CHOMANGKAN - A DEATH RITUAL OF THE KARBIS


Rashmirekha Hazarika
Assistant Professor, Department of History
Beltola College, Guwahati, Assam, India


Abstract

Assam has a significant cultural history since the earliest period. The various ethnic races entered Assam bearing their respective culture, dialect, food habit, festivals, dress codes, ornaments, etc. that ultimately formed strong Assamese culture.The Karbis (formerly known as Mikirs)  are one of the most ancient  tribes of Assam. Though the Karbis converge mostly in the Karbi Anglong district, some dwell in Kamrup, Nagaon, Jorhat, and Sivasagar districts of Assam. The Karbis try to keep their traditional culture which forms a major part of greater Assamese culture. The most elaborate socio-religious ceremony that the Karbis observe is Chomangkan, a ritual related to death that is ceremoniously observed. While the body is burnt as per Hindu custom, Chomangkan has to be performed sooner or later. This ceremony represents the two sides of life – joy and sorrow. ‘Duihudi’ or drummer is the symbol of joy and ‘Uchepi’ or weeper(professional weeper) is the symbol of sorrow. Though Chomangkan is a death ritual, it comprises dancing, singing, feast, get together etc. The procedure is so elaborate that it takes months to get prepared. Being costly, the poorer section has been unable to perform it individually. So it is observed as a community. But as the gale of modern life style sweeps the cultural heritage of the people, it is on the verge of getting lost. In this paper an attempt has been taken to focus on the rites of the Chomangkan of the Karbis and its socio-cultural impact on the greater Assamese society.

Key words: Karbi, Chomangkan, Ceremonial rites, Socio-religious

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