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Chawra Sameelan in Assam

The seminar was inaugurated on 8May, 2015 morning with hosting of All Assam Sawra Samaj flag by Sri Dinanath Sawra, President, All Assam Sarwa Samaj, (Central Body) followed by lighting of lamp by Ma Nivedita Didi, Vice President, Vivekananda Kendra, Kanyakumari along with Sri D. Bhanudas, General Secretary, Vivekananda Kendra, Kanyakumari, Prof. Parimal Chandra Bhattacharjee, Director, RAC, VKIC, Guwahati, Sri Dinanath Sawra, President, All Assam Sawra Samaj and Sri Ganesh Chandra Kurmi, noted educationist.

The seminar was organised at Labour Club field of Pathalibam, Sawra Line, Moran, Dibrugarh, Assam. All together 225 delegates from different parts of the state and also from various other states like Odisha, West Bengal, Tripura participated in the three day seminar.

Altogether 12 papers were presented in 12 academic sessions. The first academic session started with the paper “The oral History of the Sawra Community” presented by Sri Jayanta Sawra General Secretary, All Assam Sawra Samaj which focusses on the oral history of the Sawra community which is going on generation after generation. How the community came from hilly areas of Orissa present day Odisha and had to struggle hard to adjust in an unknown environment in plain areas of Assam.

The second academic session started with the paper presented by Sri Barish Sarwa on “The Family and Kinship systems among the Sawra community”. The paper highlighted on various kinship relations among the Sawra community. In his paper Sri Barish Sawra said that the Joint family system is the tradition in Sawra community however nowadays the people prefer nuclear family pattern. The son receive the fathers property however if there is no son in the family in that case the girl or the daughter receive the fathers property. The unique feature of the Sawra community is that the a unmarried girl receive her father property like a son.

The third academic session is on “Religious Rites and Rituals among the Sawra comminuity” presented by Sri Sartinya Sawra. In his paper Sri Sartinya Sawra highlighted the religious rites of the Sawra community. How they propitiate different god and goddesses. In his paper he said that the Sawra community worship different gods and goddesses with religious sacrifices and offerings.

In the fourth academic session after lunch Smt Parbin Sawra presented her paper on the “Traditional Institutions of the Sawra community”. In her paper she said that the Gamang or the Gaon Bura ie the village head man is the supreme authority in the Sawra community. He use to settle all the disputes among the villagers.

The fifth academic session was on “Festivals of the Sawra Community” presented by Sri Holiram Sawra. In his paper Sri Holiram Sawra said that Holi or the festival of colour is the main festival among the Sawras. It is observed in the month of Phaguna  ie in mid March. Rungrung or the Lord Krishna is worshipped. The priest or the Quran use to worship first then it is open to the community. Holi is observed with colours and merry makings. All the community use to participate in the festival. The parents give new cloths to the children’s. Apart from Holi Dipawali, Manasha Puja, and Durga Puja is also observed by the Sawras.

The last academic session of 8 May, 2015 was on “Religious and Supernatural forces in the Sawra community”. The paper was presented by Sri Magon Raita and Sri Jayanta Sawra jointly. In their paper they said that the Sawra community believe in different god and goddesses. They also believe in both Malevolent and Benevolent gods and spirits. They also believe that if a person commits sin during his lifetime he had to take rebirth again. They appease different gods to keep them safe from all calamities.

On 9 May, 2015 the first academic session started with a paper on “Traditional Health Care systems among the Sawras”. The paper was presented by Sri Jayanta Sawra. The paper highlighted on the use of medicinal plants to get relief from different diseases. The Sawra community is very much cautious about the spread of epidemic and use to worship god and goddesses so that no epidemic could ever touch their village. The use of traditional health care system is interconnected with worship and chanting of spells. The Quran or the priest is the main person in every ritual. For collection of medicinal plants from the jungle certain rituals are performed. Rice and wine is offered to the god who look after those medicinal plants then only it is collected. However, now a day the Sawra people are getting dependent on modern day clinical treatment due to scarcity of those medicinal men and their preservation.

The second paper was on “The village organization of the Sawra community”. The paper was presented by Sri Gauranga Sawra. He said that the Sawra community got a strong village level organization headed by Gaman or the village head man. From the past the community while living in Ganjam district of Orissa use to settle all the disputes within the village through the Ganjam or the village head man and even after coming to the plain areas of Assam they are following this tradition.

The third paper on 9 May was presented by Sri Nokul Sawra on “The god and goddesses of the Sawra”. The paper mainly focusses on the god and goddesses whom the sawra use to worship both the benevolent and malevolent gods. He said the Rungrung or the Lord Krishna is the principal deity among the Sawra. Beside this Devi Manasha, Devi Durga and Lord Shiva are also worshipped by the Sawra.

The fourth paper was presented by Sri Barish Sawra on “The marriage system among the Sawra”. The paper focusses on the different systems of marriage among the Sawra. Mongamy is the rule however there is incidence of polygamy is also there. There is no case of Polyandry ever found in the Sawra society. The bride price system is there among the Sawra. The family of the groom use to provide compensation to the family of the bride for their daughter. Widow re marriage is encouraged among the Sawras. Dowry is prohibited in the society. As residence after marriage is patrilocal the newly married couple use to reside in the husbands house after marriage. There is also provision for neo local residence after marriage among the Sawra.

After the lunch the last academic session took place on 9 May, 2015. Sri Ganesh Chandra Kurmi presented a paper on “Influence of Srimanta Sankardeva on the Sawra Community”. In his paper he highlighted the pilgrimages of Srimanta Sankardeva in different parts of India and how he came in touch with different tribal communities. He also highlighted the principle of Srimanta Sankardeva to consider every one as equal and to worship one god through neo-vaishnavite tradition.

The seminar concluded with concluding remarks from Ma Nivedita Didi . Ma Nivedita Didi said that the Sawra is one of the oldest communities living in various parts of India like Orissa and central India. Mention of Sawra community is found there in the two great epic Ramayana and Mahabharata. Through this seminar it is tried to bring into focus the tradition systems of the Sawra community, the process of cultural assimilation in due course of time and the change. The concluding session was also chaired by Sri Ganesh Chandra Kurmi and Sri Dinanath Sawra.