Culture and Tradition
The Economy of Assam is largely dependent upon rural economy. Hand loom, handicraft, pottery, rice cultivation etc play a significant role. Salmora village of Majuli is one of the classic example where almost the entire community practices contemporary pottery. If you are traveling to Majuli, you must visit this place to witness their skillful hands working wonders.
Majuli is the largest inhabited river island of the world. The people of this island are entirely dependent upon water transport system (specially during the summers). During winters as the water level of river Bramhaputra goes down a few areas of the island become connectable through roadways. Small ships and boats carry almost everything during the summers. Its a one of its kind of experience that a traveler must enjoy during his/her visit to Assam.
There is a famous quote by father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi- " Assamese women weave dreams"- and Suwalkuchi is the place where it all started. Silk Industry of Assam is world famous and Assam Silk products have occupied a large international market across the globe. A large community in Assam is entirely dependent upon this industry as waving is in the blood of Assamese Women.
Assam is proud to have many unique traditional practices, whether it is related to culture, religion, art and craft or economy. Assam Mobile Theater is one of such industries. The whole crew along with mobile theater pandal and all necessary light/sound/set/support stuff/audience sitting arrangements move from one place to another to conduct commercial dramas. They perform non-stop for 8 months a year and its probably still the largest entertainment industry of Assam
New Vaishnavism culture is one of the inseparable part of history and culture of Assam. Lard Sri Shankar Deva once started this religious and cultural practice in 13th Century, many head monks (Satradhikar) are running this practice throughout the state. There are a lots of Monasteries (Satras)in all over Assam and Majuli is the hub of this cultural practice. in the image I photographed the head monk (satradhikar) of New Kamalabari Monastery (Notun Kamalabari Satra) once I had the honour to be a guest of his holiness.
As a regular practice the Namoi (One who leads the morning prayers)starts prasanga ( a kind of prayer) in every morning and evening having his body covered with only one cloth (whether it is winter or summer). Morning Prasanga is the time when a monastery wakes up and starts its regular daily life. As a traveler one has to have time in hand to witness this amazing practices.
The kewolia Bhakats (young monks) follow the prayer by reading prayers from old Sanchi manuscripts, which is a specially developed instrument from the barks of Sanchi tree and preserved for from centuries in various monasteries of Assam. The morning hours in a Monastery witness a large number of traditional and cultural practices.
Dakhin pat Satra of Majuli is one of the classic examples of Satria culture who follows idol worship. Most of the Satras (monasteries)follow practice of worshiping kirtan Ghosha (the holy book written by Lord Shankardeva) as symbol of god kept in the manikut (the central place). it is believed that the Dakhin Pat Satr is carrying these Idols from centuries. Dakhin Pat Satra was established by Satradhikar Sri Vanamalidev in 1584. It was said that Ahom kings had special interest towards this satra and hence it is one of the richest satras of Assam.
Most of the Satras in Assam are very old and respective royal families were close followers of them. The history of Assam have seen many battles including the Burmese monarch. And as a result of that many satras and temples have lost their valuable properties. But there are a few still carrying the ancient glories, and the hatisatra of Suwalkuchi is one of them. The silver lamp stands of the satra remind the glorious days of satria culture in Assam.
Lord Sri Sankar Deva had started many cultural practices, associating them with New Vaishnavism. His close followers have been consistently practicing and working with many. Mask making of Samaguri Satra of majuli is one of them. These hand made masks are used to perform Ankia Bhawna (dramatic performance of various mythological stories associated with Hindi epics Mahabharata and Ramayana). Now Masks of majuli (popularly known) have reached the global stages thanks to the untiring efforts of many contributors.
69% of total population of Assam (2001) is primarily dependent upon Agriculture. In this backdrop of agrarian economy, cottage industry plays an important role in contributing towards local economy. Bell and Brass metal industries are two of them. Hajo and Sarthebari are two places where these industries still have a very wide employment of local people. Bell metal industry has a history of many hundred years, but Brass metal industry started since the settlement of Muslim Marias who were caught as war prisoners in the war at Kaliabar (Nagaon) between general Turbak and Ahom King Suhungmung in 1532.
Assam is predominantly a fish eating state with over 90% of its population consumes fish. With this huge percentile of population, it has a wide market of indigenous fish. There are lots of fishing communities across the state who do this practice as living. But apart from them the entire rural population practices various kinds of traditional and modern fishing practices as their day to day livelihood practice.
Assam is a land of vivid culture and traditions. It has more than 18 major ethnic tribal groups consisting more than 13% of the total population of the state. Bodo is one of the largest of such groups. There are not enough conclusive evidences available to establish the origin of this tribe. Though some author believes them to be from Tibet,but ancient mythological books have mentioned them as Kiratas. The present large Assamese community is incomplete without this tribe and their vivid contribution towards the formation of the entire NE region.
Various forms of tourism and its immense scope in Assam, make this state a paradise for travelers. A large portion of the Assamese community is dependent upon this tourism industry. House-boat tourism in Dibrusaikhowa is one of such classic examples. In these house boats one can enjoy a night or two's stay amidst the nature watching the nature in its true colours.