History of Guwahati: The 60 year old Rani Chapara Manasa Puja

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History of Guwahati: The 60 year old Rani Chapari Manasa Puja

Kamal Baruah | May 19, 2018 13:48 hrs

Rani Chapari has also its own historical evidence. Rani (ancient name Raggi) was an independent territory during pre-British time stretching east-west from Jalukbari to Palashbari and north-south from Rani Chapari to Khasi and Garo hills. These people originally from Yunnan province (China and Myanmar) crossed the Patkai Hills and reached the Brahmaputra valley.  The Mong Mao prince Chao-lung Sukaphaa settled his journey with about 9000 followers at Sibasagar. Another group might have settled in lower Assam (undivided Assam-Meghalaya). Since our forefathers names were like Chathura-Mathura (thura means brave, gallant in burma), Naomon (mong mao prince Chao-lung Sukaphaa), Sansing (Aung San – Burmese leader). Ahom King Gadadhar Singha made a Garo queen of the state Rani. The queen helped him during political disputes among Ahom royal families. Patgaon was the capital then. 

During British rule, Rani was divided into three mouzas (revenue circle) viz Dakhin Rani, Chayani and Ramsarani for collection of tax. Dhopartal haat (market) at near the bank of the river Dharapur was the marketing hub for its produces (mostly vegetables such as cabbage, tomato, potato, bean etc) on those days. The frequent flood have significantly caused the cultivate land unusable with loss of human and animal life to this Chapori. Thousands of families are living in poverty despite being surplus production. Produces are sold at throw away price. The government schemes like MSP (minimum support price) and facilities of Cold Storage are a mirage for those sons of the soil. The island has no access to electricity and water despite tall claims by the central government. People desire for modern sophisticated equipments to carry out agricultural production with better connectivity from the mainland. However migrant labours from Dhuburi and Goalpara are put to work in the field.

Rani Chapari Manasa Puja is completing 60 years and now celebrating Diamond Jubilee. It is being observed on Naag Panchami (fifth day of bright half of lunar month of Shravan July/Aug) day. Owing to flood season, people celebrate puja at Manasa Mandir in the first week of May with great enthuse. It is being worshiped for the prevention and cure of snakebite and also for fertility and prosperity. Oja-pali, a musical folk theatre consisting of one Oja, one daina (right side) pali and three/four palies playing cymbal is believed to be one of the oldest performance art forms of Assam. The stories of Padma Purana, the serpent goddess of Manasha are recited during puja. It believed that Shankardeva took the inspiration from Ojapali to create his Ankiya Bhaona. Also beating on big drum by a short and flabby person rhythm with big cymbals is indeed a joy to watch. 

The temple has attracted the wrath of people for patronizing animal sacrifice in the name of culture, religion and traditions. But it is a debate to live up to that expectation as there is Section 428 (killing or maiming animal) in the IPC. But prevention of cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 does not prohibit animal sacrifice at religious places. The God-fearing People are deeply religious and moralistic and still have faith to Supernatural beings of Snake God Maa Manasha in this age. There were narratives of shocking snake bite survival tales that happened in the past. The myth is widely believed by the entire community. The recital of Pando Sadagar and Beola-Lakhinder (historical Mer Ghar at Chandika near Chaygoan) were traditional concerning the early history of social phenomenon. The Manasha mandir has remained an important role in keeping the people united. Being enormous wealth, the temple helped needy people of the society and educational institutions. 

However, snakes are still feared by most and they are not always appreciated. But snakes form a key link in the food chain. They help maintain a healthy ecosystem and environment. Amphibians (frog) eat pest insects, benefiting successful agriculture around the world and minimizing the spread of diseases, including malaria. Frogs are also an important food source for birds and snake species. Thus it helps the ecological balance in nature. Interestingly, snakes don’t just act as predators. Lizards, dogs, cats, bird species (herons and raptors) feed on snakes. We need a healthy ecosystem and environment for our world to be functional. And by religious preaching, people unknowingly support this really amazing and simply awesome species for conserving incredible wildlife. When river water recedes, young entrepreneurs got inspired to discover those stranded/uninhabited islands into a Riverland tourism. Despite all a harmonious coexistence is doable between farmer and serpent at Rani-Chapori.

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