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Pranjal Baruah
Date of Publish: 2018-06-11

The Baikho Puja : A pre-harvest festival of the Rabhas seeking rains and abundant crops

Observed during the month of April-May annually, it is known to be the prime pre-harvest festival for the indigenous Rabha community people in Assam. This festival or locally named as ‘Baikho Puja’ is celebrated to propitiate the deity of wealth adored for her “ability to bring forth rains, abundant crops and health for the community.”

The Baikho festival takes place annually to ward off “evil spirits” through puja ahead of the spring harvest and lasts between two to seven days, during which time the community people offer animal sacrifices, play traditional music and drink local rice beer.

Starting with offering prayers to the harvesting god for good harvest, more crop-yield and favourable rains numbers of priests smearing rice-powders on their face and body begin the rituals of the festival after sunset.

The auspicious rituals in Baikho festival include torching down a traditional ‘mejhi’ like structure made of leftover planting materials.

The fire and beats of traditional drums engulf the entire atmosphere.

The high energy in the air gives the priests the adrenaline to run through the hot coals to honour the deity who, they believe “oversees agrarian activities of the community.”

Finally, the entire rituals take a smooth turn as the women start to honour the priests by washing their feet and serving them with refreshment.

Locals say the priests have to be pure in heart and have the courage of a lion. They call the fire sparked activities a combination of skill, grace, perseverance and traditional beliefs.

Photo and text : Pranjal Baruah

(Pranjal Baruah is a freelance photo journalist based in Guwahati and covers India's Northeast region. He can be reached at pranjalbaruah77@gmail.com )

(All pictures are taken at a Baikho festival in Ramyapur village in South Kamrup, some 66 km from Guwahati, the capital of India’s north-eastern state of Assam .)

 

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