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Deori or Deuri is one of the major ethnic tribes in Assam, India. The Deori community has its own culture and traditions which is a hidden treasure for the sociologists. The Deoris were originally priests and worshipers and depended mostly on agriculture for their livelihood.
In North East India the Deoris are known as well civilized people . They have their own language to converse amongst themselves. History says that the Deori language was the original language in the Chutian kingdom before the reign of the Ahoms in Assam. They worship Kundi-Mama (Shiv-Parvati) and hence fall under Hinduism by default. The Deoris are God fearing people. Since ancient days Deori people worshiped God by singing hymns and holy songs. Later on the experienced priests known as Boderi and Bharali started sacrificing animals in their temples; they not only worshiped God, but also administered the kingdom. They also built some important “Kundi Ku” (Temple) in their ancient city or nagar called “Khundi Nagar”. Now the ruins of these temples are in the District of Lower Dibang Valley, Lohit and Changlang of Arunachal Pradesh.
However, history says that the homeland of the Deoris is in the North Eastern states of India or in the east of undivided Assam. According to the book Mataks and their kingdom, the Deoris had their abode on the bank of the Kundil river which flows through the Sadiya (Chapakhowa) area and for this reason their Kingdom was known as Chutam in the North Eastern region of the Brahmaputra Valley.
In the book “Siva Purana”, the late Ahom king Rudra Singha narrates that the Deoris were living at Chaug-Chu-Kul, Chakati-Chaliya, Laibari, Lataubari, Kundil, Joidaam, Arem-Kerem and Mamaru-Pichala (Now in Arunachal Pradesh). According to the book “Boroni Jaiminaw Swamasarnai” the Dimichiya Gonarajita whose capital was Kundil Nagar was ruled by the Deori tribe. They had an honorable and prestigious king called Patgauan or Tanugiria. The first king of Dimichiya Ganarajya was late Bisusing Borkoyo in 1500BC and the last king was Bismoksing Borkoyo who was most famous and well known for his brilliance. These days the capital Kundil Nagar of Dimichiya Ganarajya is known as Bismok Nagar due to the strong Endeavour and enterprise of the late king Bismok Sing.
It is said that in 1602AD the three main sub cast of Deoris namely Jimochayan or Dibang-Diyongial, Midoyan or Tengapania and Luitugan or Borgoya took different temples like Midiya (Bolia Baba), Luituwasi (Tamreswari), Midi Gira-Girasi (Burha-Burhi) and Daramji (Parsuram Kundha). They had been serving the 4th sub cast called Patgayan or Tanugirian. These areas are now in the Lower Dibang Valley, western Lohit and Northern Changlang and North East Tinsukia Dist. of Assam.
The Deoris proudly introduce themselves as 'Jimo-Chhayan', meaning 'the children of the sun and the moon'. In fact, the Deoris were respected among the tribal communities as priests or worshipers.
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 Sutiyas. 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 Sutiya. The Sutiya 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 1st 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 Sutiyas 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 Sutiya 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 Sutiyas ruled over the upper part of Assam and the kingdom was known as the Sutiya 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 Sutiyas, 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 AD.
Nowadays, 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
Some experts claim that the Patorgoyan clan assimilated with the Tiwa tribe in central Assam but there has been no scientific evidence to support the claim, which prompted a section of Deoris to begin a search. A preliminary investigation from September 30 to October 5 under the aegis of Jimachaya Giyan Aru Juktibadi Samaj has given positive indication of the presence of Deori people in Kachin province and near Yangon in Myanmar. A team of researchers has decided to visit Myanmar in search of the lost clan 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.
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 and wise. O and R denotes male and female respectively. Deori thus refers to a great or wise male/female. According to UN Goswami's Deori-Chutia, the term Deori refers to a person who is well-versed in worshiping 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 Sutiyas. Sir Edward Gait says the Deoris are the priestly section of the Sutiya 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 – officially not traced yet.
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 Districts 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” (Stilt house). 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 fireplace is attached with the ‘Chang’ and they call it as “Dudepati”.
They cooked various meals in it and eat them sitting around the fireplace. 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. Deori Couple 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.
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 recipes. 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.
On the first day of the festival the Deoris offer a Puja in a “Than”. It must be mentioned here that both the Bihu festivals of the Deoris are connected with the agricultural activities and so they are observed rightly before starting the agricultural operations in the fields. The Deoris must sacrifice a goat in the Bihu Puja. The ceremonial bathing of the animals take place in the morning of the day of the Bihu Puja. It is on this day, the “Suwasani Puja” is duly observed by each and every household. Thus the household deity is prayed in the “Suwasani” room by the headman of each household for the welfare of the members of the family.
In the midday all the villagers irrespective of age and sex go to the “Than” and gather there for getting sacred water and “Prasads”. First they are purified by the sacred water prepared in the “Than” and then the Bor Deori and Deori Bhorali of the Than distributes “Prasads” among them after his due prayers inside the same. The sacrifices of birds and beasts as goats, ducks and fowls are performed duly and after the puja only the male people of the village take part in the feast.
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 gap; 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.
Pictures of Deori People Livelihood.
- Dutta, Sristidhar (1985). The Mataks and their kingdom: castes and tribes of Assam. Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh: Chugh Publications. OCLC 13959339.
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