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  • Ishita Bhagwati

Assam, My Homeland

"Ö mür apünar dex

Ö mür sikuni dex

Enekhon xuwola, enekhon xuphola

Enekhon moromor dex"


Even if you do not know Assamese, I would still love to see you trying to pronounce the words above. Whenever I hear the word “Assam '' I get so excited as it is my homeland. The lines you saw earlier are the first paragraph of the Assamese State Anthem. This paragraph basically shows your love for your motherland, addressing it as ‘Dex’ which means ‘desh’ in Hindi and meaning ‘country’ in English. What I love about this anthem is that it brings out not only the Assamese in me but also the Indian spirit in me. This urged me to tell you readers about the amazing culture of Assam.


Whenever I visit Assam, I love to eat their traditional dishes. Assam has many dishes using fish as it has the Brahmaputra river giving it access to many river fishes. One of my favorites is the ‘Masor Tenga’. ‘Maas’ means fish and ‘Tenga’ means sour from the lemons in it. This reminds me, the lemons of Assam are very different from the ones in Bombay! In Bombay, we have round lemons but over there, it is oval and long. The ones in Assam taste so different and better in my opinion. My mom always takes a bunch of these lemons back to Mumbai as we do not get them here. Do not worry, even vegetarians can enjoy the lemons of Assam with ‘Boror tenga’ which is like ‘pakodas’ in a nice sour curry. We cook these delicacies at home, but nothing can ever truly replace the comfort of eating them in Assam.


Assam is more of a rice state than roti or paratha. I do not think I ever had roti in Assam for lunch or dinner. I love having ‘Aloo Pitika’. This is a very simple yet genius dish. It is made of boiled potatoes which are crushed and mixed with mustard oil, onions, chili and other spices. This elevates any rice and dal dish, especially a khichdi. If you have not tried it yet, then I definitely recommend you to do so.


Now, let us talk a bit about the culture of Assam. In the picture of this article, you see a hat which we call ‘Jaapi’. This is a field hat that is used by farmers to protect them from the harsh weather, both sun and rain, while working in the field. The jaapi is a conical hat made of bamboo and covered with dried tokou (a palm tree found in rainforests of Upper Assam) leaves.

Beside this hat, you will notice a cloth with red coloured designs. This is one of the most important trademarks of Assamese culture. It is what we call a ‘gamosa’. Gamosa means a cloth to wipe one’s body. It is used as a towel, but not the ones to use when having a bath of course, it is used for very special occasions while felicitating someone. Nowadays, no public function in Assam can commence without the guest first being felicitated by the gamosa.


Another trademark of Assam would be a ‘Xorai’. This can be found in every Assamese household.While it is primarily used as an offering tray during prayers, or to serve tamale-paan (betel-nut) to guests, a xorai is also presented along with the jaapi and gamosa while felicitating someone.


In the picture, you may see a lady dancing in front of a man who is playing an instrument. The instrument is what we call a ‘Pepa’ It is made of a buffalo horn. It is played in our dance celebrations. Unfortunately, the buffalo population is dwindling gradually in Assam due to shrinking pastoral lands. Therefore, the cost of a pepa in the market has increased and even reached ₹2500 in recent years.


Now, the dance the lady is doing is yet another trademark of Assam. The dance is called ‘Bihu’. I had even once learnt it when I was small. You always wear a Mekhla Chador (Assamese dress) which is red and beige while doing Bihu in a function. Bihu is not only a dance but is also a name given to the three most famous festivals in Assam. ‘Rongali Bihu’, ‘Kati Bihu’ and ‘Bhogali Bihu’. These festivals represent the new year of Assam, the prayer for the harvest to be successful and the harvesting period of Assam respectively.


I could go on and on about Assam but it would still be less to describe this beautiful place. I hope you visit Assam and get a chance to observe at least one of the things I mentioned above. Believe me, it is worth it.



Bibliography:

  1. n.a. “Explained: The significance of jaapi, xorai and gamosa in Assam poll battle” The Indian Express. n.d. Web. 8 Jul, 2022. <https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/explained-the-significance-of-jaapi-xorai-and-gamosa-in-assam-poll-battle-7236796/>



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