are not only a popular festival but also a symbol of communal harmony (Sarma, 2014).

2. Objectives
  • To study the role of folk festivals in Assam to strengthening social integrity in Assam.
  • To study the role of Pacheti Mahatsav of Darrang district in promoting social integrity in lower Assam.
  • To analyse the role of central and State government towards the development of the Khatara Satra and the Pacheti festival.
3. Methodology
For the present study the researcher is used descriptive method of study. This paper is based on secondary sources as the data are collected from various books, newspapers and e-articles, internet etc.

4. Results and discussions
Festivals and celebrations offer possibilities for human interaction which we do not find in day to day life. It is evident that festive practices provide an indication of the vital pulse of every society. Yet festivals are not only merely an indicator but can also assume important functions for social dynamization. The idea of festival evokes in principle positive associations. At the very least, the thought behind a festival is that participants have fun.

4.1 Role of folk festivals to strengthening social integrity in Assam
In Assam, a number of festivals are celebrated by the different races and groups of people present in the state. The rich cultural heritage of Assam has emerged out of the assimilation of various customs, beliefs, traditions, rituals and customs. Bihu, the major festival of Assam is celebrated thrice a year as Bhogali bihu, Rangali Bihu and Kangali Bihu. All Assamese people irrespective of caste, creed, religion, faith and belief celebrate it with great joy and abundance.Bohag Bihu is observed by the ethnic tribes in their own traditional style. Bihu is celebrated as Baisagu by the Bodos, Baikhu or Khokch by the Rabhas, Bisu by the Tiwas and Bohagiyo bihu by the Deories. Bihu transcends all religious and class barriers, bringing people together in a free and uninhibited manner. In a word it boosts social integrity in Assam.

The numerous festivals celebrated by the different ethno-cultural groups are characterized by a spirit of accommodation and togetherness. These festivals are colourful, passionate, mesmerizing and reflect the true spirit and tradition of the people of Assam. Some of the major festivals of Assam are discussed below:

4.1.1 Doul festival of Barpeta
This festival is also related to Krishna or Vishnu worship. It is observed in Barpeta district of Lower Assam. This is an important festival where Lord Krishna is worshipped for several days by a large number of people. The idol of Krishna is brought out of the Kirtan-ghar on the first day amidst the singing of hymns, the bursting of crackers and the playing of drums and cymbals. In the evening the idol is taken around the Bhelaghar (constructed for fire worship) seven times. The next day, people from different places gathers and pays homage to the idol with “Faku”, sandal and the like. The last day is called “Fakua” and the city turns pinks with colours of the faku.

4.1.2 Sabha
It is a popular folk festival observed by the people of lower Assam. They believe that the month Magh is an auspicious month and generally organize “sabha” for the overall wellbeing of the people. The people from all walks of life assemble together at the Sabha which is considered a place of unity and peace.

4.1.3 Me-Dum-Me-Phi festival of Tais
This festival is celebrated on January 31. It is Puja of ancestor worship. Tais worship anf offer rice to nine generation of their ancestors in this festival. The celebration is also attended by the other communities and shared the enjoyment of feasts, dances and songs.

4.1.4 The spring festival of Kamrup Bhateli
This agricultural festival is performed in the month of “Bohag”. On the festival day, the children take an early morning bath and cut two bamboos, cleaning and washing them properly. They decorate the bamboo with colourful clothes. The taller bamboo is considered to be the groom and the shorter one the bride. These bamboos are then planted near the “Bhatheli-ghar” (Sarma, 2010). The people keep things like “Prasad” fruits or sweets to fulfill their wishes within this hut. This festival is said to usher in unity, happiness, co-operation and fraternity among the people of different religions and castes.

4.1.5 Jonbil mela
This spectacular mela is held every year at Jonbeel of Jagiroad. A few days before  the mela , tribes like the Tiwas, Karbis, Khasis, Jaintias come down from Meghalaya hills with their various products. In this mela all the products are exchanged with the local people in barter system. This is the speciality of this mela..Before the mela they offer the prayer to the God of Fire for the well bein g of mankind. The theme of harmony and brotherhood among the different tribes is the main purpose of this mela. This is a largest mela of Tiwas last for three days in which trading, exhibition, dance and music and the community fishing are the main features.

In contemporary times, we witnesses  some modern day festivals such as The Brahmaputra Beach Festival, the Dihing-Patkai Festival, the Majuli Festival, Tea Festivals and the Elephant festivals that are among the most popular. Many of these festivals are sponsored by the government and arranged by the tourism department of Assam.

After discussing these festivals we can say that these festivals play an important role to strengthening social integrity through participating all sections of people in the festival. The main purpose behind every folk festival is to bring the feeling of harmony and brotherhood among the different tribes and communities. It is a part of our human life to become closer, to know each other better and develop “we feeling” and “Oneness feeling”.

4.1.6 Role of Pacheti mahotsav of Darrang district in promoting social integrity
As we all know that population of Darrang District has mostly representing diverse ethnic, religious and linguistic communities. They have rich cultural heritage and social customs. Interestingly, these conventions and heritages are reflected in the culture of Darrang District. And one of the remarkable festival of Darrang District is Pacheti Mahotsav which is held every year on 17 th September at Khatara Satra. Khatara Satra is a historical tourist place of Darrang District, situated at Dipila, Sipajhar constituency.

The historic Khatara Satra’s prestigious Pacheti Mahotsav, which is the oldest festival in the greater Patharighat area, has now turned into a familiar mass festival of Darrang district.The Assamese word , Pacheti has been derived from  the Sanskrit word , pancha(five). The Pacheti Utsav is related with the story of one’s birth. It is related with the birth of Lord Krishna (Sarma, 2010).

The Khatara Satra Management Committee celebrates the Pacheti festival with a four day programme every year from the last day of the Assamese month of Bhada.Actually it has to be celebrated on the fifth day of Janmastami, the birthday of Lord Krishna. But at Khatara , it is celebrated on the last day of  Bhada. Perhaps the date was changed to ensure farmers cooperation in the celebration. Farmers of the area are usually busy in the fields in the month of Bhada (Sarma, 2014).

The Pacheti Mahotsav is usually organized at the sprawling campus of the Khatara Satra established by Lechakoniya Gobinda Atoi, a disciple of Madhav Deva, in 1568. Later,the king Chandranarayan (1643) patronized this Satra and granted him land and wealth. Another king, Dhaijyanarayan is also mentioned to have donated gold, silver and other necessary articles for the improvement of the Satra. In this Satra the statutes of Bhagawan Ram, Laxman, Shita and Hanuman is located. And alongwith these four statues, statues of Lab and Kusha also attract people (Sarma, 2010).

The historic Khatara Satra has completed 447 years of existence. Though the actual date of foundation of the Pacheti Mahotsav is not known, it is perhaps as old as the Khatara Satra. The presentation of various cultural programmes including Dadhimanthan Kristi and Boka Bhaona, is the highlight of Pacheti. But now a days Boka Bhaona is not organized due to some practical difficulties.

The attractive Dadhimanthan Kristi is the composition of songs and dances related to the childhood activities of Lord Krishna. The classical song and folk dance programme narrates how the gopis prepared butter for their children. Melodious tunes of naam- prasanga and other cultural items to the accompaniment of doba, khol, taal etc. turn the entire environment at the Satra campus divine.

Besides other wares, the sale of fruit saplings particularly coconut saplings belonging to local varieties is the most familiar aspect of Pacheti. To buy at least one pair of coconut saplings is considered the identity of Pacheti visitors. People believe that coconut or other fruit saplings planted on the day of Pacheti give a bumper harvest in future.

There are many traditional beliefs and faiths about the unseen influence of the Satra among the devotees. Local people take their new cars and bikes to the Satra at first so that they do not meet with any accident in future. There is also a tradition that new-born babies are brought to the courtyard on the fifth day of birth. As such, the name giving ceremony is also formally arranged on that very day (Sarma, 2010). On the day of Pacheti, some people fetch water to their homes from the Satra’s big pond Borpukhuri.

Thousands of people from different places of Darrang , Kamrup, Baksa and Udalguri districts cutting across lines of caste, creed and religion assemble at the venue of the Pacheti Mahotsav.This festival has a great importance in social mobility of people in the current setting .It strengthening the unity and integrity among the people of Assam.

4.1.7 Role of Central and State government towards the development of the Satra and Pacheti Mahotsav
Though Pacheti Mahotsav is regarded as a promoter of social integrity in Assam specially in Lower Assam but the Government do not give any importance for the development of the Khatara Satra. So this oldest historical festival is remained limited in Lower Assam. There are lots of opportunities to attract tourists and introduce them our culture and tradition like Hornbill festival of Nagaland but the government ignored this aspect and they are not take any steps for the development of the Satra.

5. Policy Implications
So, for the improvement and development of Khatara satra and popularizing Pacheti Mahotsav of Darrang District, there is need to take some measures. These are described as follows:

Firstly we can say that the Central and State Governments should jointly undertake development schemes for the immediate improvement of the Khatara Satra and promotion of the Pacheti Mahotsav as a mark of respect to Assamese saints including Srimanta Sankardeva and Lechakonia Gobinda Atoi.
Secondly, if the Government sponsored this festival and arranged by the tourism department of Assam like modern day festivals such as Brahmaputra Beach festival, the Majuli festival, tea festival and Elephant festival.Than the Pacheti Mahotsav become a popular mass festival and Khatara Satra become important and attracting tourist place.

6. Conclusion
From the study, we find that the folk festivals play an important role in promoting social integrity in Assam through organizing Cultural programmes, rituals according to their tradition .These festivals play an important role to strengthening social integrity through participating all sections of people in the festival. It fulfilled the first objective of this paper .And the second objective of this paper is to describe the importance of Pacheti Mahotsav in promoting social integrity in Lower Assam.  Thousands of people from different places of Darrang, Kamrup, Baksa and Udalguri districts cutting across lines of caste, creed and religion assemble at the venue of the Pacheti Mahotsav. So we can say that second objective of this paper also fulfilled. And according to the third objective we can say that the Government not take any steps towards the development of Khatara Satra and Pacheti Mahotsav which is the oldest festival of Assam and play a significant role in promoting social integrity in Assam. So, this is the duty of the Government to take development schemes for the improvement of the festival and showcase Assamese culture and tradition through this festival to the world to attract tourists and promoting pacheti Mahotsav as a mark of respect to Assamese saints including Srimanta Sankardeva and Lechakoniya Atoi.

References
  • Manoranjan Sarma (2014). Pacheti Mahotsav: a festival of communal harmony. http/ /www.Assamtribune.com
  • Namrata Pathak (2011). Representation on Stage: Deconstructing Folk-elements in Arun Sharma’s Buranjipath.Folklore and Folklorists (online), 4(2).
  • Nabin Chandra Sarma. ”Asamiya Loka-Sanskritir Abhas” Guwahati: Bani Prakash Private Ltd., 2010.
  • Shailendra Kumar (2012). Role of Folk Media in Nation building. Voice of Research (online) 1(2).


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