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One would find a three dimensional cultural contour of the Muslims of Assam. Those who came to Assam in the 13th and 17th century are known as indigenous Muslims, who cannot be distinguished from the other segment of Assamese community. They speak Assamese language and their social behaviour has been shaped by the folk tradition and culture of Assam. In this way they have become inseparable part of the Assamese society. Two great personalities of Assam, Mahapurus Srimanta Sankardeva (1449-1569), the great Vaishnava Saint and Azan Faqir (1605-1690), the great Sufi preacher of Hanafi order, accelerated the process of Assamisation of the Muslims.
The immigrant Bengali Muslims, who came from present East Bengal in the early part of the 20th century are mostly located in central and lower Assam. They are in the process of assimilation with the Assamese society. Besides accepting the Assamese language, the third generation of the people has become an indispensable part of the society in the Brahmaputra valley.
Another group of Muslim in Assam could be located in Barak Valley who are descendants of converts in the 14th century at the missionary initiative of Shah Jalal Pir (d1367). As in the case of other parts of East Bengal, it is noteworthy that spread of Islam in the Barak valley is more of an outcome of conversion than migration.
There was conversion to Islam at different phases of history at the initiative of the Sufi saints who did the missionary work in different part of Assam. The presence of large number of Sufi dargahs in Assam, the oral history about the change in the demographic pattern around these holy places and the cultural life the Muslims in and around these areas testify to conversion of lower strata of social composition to Islam.
It is local folk tradition which determines the visible identity of the Muslims of Assam. There is a small Muslim community who are known as Jolha community brought by the British in the 19th century from Chotanagpur to work in the tea gardens. They are like any other tea garden labour community. They have retained the tea-tribe character despite their acceptance of Assamese language.
An apparently common scenario in the cases of the little artistic traditions of the developing countries in contemporary times is the cultural standardization. It is the process in which the stakeholders of traditional arts and crafts try to fit their traditional artistry into the existing schemes recognized by the contemporary market and society. While the manifestations of cultural standardization may be experienced differently in different contexts, most often they seem to take place as re-packaging of local traditional resources within the schemes of the western or popular cultural practices.
Majuli is the river-island of the Brahmaputra in upper Assam, famous for its Vaisnava monasteries (satra) and tribal cultural resources. In the eastern corner of this island there is a village called Salmora which is known for its age-old terracotta craftsmanship. This relatively less reported tradition of Majuli has gone significant changes in recent times which are discussed within the above-mentioned theme of cultural standardization. It has been noticed, that the terracotta tradition of Salmora, which has its distinction because of its techniques and artistic products, is now being influenced by other terracotta tradition traditions of western Assam, especially of the Goalpara region. Also, the steps taken by the concerned government and non-governmental agencies for the ‘development’ of this craft tradition has also caused significant changes in the craft. Such changes in recent times demonstrate a transition from a traditional community-craftsmanship into a market-oriented industry.
Folk medicine is still practiced by some vendors, hakims and vaidyas in remote areas of India including Sikkim and including traditional birth attendants, herbalists and bonesetters and on local medicinal plants to satisfy their primary health care needs. The flowering plants available in Sikkim are estimated as 4500. About 420 (both flowering & non flowering species ) are estimated as medicinal plants, which is used by the tribal of Sikkim Himalaya. One of cordeseps sinensis (Yacha gumpa) found in North Sikkim was the wonderful medicinal properties of anti cancer, immuno-modulator and anti ageing, known to Ayurveda as Sanjeevani. Ayurveda and Tibetan medicine are knit with the culture and life style of the people of Sikkim. As Sikkim is a mixture of three broad cultures. Therefore, the health traditions of Sikkim are also divided in three broad categories. There are a large number of traditional healers-Dhami, Jhankri, Phendonga and Bonbo in the Nepali community, Pow and Nejum in the Bhutia community and Bumthing in the Lepcha community.
Doul Govinda, the late medieval temple of Lord Krishna situated at village Rajaduar of North Guwahati of Assam is a sacred complex and an integrated institution of Assamese ethnic heritage. The endeavor of the present paper would be to bring into focus the interconnections of different groups of people who are part of the institution and to find out how these interactions shaped the significant tangible and intangible heritage of the territory. It is important to understand the social organization of the sacred complex within the New Museum parameters. In Doul Govinda sacred complex, there are three layers of people who are part of the social organization that makes a network for all the activities that takes place not only within the sacred complex itself but also in the entire territory.
The anthropological studies on sacred complexes which reveals the advantages of a particular territory to become a museum without wall, because of the tangible and intangible heritage connected with the sacred complex as well as voluntary association of the people with the complex. Hence, the focus of study on these conceptual aspects of New Museology in the given territory is discussed.
Ethno-environment Management and Changes in Sikkim
Ethno-environment management has been a long drawn strategy among the tribes of North-east India. Among the Bhutia-Lepha people of Sikkim, the tradition has been quite popular, though the relevance of the cultural elements was not cognitively analysed in utilitarian terms. The practice of totem worship- both animate and inanimate objects, has been carried on even with conversion to other religions like Buddhism or Hinduism. The practices of tree worship or renovation of sacred groves are prevalent in almost all the tribal villages of Sikkim. With the emergence of large Nepalese people, certain changes in the traditions have been witnessed. Both the communities have assimilated certain traits from each other. Even modern scientific temper has made deep inroads mainly through the initiatives of green peace movement. Use of plastic carry bags has been banned in Gangtok - the capital of Sikkim. The study will aim at documenting the ethno environmental management processes and changes in Sikkim.
Culture of Mizoram: A Brief Historical Analysis
The Mizos are very proud of their cultural legacy and go to great lengths to preserve it despite considerable foreign intrusion. With changing times, Mizoram too is moving towards modernization but the state government has ensured that every bucolic hamlet in the state, irrespective of its remote location, is endowed with YMA (Young Mizo Association). This body has been designed with the sole aim to leave a distinct tincture of the traditional societal values and customs among the state youth.
Although Christianity brought about a near total transformation in the Mizo lifestyle and outlook, some customary laws have continued. The custom and tradition which were found meaningless and harmful were abolished due to persistent preaching. Thus zu (rice beer) was replaced by tea as a popular drink among the Mizos. Zawlbuk has been replaced by modern education. Animal sacrifices or ceremonial occasions, which were once an integral part of religious system, are now considered anathema. But such traditions as the payment of bride price are still continued and encouraged and so are some other customs and community traditions.
Trade Barter and Ceremonial Exchange as Dimensions of Hills Plains Relationship in North-East India
The paper attempts to provide a historical overview of the linkages and the patterns of relationship between highland dwellers and plains people through trade, commerce and other modes of exchange of commodities in North-East India.
The northern mountainous tract between Sankosh River in Bhutan and Arunachal Himalayas had recognized duars (passes or entry points) for regulating movements of hill people to the plains. The various duars in the north, e.g., Bhutia duars, Char-duar, Na-duar, Choi-duar, were important entry points for various hill communities – Bhutia, Sherdukpen, Monpa, Nyishi, Aka, Hill Miri, and so on, - till the recent past. Similarly, the tribesmen inhabiting the hilly regions east and south of the Brahmaputra ( e.g., trans-Patkoi tribes such as Tangsa, Nocte, Wancho, Konyak and other Naga groups), Karbi, Hill Tiwa, Khasi, Jaintia, Garo, etc. also had, any many still have, important commercial and ceremonial exchange relationships with the plains peasantry of Assam. The paper tries to explore the content, spirit and implication of these age-old ties as revealed by transactions in well-established fair grounds (mela) and periodic market (haat) centres, located mainly in the foot-hill regions of Assam.
Bihu dance and Bihu songs are performed during Bohag Bihu, celebrated from last day of Chait to sixth day of Bohag, i.e. from 14th April to 21st April in Assam. Bihu Dance, Bihu Song and Rhythmic Patterns have been juxtaposed and refined from time to time because of socio-economic and technological progress.
The paper is devoted to find out the historical causes of changing patterns performing style of Bihu dance and Bihu songs.
The primary objective of paper is to present a comprehensive, analytical and critical account of the significance of the creative arts of PAPHAL manuscript paintings with special reference to manuscript paintings of Manipur from the prehistoric times to the last quarter of the twentieth century in a broad historical perspective.
We do not know when and how the art of painting originated in Manipur. Some scholars and pundits have the opinion that KHEMARS or the KHAMRANS, as the Meiteis call the Mons, came to Manipur around 1000 BC and contributed some paphals, thereby increasing the number of paphals of Meiteis. After their settlement, the Mon culture of Burma and influence of Chinese art got mixed up with the indigenous art and culture of Manipur.
After having made an analytical study of the relevant aspects of the manuscript paintings of Manipur in the pre-18th century, the so-called pre-Hindu period, we have come to the conclusion that this form of painting was closely associated with the prevalent social customs, religious practices, traditional beliefs, cultural traditions and heritage of the whole north east region. It is clear that there is a positive relationship between the manuscripts, paphal and the social, religious and cultural aspects of the North East people, with special reference to the Meiteis of Manipur.
Stone Age and early cultural development in Assam- Meghalaya and beyond
The archaeological evidence of human activity has been unearthed from Western Meghalaya. The stone age artifacts recovered from a number of sites in Garo Hills of Western Meghalaya indicate a paleolithic continuity. The adjacent Karbi and NC Hills of Assam also have evidence of development of Neolithic and megalithic artifacts and the latter has continued as a living tradition. The megalithic tradition is spread further east to the territories of Manipur and Naga Hills. Structural and functional similarities as well as similar environment indicate continuity in space and time for megalithic communities. The paper seeks to provide an analytical discussion on these evidences of archaeology keeping in view the work of different scholars.
Exploring the theistic faith and its correspondence to their culture among the hill tribes in Manipur
The proposed paper seeks to address the role of theistic culture of the hill tribes of Manipur as well as the Christian faith have influenced their faith structure.
The paper seeks to explore the traditional belief system of the indigenous communities of Kuki Zomi in Manipur prior to the coming of Christianity from different oral narratives of the tribes and analyze the coming of Christian Missionaries using the historical approach. The paper seeks to analyze the traditional understanding of ‘theism’ according to the polytheistic faith of the hill communities of the Kuki Zomi tribes and tries to understand how the monotheistic faith of the Christian tradition has addressed the traditional beliefs and spirituality among the Indigenous people and to trace the corresponding change and influence in their cultures.
Deodhani is an important part of the religious ceremonies of several communities in North East India. The focus of my paper would be on the Deodhani tradition among the tribes of Assam, with special emphasis on the Deori tribe.
The Deodhani or the ‘Midi-Girachi’ is central to the Bohag-Bisu puja among Deoris, Interestingly, the Midi-Girachi is the only woman who is allowed to enter the shrine, and she can do so only when she is possessed. She dances and makes an annual prophesy during the ceremony.
Certain dances which were performed only in the courtyard of the temple by the people of the village can now be performed outside it too. Only the dance of the Midi-Girachi is still confined to the temple.
The paper traces some of the changes that have come about in this tradition along with changing socio-economic conditions.
Mizo Literature in a Transitional Culture
The Mizos have undergone what is ‘tantamount’ to a complete change in almost every sphere within the space of half-a-century.
From being totally illiterate, the Mizos have become one of the highest scorers in terms of literacy in entire India.
Mizo literature portrays Mizo emotions and thoughts in extreme simplicity. The soul of the Mizos can be best seen in their various songs and poetries, folktales and war chants, stories and writings - sentimental and nostalgic in nature; in a strange mixture of love and passion. The turbulent period of 1966, when Laldenga led Mizo National Front (MNF) took arms and fought for a full-fledged independence from India, the Mizo nation turning a new chapter, eventually had a great impact on the growth and development of the Mizo literary trends.
Women in Mizo Society: A Historical Perspective
This paper is a general view on the changing status of women in Mizoram through the ages, focusing particularly on the last two centuries. The position of women in traditional society, noticeable in the customary laws and traditions, the causal factor for the change in their status, the response of the society in general and the beneficiaries in particular are being examined. At the same time, the present situation is also discussed with a view of understanding the future prospect of women in Mizoram.
In spite of changes, social and economic the legal rights and position of Mizo women has hardly improved. The customary laws recorded by N.E.Perry along the line of traditional practices in the 1920s still works in relation to marriage laws, laws relating to ownership of property, heirship etc. Legally, women have no claim over the property of their father or husband etc.
The Sattra Institution in Assam
The 15th-16th Bhakti Movement in Assam with Srimanta Sankaradeva (1449-1568 AD) as its fountainhead ushered in an all-pervasive cultural resurgence. The multitudinous contributions of Sankaradeva, his apostolate and the whole movement, for that matter, went far beyond the portals of a religious movement, leavening the entire scenario of the social and cultural life of the people of Assam and its neighboring states.
With the kirtanghar (prayer hall) at the centre, the Sattra institutions have played a tremendous role and contributed immensely towards the sustenance of arts. And this greatly helped in giving innovative dimensions to the Sattra schools of various arts – music, dance painting, sculpture mask – making, costume –designing etc, retaining the sacred virtues of the faith, its parameters and elegance of the forms of the arts. Thus, the Sattra institution, even in the face of the changes in social and political history, impact of the western education, industrial and mechanical inputs, endures with its variegated traditions of art and religion, and provides nourishment to the social life of Assam.
Burmese Connection and Theravadi Buddhism among the Tai Communities of Assam
Tai- Buddhist communities entered Assam in late 18th and early 19th century. They have succeeded in maintaining their distinct linguistic and religious identity in spite of their small size. These groups of people, in their process of acculturation, have been highly influenced by Assamese language and culture. However, they have successfully retained their religious affiliation and have retrained from being submerged in the larger Hindu identity.
In spite of the problems on the borders, every year, in the mountains of eastern India, members of the ethnic group known as the Singpho in India, and the Kachin in neighboring Myanmar, gather in Lekhapani, a border outpost between India and Myanmar, to celebrate the Shapawng Yawng Manau Poi, a festival that honors their ancestors, but is also increasingly a rallying point for their own cultural identity.
These festivals are emerging as the rallying points of the small communities, who are divided by international borders.
Mizoram – Towards a Reconfiguration of Identity
The intermingling of several diasporic movements played a major role in the peopling of the Northeast. Material life of the hunter gatherer society was shaped by the rich topographical and ecological diversity of the region. At the same time, there were also several cultural commonalities. Mizoram conforms to this pattern but ethnic heterogeneity exists on a lesser scale. In common with other tribal groups, there has been a transition from a head hunting community to one shaped by Christianity. Dwellings, implements, fishing snares and storage containers have all been based on the exploitation of bamboo and cane. Jhum cultivation, pig rearing and utilization of the bitter gourd have shaped day to day life.
In the conceptual frame work of the seminar, it is stated that “most communities of the region are caught between the cultural and politico-administrative definition of their identity and culture”. Our anthropological experience from 1973-92 in the hill areas of Manipur and Mizoram gave us insight not only into the intricacies of shifting identities of communities but also the undercurrent of erosion such ethnic identities, that once were the centripetal force in uniting many cultural aggregates into cultural formation sharing common cultural ethos. The Kuki identity in Manipur Hills and Lushai Hills (present day Mizoram) once subsumed many cultural entities such as Lushai, Bawm, Paite, Tlau, Ralte, Pang, Tlanglau, Gangte Hmar, Vaiphei, Zou, T, etc. iddimChin. This cultural landscape changed with time and the post Independent era witnessed emergence of Scheduled Tribes.
The British policies provide a clue to why Northeast India has remained a bubbling cauldron and vulnerable to secessionist movements. Why the British continued supporting such a policy can only be understood from their own stated policy, as formulated in 1944 by Prof. Reginald Coupland.
The paper provides a case study of change that is witnessed in Mizoram in the realm of cultural and political dominance of one cultural category over the others in time and space.
All tribal communities irrespective of big and small have their own customary laws and traditional practices by which they are governed. The type of society, particularly of the Nagas, is gerontocracy. The words of the elders are respectfully obeyed. We take up the customary laws of one community, the Liangmais for the present study.
Culture of North East India: A Historical Perspective
The advent of Christianity in the hill areas and Vaishnavism in the plain areas had drastically changed the old ways of life of the ethnic communities. Animism had given way to the worship of idols, and preferences of worship style and performance text of the ritual processes had undergone changes quite remarkably. In the hills, people gradually forsook the ritual processes that are involved in the erection of monoliths or of the traditional village door-gate or of the traditional richman’s house. Similarly, in the plains the Meiteis settling in the urban areas had practically forsaken the ritual processes involved in the construction of the traditional Meitei Yumjao house. Modern structures are devoid of the intricate design layout of the traditional house, where each space is allocated particular significance and relevance with worship of specific household deity or particular spaces reserved for the men and the women respectively. Old values die with the inroad of new values.
All the carvings on wood are done with a small iron tool with wooden handle, such as the Chiro used by the Maomei, which take a long time to create the motifs. The way the carving tools are used and the pattern of art form expressed show no influence of geometrical knowledge on the part of the carver, and that they had knowledge only of simple angles and cirlcles. The process of carving with this simple tool and the forms and techniques of these provide the distinctive quality of tribal art and at the same time, the reason for its decline (Bahadur & Shantabai, 1989).
This paper attempts at highlighting some of the basic issues from administrative, historic and cultural aspects with the focus on Mizoram. Due to the five decade long armed conflict in north -east, one has to acknowledge that this home of many ethnic groups and tribes is left with many shattered dreams, in search for a new identity amidst their economic and cultural crises. One of the reasons for this cultural upheaval is the interface between modernization and traditions, with no preparedness. This had adversely affected many tribes. For example, an area in which this interface has made a major impact is the legal framework governing land relations under the rubric of tribal customary law.
Women have had to face the major brunt of this cultural transformation. In trying to balance between hearth, home and workplace; whether that be the jhum field, factory or office, the balance sheet of profit and loss appears to be a mere façade. Is the world famous Mizo choir group with puan draped beautiful girls merely a cultural showcase of the Mizo society? Or is this way to keep at bay the versatile, hardworking mothers and wives who brave the daily rigors of mundane life.
Interpretation of design and motifs of dress, costume and headdress of the Manipuris.
Manipur is inhabited by different ethnic communities, namely, the Meitei, Chakpa and tribes. Each have their typical dress, costume and headdress, signifying their individual preferences and uses in life. Meitei clans were merged under one administrative unit under the sovereignty of the Meitei King during the medieval period of Manipur history, being subjugated one after the other at different periods of time. However, although the Khaba-Nganba were merged in the Meitei fold during 1st century A.D., the Moirang and the Chenglei during the 15th century A.D., and the Angom during the 17th century A.D., they continued to use their own individual dress, costume and headdress, identified by the specific colour scheme and fashion of wear. In this paper, an attempt has been made to highlight the salient features of the dress, costume and headdress used by the Meitei, Chakpa and the tribes of Manipur, and the significance of design and motifs.
Folk literature is the literature of a particular region which has been developed through the ages by a group of people and in some cases by a gifted individual of that community. While proverbs and folk tales a riddles etc. are the creation of the collective wisdom of that community, folk songs are creations of gifted individual composers, which have been transmitted orally from one place to another or from one age to subsequent periods. We may know or not know the composer of a particular famous song, but it is certain that the song was first composed by a gifted person of sufficient wisdom. Subsequent singers changed the vocabulary or a sentence or two in such a song.
Manipur lies on one of the most important highways of ancient times, viz. the highway connecting the Indo-Gangetic Valley with China. The Indo-Gangetic Valley is one of the greatest cradles of civilization. So is China. The Indo-Aryans, in search of green pastures, reached Manipur Valley about the 4th century B.C. and found the Tai-speaking peoples living there. The Indo-Aryan immigrants married the local women. This intermixture of races resulted in interface between Vedic religious thought and local beliefs. British officers during their short stint in Manipur wrote a few books, occasionally dabbling in the history of Manipur.
The primary objective of the present paper is to clear these erroneous views.
Mythology and legends indicate close relation between the Meiteis and the hill tribes of Manipur. The early history of Manipur, starting from the reign of Nongda Lairen Pakhangba in 33 A.D., shows many people from the valley settled in the hills. Likewise, many people from the hills settled in the valley. Inter-marriage between the valley people and the hill people was also found in the history of Manipur.
When Manipur came under British control after the 1891 war, the hill areas also came under the British control. The local bodies are working in the valley of Manipur under the 73rd, 74th amendment Acts. But, in the hills, no democratic institutions are working at the grass-root level. Ethnic identity and interests have become more important to-day, affecting the age-old relationships that have been existed between the valley people and hill people of Manipur.
Globalization and Revivalist trends in the Cultural Context of North-East India
Ours is a country difficult to pin down. On the one side, it is making bold strides to join the forces of globalism of the modern world and on the other; it seems not to have outgrown the Middle Ages. Tribal women of North-East India are usually portrayed as enjoying a better social status than their counterparts in the larger Indian society. But the opposite also happened in the case of “witch-hunting”, which has become a regular chronic feature in some states. Though the prima facie cause of “witch-hunting” appears to be superstition and lack of education or awareness in the tribal societies, the real cause of the disease lies perhaps deeper. That a definite link exists between forms of ownership of land and persecution of women is borne out by a number of grass-root surveys and research. Communal ownership and control of land have given way to legal ownership of land by men, and “witch-hunting” has become popular as an extra-legal method to deprive tribal women of control over land. A crucial issue regarding land and water acquisition by the multinationals today is commercialisation of land, forests, water and other community-owned resources and the resultant transition of most ethnic groups from subsistence to a commercial economy and of their land from livelihood to a commodity. Under globalization, everything in this world has been commoditized and commoditization does not honour an ethic of ‘the sacred’.
The advent of globalization brings in its wake the grave danger of the standardization of cultures and cultural products, the "McDonaldisation" of culture. The Lai Haraoba of Manipur, the traditional Boatman's songs and Bihu festival tunes from Assam are being reset to the beats of techno-pop and soft rock and even to remix with Bhangra, the folk dance of the farmers of Punjab, which has now taken a pop-shape, to please the markets of the so-called ‘global village’. We are yet to articulate the very process of globalisation and its impact upon traditional ethnic societies and on people and politics of the North-East that had already experienced the historical burden and bitter memories since the days of colonialism. The onslaught of cultural globalisation has compelled little societies to have a re-look into their own ethnicism before agreeing to change their less susceptible social values and norms. Aptly titled 'India's North-East- Paradise Unexplored', the tourism department of the Central Government has suggested a cohesive tourism policy for the eight states of the North-East so that the beauty of the North-East should be exhibited across the world. But the recent growth of tourism in North-Eastern region under globalization, which sometime indirectly encourages ‘sex tourism’, is a new phenomenon and challenge the society has to face today.
Thus, due to the forces of globalization, our society is changing very fast, although we are not sure whether it is changing for the better or worse. In fact, we are living in an historical era of unlimited possibility which may appear to be either negative or positive. Although the old society is slowly dying, the exact form of a new one has yet to be fully conceived. But no body can deny that the leading architects of the so-called ‘brave new world’ today are the same wealthy elites or ruling forces who shaped the old one. Taking the stereotype of ‘hegemonic culture’ of Gramsci, we may say that the captains of globalization maintain control not always through violence and political and economic coercion, but also ideologically through advertisement and brain-washing, through a ‘hegemonic culture’ in which their values become ultimately the ‘common sense’ values of all in the society.
Zari songs are based on the tragic episode of the Karbala tragedy, praising the dead in a funeral oration, weeping and wailing over the deceased. This paper will emphasize various musical and performative aspects of Zikir and Zari songs.
Every Culture of the world has its unique and distinct history and tradition. India is a nation not only rich in history and tradition, but also one composed of so many diverse cultures. Nagaland represents one such culture of India. The Naga society is a cultural tradition common to all, owing to long isolation from each other in the early historical period, there are variations in the traditional socio-cultural milieu of the various tribes. The traditional native art and culture of the Nagas was and still is rich, but with the advent of Christianity in 1872, their abandonment by the people, as a result of the teachings of the American Missionaries that these practices are pagan and sinful, has led to loss of many or most of them. From ancient times, they were not preserved in writing but only handed down in oral form, from generation to generation. Besides, modern education and the influence of the diverse modern cultures with their glamorous, seemingly sophisticated and advanced elements, has also led to loss of interest and pride by the people in their traditional cultural art and traditions. It may also be added that political upheavals in the state from the 1950’s till date, has been one major stumbling block in the area of preservation and refinement of our cultural heritage.
Inventing Images and Reforming Tribal Religion: Emerging Realities of Frontier state
Like many other tribes of the region the tribes of Arunachal are passing through a phase of transition and undoubtedly Christianity is becoming one of the dominant forms of faith practiced by many tribes of this state, like Adi, Nyishi, Apatani, Galo, Tagin, Wancho, Nokte, Tangsa, Sulung etc. With the emergence of new faiths and practices, new reformist movements rare emerged, which are gradually gaining ground among the tribes in order to protect and preserve their indigenous religious beliefs and practices. Such reformist movements generated new taxonomies, such as, Donipolo, Sanamahi, Sengkhasi etc. And all these have tried to institutionalize tribal religion by inventing images of Gods and Goddesses, constructing temples, textualising religious chants or oral traditions, which are very similar to another major religion called Hinduism. The present paper deals with such images as well as various reformist practices taking examples from various tribes in order to understand the contested domains of religious transformation historically, which ultimately may throw some light on the emerging realities of a frontier state.
Religious Diversity among the Ahoms : Continuity, Assimilation and Revivalism
From the beginning, the Ahoms followed a policy of assimilation. They adopted the Hindu religion and some of their traditional deities came to be identified with other gods and goddesses in the Hindu pantheon.
The Ahoms were influenced by developments in Bhakti movement and their syncretism has resulted in a diversity of religious customs and beliefs among the members of the community. Today one can find Ahoms who are Vaishnavites, Saktas or even Buddhists. Ahoms of a same clan are also found to be following different religious traditions.
Recently one of the Royal Ahom organizations, has claimed that the statute carried by the first Ahom king Sukapha during his migration to Assam was that of Buddha. Such claim is fraught with enormous religious and cultural ramifications.
This paper is an attempt to analyse some cultural practices of Upper Assam with a feminist perspective and based on the assumption that woman is a social construction. A woman is socialized to imbibe certain values, attitudes, behaviour patterns and roles to sustain the existing mainstream of patriarchal system. Attempt shall be made to trace the continuity and change of some of the select cultural practices of Upper Assam, which have a strong bearing on the socialization process of the women of the region.
Manipur is one of the most diverse States, accommodating multiple identities within ‘Manipuri’ society. The articulation of self determination of social groups raises questions of democratic space in the State and in the country manifested in a complex social and political process. This process establishes a link between identity and ethnicity to political and social power. Identity emerges here as a strategy within the frame of change and power relations indicating a multidimensional nature of identity. The process of identity and ethnicity is manifested in oscillation of identity (B.K.Roy Burman in Kabui, 1985) vividly observable among smaller and frontier tribes of the State.
Based on the textual and performative structures of the Ramayana traditions, that were practiced in the Brahmaputra valley between the 14th and 16th centuries, the paper highlights the problems in locating the meaning of gender in the texts/performances in the concept of patriarchy. The paper argues that the problematic of patriarchy is embedded in the various institutions of the society. In other words, there could be problems in any linear co-relation between patriarchy and its various attributes, given that these very attributes could be of practices or institutions other than patriarchy as well. Through the example of the Ramayana traditions, the paper argues that the problem exists in sharper relief in the valley of the period because of the nature/peculiarity of social organization that existed during the period. In conclusion, it is argued that due to this specificity of social formation, approaches other than patriarchy, such as tribe/jati, religion/bhakti, social transformation or polity may be more appropriate to explain the dynamic of gender, both in the texts as well as in the society of the period, than ‘patriarchy’ itself.
Multilingualism is a phenomenon that can be observed in the multi-cultural and multi-lingual contours of North East India. Distinct communities living in close proximity to each other provide excellent examples of cultural communities in socio-cultural domains. The paper will discuss this aspect with special reference to Khasi, Karbi, Tiwa and Marngar communities of Meghalaya and Asam and how multi-lingualism shapes the discourse of these communities.
The history of the formation of the northeastern part of India is linked with the geological formation of the Himalaya. The present site of the Himalaya was flooded by a sea known as the Tethys Sea. The Tethys Sea separated a northern continent of which the Asiatic part is known as Angaraland from a southern continent known as Gondwanaland consisting of India, South Africa, South America, Australia and Antarctica, all joined together. Lower Tertiary is well developed in Assam being represented by the Jaintia Series (Eocene) in the eastern and southern parts of the Shillong Plateau. Disang Series (Upper Cretaceous to Upper Eocene) is found in Upper Assam extending from the Brahamputra Valley into Manipur and beyond. The Jaintia Series consists generally of shale, sandstone and limestone.
Middle Miocene to Lower Pleistocene deposits (the Siwalik System) in Assam are represented by Tipam and Dihing Series, the former extending from the Arakan Coast (sometimes known as Burmese Arc) to Surma Valley and Upper Assam, where these are divisible into a number of series. Structurally and tectonically, the Assam Plateau consists of Pre-Cambrian rocks with a thin mantle of the Tertiary. Systematic mapping programmes of the Geological Survey of India (GSI), Northeastern region during the last two decades has brought to light important archaeological evidences, data on radiometric dating and palynology. Radiocarbon dating of several samples representing various depositional environments throughout NE India, indicate ages from 165±80 B. P. (Modern) to around 40,000 B.P. (Upper Pleistocene).
In short, climatic changes and neotectonics have shaped the present-day Quaternary landscape of the region during the Late Quaternary period. In the historical perspective, a number of archaeological sites have been discovered in almost all the states of NE which throw a flood of light on the cultural evolution from prehistory to history in this part of the country. A tabulated account of these discoveries is presented.
Loin loom weaving was an age old tradition found in the tribal societies of the different corners of the world and found in the north east Indian societies. This knowledge of weaving is considered women’s knowledge in the societies in general and that means that the whole knowledge is learned, shared, practiced, innovated, and inherited by women from one generation to another. This paper will discuss basically culture related practices to loin loom weaving technology, natural fiber, cotton production, and natural dyes.
To safeguard the democratic traditions and cultural diversity of tribal communities of North East India, the Constitution conceived of the instrument of tribal self-rule. This stands embodied in the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution. The effort was to accommodate the collective aspirations of tribal communities within the broader framework of a democratic political system, characterized by centralized powers. The aim of the Sixth Schedule was to protect hill and other tribal communities from the control and power of the groups and the plains. The process of protection began with the formation of the first District Councils in Assam, as far back as 1951. Over the years, these district council areas have grown as habitats of mixed population and their cultural and religious practices, which are also in transition. Non-communities living in these district councils are also demanding various rights over the land as well as political participation. Thus, Sixth Schedule provisions are regarded as a mini-Constitution within the main Constitution. The whole Schedule needs a close look to remove flaws, contradictions and shortcomings. This article is looking on how with the changing time and transition of tribal culture, there is a need of constitutional amendment to strengthen the participatory good governance in the Sixth Schedule areas in North East India. This reorganization of the traditional institution like village council in the light of Gaon Panchayat structure under 73rd constitutional amendment may facilitate grass root level economic development. Thus, the adaptation of changing tribal culture could accommodate to strengthen the governance at the grass root level as well as strengthening the cultural ethos of the tribal communities in the sixth schedule areas.
History writing in India has largely focussed on issues of interest to historians such as state formation, agrarian expansion and political history. However, recent trends in history writing are attempting to move beyond such frontiers into areas unexplored such as environment, gender, military, sexuality, forestry, wildlife, disasters, media, advertisement, etc. This paper is one such attempt to move beyond such boundaries and look at the emergence of a diverse culture on the basis of a unique and diverse environment in the context of the Brahmaputra valley during the pre-Ahom period.
Aiming at moving beyond such scholarship, there is a need for forging alternate tools for understanding and constructing the history of the ancient past of this region, as it has received less attention to explore its archaeological past and is indispensable. A complex agricultural system existed, in a diverse environment, along with communities of shifting and settled cultivators, collectors of wild varieties of plants, hunters and fishermen in the Brahmaputra Valley during the Pre-Ahom Period. An attempt has been made to present environmental diversities on the basis of archaeological findings, textual references, ethnographic records and archaeo-botanical data.
It delves into the problems of history writing, giving due acknowledgement to historians in the past for their pioneering work. However, as a new generation of historians emerges, history writing should also reflect new issues and paradigms and shed its old baggage moving beyond frontiers. The cleavage in history writing would have been better filled if there would have been archaeo-botanical studies conducted in the region and could aid in the pursuit of a new paradigm.
Typologically, the main genres of the pottery of Manipur would include the terracotta ware of Andro, Ningthemcha, Karong, Thongjao, Oinam, and Nungbi. Among these, the pottery of Thongjao is rather distinctive on account of its technique, smooth, lustrous surface contrasted with geometric, textured patterns and, of course, their shapes – their sculpture. Neelmani Devi, a highly talented woman potter from Thongjao, raised the ordinary craft of making pots to the level of an individualistic art form.
Neelmani Devi routinely made and sold her traditional terracotta pots used in everyday life in and around her native village Thongjao until she discovered the surprises behind the accidental smoke stains that emerged on the surface of her pots in the process of firing. The frozen impressions of the moving smoke caught on the surface of her earthenware charmed her beyond limits and she began to manoeuvre and control them to use at will for the desired artistic effect. This speaks of the very fine sensibility and highly innovative tendency in a traditional village potter in whose sociocultural environment the smoke stains are generally to be ignored and if possible avoided.
After marking the pots with a corded wooden beater and drying and burning them fully or partially they are then fired. The first biscuiting is done in a collective firing area. After this, open firing is done at home on a bed of leaves and straw with a covering of ash and hay, leaving an opening for the smoke to escape. Smoke trapped between pots leads to smoke marks which Neelamani Devi manipulated to attain certain aesthetic effects. These pots are generally reddish brown. Over the last four decades, the potters of Thongjao have begun to make black pottery. Here they pace smaller pots, to be blackened completely, inside larger ones and envelope them with straw and husk. The smoke that is fully trapped inside lends a shiny black surface to the pots.
By playing with the trapped smoke and trying to control its unpredictable effects, Neelamani Devi produced a range of pots with mobile smoke marks on them which turned her into a highly talented artist of tremendous aesthetic insight.
India is a multi culture and multi ethnic society. The harmony and the nature of the coherence among the social group always remain and the bonds of togetherness can be traced in some of the tradition like Burunaji, Madalsa-panji, Panji-prabhandha, Kulji, Kulkaris, Pandas, Gyawals in Gaya etc in all parts if India through the centuries. The purposes and objectives for such documents might be varied for obvious reasons. Right from the seventh to eighteenth century AD, there are a huge number of historical biographies, chronicles and genealogy of commoners and rulers that may be seen as the supporting material for tracing out the India’s economic, social and cultural history. Moreover, Kalhana’s Rajatarangni, written in 12th century Kashmir, is a remarkable piece of historical literature. Despite his lapses into myths and legends, Kalhana had an unbiased approach to historical facts and history writings. He held that true historians, while recounting the events of the facts, must discard love (raga) and hatred (dvesa). Invading Ahom rulers in Assam and the Karnata rulers of Mithila and Sen Rulers in Bengal altered the existing social structure of the society.
The presentation will briefly discuss the notions of tradition of maintaining archives in the form of genealogical records and chronicles. An effort has been made to find out the common elements among them and the impact of the imposition of such system on society.
North East India is commonly conceived of as the land of eight Sister states, namely, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim. The land is considered by many scholars as a cultural corridor between India and South East Asia and has a tremendous strategical importance, not only because of its geography but also because of its history, demography and culture.
North East India provides shelter to numerous populations of various ethnic affiliations having different social structures and cultural heritages.
From the ethnic point of view, the people of North East India may be divided into two broad groups: the “Indid” and the “Mongoloid”, “Indid” group mostly comprises the Hindu castes and the Muslims, who may be considered as Caucasic in origin, while the “Mongoloid” group includes the various tribes, both hill and plains and also other Mongoloid populations that have not been referred to as tribes. Prior to these two ethnic groups, representatives of another ethnic group called Australoid also came to these regions. Perhaps the Mongoloid groups have completely absorbed this autochthonous population of this region. In Vedic literature – there is mention of Nisadas, Sabaras, Pulindas (for the Australoids) and Kiratas (for the Mongoloids).
It is generally agreed that the Mongoloids, mentioned as Kiratas in ancient Vedic literature, once occupied practically the whole of the north-eastern region. It has, for instance, been surmised that long ago one section of the Indo-Mongoloids, namely, the Bodo speakers, spread over the whole of the Brahmaputra Valley, North Bengal as well as East Bengal (now Bangladesh), giving rise to various groups whom we know to-day as Bodo-Kachari, Garo, Hajong, Tripuri etc. (Chatterjee, 1957: 27-28). The diverse Mongoloid groups, which eventually settled down in different habitats and ecological settings of North East India, thus crystallized into discrete entities.
In the present paper, discussions have been confined mainly to the Mongoloid population of the region. Further, the discourse has been delimited to the ethnological, linguistic, mythological and historical aspects of the population. Biological variations and the process of micro-evolution operating on various groups have not been brought within the purview of the discussion. Relative emphasis in the paper has been laid on tracing the origin and affinity of the different groups in folk narratives prevalent among the communities.
A Reflection of the Enduring Pottery Traditions of the Nagas
In this paper a regional approach has been adopted with the aim of understanding pottery making as one kind of material culture which could apply to the past as well as to the present where the continuity of ceramics right from the remote past to the present not only reflects the human needs but embodies a concrete expression of human ideas, and actions/function at a given time.
PURVOTTARI - Spirit of the North-East
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