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Athgaon Gosala's role in disciplining cattle owners

By Ajit Patowary

GUWAHATI, Feb 21 � Though the concept of �Gomata� was prevalent among the Hindu residents of Guwahati during the 1940s, it was confined to theory only. In practice, cows and bullocks were not that revered by the Guwahatians, except on the occasion of the Garu Bihu day of the Rongali Bihu. But with the establishment of the Sri Guwahati Gosala at Athgaon there seemed to be a drastic change in the attitude of these Guwahatians towards their cows and bullocks, said noted writer and researcher Kumudeswar Hazarika.

It needs mention here that most of the Guwahatians were mostly dependent on farming activities till the 1960s and cattle were an indispensable part of their lives.

The Athgaon Gosala, which is preparing to start the year-long celebration of its centenary from February 23 this year, was set up on February 23, 1916 on a plot of 35-bighas of land donated by the family of Ajit Saria. Some 12 to 13 Marwari families of Guwahati, who included the families of Dasu Ram Mirjamal and Muralidhar Sarma, set up the Gosala initially with about 100 cows. A trust is running the Gosala now, said Hazarika quoting Jayprakash Goenka, whose family is closely linked with the Gosala for quite a long time.

The Gosala, with its annual Gopastami Melas, brought a revolutionary change in the outlook of the Guwahatians towards their domestic cows and bullocks. Prior to it, there was slackness among them in husbanding their cattle and this led to the emergence of the municipal animal pounds to confine the straying domestic animals, Hazarika said. He further informed that there was a time when schools declared half-holidays on the occasion of the Gopastami Mela of the Gosala.

Quoting octogenarian Gopendra Narayan Choudhury of Panbazar Barpetia Para, he said that there was a third animal pound of the Guwahati Municipality at Panbazar to the west of the Arya Natya Mandir (the present day AMSA House), opposite the North Brook Gate (the present day Gateway of Assam). The plot of land of this pound was later merged with the plot of land on which the complex of the Gauhati Medical College and Hospital was originally built. Now it is a part of the Mahendra Mohan Choudhury Hospital campus.

This pound was meant for the straying cattle of the then central part of Guwahati municipal area, while the Uzanbazar pound was meant for the then eastern part of Guwahati municipal area and the Bharalumukh pound was meant for the then western part of the municipal area of the town, said Hazarika.

Pounds could deter many cattle owners from releasing their cattle in the open. The stray cattle used to cause traffic problems on occasions. They also littered the roads with cow dung. In many areas, stray cattle were seen roaming freely and blocking and littering the roads.

The Athgaon Gosala played a major role, with the animal pounds of the municipal authorities, to make the cattle owners regain their senses and to keep their cattle confined to their respective campuses. Today, many Guwahatians use to keep cattle, and, barring a few, the others use to keep their cattle confined to their campuses following the rules of modern dairy farming, said Hazarika.

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