Guwahati, Thursday, September 15, 2011
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Rangghar: the oldest amphitheatre in Asia
Kongkon K Bora
 SIVASAGAR, Sept 14 Rangghar, the imposing red structure at Joysagar, about 3 kms from Sivasagar town, is one of the most important structures built during the Ahom era. The oldest amphitheatre in Asia, its unique architectural feature makes it a much visited tourism destination in this part of the country.

Visitors to this structure remain spellbound after witnessing the unique design of the 250-year old monument. Built by Ahom King (Swargadeo) Pramatta Singha (AD 1744-1750) for watching various games by the royal families, Rangghar, which means entertainment or recreation house, is a double-storied structure, which was used as the royal pavillion of the Ahom kings.

The central unit of the ground plan is rectangular and annexed with small structures of trapezoid ends making the entire ground plan like an octagon. The roof of the structure is parabolic which is supported by rows of massive columns and semi-circular arches and shows Islamic influence in architectural features. A unique pleasure boat with reptile emblems on either side marks the outer beauty of the structure and a trefoil arch canopy rests at the top of the structure. It is 10 m in height, 11 m in breadth and 27m in length. Rangghar was built with locally available raw materials and without the use of steel. The brick structure was plastered with a locally made paste and the exterior walls were carved with unique sculptures.

Historians believe that a wooden Rangghar stood at the place where the present Rang-ghar stands today. The original wooden structure was believed-ro be built by Swargadeo Siva Singha (AD 1714-1744).The settings of Rangghar took the character of the Olympiad held in Greece in ancient times when various games were held during the Ahom rule in the fields close to Rangghar.

The adjoining field, known as Rupohi Pothar, wore a festive look when games like bull-fight, cock-fight, elephant fight, wrestling, etc., were held on different occasions during the Ahom rule. In fact, Rupohi Pothar today stands as a living example to the various sports and games organised during the Ahom era. Rangghar, besides standing as the royal pavillion, also contributed in spreading the games to different parts of the kingdom and its neighbouring States.

The Ahom royals invited the rulers and tribal chieftains of the neighbouring areas to witness the games on different occasions. These rulers and tribal chieftains, who were accompanied by their subjects, spread these games in their respective areas after witnessing these at the Rangghar bakori (lawns of the Rangghar). This also contributed to the strengthening of the bond of unity among the different tribes and linguistic groups of the Ahom kingdom as well as the neighbouring States.

Bihu dance, the pulse of the Asomiya people was accorded a royal status by the Swargadeos. The Swargadeos started the tradition of observing Rongali Bihu at the Rangghar and accorded a royal status to Bihu. During Rongali Bihu, the Ahom kings enjoyed Bihu and various other sports and games from Rangghar, the royal pavillion, along with his subordinate kings.

Rangghar, besides providing a platform for survival of the dance form and various other local sports and games also paved the way towards the unification of the various tribes and races of this region. It was during a Rongali Bihu at the Rangghar when one of the Swargadeos, utterly pleased by the Bihu dance performed by Rupohi, a Bihu dancer from the locality, named a vast tract of field behind the Rangghar as Rupohi Pathar. Rangghar today stands as a living example to the unique architecture of the Ahom period. It also portrays the importance laid by the Ahom rulers in sports and other entertainment activities.

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