A traditional boat race with autumn fervour
Every autumn, a stretch of the river Kulshi or Kolohi, a tributary of the mighty Brahmaputra, flowing by Kukurmara in lower Assam’s Kamrup district, turns into a venue of one of the oldest water sports events in the state, when a traditional boat race coincides with Vijaya Dashami of annual Durga puja festival. The 210 km southern tributary of the Brahmaputra is the prime habitat of the shihu or freshwater dolphin (Platanista gangetica).
Oarsmen of each team, cheered by the crowd on the river bank, row their boats faster as the tempo of the folk songs which they sing along, rises to surge ahead of other teams.
Boat used in the race is 70 to 100 feet in length and 2.5 to 3 feet in width and requires up to 70 cubic feet of sal timber. Satya Das, a skilled boat maker of nearby Chhaygaon area, says boat made of sal is advantageous for race as it is heavier than boat made of other timber and, therefore, cruises faster.
This year eight teams took part in the late Charulata Thakuria Memorial Boat Race organised by Kukurmara Anchalik Sarbajanin Durgapuja on October 23. The team ‘Ma Amina’ of Hatishola village emerged champion to win cash prize of Rs 10000 and the team ‘Ma-Babar Ashribad’ of Jaokatadi village finished second to take home cash prize of Rs 5000.
Photo and Text by Kishore Talukdar