TEZPUR, March 16 - The three-day 197th Dhekidol Gudi Bathow Kherai Mahutsab at Uhanipathar Dhekidol Kheraisali in Ghoramari area near here concluded today.
It may be mentioned here that Bathow Puja, observed by the Bodo Kacharis, has ancient roots and is also known by various names, such as Kherai, Maroi and Garja. The god worshipped is believed to be the pagan equivalent of Lord Shiva.
Taju Ram Narjary, a noted social worker of the area who has been playing a crucial role in keeping alive the age-old festival in the area, said that the god worshipped in this puja is called Bathow Bwrai, Khuria Bwrai and Shib Bwrai. A cactus, named Bwrai Bathow, which is encircled by a bamboo fence, is worshipped. Bathow Bwrai is offered grains, fruits and flowers.
Narzary, who is popular as a living encyclopedia, added that the ritual of the puja involves a frenzied dance by the oracle known as Doudini. �The Doudini also performs Kherai dance in front of the Bwrai Bathow. She is joined by men in dance who maintain a distance. Others watch the rituals from a distance. The puja is actually performed by a �Deuri� (a priest).�
Apart from dance, music is also an important part of the puja. The folk songs of Bodo tribes are sung with fervor during the puja following a particular pattern of the music beat, he added. People of the area have been performing the puja since its inception, seeking the blessings of God Sibrai for peace and prosperity of people.
Giving detail on the three-day programme, noted social worker and entrepreneur and secretary of the puja committee, Manuj Kumar Basumatary said that the Kherai or Bathow Puja is normally celebrated thrice in the year - March, May/June, and October/November.
�Keeping with the tradition, this time also we have organised the puja with a three-day programme, which included �Jhumai gwthar� preparation at Bordewri�s home on the first day, followed by unfurling of the flag of the puja by Tajuram Narzary, cultural procession, Dangoria puja, Khandow Raja puja and Mahila Puja at the main Bathowsali and installation of �Bathow Bedi (the altar of Bathow) on the next day,� Manuj Basumatary said. The programme came to an end with the main Kherai Puja.