ABOUT BAOKHUNGRI FESTIVAL
The Baokhungri Festival organized by the Department of Tourism, Bodoland has targeted to promote Tourism in the region with an objective to preserve the traditional culture of ethnic tribes.
The hill is considered to be sacred and climb on sankranti. A day prior to spring festival of Bwisagu to offer prayers and seek blessing from sibrai(सिब बोराय/Lord Shiva) to id farewell the outgoing year and herald the new year with an aspiration for peace and prosperity in the coming year.
Baokhungri hill’s Peak falls within the Chakrashila Wildlife Sanctuary, the only Golden Languor Sanctuary in the World. The Bodos believe that the Baokhungri hill is a sacred dwelling of Shibrai (Lord Shiva) and a number of other deities and so pay a deep reverence to this abode by climbing up the peak, making prostrations and offerings to the Lord on the last Chaitra Sankranti day to bid farewell to outgoing year and welcome the New Year of Bwisagu with hopes and aspirations for the best.
The art of spreading oral legends has been a powerful medium of communication among the Bodos to pass down the oral wisdom from one generation to another making them ultimately the collective knowledge of the society. Baokhungri Peak Stands tall with legends which are significant stories resonating Over millennia & enabled to permeate borrowed culture as well, retold, and live again in fresh imaginings. They are tales of cultural beginnings of how Bodo lives and ways of thinking came to be shaped, and they still help to shape the way that many people understand themselves and the world.
HOW THIS FESTIVAL IS CELEBRATED?
Bodoland Tourism organizes this Baokhungri Festival with exciting events to enthuse your heart and join the spring festival. Introducing various indigenous games like Khomlainai, Batha Gelenai, and Gila Gelenai is expected to popularize these sports among the young generation otherwise, slowly losing its ground in the society. Equally, the welcome is the exposure of locals to learn about adventure Sports like paragliding and initiate to earnestly kick-start the tourism sector blending tradition with modernity. Competition with prize money in trekking & other activities and Cock-Fight are the highlight of the Festival.
The Bodos like any other tribes in north-east India have lived amidst nature and have synthesized vast knowledge about various plant species to learn about their food and medicinal values. Traditional food and drinks of Bodos, therefore, consists of a lot of herbal ingredients in their delicacies. An ethnic food festival with traditional preparation of Oma Bedor (Pork meat) into different palatable dishes, Napham, Ondla, Sobai, Narzi, Dau Bidwi, Bamblu Bidwi, and many others is sure to tempt the taste buds of the visitors to cherish for more in future. ‘Gwkha Gwkhai Janai’ is a traditional food preparation the Bodos with a number of medicinal herbs taken on Sankranti day with the believe to fight seasonal diseases and gain immunity.
And of course, sweet alcoholic drinks of Jou Maibra, a traditional rice beer prepared with sticky rice adding a cake of Emou (prepared with herbs) for quick fermentation and Jumai brewed with any other rice variety in the same process, distilled Jou Gwran are expected to be a popular drink of the region if exposed to tourist visitors.
WHY DO WE NEED TO VISIT BAOKHUNGRI FESTIVAL?
Visiting the serene Baokhungri adorned in lush green of flora on any other day pervades the atmosphere of ‘Silence is Gold’ and anyone can be mesmerized to be just the mute spectator of its raw and natural beauty growing in elegance besides stream-lets and rivulets silently taking its Own Course.
But on the last day of Chaitra, the Mwshwou Thukhwinai Day (Cattle Rites) coinciding with Sankranti, a day before Bwisagu or a Bengali New Year day, hordes of people throng to climb the Baokhungri Peak and the silence changes to music to reverberate its jovial moods in rhythm and add a sense of new wonder to the pristine land that is about to burst with abundant growth of mosaic Shades on the call of the Spring season again.
HOW TO REACH BAOKHUNGRI HILL?
Baokhungri Hill is perched at 1491 feet above sea level, Baokhungri peak is tucked away about 17-20 KMs towards the southernmost corner of Kokrajhar Town and can be reached via Choraikhola to Harinaguri or Narabari/Dhupguri. Now, it can also be reached via Owabari to Thuribari to Dauraighat which is a newly constructed PWD road having approximately the same distance. It is the highest natural elevation in the Kokrajhar District of Bodoland Territorial Council.
VIEWS OF BAOKHUNGRI AND ITS SURROUNDINGS
Baokhungri Peak from Kokrajhar town looks like a person riding on a huge elephant facing southwards because at the fag-end towards the south there’s a large white rock-hill which is named as ‘Onthai Gufur’(Onthai-stone, Gufur-white). It also gives a look of elephant’s forehead and hence have another name of ‘Mwider Khafal’(Mwider-elephant, Khafal-forehead). Below Onthai Gufur (White Stone), there is a deep cave which looks similar to the elephant’s trunk making a spherical hollow shape. During the last Chaitra Sankranti day, villagers from adjoining areas used to worship it by offering and pouring milk on it and believed that if this milk flowed down to Deeplai Lake on that day the whole year would prove to be auspicious. In fact, many from locality even today say that fishes from Deeplai Beel gives the flavour of milk. Now, the cave with the luxuriant growth of Sijou plants is almost abandoned to make it home of a number of snakes & other reptiles.
There is a Shiva Temple and Bathou with the Sacred Sijou Plant (Euphorbia nerifolia) on the Baokhungri Peak for the worshipers to pray to the Lord only on the last Chaitra Sankranti day. Small cave-like stones in the peak are known as Baonasad Dera (Baunasad-dwarf, Dera-dwelling) where villagers in surrounding areas believe that it was once the dwelling place of Baonasad Mwdai (spirits of dwarf). There is a flattish portion of stone on the down-hill of Baokhungri which is named as Seng- Sikhwla Onthai Thapha ( Seng-Young man, Sikhwla-young maiden, Onthai-stone, Thapha-flat) and a spring of crystal clear water originates from the northern part of it. Little quantity of standing water stays in the southern side and the rest flows downwards towards the west. Just adjacent to Seng-Sikhwla is Hajw Jujai which got its name because it looks like a hill-lock formed due to the accumulation of rice-husk and on it a good number of pigeons make its nest. So, it is also known as Pharrow Khokhola (Pharrow-pigeon, Khokhola-nest). There is an impression of the human hand on it which calls for archaeological Study.
A rivulet by the name of Bamwnijhora flows by the side of it. On this is seen the stone water canal with five holes for fishing by Khokha, a bamboo fish-catching implement of Bodos. There is also a small pith for the trapped fish to collect in it.
TALES AND LEGENDS OF BAOKHUNGRI
The legend says this peace land was once upon a time ruled by an efficient and able King Daukha and he used to often indulge in his favorite past-time of hunting and fishing in the area. He was a powerful King known for his just rule where all-round peace prevailed and his heroic adventures were loved by his subjects. He had an only daughter whom he lovingly called Princess Deeplai. She was a lively princess very fond of playing water sports & taking bath with her companions in the present Deeplai lake which is said to have got its name from the lovely Princess. Her fame for unsurpassed beauty in and nearby kingdoms spread far and wide for many brave and handsome princes to dream and aspire for her hand. Princess Deeplai was not only beautiful but also a benevolent Princess who loved serving her subjects of the kingdom. On one of the noon of last Chaitra Sankranti day, the Princess went out to enjoy and behold the beauty of nature amidst the enticing landscape and environment of exotic Sikhiri Sikhwla (Chakrashila) Surroundings where Dau-khowou (cuckoos) cooed love songs to be conveyed to the beloved on the onset of lovely spring. Princess Deeplai in her joyous moment of playful activities along with her companions, bodyguards, maids and many more were informed the most tragic news of the martyrdom of her lover on the hands of his enemies in the ensuing war. Princess Deeplai was so deeply in love with the brave and handsome Prince of the neighboring Kingdom that she could not bear to tolerate this shocking & tragic news which proved to be a bolt from the blue for her. The tormented Princess heaved & surged with emotion and had no words to express her tragedy. She was so overwhelmed with grief over the loss of her lover and writhing in pain ran hither and thither to blindly climb up the peak of Baokhungri lamenting and calling for her lost Prince. Reaching the peak, Princess Deeplai had no more wish to live and she became numb and finally abandoned her physical being offering herself in the name of her beloved. ‘Bao’ in Bodo means Offering Sacrifice and ‘Khungri’ means Princess. So the peak where the Princess sacrificed her body to enjoin the soul of her Prince Lover came to be called as Baokhungri. Thus, Baokhungri Peak is a Lover’s Spot where fulfills the true & Spiritual Love!
Her companions and other followers too broke down at the sight of the tragedy of their beloved Princess to at once abandon their physical beings and follow her. So, adjacent to Baokhungri Peak we get to see a number of small hillocks like Sikhiri-Sikhwla, Sokhorsila, Dangdufur, Najanggari, Khangkhrikhola, Mainaou Bindw, Biliram Dakhri, Bandra Hajw and many more with their own tales to be told & retold to generations and keep the legacy of the tribe intact.
From then onwards, to commemorate the sacrifice of Princess Deeplai on Baokhungri Peak people in the kingdom started to observe climbing the peak on the last Chaitra Sankranti believing strongly with a fate that if anyone is successful in climbing the Baokhungri Peak at a stretch on that day it indicates that she or he is fit to carry out all her/his daily activity of life with vigor & vitality for the coming new year. Young lovers who reached the lover’s spot of the peak enthralled them with excitement to climb down to Seng-Sikhwla Onthai Thapha to ecstatically sing and dance Bagurumba with the music of compassion resonating from Kham, Sifung, Serja, Jotha, Zabkhreng, and Thorkha. This is how the celebration of Bwisagu in vibrant Bodo culture started and has generated down the innumerable lucid composition of Bwisagu Methai & Mwsanai (Methai-song, Mwsanai-dance) getting enriched with eloquence every new year.
A question has been put time & again through this folk-lore if King Daukha is the same Daksha King of the Himalayas. In East India, legend has it that the king of the Himalayas had a beautiful daughter called Uma, who since her childhood wanted to marry Lord Shiva. But the King Daksha disliked Lord Shiva and his appearance disgusted him very much. He broke off all relationships with his daughter and son-in-law. One day King Daksha planned a yagna, in which all were invited except for Shiva. Uma was hurt by her father’s rude behavior and she immolated herself in yagna fire. However, she took re-birth again as Parvati and married Shiva and peace was restored.
Another interesting legend which mentions Baokhungri peak is in the narration of the tale of Sandw Baodiya, a great legendary musician who learned to play the music of soulful Serja under his Guru Ramwnda at Baokhungri Peak. Sandw Baodiya was blessed by Mwdai Khwinasanti, the nymph of streamlet to maestro on playing the Bodo stringed musical instrument of Serja. He could through his music make the Sikhri-Sikhwla (Butterfly- Nymphs) go mad with the passion to sing & dance in trance. He could bring a heavy shower of rainfall or dry the river on the earth. At his mere touch of the musical string all birds and animals big and small, wild and domestic used to be under the spell of his Serja.
Another tale which one of the villagers narrated is, Sikhna Jwhwlao after severe war with his enemies in the plains came to hide on the Baokhungri Peak as it was found to be the safest haven for him to plan out strategy to defeat his enemies. On the last Chaitra Sankranti day, the villagers from the surrounding peak carried Jwou Bidwi (rice-beer) at the top of the peak with love, regards, and respect for their Hero, the Chieftain from Sikhwnajhar. There they prayed to Anangossai Shibrai (Lord Shiva) and together enjoyed the merry-making of Bwisagu song & dance.
In present times, many people eagerly await for climbing the Baokhungri Peak with festivity for welcoming the colorful BWISAGU, the harvesting festival of the Bodos & religious fervor of gaining the desired boon if climbed thrice in consecutive 3 years. Some climb it with fun & adventure in mind. Visiting Baokhungri on the D-day is indeed a thrilling experience. It is on this day the Bodos bid farewell to the outgoing year with GWKHA GWKHWI JANAI relishing a cuisine of more than 14 medicinal plants, with or without pork or chicken. It is commonly believed that taking this diet enables the body to gain immunity to fight seasonal diseases.
In conclusion, we observe and find that in-depth study of our interesting folk-tales which maybe myths or legendary in a tribal culture like the Bodos and alike are potent means of socializing the young generation into the positive ways of the society. They lay down the many important rules for instance, for the right human behavior or set up a precedent for a community’s system of customary-laws and it is rightly believed that there is no area of traditional life unaffected by myths and legends.