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Deori or Deuri people are one of the major ethnic tribes and well cultured people of Assam, India. They historically live in the "upper plains" also called as the hinterland of the Brahmaputra Valley. The Deori tribe belongs to the Sino-Tibetan family of Mongoloid stock (as is generally the case of Northeast people). In the ancient times of Ahom and Sutiya kingdoms the Deoris used to serve as priests in the temples of the kingdoms and therefore the origin of the name "Deori". The tribe has maintained their racial traits , languages, religion and folk tales, beliefs through centuries. The Deori people are subdivided into four main groups namely Dibongyia, Borgoya, Tengaponiya and Patorgoya (this patorgoya group of people is not officially traced yet and an effort is on to identify them).
The Deori people follow indigenous faith.They worship their ancestors; Kundi-Mama, Boliya Baba (pisadema) and Tameshwari (pisasi). They also worship the Hindu deities. Deoris are very religious people. Since antiquity, Deori people worshiped God by singing hymns and holy songs. Later on the experienced priests known as Bordeori and Bharali started sacrificing animals in their temples.They used to serve as priest in the Sutiya and Ahom kingdom and hence got the name "Deori".
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, Joidaam, Arem-Kerem and Mamaru-Pichala (Now in Arunachal Pradesh). 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.
It is said that in 1602AD the three main sub groups of Deoris namely Jimochayan or Dibang-Diyongial, Midoyan or Tengapania and Luitugan or Borgoya took different temples like Midiya (Bolia Baba), Luituwasi, 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. 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. So, in 1800 AD, when the Ahoms re-occupied Sadiya, the Deoris had already left Sadiya for the Choikhowa area.
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; " 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, etc.
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.
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.
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.
The Deoris observe two major festivals during a year. One of them is “Ibaku Bisu” in the month of April while the other is “Magiyo Bisu” in the month of January. They have some special rules for the Festivals. The Ibaku (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 their temple called Kundi Ku. It must be mentioned here that both the Bisu festivals of the Deoris are connected with the agricultural activities and so they are observed rightly before starting the agricultural operations in the fields. They must sacrifice a goat,hen,duck or pigeon in the Temple. The ceremonial bathing of the animals take place in the morning of the day of the festival. 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 Bisu, 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” (rice beer) 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 cannot perform the Husari Party without declaration by Deori Bharali’s on first Day at Than (mentioned above Major Festival 2nd Para). Husari are not performed every year. Declaration of Husari depends on the 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 Bisu 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 Bisu 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 Bohagiyo Bisu seems to last for a period of two weeks. On the day of Bisu Uruwaba (Ending Ceremony of Bohagiyo Bisu) 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 Bohagiyo Bisu no man is allowed to go into the Than wearing colourful clothes.
Joydam Festival is another festival observed every year in the month of February. The main objective of the festival is the cultural meet of all the 4 groups of Deoris and to bring a permanent unity in diversity. Joydam is considered a sacred place by the deori people, as it was the original home of all the four groups of Deoris i.e; Tengaponiyas, Dibongiyas, Borgoyas, Patorgoyas where they were inhabiting together in the remote past. Today, only sompoi village is found existing in the foothills of Joydam Hills. Joydam hill was covering an area of Paya and Paya river, Dibang and Dibang river, Kundil and Kundil river areas, Parshuram Kundi areas, Sadiya areas , Patkai hill in the East.Therefore,all the areas after which the Deori clans are named are found to exist within the geographical areas of Joydam hills.Hence Joydam Being the sacred place worshiped by Deoris is a great reverence of Deoris and it requires upholding of all protection and preservation of its histories and living legends from the treasures of rare veterans,archeological evidences,etc. At the same time,Deoris are bound by birth to see and know about where they originated from,where they stand on and where have they have gone for besides a festival meet after bumper harvest.They feel their motherland is better than heaven as per Assamese proverb"JANMABHUMI SHAGODAPI GARIASHII). Therefore,it is the humble duty of every Deori to decorate and honour the beautiful motherland . This is,of course, the need of the hour to observe Joydam Festival by all Deoris every year to harmonise the cultural greetings in Bisuyo time after bumper harvest or before putting the grains to earth.
- Dutta, Sristidhar (1985). The Mataks and their kingdom: castes and tribes of Assam. Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh: Chugh Publications. OCLC 13959339.
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