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H U C H O R I
A Must for The Masses

by Babul Tamuli


Rongali Bihu, celebrated in this land of immense natural beauty since time immemorial is the national festival of Assam. With fun and frolic, joy and merriment,this colourful festival is a conglomeration of various cultural entities such as Mukali Bihu, Maiki Bihu or Jeng Bihu, Phat Bihu, Rati Bihu, Huchori, etc. With theirown styles and forms, they have their own traditional nuances and significance.

Huchori is an integral part of Rongali Bihu. Choral parties of singers and dancers moving from house to house is a salient feature of Rongali Bihu. These choralparties known as Huchori parties are comprises only of man. Woman does not take part in Huchori. It is a sacred institution and free from all kinds of social taboos. Moving from house to house, Huchori parties wish for a good health and wealth to every member of a family at the onset of a new Assamese year.

The seven-day-long Rongali Bihu festivities begin with Goru Bihu on the last day (Sankranti) of the month of Sot (March-April). In the agrarian society, cattle are regarded as a part of the family. Therefore, the festival starts with adoring this useful pet. Giving a ceremonial bath to the cattle in the morning of Goru Bihu, the agrarian community prepares for a new agricultural year. Throwing bottle-gourd, brinjal, turmeric, etc. on the cattle, the village people wish for their long lives. The animals are also struck with the springs of makhilati, dighalati, nahar, etc. with the expectation that the practice will heal the cattle of all their diseases. In the evening, when the cattle return to their respective houses, they are offered chira (flattened rice), pithas (rice-cakes), powdered rice and other delicacies. The cattle are then tied with new ropes.

On the Goru Bihu night, the menfolk of the villages gather at the Namghar (prayer house) to start Huchori. As mentionedabove, womenfolk has no part to play in Huchori. The choral party, Huchori, is generally started from the house of the village headman who occupied a respectablestatus in the village. Then praising, chanting, singing and dancing, the Huchori party moves from house to house irrespective of caste, creed and social status.

Beating dhol (drum) at the gate of the house, the Huchori party informs the family about its arrival. The family then welcomes the party with a sarai. At thecourtyard the party starts Huchori chanting slogan for the welfare of the family. Then the members of the group make a circle taking main singer at the centre.The main singer then starts Huchori songs and other members of the group follow him. Singing songs, dancing to the tune of drum and cymbals they chant slogansat regular intervals. When concluded, they sit in the courtyard in the shape of an are. Wrapping gamocha around the neck, the members of the family then kneel infront of the Huchori party with a donation and a pair of betel nut and leaf in a sarai. Accepting the donation offered, the Huchori party blesses for a good healthto every member of the family, plenty production of crops in the field, fish in the ponds and cattle in the cowshed.

There is no limitation of the number of members participating in a Huchori party. A group of ten to 25 youths of equal age generally comprise a Huchori party.Each member of a party wears traditional Assamese dress, that is, cotton suria down to the knee, muga tunic, Bihuwan in the waist, chador over the body andturban on the head. They also carry a staff, a bag, an umbrella and a lamp. Various musical instruments such as dhol (drum), taal (cymbals), pepa (horn pipe), taka(bamboo clapper) are used by a Huchori party. As woman does not participate in Huchori, therefore, gagana (jewharp), a common Bihu musical instrument, is notused in Huchori.

Huchori songs are the most distinctive type of folk-songs of Assam and form an integral part in Assamese lyrical poetry. Like the Bihu songs, Huchori songs arealso immensely popular in Assamese society. But apart from their tune and rhythm, there are a number of fundamental differences between the two types of songs.The Bihu songs are basically a kind of love songs. There is a spontaneous expression of love, description of beauty and adoration of beloved in the Bihu songs.Love and beloved’s beauty is the central theme in many Bihu songs. But the Huchori songs are completely free from any erotic expression. They are a kind ofdevotional songs full of high spiritual and moral values. Humourical lyrics and ballads popular in Assamese society such as pagala-parbatir geet, Phulkonwarargeet, Manikonwarar geet, etc. are also sung as Huchori songs. With a certain code and conduct, Huchori is free from any kind of obscenity and vulgarity.

There is a division of opinions among the scholars regarding the origin of Huchori. According to a number of scholars, the term Huchori is derived from the word‘Huchari’ as Hu means ‘chanting’, cha means ‘blessing’ and ri means ‘exciting’. Another group of scholars opined that the term ‘Huchori’ is the crude form of theDimasa word ‘Hachori’ which means ‘moving over the land’. Many researchers try to correlate it with ‘Chandlana Puja’ prevalent in the Bodo community of lowerAssam. Though its origin is still shrouded in mystery, it is evident that the tradition of Huchori is closely associated with Rongali Bihu since its very beginning.Initially, Huchori was displayed only on the streets. People came to the gate of their houses and sought blessings from the Huchori. During the Ahom regime,Huchori got royal patronage and entered the royal palace to please the king. With passage of time, it came to the courtyards of every family. In the rapidlychanging world, the village-based Bihu has now been transformed into a city-based cultural extravaganza. Consequently, Huchori also lost its original colour andhas become an inordinate fanfare on the stage. But to preserve our cultural identity, it is our bounden duty to conserve the tradition of Huchori in its originalform.

Coutesy: The Assam Tribune (2002)

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