Assam is the habitation of various tribal communities. Almost all of them have certain culture and tradition and they develop it in their own and unique style. They have a great contribution towards the making and well-being of Assamese culture.
Deori, Bodo, Mishing, Kachari , Rabha are some major inhabitants of the land. Deori community has a notable culture and tradition which is a hidden treasure for the sociologists.
The Deoris represent the class “priest”-a section of the whole Chutia community. In the first two decades of 13th century, before arrival of the Ahom, Name SADIYA. Chutias are the tribal of Tibet-Burmese.
In the first decades of 16th century Ahom invaded Chutia’s empire and captured their state. Some of the Chutia people fled away to avoid terrorism but some of them managed to keep marital relationship with the Ahoms.
There are four major classes of Chutias. They are: Hindu, Ahom, Barahi & Deori. The main and important class of them is Deori. Some people use to say that the very life-style of the Deori are the same as it was in 14th century. From this point one can imagine how much they try hard to maintain their own cult and tradition. According to Mr. Brown, they preserve their language, religion, customs, traditions, rituals, habits unchanged before the invasion of Ahoms. Deoris were living in the riverside of Kundil in ancient Sodiya, accordinvg to the Census Report of 1901. The Deori community has firm-faith in God and always prays with great humility and reverence.
The Deoris proudly introduce themselves as Jimo-Chhayan, meaning they are the children of the sun and the moon. In fact, Deoris were respected among the tribal communities as priests or worshippers, even after the annexation of the Chutiya Kingdom by the Ahom King Suhungmung in 1523 AD. Chutiya families were dispatched into various places by the Ahom king as a state policy, but the Deoris continued their positions in the shrines of Sadiya and nearby areas with royal Ahom patronage.
But, History is, however, silent about the Deoris, except for a handful of thinkers. Deori people's dresses, folk-dance, religious practices and other traditions and culture differ from those of the Chutiya community. No people speak the Deori language and no single Deori word is found to be used among the Chutiyas. N Deori Boruah says the term 'Deori' is used to designate the recognized minister of religion throughout the Bodo races, and this points out to the fact that they are essentially what indeed their name implies; a Levite or priestly body, and one who in earlier days possessed large influence.
As there is lack of scientific study about the indigenous tribes of the State, one cannot find a general acceptable term on the Deoris. Again, history books mention that the Deoris faced a serious crisis from 1794 AD for which the Moamoria rebellion widely spread up to Sadiya and the Ahom monarchy gradually declined. Then the Khamtis, who were Buddhists, occupied Sadiya from the Ahoms and as a consequence, the Deoris were stopped from making human sacrifice in the Tamreswari temple. They lost their support from the Ahom kings and felt insecure due to the Khamtis who killed chief priest Kendukolai Bor Deori in the temple. Without royal patronage, they had no resources to repair the Tamreswari and other temples of the region that were damaged in natural calamities like earthquakes. So, in 1800 AD, when the Ahoms re-occupied Sadiya, the Deoris had already left Sadiya for the Choikhowa area.
Bishnu Rabha says `Kundil' is a two-phase word Kundi meaning God and la denoting place, according to the Chutiyas. So, Kundil ignifies the place where God is omnipotent. Archeologists believe the relics of Malini Than in the border area of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh are of the ancient Bidarbha Kingdom. One English scholar discovered a fort, some broken bricks and a tank there, some 25 miles from Sadiya. But it has created confusion among the historians, because no reliable ancient document exists on the original place of the community. Obviously, without proper investigation and systematic study they have done some work.
In this connection, WB Brown says: "In the upper ward of Sadiya, Deoris lived here originally and before first century they came there to inhabit the area. The people are generally called Deoris simply; the language is more properly known as Chutiya. The Chutiya language indeed, may fairly claim to be the original language of upper Assam." Gait says,"the traditional rulers of Assam do not profess to be at all exhaustive. Religious books and other old writings contain lists of many other kings, but it is impossible to say if they are genuine, and if so', who the kings were and where they reigned; and to refer to them at length would be a waste of time and space.
The dynasties mentioned above are those that are best known and although a great part of the stories told of them may be fictitious, it is probable that there is nevertheless a basis of actual fact."
The Deoris are believed to have come to Sadiya before the first century. Up to the 4th century AD was the 'pre-history period' of Assam history and our sources for that period are the relics like caves, pots, megaliths and legends and traditions as found in the ancient literature like the epics and the Puranas. We find mention of some rulers of ancient Assam like Mohiranga Danava, Ghatakasur, Narakasur. Bhagadutta, Bana, Bhismak, etc. Bhagavat mentions the legends of a king named Bhismak who ruled over a kingdom called Vidarbha with its capital at Kundima.
This kingdom was in the northeast corner of Assam, i.e. near Sadiya. The Deoris were royal priests of the kingdom. The legends also provide us other important information, that Lord Krishna appeared in Bidarbha and forcibly married Rukmini Devi, daughter of Bhismak, after defeating Sisu-pal, a prince of a neighbouring kingdom, to whom Rukmini was betrothed. Gait writes in his book: "Bhismak had five sons and a daughter named Rukmini. Krishna, having heard of her beauty, was anxious to marry her, but the father had arranged to give her to another prince named Sisupal, whose fort may still be seen a few miles to the east of the one attributed to Bhismak. Rukmini secretly sent news to Krishna and on the day fixed for her marriage, the latter suddenly appeared and carried her off in his chariot. He was pursued by the crowd of princes, who had come to assist at the wedding, but he defeated them."
Some folk songs and unwritten form of literature provide us information about the origin of the Deoris. They had moved from one place to another before Christ and at last reached Joydham (presently Arunachal Pradesh) from Arema Kerema.
They sing in a Husari geet:
"Aremat arilo Keramat dharilo Joydhamat patilo than,
Joydham Parbatar Para sai pathiyalo Sadiyar batate sura,
Tarepasate sai pathiyalo Sadiyar putala ghunra."
Historians say about the legends that most probably they heard the story from the locality as a fact and gave a shape to it without any systematic study and proper evidence. The episode is known as Rukmini Harana and in the 10th chapter (skandha) of Bhagavat it is also described that Rukmini had offered puja in order to get Krishna as her husband and visited a few temples.
Except for these legends, the Chutiyas first came to the limelight of history in the 13th century. Under Brahmin influence they wrote their traditional history which shows that the founder of the Chutiya kingdom Birpal, who claimed descent from the mythical Bhismak, ruled over sixty families on a hill called Sonagiri. After defeating the king of the Pala dynasty in a battle, the Chutiyas ruled over the upper part of Assam and the kingdom was known as the Chutiya Kingdom. When the Ahoms established their kingdom in the southeastern corner of Assam or south bank of the Brahmaputra between the rivers Burhi Dihing and Disang in the 13th century, one of their immediate neighbours were the Chutiyas, who ruled the land east of the rivers Subansiri and Disang. During that time both were independent powers and faced uo problems from each other. Both came into contact in the middle of the 14th century A D.
The people of Deori-Chutiya division, who were the priestly class of the Chutiyas, have preserved their language, religion and customs which presumably have descended to them with comparatively little change from a period prior to the Ahom invasion. At present the Deoris have no connection with the Chutiyas. After all, they are known simply as Deori.
Now a days, Deori people are living in various places of Assam, Especially, Sivsagar, Jorhat, Dibrugarh, Lakhimpur, Sonitpur, Dhemaji, Tinsukia district and Lohit & Changlang Districts of Arunachal Pradesh are the major habitation of them. According to the Census Report of 1951, the total populations of Deori people were 12,503. But it is quite strange that only 6715 of them can speak their own language. There were four classes of Deoris one of them are mysteriously missing when they migrated from Sadia trough River Brahmaputra.
(a) Dibongia (b) Tengaponiya, (c) Bogeenya. and (d) Patorganya
Only the people of Dibongiya class can speak their own mother tongue, and almost all the other classes mysteriously lost their language. The three classes of Deoris are living in various parts of Districts mentioned above.
ABOUT THE TERM DEORI:
The real explanation of the term” Deori” is not given convincingly by the Sociologists.
The word `Deori' comes from the word Deu meaning great, wise and O and R denoting male and female respectively. Deori thus refers to a great or wise male/ female human being. According to UN Goswami's Deori-Chutia, the term Deori refers to a person who is well-versed in worshipping God. Hemkosh (1900) refers to Deoris as one of the disobedient tribes who live on the plains of Assam. Chandrakanta Abhidhan (1933) says they were originally hills people, now living in Assam plains as a priestly class of the Chutiyas. Sir Edward Gait says the Deoris are the priestly section of the Chutiya kings of Sadiya who worshipped the Goddess Kundi-Mama or Gira-Girachhi, Tamreswari or Kechaikhati and Baliababa.
Dr. Banikanta Kakoti opines that the word Deori is originated from a Sanskrit word “Debagrihik”. "They (Deoris) are a new Indo-Aryan formation connected with devagrhika."
According to that point the ancestors of Deori came to Assam from the mountain “Himgiri”and lived in the North of Assam.
Himgiri may probably be the Himalayas. It has already mentioned above that Deoris are classified into four groups. Each group is known as according to their habitation.
(a) Dibongia –Who live in the bank of the river Dibong (River Dibang).
(b) Tenaponya – The inhabitants of the riverside of Tengapani.
(c) Bogeenya – Who live in the bank of the river Bornoi.
(d) Patorganya – undisclosed (This group is still missing)
The Deoris were leading a prosperous and peaceful life in Sodiya when some hilly tribal people invaded them (as per mentioned above). They left Sodiya for good within a night making their way to an uncertain destination sailing through the river the Brahamaputra. Proceeding downward through the river the Brahmaputra. Ultimately they reached Sivsagar and Lakhimpur Distrcts and established themselves there. They tried to keep relationships with Assamese people to promote mutual co-operation and give their mother tongue. Only Dibongia Deoris use their own language and now keep it well.
Deori people build their traditional house by using bamboos, woods, canes, reeds etc. They believe in typical “Chang Ghar” (a raised platform). The lower part of the house is used as an enclosure for the animals. The floor has certain holes in it and they pass the unnecessary victuals to the animals. A corridor is enclosed to the mid of the house or in a side by which they can differ various rooms for certain purposes. The fire-place is attached with the ‘Chang’ and they call it as “Dudepati”.
They cooked various meals in it and eat them sitting around the fire-place. A platform remains enclosed to the house for cleaning various things. Such a platform is also built (by somebody) at the entrance of the house. It is to be noted the Deori people keeps faith in God and hence they build a place (in the home) containing an altar for praying.
DRESS AND ORNAMENT :
Every society be it Assamese, Mishing or Bodo – has a particular dress habit. Every man tends to form society and in society they create their own peculiarities among themselves in various fields according to their religion, belief and century long experiences support it . As a matter of fact, the Deori community has their own century long adornment and now in the 21st century they are nourishing it, using it with heartfelt devotion. They use particular adornments in particular occasions.
A Deori male uses a loin cloth called “Ikhoon” while they stay at home and the “Ikhoon” usually combines with a shirt or sporting. While going out of their home or village they generally use trousers and shirt. They adorns white cloth and use a necklace (called ‘Konthamoni’) while they take part in traditional social function.
The Deori women wrap up a kind of skirt (called ‘Ujaduba Igoon’, which hangs loosely down wrapping tightly the breast) along with a sheet called “Jokachhiba” which is enclosed in the waist. However they sometimes wear ‘Riha’ (a traditional outfit, sheet) and it is called “Tegihra”. Particular to Deori women, they use a towel (Gamucha) to cover their head which is known as “Gathiki”. It’s a peculiar dress code of Deori woman. Deori woman often find their happiness in wrapping various ranges of traditional ornament. They wear a ring called “Gema” and use bangles called “Uchoon” in their wrist. They also wear necklace which they called as “Igawa”. Lee, Kotu, Madoli, Joonbiri, Dugdugi etc. are some of the ornaments they use while performing ‘Bihu’.
The Deori young girl wrap up a kind of skirt (Called “Igoon”) same like women but there has some differences; they wrap it up within stomach along with Blouse and Gamocha (for helping to hide Breast). In the Ritual performed (e.g. Puja, Marriag Ceremony, Bihu) place they are wrap up the breast with a sheet (Called Baika Mariba) along with Igoon & Blouse and cover their head with “Gathiki” also wear various ornament like “Gema, Lee, Junbiri, Madoli, Dugdugi” etc.
A Deori Girl
Marriage is one of the major social traditions of a society. The customs that involve in marriage ceremony of Deori community is quite interesting. The wooer or his parents visit bride’s family first and seeks her for the groom. The first side has to give various commodities to the other in that day and both side cheerfully enjoy. A holy day is fixed for the marriage ceremony by conversation.
Bridegroom sends various ornaments, clothing and significant others to the bride before the marriage ceremony. This is known as “Chhubi- huta- duba”. Later on, the marriage ceremony is performed with great religious attitude by them and people are received with various recepies. Hence the ceremony ends and bride is brought to the house of the groom.
Assamese culture is by no means poor. Their different fairs and festivals have enriched our culture. The Deoris observe two major festivals during a year. One of them is “Bohagiyo Bisu”, i.e. Bohag Bihu, while the other is “Magiyo Bisu” i.e., Magh Bihu. They have some special rules for the Bihu Festivals. The Bohagiyo Bisu is the most important one and the Deoris observe this festival for a period of seven days with unlimited joy and merry makings. Generally they start it from Wednesday when the “Sangkranti” of “Chot” falls on that day.
During the Bihu the elderly people of the village do visit all the households of the village and shower blessings on the members of the households. In return the members of each household greet them well and entertain them with “Suzen” and “Kajii”.
Meanwhile the young, both male and female do not remain idle. The young male and female performed dance and song at “Chhaje Khula” ( A place which are situated either Isolated from the Village or Middle of the Village) at night, this course had begun from Pohila Chot (Middle of March) and end with “Bisu Uruwaba”.
Deori People are could not performed Husari Party without declaration by Deori Bharali’s on first Day at Than (mentioned above Major Festival 2nd Para). Husari are not performed in every year. Declaration of Husari had depended on Village Economy. But probably Husari must be performed after 2 or 3 years gape; if there is no any natural disaster in these year. After declaration of the Husari on the second day of the Bihu the dancing starts from the “Than” and then the parties go on visiting each and every household. They first visit the house of the Bor Deori who is the best respected person of the village. However, the Husari party wishes the members of the household a prosperous year and then the party comes back to the than with different Bihu greetings. The musical instruments used by the Husari party are mainly dance is followed by melodious songs which make the situation filled up with un-restricted joy and merry-makings.
The Bihu dances are performed in each household of the village. If the singing of the Husari songs cannot be completed on Thursday, then it is kept for the next Thursday. In big Deori villages the Bohag Bihu seems to last for a period of two weeks. On the day of Bisu Uruwaba (Ending Ceremony of Bohag Bihu) Midi Girachi of Dibongiya Clan, Boliya Baba of Tengaponia Clan and Khesai Khaity of Bogyaan Clan are blessed to all the villagers for whole year and people are seems to be very glad to dance with him/her. The Deodhani Dance is a very important and essential part of the Bohag Bihu. Dr. Moheswar Neog opines that Deodhani is a holy female dance or a god’s woman. However, during the Bohag Bihu no man is allowed to go into the Than wearing colourful clothes.
N.B.: Any Argument, Discussion, comment are heartiest welcome on this topics.
Deori people contributed whole heartedly towards the making of entire Assamese culture. They have century long culture & tradition and even now they keep it well. It is extremely a hard work to look and write at all about them . I just mentioned those which are under my writing jurisdiction.
However I feel and have firm-faith that Deori community has something more peculiarities which may have been a matter of study.