Saturday, 30 June 2012

Khalorparor Kang strikes a chord with Hindus, Muslims

Ramlal Sinha

Guwahati, June 29

Khalorparor Kang, a legacy of Jagannath’s return rath that has been striking the right chord with the Hindus and Muslims in the south Assam district of Karimganj is on its way to complete 200 years when the kang committee rolled its traditional seven fira kangs (returning chariots) in its 187th anniversary at Khalorpar on Friday, daring the devastating floods that have marooned hundreds of houses in the district.

Khalorparor Kang, which has been rolling uninterruptedly since 1826, is unique on many counts in its appeal. As the tradition goes, as many as seven villages – Satra Lokei (Satragram), Tanga Lokei (Mantrigtram), Khulakpa Lokei (Patrogram), Kehurgang, Khalibari (Nayadahar), Mechigo Lokei (North Beelbari) and South Beelbari – roll out a rath each, and all the seven raths converge to a particular point under an age-old banyan tree amid the participation of thousands of devotees, regardless of their caste, creed and faith. The banyan tree at the point of confluence of the seven raths at Khalorpar in Patharkandi has been a mute and standing witness to the return rath festival since 1826. Further, the chariots are also pulled by girls who dress themselves in a traditional uniform.

What’s significant is that of the seven raths, the rath of South Beelbari is pulled, since its inception, by an elephant, and the expense for the elephant service is borne by anyone from the financially well-off Muslims who are a majority in Karimganj. The 187-year-old return rath has a remarkable history. During the exodus due to Burmese attack (Owar Bagon), thousands of people had fled Manipur and settled in the Barak Valley, Tripura, Bangladesh and Burma (now Myanmar). Mammoth congregation among the people was next to impossible under the British regime even as the period (1826) was much before the Sepoy Mutiny.

In order to translate his conception into a reality, a priest, Pundarikaksho Sharma, called a religious congregation of the seven Bishnupriya Manipuri villages on the day of Fira Kang in 1826 for the observance of rath yatra, and since then the legacy has been followed with the participation of a number of Meitei villages like Karchorghat, Leishramgram, Moiranggram and Rajbari, besides Bengalis, Tea Tribes and Muslims (as onlookers and in making arrangement with cash and kind).

According to Golapchand Sinha, who has authored the history of Khalorparor Kang, all the seven raths were designed by Girokmoni Singh of Sylhet following a divine directive. The three-storey design of the seven raths – a tier each for Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra – given by Girokmoni Singh is still followed as any deviation from the design, the local people claim, leads to evil omen.

As a mark of honour to its founder Pundarikaksho Sharma, an extra rath in his memory is rolled a day before the return rath, and this year the Pundarikaksho Kang was rolled on Thursday. The Khalorparor Kang has also been a topic for many a litterateur. While poet Madan Mohan Mukhupadhyay has written a poem on Khalorparor Kang, Debodutta Sinha did a documentary film on this return rath festival.

Courtesy: Seven Sisters Post

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