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Sonowal kacharis


Sonowal Kacharis :

The Sonowal Kacharis are one of the scheduled Bodo tribes (plains) of Assam. They are concentrated monthly in the districts of Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, Golaghat, Jorhat Lakhimpur, Dhemaji and Sivasagar. Their population is estimated around 2 lakh. This figure includes other Kacharis such as the 'Thengal Kacharis' in the Jorhat District. The origin of the term 'Kachari' is very difficult to trace and the term seems to be unknown to the people themselves. The Sonowal Kacharis are a branch of Bodo Kacharis of Assam. It is said that during the reign of the Ahom king some of the Kacharis were engaged in washing gold particles from the sands of river and therefore the prefix 'Sonowal' (Gold washer), was added to signify them. According to an anecdote, the Kacharis of upper Assam who became the disciple of 'Gossian' (a religious head) named 'Kechaideo' were considered to have super-natural power of offering a certain quantity of gold in a bamboo tube while the Ahom king Godadhar Singha was on the throne and these people came to be known as Sonowal Kacharis.

They believe that they were the descendants of great Bhaskar Barma, Norakasur, Ban, Bhagadutta, Harimba, Ghototkas, Bhim, Prohlad and Bali. Although it is not definitely known about the origin of Sonowal Kacharis, yet it can be assumed that their ancestors were 'Manik-Mukuta'.

The Sonowal Kacharis have seven clans called 'Khel'. The clans are exogamous. They are, 'Balikhitiari', 'Chiripuria', 'Dhulial', 'Amarabamiya', 'Ujani-Kuchiya', Namoni-Kuchiya' and 'Tipamiya'. These clans are again subdivided in to fourteen sub-clans. They are 'Hagral', 'Muktal', 'Madan','Manikiyal', 'Ahmal', 'Formal', 'Borttajoal', 'Saru Hazowal', 'Kumral', 'Dhekial', Oingial', 'Lothial', 'Dangral' and 'Chetial'.

The Sonowals were offered non-tribal titles like Saikia, Bora, Hazarika, in their process of assimilation with the non-tribal people, specially during the Ahom rule. The Sonowals at present have no dialect of their own. All the people speak Assamese language. Of course still they use some tribal names such as 'Gossain', 'Baitha', 'Gojai', 'Khiring Raja', 'Kechaideo' etc.


Economy:
Agriculture is the main occupation of the Sonowal Kacharis. They are mostly cultivators, so, their economy mainy base on agriculture. Every family has sufficient land for agriculture. At least one grannary is seen in every house. They practise both 'Ahu' and 'Sali' paddy. Besides paddy, they raise mustard seeds, potatoes, pulses, ginger, beans, sweetgourds, chillies, pumpkins, water melons, cucumbers etc. They are also good horticulturists.

The poultry is a very popular practice among Sonowal Kacharis. They rears hens and ducks. Cattle rearing is also an another important practice among them. Weaving is an important household industry for every family. Not a single family is found without a loom Grown up girls and women are very expert weavers and most of the domestic requirements such as bed-cover mekhela, chadar, gamocha etc are met from the family looms.

However besides agriculture, some of the people have been engaged in service and in different kinds of business. At present they are also advanced in professional education like medical, engineering, law etc.

The poultry is a very popular practice among Sonowal Kacharis. They rears hens and ducks. Cattle rearing is also an another important practice among them. Weaving is an important household industry for every family. Not a single family is found without a loom Grown up girls and women are very expert weavers and most of the domestic requirements such as bed-cover mekhela, chadar, gamocha etc are met from the family looms.

However besides agriculture, some of the people have been engaged in service and in different kinds of business. At present they are also advanced in professional education like medical, engineering, law etc.


Housing Pattern
The design of the house of the Sonowal Kachari people are like on-tribal house in rural areas of Assam. Generally their house are made of some materials like bamboo, wood etc. The granary is generally constructed in a corner in front of the house. They also construct separate sheds for cattle and poultry.

Food Habit
Rice is the staple food of the Sonowal Kacharis. Their delicious food is fish, mutton and chicken. All kinds of vegetables and pulses are included in their daily food. They use rice-beer occasionally. Formerly they offered rice beer to the guests as a mark of honour. But now a days tea is offered to the guests. Besides tea, betel-leaves and nut are common items which precede or follow the cup of tea. They take 'Komol Chaul', 'Hurung', Borachaul, Chira as their Jalpan (tiffin).

Dress Habit
Sonowal Kacharis prefer to use their traditional dress, which are woven by the women folk in their looms. The man generally wears a 'dhuti' and a 'kurta'. The young generation now-a-days wears 'trousers' and 'shirts'. The married women as a customary practice used three pieces of clothes viz, Mekhela Riha and Chadar. There is no restriction of dresses in case of unmarried girls and boys and they are found to have used modern dresses.

Ornaments
The women of Sonowal Kacharis are very fond of ornaments and they still put on their traditional ornaments like Gamkharu, Keru, Thuria, Dugdugi, Kankong, Biri etc. Now a days, the women start to use all modern ornaments which are available in the markets.

Marriage Systems
Monogramy is the most popular form of marriage but acquiring more than one wives is permissible if the first wife gives her consent to it due to some reasons. The practice of inter-caste marriage is not rare. Though this system of marriage is generally not supported by the parents yet it is seen that there is no hard and fast rule regarding this matter.
In case, a Sonowal Kachari girl marries a boy of other caste then their society accepted them easily. Now-a-days bride-price among Sonowal Kacharis is not accepted. In the present day society, five type of marriages are performed among them. These are (1) Santi Biya, (2) Nowa Dhowa or Borbiya, (3) Hom Diya Biya, (4) Gandharba Biya and (5) Rabha Sarkai Diya Biya.


RELIGIOUS LIFE
The Sonowal Kacharis are Hindus. They are basically followers of 'Mohapurushia Baisvan Dharma'. Maximum numbers of Sonowal are the disciples of 'Auniati Satra'. A few Sonowal Kacharis of Lakhimpur district who owe allegiance to the 'Checha Satra'. There are two broad religious divisions namely 'Sarania' and 'Bhajania'. The Sonowal Kacharis belong to dual religious system, e.g. 'Kiratadharma' and 'New-Vaisnavism'.

RELIGIOUS PRACTICES :
There are to kinds of worship, e.g. community and household. The people worship a large number of deities. To maintain peace in the family they held household deities and community worship for the welfare of the villagers. They practice the 'Baitha', 'Bagh puza', 'Gajoi Bhoj', 'Bator Sabad', 'Lakhimi tola Sabah', 'Gyati guri Sabah, Gupini Sabah, Chengeli machar Bhoj, Bahoor Utowa, Kechaikhati puza etc. some of the household rituals are like 'Ancestors Worship', 'Apeswara Sabah', 'Lakhimi Mota', 'Swaragdeo puza', 'Jalasa Dangoria', etc. Again among them there are some rituals which are held as both household and community worship such as 'Aai Sakam' 'Garakhia Sabah' etc.

ANCESTORS WORSHIP :
The Sonowal Kachari community held ancestors worship because they believe that the welfare of living depend upon the welfare of the dead. So, they worship the dead ancestors. The ancestor worship has five forms such a s'Nadit pinda diya', (offering of cakes in the river), 'Pirdiya', 'Marakdiya', 'Burapooha' and 'Chaulkhowa'.`

NAMDHARMA :
The founder of 'Namdharma' is a Vaishnava saint Mahapurush Sankardeva. New Vaishnavism is known as the 'Ek Sarania Namdharma'. According to 'Namdharma' there is only one God known as Vishnu. Sonowal Kachari people accepted new-vaishnavism' long ago and began to follow the principle of the 'Namdharma', Namghar (prayer hall) is religious institution where public prayer is held.

FESTIVALS :
Bihu is the main festival of the Sonowal Kacharis. They consider Bihu as their traditional community festival. There are three Bihus in a year. There are Bohag Bihu, Magh Bihu and Kati Bihu.

FOLKLORES DNA FOLKSONGS
Sonowal Kcharis have a very rich stream of culture which flourished through generations. They have a lot of folklores and folksongs which are associated with their rites, customs, etc. These folklores and folksongs are mainly divided in to two categories. The songs presented by men are called 'Geet' and the songs presented by women are called 'Nam'. Prominent 'Geets' of the Sonowal Kacharis are - (1) Haidang Geet, (2) Husori Geet, (3) Dhani Nam, (4) Biya Nam, (5) Gossain Nam, (6) Lakhimi Nam, (7) Aai Nam, (8) Apeswari Nam.

FOLKLORES DNA FOLKSONGS
Sonowal Kcharis have a very rich stream of culture which flourished through generations. They have a lot of folklores and folksongs which are associated with their rites, customs, etc. These folklores and folksongs are mainly divided in to two categories. The songs presented by men are called 'Geet' and the songs presented by women are called 'Nam'. Prominent 'Geets' of the Sonowal Kacharis are - (1) Haidang Geet, (2) Husori Geet, (3) Dhani Nam, (4) Biya Nam, (5) Gossain Nam, (6) Lakhimi Nam, (7) Aai Nam, (8) Apeswari Nam.

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