| The group performs husori. Picture by Kongkon Bora |
Sivasagar, April 13: When they were young, this group of 17 people from Kalugaon Gayan Gaon in Sivasagar district were enthusiastic about Bihu husori (traditional dance) and performed at each and every household.
With time, as most got engaged in different jobs, they found little time to devote for Bihu celebration. But they could not keep out the call of their hearts, and seven years back, they came together to form the Deoliya Gayan Milita Briddha Husori Dal. The 17-member group, all of whom are above 55 years old, have been performing in the village and nearby areas ever since.
Gunin Neog, a member of the husori team, said, “Men may become older but their urge to keep alive the Bihu tradition does not diminish. The festival is deep-rooted in the minds of the people of Assam and even the elderly are no exception,” he said.
In his youth, Neog, a well-known dhulia (drummer), performed in different parts of the state. He was the leader of a Bihu husori troupe that performed in Baroda in the 1980s and invited to perform at Saat Bhanir Rongali Bihu (Bihu of the seven sisters) programme at Sivasagar. Neog now provides dhol badan (drum playing) training to local youths.
The husori group has been practising regularly for the past month in the village fields for the Bihu season. They do not have female dancers but make up the absence by dressing up men in female costumes during the performance. “That’s how we fill up the lack of nasonis (dancers) in our group,” Neog said.
Last year, the group was invited to perform in different places of Sivasagar district like Gaurisagar, Sivasagar, Charing and Kalugaon. “We are interested to go to other parts of Assam and perform Bihu husori. We are also interested in making the team bigger by recruiting more people,” he said.
Khagen Kalita, 80, at present leads the group where most members are above 70 years, including Durgeswar Neog, who is a well-known dhulia.
Neog laments that despite their interest to protect the local culture, they have not got due recognition. “No one has come forward to encourage us. Had we got some encouragement, we would have performed much better,” he said. He feels that the cultural affairs department and the Sankaradeva Kalakshetra could come forward to help them.
Despite the odds, the group meets daily to practise and chalk out their plans.
In fact, the tradition of Bihu husori in this village dates back to the Ahom era when a group was invited by the Ahom swargadeos (kings) to perform at royal functions. The village was the dwelling place of the Nat Kalitas — the royal dancing community.
It is said Ahom king Siva Singha’s wife, queen Phuleswari Konwari, who was declared the ruler of the Ahom kingdom by her husband, was born and brought up in this village.