Baresohoria Bhaowna– Tradition, History and role of Dekagiries

Baaresohoria Bhowna, the mega Sonkori cultural event that has passed through a long way of 220 years since Hukai Dekagiri started this Vaishnavite tradition in 1797. This festival is celebrated after every five years on the full moon day of Chot (march/april) as per Assamese Calendar. But recently people have agreed to celebrate this event on the full moon day of Fagoon (feb/march) to avoid the April Bordoichila (thunderstorm).

It would be an incomplete article on Baaresohoria Bhowna if the stories of Dekagiries are not discussed who contributed to the rich culture of Jamugurihat by promoting Vaishnovism through practicing Sonkari art and culture. Apart from Giris (Bhuyan), Satrars and various groups of people particularly those who migrated during Burmese invasion, 1817 to 1826 from the south bank of Bhramaputra have their enormous contribution to shape the present day cultured society of Jamugurihat.

Discovery of some Neolithic tools in Sakomotha and Sadharu near Jamugurihat by William Panny established that pre historic people (7000bc) might be the earliest inhabitant of this region. In Kalika Puran (the text was believed to be composed in Assam during 10th century) Nandikeswar a village of present day Jamugurihat were mentioned where tradition of Hindu Shaktism were practiced between the river Bhottorika and the Dikkorai. According to Purana, due to the curse of Gouri (Indian goddess), Konyaka the adopted daughter of Chyawan Muni (monk) was transformed into the river Bhottorika with no flow popularly known as Mora-Bhoroli. It is believed that the first segment of this river changed its course to become present day Jia- Bhoroli. A village name Konyaka is still present in this area. In subsequent centuries this area was under the ruler of Chutia, Ahom, Bhuyan etc from time to time till 1826 treaty of Yandabu.

It was probably early part of 18th century five Dekagiris namely udhab, sundar, paat , hukai, and nomol along with their chief priest Madhab and followers crossed river Luit (Brahmaputra) leaving behind their sixth borther Kujidanh Giri in Bordowa area of present day Nagaon district and settled in Naduar (Jamuguarihat). These Giris were the offspring of Ramrai (Jogotananda Giri) uncle and lifetime associates of Shrimonta Sankardev and was instrumental in spreading Vaishnovism in Assam. Late Manik Chandra Saikia (1910-2007) of Borbhagia village of Jamugurihat, progeny of Nomol Dekagiri, a true disciple of Vaishnovism used to tell us those stories of Giries he inherited. According to him the Chief priest Madhab constructed the first worship place at Murhadol village (Madha gosain than’) and latter shifted to a place now known as Madhab Gaon with the Dewaloi (worship place), still a holy shrine for Vaishnavite. He also said in their childhood they have experienced the offering of food grains on bullock carts to those priest families as per customs, which vanished with time. The Giris also constructed other Bishnu-Than and were involved in constructing Nam-ghars in greater Jamugurihat area. This is the reason why more then two centuries old Kaliadomon (initiated by shree shree Lakhikanta Adhikadeva of Balisatra of Kosh-gaon in 1795 ), Bokakhesa Bhowna of Paatol Dekagiri chuk (village) and Baaresohoria Bhowana are still traditionally celebrated in Brajabooli languag. It is worth mentioning that Dolyatra is also celebrated in Jamugurihat since centuries back, where the Bishnu Deities of those Giries from Than and Dewaloi are colorfully processioned to the courtyard of their smallest brother Nomol Deka Giri of Barbhagia Village from where they proceed to Fakua Pother for bor-dhemali and soru- dhemali.

Political glory of those Giries started fading away when they refuse to offer their beautiful sister Padmavati as bride to the Ahom ruler of north bank. It was a fight for ego; they acknowledged the defeat by losing their privilege even their title Bhuyan (Giri) and accepted the surname like Saikia, Barua, Bora etc as per late Manik Chandra Saikia whose great grand father Surja Bhuyan was the last Giri. But their artistic zeal could not be jeopardized. People carried the long cultural legacy of Jamugurihat till today, while offering tribute to Sonit konwar Gajen Barua, Dineswari Saikia(Raibhuyan), Subarnalata Saikia, Jogoi Hazarika and few others who acted on first Assamese Cinema Joymati in 1937.

It was Hukai Dekagiri who organized the first Baaresohoria Bhowna in 1797 at Raghudoloni pothar of present day Pasi gaon of Jamugurihat. Probably only four villages took part in this event like it was done by people of the then greater Bordowa area. Ironically Sonit-konwar Gajen Barua the offspring of Sundara Dekagiri of Dekasundar village a talent on Sonkori art and culture was successful of making this unique event of Assam nationally famous by inviting prominent artist of India during 1969 and 1975.

Baaresohor means several villages, developed a technique of performing more then twenty Bhawna simultaneously in their own Kholas (stage like in namghar). The kholas are made in the form of a fully blossomed lotus under one roof with locally available Bamboo & Thatch connected to a centrally located circular dome where Guru-ashan mounts. Each Kholas are separated with the place for audience and approximately 30,000 spectators can sit inside. Bhawonas are the dramatization of mesmerizing story of Ramayana, Mahabharata and Purana in Brajabuli language created by Mahapurush Sonkordeva and Madhabdeva in a unique style illustrated with Bhakti-ras in the form of various Raga& Tala. A group of musician known as Gayan & Bayan begin the jora(orchestra) in sonkari style followed by the entry of sutradhar (narrator) who explain the story to be performed. Gayanabora (director) take commands of prabesh(entry) and Prasthan(exit) of Krishna and other Bhaoworia (artist) from time to time. There is an unbelievable co-ordination between thousands of Bhaowria (artist) of different village with different play while performing together under one roof on their klolas; a rare events of the world.

When thousands of Bhaworia on their glittering costumes take a round passing each khola with their rhythmic dance steps make the entire atmosphere so stunning that the audience and the sea of spectators surrounds the Bhowna Mondop become spellbound. After the round the main storyline of the Bhowona are performed in the respective Khola which ends with ‘kalian kharman’ taal at midnight or early in the morning.