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Pacheti Mahotsav: a festival of communal harmony
Manoranjan Sarma

Khatara Satra
 The historic Khatara Satra’s prestigious Pacheti Mahotsav, which is the oldest festival in the greater Patharighat area, has now turned into a familiar mass festival of Darrang district. The Pachoti or Pocheti Mahotsav of different satras is called Pacheti in Darrang district. The Assamese word, pacheti, has been derived from the Sanskrit word, pancha (five). The Pacheti Utsav is related with the story of one’s birth. It is related to the birth of Lord Krishna. It is a tradition that newborn babies are brought to the courtyard on the fifth day of birth. This way, for the first time, a baby can see the sun on the fifth day of its birth. As such, the name-giving ceremony is also formally arranged on that very day.

The Khatara Satra Management Committee celebrates the Pacheti festival with a four-day programme every year from the last day of the Assamese month of Bhada. Actually, it has to be celebrated on the fifth day of Janmasthami, the birthday of Lord Krishna. But at Khatara, it is celebrated on the last day of Bhada. Perhaps, the date was changed to ensure farmers’ cooperation in the celebration. Farmers of the area are usually busy in the fields in the month of Bhada.

The Pacheti Mahotsov Mela is usually organised at the sprawling campus of the Khatara Satra, established by Lechakoniya Gobinda Atoi, a disciple of Mahapurush Madhav Deva, in 1568.

There is an interesting story about the establishment of the Khatara Satra. The present Khatara area was earlier known as Nanoipariya Thai as it is situated on the west bank of the Nanoi river. At that time, this area was covered with dense forests. In course of time, Lechakoniya Gobinda Atoi came to this place from Lechakona village under the Rangiya subdivision and settled here. Most inhabitants of the area were not civilised at that time. These people were known as khats. The khats were not interested to follow religious principles and sacred traditions of the Vaishnavite culture. One day Atoi saw that a frog was eating a poisonous snake in the area. He told the khats that their place was very sacred and suitable to build a prayer house. But the khats did not believe Atoi’s word. Atoi brought the statues of Ram, Lakshman, Sita and Hanuman to that place in order to convince the khats. Finally, the khats were fascinated by God and divinity. By this way, Atoi built a satra with the cooperation of the khats. Gradually, the khats became the devotees of Vaishnavism. The word, Khatara, was derived from the word ‘Khat-Hora’ (dominating the uncivilised person). Thus the khats’ place came to be known as the Khatara village which is now under Darrang district.

The historic Khatara Satra has completed 446 years of existence. Though the actual date of foundation of the Pacheti Mahotsov is not known, it is perhaps as old as the Khatara Satra. The presentation of various cultural programmes, including Dadhimanthan Kristi and Boka Bhaona, is the highlight of Pacheti. Nowadays, Boka Bhaona is not organised due to some practical difficulties. The attractive Dhadhimanthan Kristi is the composition of songs and dances related to the childhood activities of Lord Krishna. This classical song-and-folk dance programme narrates how the gopis prepared butter for their children. Melodious tunes of naam prasanga and other cultural items to the accompaniment of doba, khol, taal, etc., turn the entire environment at the satra campus divine.

Thousands of people from different places of Darrang, Kamrup, Baksa and Udalguri districts, cutting across lines of caste, creed and religion, assemble at the venue of the Pacheti Mahotsav.

Besides other wares, the sale of fruit saplings, particularly coconut saplings belonging to local varieties, is the most familiar aspect of Pacheti. To buy at least one pair of coconut saplings is considered the identity of Pacheti visitors. People believe that coconut or other fruit saplings planted on the day of Pacheti give a bumper harvest in future.

There are many traditional beliefs and faiths about the unseen influence of the satra among the devotees. Local people take their new cars and bikes to the satra first so that they do not meet with any accident in future. So, long queues of vehicles can be seen in front of the satra campus and its adjoining area on all the days of the Pacheti Mahotsav.

On the day of Pacheti, some people fetch water to their homes from the satra’s big pond called Borpukhuri.

The Pacheti Mahotsov of the Khatara Satra is not only a popular festival but also a symbol of communal harmony. The Central and State Governments should jointly undertake development schemes for the immediate improvement of the Khatara Satra and the promotion of the Pacheti Mahotsov as a mark of respect to Assamese saints including Srimanta Sankardeva and Lechakoniya Gobinda Atoi.

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