Festivals

Religious Festivals

Shaivites constitute a large part of Assamese population, thus Sivaratri (the night of the fourteenth lunar day of the month of Phagun when Shiva is worshipped) is one of the most celebrated festivals. A few famous places where Sivaratri is held are Umananda (at Guwahati), Mahabhairav (at Tezpur), Singari, Biswanath, Nagshankar and Siva Doul (at Sivasagar). Sivaratri held at Siva Doul is perhaps the most famous. Another religious festival is Asokasthami, held in the month of March. On this day people perform some rituals by the the banks of the Brahmputra river. It is believed that on this day the river Brahmaputra was born. Ambubachi mela is also another festival celebrated in the month of Aahar ( third month of the Assamese calendar). It is believed that beginning from the  7th day of this month the earth becomes impure for three days. During this time no farming work is undertaken. After three days, the house is washed thoroughly as the mother earth regains her purity. Ambubachi mela is held at the Kamakhya temple, after being closed for the aforementioned three days. Other such festivals are Durga Puja, Kali Puja, Lakshmi Puja, Agni Puja etc.. Among the Vaishnavites, Janmashtami is a popular festival celebrating the birth of Lord Krishna, who is the Preserver of the Universe. On this day, Naam, Bhaona (theatrical performance in the old Assamese style) etc. are held generally in the premises of the Naamghar.

The Bhadro (fifth month of the Assamese calendar) month is considered to be an auspicious month. Devotional prayers known as Naam are held throughout the month. The tithes or anniversaries of two great saints Sankardeva and Madhabdeva  are observed during this month.

As in other parts ‘Holi' is also celebrated with traditional gaiety.In Barpeta, in Lower Assam, this festival is also called Doul Utsav.  The Muslim community celebrate Eid, Mahram etc., the Buddhists celebrate Buddha Purnima etc.

Celebration of Diwali in Assam  with Countless flickering oil lamps and lights are lit in houses all over Assam, making it a night of enchantment. Worship of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, and fireworks and festivities are an essential part of the celebrations. Beautiful lamps are hung outside homes that are symbolic of the spiritual light dispelling evil and the darkness of ignorance.
 
Among the tea tribes of Assam, there are many festival which are very popular, among which mention may be made of Karam Puja and Tusu Puja. Karam is celebrated on the 5th day of Bhadon month. It has celebrated in two types – Rajah Karam and Jitiya Karam. For Jitiya Karam there is no such hard any fast rule. There are many types of songs, which are sung on the occasion of Karam Puja like Bandana, Khemta, Dat, Jhumur, Rang and Bhincheria songs, Tusu Puja is celebrated in the month of Puh and Maagh (Makar Sankranti). The idol of Tusu devi is installed in a place and a puja (worship) is performed in her honour. The next day, the idol is immersed in water. People take a bath on this day, which is known as Makar Snan.

Ali-Aai-Lrigang- an another agri-based festival is celebrated by the Mising community with great enthusiasm. Community feast and ‘gumrag' dance (a kind of line-dancing) are main attractions of this festival.

Socially Recognised Festivals

Ceremonies associated with birth, death and marriage have their own social significance. For example, there is a custom of bringing the newborn out in the sun after eleven days of its birth. The house is symbolically purified after thoroughly giving it a wash. This ceremony is called Suddhi. There is also a custom of drawing up the child'. There is another ceremony called Annaprashan (where various delicious food and rice are prepared and fed to the baby) held in the 5th , 7th or 9th month from the baby's birth. Generally a ceremony called Churakaran is held among Brahmins and other high castes on the occasion of tonsuring the child's hair, nine days after it is born.

A girl attaining puberty is also a cause for celebration in Assam. She is kept in a separate room and is not wllowed to see her father or any other male relative. On the day her menses gets over a ceremony called Tolani Biya is held which is the mini adaptation of a real wedding. Only ladies can take part in it. In the Brahmin community a boy is invested with the sacred thread at the age of 12 years or so in a special ceremony called Upanayan which is held according to vedic rites.

Weddings are an integral part of any society and Assamese society is so exception. Right from the start the horoscopes of the couple are matched, until the time when they are finally rought together, everyday is looked forward to with joy and anticipation. Although each community has customs peculiar to it, broad based customs like ring ceremony, Joran (a ceremony where the bride is gifted with all the ornaments, cloths etc. necessary for the wedding), Adhivas (ceremony before a solemn rite performed on the previous night) etc. are observed in Assamese society also. Anointing the bride and groom with Mah and Haldi (Turmeric andother specified pulses) from the Joranday up to the wedding and then bathing with water drawn up from river or any other water source (a ritual which is called paani tola) are very much interesting part of the custom. Then there is the traditional wedding day custom where the bride and the groom are ceremoniously brought together, after the father or a guardian of the bride formally hands over the bride to the groom. Aath Mangala is another ceremony which is held when the bride returns to her mother's place, after eight days of her wedding.

Assamese weddings have another characteristic. It is Biyanaam, which again has another interesting name called Joranaam. Joranaam is basically impromptu songs sung by both the sides of bride and groom, poling fun at each other. It contains various kinds of advice for the bride and the groom. On the third day from the marriage, another function is also celebrating in the grooms house. It is Khuba-Khubi. The evils of dowry have not yet touched Assamese society. No demands are made by the groom's party regarding anything. It is at the bride's parents' discretion to give furniture, vessels etc. with her to start her life in a new note.

The various tribes of Assam also have their unique marriage customs. Among the Bodos, to mark the consent of a boy for a girl a pair of silver bangle is put in the thatched roof of the house of the girl or two bottles of liquor are kept outside. If the girl's family approves of the boy then they do not return the gifts presented by the grom's family. The girl presents the boy with a gamocha and a handkerchief, if she likes him. Dowry is prevalent among the Bodos but it is not compulsory. Amongh the Ahoms, marriage is solemnized according to a ritual called Choklong which is presided over by Ahom priests. They read from their own scripts, and also the family history is related to the couple. One hundred and one earthen lamps are lighted in this auspicious occasion. Marriage customs in the Missing community are similar to the Hindus. Deories have their specifically defined Gotras among whom marriage can be solemnized. Among them widow-marriage is allowed and divorce is restricted. Dowry system is also seen. The Karbis are strict against illicit love. Divorce is not seen with a kind eye. The Rabhas have the practice of widow remarriage and divorce. Tiwas are same as the Hindus in the matter of marriage except that they do not light Hom or the auspicious life.

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