GUWAHATI, Jan 15 – Fishes carried on the shoulder sticks and their tails sweeping the ground was a common sight during the Uruka morning of the harvesting season festival Bhogali Bihu in many parts of Guwahati around 50 years back. Guwahati was a small district headquarter town then.
Community feasting was a common thing on the Uruka night in Guwahati then. It was followed by the burning of the meji/mejis the next morning, abiding by the religious rituals, to offer obeisance to Agni, the God of Fire. For the purpose of preparing the food of the feast, bhelaghars were erected by the side of the mejis on the plots of open space, which were plenty in Guwahati localities then.
The materials used for construction of the bhelaghars and mejis like bamboo, dry banana leaves, straw and faggot, were also abundant in the town.
Elders of the villages of Khanapara and Beltola used to celebrate the Bhogali Bihu with the residents of the Khanapara Experimental Cattle Farm. They took part in the community feast and meji and bhelaghar burning activities organised on the vast paddy field that existed in front of the Cattle Farm, reminisced noted writer Kumudeswar Hazarika. Hazarika spent his childhood at the Cattle Farm. His father was its founder manager.
Hazarika recollected that on one such occasion, two persons brought a Chital fish on a shoulder stick. The tail of the fish was sweeping the ground. “I have not seen such a big Chital till now,” Hazarika, now 79, said.
Hazarika’s parents shifted to Uzanbazar during the Second World War. During the War days there was no large scale Bhogali Bihu celebration at Uzanbazar. But his elders told him that the community feasts and sports items were organised in a big manner at the Uzanbazar Jahajghat on the occasion of the Bhogali Bihu since the 1930s. in the post –war period, Hazarika was witness to such celebrations at the Jahajghat till the 1960s.
He had heard that personalities like Tarun Ram Phookun and Nabin Chandra Bardoloi used to take part in the celebrations, particularly when the mejis were burnt. The sports activities organised on the occasion included sprinting, boat race, buffalo fight etc.
Apurba Bora (63) of Santipur said that he along with his companions used to put up mejis and bhelaghars at the Santipur Ashram field. Some others used to put up mejis near the Pragjyotish College, Bhutnath MES field. The tails of the local varieties of fishes, carried on the shoulder sticks, sweeping the ground was a common sight those days on the Uruka days, he claimed.
Dr Sarbananda Das (63), a former principal of North Guwahati College and a resident of Sundarbari area of the city said he and his companions used to put up mejis and bhelaghars on the vast Bao paddy field which has now been obliterated by the Kamakhya Railway Station, Maligaon Central School etc. The boys of their locality used to play tangguti, with the girls playing kabadi on the morning of the first Bihu day, Das said.