Assam, a nature-centric land and gateway to the north eastern India, takes pride in setting the stage for cultural assimilation of different ethno-cultural groups under various politico-economic systems in different stages of history. The inhabitants of Assam is a composition of Mongolian, Tibetan, Indo-Burmese, Indo-Iranian and Aryan racial stocks and all of them contributed separately towards language, literature and performing and fine arts that eventually assimilated at different intensities to give existing dimension to Assamese culture, which is hybrid and rich. People in Assam mainly speak Assamese and this language has got recognition as a state language.
With reference from history and traces of traditional crafts and performing arts, the people of Assam have inherited the aptness of craftsmanship displayed in their professions from time immemorial. Artists, sculptors, masons, weavers, spinners, potters. Goldsmiths, artisans of ivory, wood, bamboo, can and hive have prospered in the state of Assam from ages. In fact, weaving is a testimony of Assamese people’s brilliant craftsmanship in their production of silk and cotton clothes embroidered with beautiful designs, not to forget the state has earned fame for its exquisite silks, such as Eri, Pat and the world renowned Muga silk. Like the people, the culture of Assam is equally charming and enchanting with manifold facets, which are mentioned hereunder:
In Assam, majority of the population follows Vaishnavism, a sect of Hinduism pioneered by the great Srimanta Sankardeva. Apart from it, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islamic and Sikhism are honoured and practiced in the state of Assam. Popular Hindu Gods in Assam are Durga, Shiva, Krishna and Narayana, although several tribes practice devotion to local deities as well.
As cited above, Assam is a land of different ethno-cultural groups and as a result of which speaking different dialects in diverse communities is a usual phenomenon. All communities have their native dialects, although Assamese is widely spoken across the state followed by Bengali and Hindi.
Fairs And Festivals
Assam achieves global recognition because of its Bihu festival. It is a festival that celebrates thrice in a year to mark the seasons and the significant points of a cultivator’s life over a yearly cycle. Other major Hindu festivals celebrated in the state include Diwali, Holi, Durga Puja, Swaraswati Puja, Lakshmi Puja, Kalipuja, and Shivaratri with great devotion. At the same time, the people of Assam also observe Id and Christmas with great pomp and show. As far as festivities of ethnic groups are concerned, you can find Me-dam-me-phi, Ali-aye-ligang, Kherai, Garja, Hapsa, Hatarnai, Awnkham Gwrlwi Janai, Chojun/Swarak, Rongker, Sokk-erroi, Hacha-kekan and Porag are celebrated across the state in different time over a year.
Art and Craft
The Assamese have a niche in the art and craft industry owing to their dynamic and creative craftsmanship. The art of weaving silk and making products out of bamboo, ivory, cane and hide are a specimen of their exquisite skills that contribute immensely to the state’s economy. Exhibition of colourful Japi (headgear), terracotta of Gauripur, elegance of Eri, Muga (Assamese silk dresses) and other tribal attires have left lasting impression in everyone’s mind.
The state being the home to a number of indigenous tribes and races, each of which has its own style of music and dance , fairs and festivals, have the propagation of numerous musical and dance forms throughout the region. Assamese’s love for life is vividly reflected in their dance and music. They dance for harvest, they dance for marriage, they dance for religious ceremonies, for dance and music are the indispensable components of their lives and festivities. Each occasion is observed with enthusiastic fervor in Assam.
Assam Music is derived from the ancient folklore’s of the tribal communities that inhabit various corners of the state from a long time. The music of Assam tells the sensation and the passion of Assamese heart. The basic characteristic of the ethnic music of Assam is its descending scale which differentiate it from the raga based or folk music from the other parts of the country. The different forms of Assamese music are Bihu geet, Husori song, Kamrupi folk song,Goalparia folk song,Borgeet, Ojah pali,Tokari geet, Jhumur, Deh bisaror geet, Baramahi geet, Biyanaam ( wedding occasion special), Bongeet, Ainaam, Dihanaam, Gorokhiya naam ,Zikir and zari and so many for varied occasions.
Dance forms vary according the change in the region and community. Although Bihu is the most popular folk dance of Assam, Satriya Nritya and Jhumur Dance are also performed with merriment. Dances in Assam are accompanied by music, which is blown especially from dhol (dholak), penpa, gagana, banhi (flute) etc.
This is the most popular folk dance of Assam and as the very name suggests is related to the Bihu festival which is celebrated with much pomp and glory throughout the state. The most celebrated dance of the state , is also one of the main attractions for the tourists.
Both womenfolk and menfolk take part in this cheerful dance. The dance involves a great deal of energy and flexibility as the dance steps are brisk.. The songs are dedicated to themes such as love, daily life of a farmer and Assamese new year. Except Bhangra, no other folk dance in India can compete with the rhythmic exuberance of Bihu. Bihu dance is performed by different tribes, each has added its own variation to it and named it after their tribe.
The renowned classic dance of Assam, has history dates back to the 15th century. It was introduced by Srimanta Shankardev to propagate the religion of Vaishnavism and was used to be performed in the Sattras and hence it was named as Sattriya dance. Through this dance the performers narrate mythological stories. This is the means of making the local people understand their religion in an enjoyable manner. This dance occupies an important place in the rituals of the monasteries of Assam. In monasteries it is performed everyday by male monks. The dance is performed in conjunction with music called ‘borgeets’ which are based on classical ragas.
Oja- Pali is a classical dance form of Assam, representing the rich tradition and cultural heritage of the state . Oja and Pali are actually a group of chorus singers and dancers, with Oja as the leader and Palis as his assistants. Apart from dancing, they also sing and play small cymbals, relating stories from the Epics and the Puranas.
This dance form is not very old and was founded by Narahari Burha Bbakat, a celebrated Sattriya dancer. Six to ten dancers equipped with cyrnbols perform this dance to the first bit of ’7hiya Nom” and pro- duces a good number of attractive formations displaying the cymbols It is mainly performed on special occasions in and around Barpeta and Guwahati.
Bhaona is a theatrical performance of a Vaishnava Ankiya Nat, a one-act play, initiated by Sankardeva. It is basically performed in the village Namghars and Satras, in order to promote the Vaishnavite culture in Assam. It is actually a theatrical depiction of the one-act play Ankiya Nat, initiated by Sankardeva. An integral part of the dance is the Sutradhara, who recites the slokas, sings, dances and explains the various stages of Bhaona in detail. Another form of dance included in Bhaona is the Natuwa or Cali dance. One of the subdivisions of this dance form is the Hajowaliya, which is basically a woman’s dance and is the combination of both Tandava and Lasya.
This is a typical folk dance performed by the tea community in the state, locally called ‘Chah Baganar Jumur Nach’ or the Jumur dance of tea garden. This dance is performed by girls and boys together, sometimes by the girls alone, with precision of foot work while clasping tightly each others waist.. Watching them sway to the tunes of the song is indeed a very pleasant experience.
Mising’s Ali Ai Ligang dance
Mishing community of Assam has a festival caged All Ai Ligang in which they perform dances for making an offering to their deities Young boys and girls dance Gumrag Pakes Cha Nam, characterised by brisk stepping, flinging and flapping of hands and swaying of hips to indicate youthful passion, reproductive urge and general gaiety which is accompanied by drums, pipes, flutes, cymbals and gongs. The gong is only ever played at Ali-Ai-Ligang and the drums have a special beat for the Gumrag dance. This form of dance is seen only in the north-eastern parts of the state, namely Sonitpur and Lakhimpur.
It is a semi classical form associated with the worship of the snake goddess Manasa. This dance is performed by a girl who, in a trance-like inspired state, goes on dancing to the beats of the Ciphung (flute) and the Kham (drum). At one stage of the dance, she even takes a sword and a shield performing a virile war dance, honoring various gods and goddesses, like Shiva, Lakshmi etc.
The most attractive dance of bodo community od Assam is Bagurumba dance. It is usually danced during Bwisagu, a festival of the Bodos in the Bishuba Sankranti or Mid-April. Bagurumba dance is instituted just after the paddy plantation. It is mainly a formation dance with slow steps and outstretched hands. About a score of girls dressed in most colourful attire perform this dance to the accompany- merit of Bodo traditional musical instruments.. This dance is mostly seen in the Bodo inhabited areas of Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon, Nalbari, Darrang and Sonitpur districts
Assam tourism will definitely appeal to your senses. This land has always attracted herds of people to explore and discover the gems of nature, richness of culture and the hospitality and politeness of the people.