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Jonbeel mela: an index of cultural, commercial amity between people

By Correspondent

JAGIROAD, Jan 22 - Jonbeel Mela held under the auspices of the Gobha Deo-Raja Junbeel Mela Development Samiti and at the direction of the Gobha Deo-Raja Rajdarbar, at the historic Jonbeel, four km from Jagiroad in Morigaon district concluded on Saturday afternoon in the presence of thousands of people who had came from various parts of the country.

The mela which once lasted for a day and a night is now a three-day affair. Though the exact origin of the mela cannot be ascertained, it is held annually the Thursday after Magh Bihu.

A �rajdarbar� was temporarily organised by the Gobha Deo-Raja Jonbeel Mela Development Samiti at the Mela site on the last day in which 18 rajas from various kingdoms in middle Assam namely, Nellie, Khola, Chahari, Kumoi-Kacharigaon, Dimoria, Tetelia, Kumoi,Khatigarh, Pub-Uttar Khola, Domal, Baghara, Sukunagog, Mayong, Sara, Tarani, Ghagua and Deepsing Deo-Raja, a ceremonial �king� of the erstwhile Gobha Kingdom, along with his followers namely-Barbarua, Senapati, Deka-Doloi, Bordoloi, Arandhara, Khatoniar etc., assembled.

Attending the open session as chief guest, Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal in his speech gave importance to preserve the cultural heritage of Assam for the better development of the society related to Junbeel Mela. He further called upon the people to maintain peace and harmony through this type of occasion in Assam. Chief Minister Sonowal along with the Jagiroad MLA Piyush Hazarika, Morigaon MLA Rama Kanta Deuri and other distinguished guests distributed �Raj-bhatta� cheques to the age-old ancient rajas from various kingdoms in the middle Assam.

According to historical records, the mela began not later than 15th century AD. The tribal people from the hills there came down to meet their relatives in the plains. Till the 14th century, the hills people frequently created disturbances among the people of the plains of these areas and looted their commodities. To overcome this, the Ahom king in the 15th century organised some melas in certain places on the border areas of the kingdom to ensure commercial and cultural amity between the hills and the plains. The tradition still continues through the Jonbeel mela. It is believed that, originally, the kings of Gobha, Nellie, Chahari and Dimorua collectively took a decision to hold this big get-together, but at present, the Gobha king solely declares the holding of the mela. He also witnesses the fair every year.

The age-old Jonbeel mela has some historical importance. It is an accepted historical fact that there were some seven prominent territorial provinces in North-East India, contemporary to the Ahom Kingdom, each governed by an indigenous king. They were known as Hat-Raja and the provinces were Gobha, Nellie, Chahari, Dimorou etc.

It has also been observed that subscriptions from the participating shops are collected from the representatives of the Gobha king. During the act, traditional Tiwa songs are sung by the royal team throughout, in their traditional dress.

The important significance is that the mela is held to facilitate the barter system of trade between the hill tribes and the plain people. The tribals barter their edible household items like ginger, lac, indigo, mats etc., to procure various traditional cakes, fried rice powder, dried fish etc., from the people of the plains. With the commodities taken from the plains, the tribals then celebrate their Bihu. The following Saturday, the uruka of the Bihu of the Gobha people is celebrated. The community fishing in Jonbeel is also done at the will of the Gobha king which is another significant aspect of this Mela.

The mela is of ethnic and socio-cultural importance as this becomes a common meeting ground for the different hill tribes of Assam and the people of the plains. Moreover, the market held on Saturday gains commercial importance due to its expansion day by day, where nowadays not the barter, but the current system of trade is practiced.

However, it is disappointing to note that no scientific research on the ethnic and socio-cultural aspects of the mela has been done so far. It is hoped that many historical aspects of their socio-cultural life will come to light through scientific research.

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