Video | Jun Beel Mela: A fair “maintaining cordial relations among the tribes and non-tribes” (January) – Assam & Meghalaya

The Jun Beel Mela is a centuries-old traditional fair which seems to be a virtual wonder in its own right. The most striking feature of this historic fair is that it has been keeping alive the age-old barter system as a means procuring goods. This Jun Beel Mela is organised every year in the month of Magh of Assamese calendar, that falls in the mid January, near the highway town Jagiroad in the Marigaon District of Assam. The three day annual event is being organized under the traditional king of the Tiwa tribes called ‘Gobha Deoraja’ that once ruled the area. The fair has been organized on the occasion of Magh Bihu, a traditional festival, of the King and a wide range of pristine customs and practices are associated with the fair. In this fair, the different hill tribes like Tiwa, Karbi, Khasi, Garo and others from the neighbouring West Karbianglong and Meghalaya and their counterparts from the plains exchange products directly without the involvement of money. Barter turns out in this unique fair in such a natural and spontaneous way, as if the ancient practice has been fossilised here in a living state.

The fair is also considered very important instance of maintaining cordial relations between the hills and the plains as well as among the tribes and non-tribes. The Tiwas, also known as Lalungs, are one of the oldest but underdeveloped tribal communities of Assam that are mostly found in the plains and hills of the central part of Assam. Apart from the village and clan level socio-political organizations, existence of some self-governing social institutions headed by a chief called ‘Raja’, means king, are found among these Indo-Mongoloid people.

Besides being a traditional judiciary head of the areas and the community, with a council of Ministers (Darbar) and office-bearers, these chieftains are often regarded as Deoraja means – a religious king or a religious head. Apart from the Jun Beel Mela, a wide range of intangible cultural elements are found associated with these kingship institutions that includes social folk customs, believes, oral history, legends, folk practices, artifacts, historical objects, festivals and 2 ceremonies, judiciary procedures, management systems, inheritance regulations etc.

There are more than a dozen of such traditional Tiwa kings with their organized kingship institutions that are maintaining their existence till date. The kingship institution of Gobha is considered most significant and important as it was the paramount province among all. The Jun Beel Mela was organized under this Gobha king or Gobha Deoraja to felicitate trade among the hills and the plains as well as among the tribal and non-tribal.

Source: National List for Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH), Ministry of Culture, Government of India
Date visited: 5 October 2020

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