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Exclusive tribal fair in Assam, where currency is taboo
Exclusive tribal fair in Assam, where currency is taboo
A large number of tribal people in Indias northeastern state of Assam did refreshing shopping at an exotic bazaar where currency is forbidden.

The fair resembles a gala carnival where more than 10,000 tribal villagers from distant locations gathered at a sprawling roadside meadow near Jonbeel village, about 60 km east of Assams main city of Guwahati.

A variety of food ingredients and foods and vegetables are displayed and sold in the fair. The items vary from puffed rice to salt, turmeric, wild potatoes, fish and fowl to fruits. Villagers in their traditional costumes have set up makeshift stalls in this unique three-day annual bazaar.

Dipsing Deo Raja, the 17-year-old king of the Tiwa tribe in Assam, said, "People here practice the age-old barter system with cash transactions considered a taboo. People from distant locations come to participate at the fair carrying items ranging from rice to dry fish, bamboo shoots to poultry."

The king added, "They do their business like any other trader and at the end of the fair return to their villages happy and satisfied although there is no question of profit and loss."

No record has been found about the starting period of this fair, named Jonbeel mela. Most of those who came for the fair had to trek through dense jungles to reach Jonbeel. According to Kip Teron, a community leader, "This annual barter fair is a part of the tribal tradition here and has been going on for ages."

The thousands of people who come down from the hills and dales to participate in the fair have set up makeshift bamboo and thatch huts for the three days and eat together in groups.

There are traditional kings among other ethnic tribes like the Karbi, the Koch Rajbonsis and the Bodos in Assam, besides the Khasis, Jaintias and the Garos in neighbouring Meghalaya state.

A Tiwa community elder, Titaram Bordoloi said, "The king conducts all religious rituals, settles land and matrimonial disputes, besides being the guardian of the Tiwa people. He is a highly respected person. Of course, the institution of kingship does not have any legal validity under the Indian Constitution, although for the people the king is the ultimate authority."

Posted On : 1/19/2009 12:14:57 PM

Exclusive tribal fair in Assam, where currency is taboo