The most beautiful Holi of Barpeta Satra, Assam

The title talks about the famous festival of colors. Holi is celebrated across India. What is so special about it? What encouraged me to write (about this) on Ghumakkar? The list is long but broadly I wanted share on this platform of Ghumakkars, since it may turn out to be a great part of someone’s travel to Assam during the Holi (which falls in the month of march). This year the festival of Holi at Barpeta was celebrated from 4th March to 8th March 2015. I hope some of you can catch it the next year for some memories for a lifetime.

Like the rest of the country, Holi is also colorfully celebrated by the people of Assam. It just gets more tremendous an occasion for the people of Barpeta. In Barpeta, the festival is called ‘Fakuwa’ or ‘Doul Mahotsav’. It is a festival of happiness. During this festival, the people of Barpeta forget their sorrow and agonies. They celebrate this festival with traditional gaiety and enthusiasm.

Background of the festival:
Barpeta is a small town of lower Assam, 100 KM west of Guwahati, the state capital. Barpeta is the hub of “vaisnavate” culture of Assam. All traditions and culture are based on the 600 years old vaisnavate philosophy and surrounded by 550 years old vasnavate monasteries of barpeta called ‘Barpeta Satra’ (सत्र, अधिवेशन). Barpeta town is always referred to as the Dwarka and Mathura of Assam. Barpeta Satra is also called Ditiya Vaikuntha Puri (the second abode of Vishnu, the second heaven). At Barpeta Satra, Mathura Das Bura Ata ( 1st Satradhikar- head of Satra institution, the monastery) first celebrated Doul festival in the model of Vaikuntha (heaven) because Holi was first celebrated in the heavens by Sri Krishna. Thereafter, Doul festival is celebrated with Satriya parampara (traditionally) till today at Barpeta Satra.

About the celebration:
The Doul festival is celebrated for 3 to 5 days. The 3-day Doul is called “Burha Doul” and four or five days Doul is called “Deka Doul”. Burha Doul fall in the Assamese month of ‘Chaitra purnima’ (2nd half of march- full moon) and Deka doul fall in the Assamese month of ‘Fagun Purnima’ (1st half of march – full moon). All 3 to 5 day festivals basically celebrate the wedding ceremony of Sri Krishna and Rukmini. The first day is called Gandha. It’s just like the engagement ceremony or jaimala reception of the traditional marriage ceremony. In the day time, the idol of Koilababa (Sri Krishna’s local name) and Rukmini is brought out from the prayer hall (manikut). They are made to wear new clothes and ornaments, just like an engagement ceremony. After that Koilababa and Rukmini are brought near Meji (meji is bonfire, same as the Holika dahan of North India) and after alighting the meji, Koilababa takes seven rounds around it. It is called meji puoa or magh puoa.

Bonfire

Bonfire

People believe that, that the winters are on their way out. Atachbaji (Fireworks) or Phanuch (flying lanten) are the main attractions of Gandha. All firecrakers are locally made and have a huge demand across the country.

The Fireworks

The Fireworks

Koilababa is then brought to Jagmohan Ghar (a special house) after Meji Puoa and on a sacred moment in the night Koilababa is brought to Doul Ghar in a special walk of seven steps (Sapta Thak) while the people of Barpeta sing the holigeets (holi songs) with great enthusiasm – making the scene as perfect as that of a jaimala. The bride and the groom are kept there for the people to come and take blessings from.

Koilababa

Koilababa

The second day is called Bhar Doul. which always falls on the fullmoon day (starting from the first day of the full moon, the celebrations may continue to 2nd or 3rd depend on days of festivals). These days are celebrated traditionally and Koilababa and Rukmini remain on the Doul for public blessings.

In front of the Namghar

In front of the Namghar

My attire

My attire

Playing holigeet

Playing holigeet

The last day is called Phakua or Suweri. This is the day for people to play with colour and roam around the town. There is no end of joy for anyone. People of every age and gender celebrate with the same joy and fervour. If you are a tourist and not playing holi, people will not throw a single drop of water to you. Women are treated with utmost respect and no one throws colour on any women if they don’t play holi.

Gahe

Gahe

In the evening, Koilababa and Rukmini are brought down from the Doul and taken out in a beautifully designed asana, or you can say dola. People take them for full seven rounds of the Namaghar, like the saat-phere of a hindu marriage. After completion of the seventh round, Koilababa and Rukmini are taken back to their original place in Manikut (inside the prayer hall). After that the Daba (a big drum) beats 108 times and thus ends this famous Doul festival of Barpeta.

Gahe 1

Gahe

Gahe 2

Gahe

It is very difficult to capture all the joy in a single write-up, if you visit you can feel the joy of Holi – a somewhat different festival of India. This was just a brief description about the festival, not a usual journey. Mostly on Holi, one sees Holika-dahan and the colour play, but in Barpeta, you get to see a very thick streak of pure joy with colour. Next year Holi will be celebrated between 21 to 23rd March, 2016.

Travel trip :

Barpeta is well connected by National Highway 37 and State Highway from Guwahati. It is around 100 KM from Guwahati (two and a half hour journey). Guwahati is very well connected by air and rail. Nearest Railway station is Barpeta Road (18KM), where all trains may not stop, but you can look for “New Bangaigaon” station (56KM), where every train stops. March is moderate temperature and good enough for the celebration.

10 Comments

  • Uday Baxi says:

    Dear Anjan

    An excellent write-up. Nice to know about a festival of Assam. After going through the festivity involved, it felt as if a cultural mix of various strains while retaining the local influence.

    Please keep writing more often and tell more of such tales.

    Regards

    • anjan says:

      Thanks Uday.. There are lots of colorful festivals in North-east. which are either not explore or not known to outside of NE… will try to bring some other colorful festivals of NE to ghumakkar.

  • Santanu says:

    Dear Anjan,
    A nice report with lovely pictures. I stayed in Tinsukia, Upper Assam for as long as 7 years during 90’s enjoying every festival and religious events. Holi used to be practiced over there in the typical North Indian way. Your travelogue nicely described the practice followed in Lower Assam. Thank you.
    Regards
    Santanu

    • anjan says:

      Thanks Santanu.. there are lots of difference in between upper Assam and lower Assam. In terms of Holi, Barpeta is different with all areas… Tinisukia is pro-dominated by North Indian people, so the festivals is turn just as a color festivals, but at Barpeta, it is a tradition.

  • Archana Ravichander says:

    Very colorful post Anjan.
    I like Holi a lot. It is about people, the colors and the fun that makes it a truly enjoyable festival.
    To learn about the celebration of Holi in a smaller town like Barpeta Satra is nice. Thanks for the wonderful insight.

    Best,
    Archana

    • anjan says:

      Thanks Archana for beautiful coment… There are lots of thing in may places in India, which we don’t know or we may not fortunate to enjoy…

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Thank you Anjan for sharing this beautiful tale. It is a FOG (First on Ghumakkar) because I do not remember any other story on Barapet and the colourful festival.

    Interestingly two years back, during March we were visiting Assam and were in Kaziranga on the day of the festival. Then we travelled to Majoli and had a good time there but we didn’t see any big festivities. Some of the stuff which you mention (like Satras, Namaghar etc) seem to have a connect with Majoli.

    Ram Dhall wrote a beautiful log on our travel – http://www.ghumakkar.com/majuli-the-island-of-dancing-monks/

    Please read when your time allows and thanks again.

    • anjan says:

      Hi Nandan… Thanks for your beautiful comment. Barpeta is comparing with Dwarka and mathura, as a deity of karishna… Yes, you are right.. Majuli is a hub of Satra … The Vaisnavate philosopher and reformer of Assam, Srimanta Sankardeva initiate the concept of Satra and Namghar… Holi is play across India on the day of march fullmoon just as an colour festivals, but only in Barpeta is celebrate different way. So, you not get any such thing in your visit to majuli… There are lots of things to write about Barpeta Satra… i will write again whenever i get time…

      Thanks again for suggesting majuli post…

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