Saragdeo Puja of the Sonowal Kacharis
The Sonowal Kacharis are one of the colourful indigenous communities of Assam. Integral part of the greater Assamese society, the Sonowal Kacharis are a branch of the Bodo-Kacharis. They are concentred mostly in Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, Lakhimpur, Dhemaji, Sivasagar and Golaghat districts of the Brahmaputra valley. A sizable population of Sonowal Kacharis also live in the two neighbouring states of Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland.
Traditionally the Sonowal Kacharis worship their God Khring Khring Baithw. Saragdeo puja is one of religious and ritualistic functions observed by the community. The culture, folk beliefs and historical elements of the community are also ingrained in it.
As someone belonging to this community I was curious to know more about our customs and culture. It was on March 26, 2017 when I got an opportunity to gather some information by attending Saragdeo Puja organised under the aegis of the Sonowal Kachari Autonomous Council centrally at Roumari in Tintheniga in Dibrugarh district.
Folklorist and a recipient of Gagan Chandra Sonowal award, Pramod Sonowal, who is a former Majindar ( priest) of the central Baithw temple, says that apart from the community performance of the Saaragdeo puja, it is also performed in individual households.
This puja is performed at an interval of two to three years when the rice stalks appear. Some people observe it during the Assamese calendar month Fagun after the Narasiga Sabah to seeking prosperity for the ensuing year.
Saragdeo puja is actually worshipping the Sun. Some of the offerings include: Mejenga ( botanical name - Zanthoxylum oxyphillum ), Nephahu ( common name East Indian Glory Bower, Botanical name -Clerodendrum colebrookianum; a medicinal plant ), Mechaki ( botanical name- sarcochlamys pulcherrima) Koupat ( broad leaf of plant variety), tender cane stems, dried betel nut, raw rice-cake, chicken eggs, boiled banana, a white rooster, a black hen, dried fish, wine in reed etc.
Everyone was in a festive mood and rituals were performed smoothly, Gayan Bayans performed in presence of residents of Roumari village, their kith and kins and other guests.
( Karabi Borsaikia is a student of M. A. ( final semester) at the Centre for Studies in Journalism and Mass Communication, Dibrugarh University )