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From myth to bhaona festival

- Time for Jamugurihat to rise in celebration after five years

Tezpur, Feb. 22: Countless mythical figures that have stirred the imagination of people for centuries are all set to descend on Jamugurihat on their quinquennal journey.

People in Jamugurihat, 60km from here, are upbeat about the Barechaharia Bhowna Festival which is organised every five years. The 216-year-old festival will be held at Pakamura Pathar from February 24 to 27.

It has been a tradition for the villagers to organise the festival every five year on the big Pakamura field when it lies empty after the harvest. However, this edition is being held after six years as financial constraints kept the organisers from holding it last year.

As many as 21 bhaonas can be performed simultaneously on 21 kholas (temporary stage). Altogether 42 bhaonas will be performed in the festival by artistes from 200 villages of different communities, including Nepalis and tea tribes.

Baresohoria, which means “many villages,” stands for plurality.

Bhaona is dramatisation of an episode from mythology by villagers either at namghars or xatras. It was devised by Vaishnavite saint Srimanta Xankardev to propagate his religious ideas during the 15th and 16th centuries.

Girin Nath, a social activist of Jamugurihat who is involved in organising the festival, said that in Brajavali language, the bhaonas will tell stories from the Ramayan, Mahabharat and Puranas.

The mandap has been shaped like a lotus to represent the mythical lotus of Vishnu. Its petals have been added in accordance with the number of stages or participant villages.

“We are all striving to preserve the old tradition. Community programmes, delicate craftsmanship, hundreds of gayan bayan artistes will perform to the beat of drums, cymbals and khols watched by countless people,” said Gajen Pathak, general secretary of the organising committee of the festival. A temporary namghar has been set up, whose monikut (altar) will be of lotus shape.

The festival will begin with a procession.

Pathak added that they planned to collect an estimated Rs 30 lakh.

The festival traces its roots to Pasigaon in Jamugurihat when villagers first started it in 1797.

The villagers still recall how, under the leadership of cultural icon Sonit Konwar Gajen Baruah in 1969, an eye-catching cultural programme was organised at the venue where cultural troupes from Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Manipur took part. A documentary made on the festival was also released the same year.

A member of the committee said chief minister Tarun Gogoi is expected to formally inaugurate the festival tomorrow as he would not be present in the state on February 24 when the main programme begins.