Guwahati, January 17, 2019:
The latest edition of the Joon Beel Mela, which has the distinction of being India’s only cashless fair for 500 years, has begun in Assam’s Morigaon district. The mela started today with the age-old custom of Agni puja.
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The three-day fair is organised by the Tiwa king Gobha Deep Singh and has graced the Dayang Belguri at Joon Beel this year too. The indigenous tribal people that come down from the hills of Assam like West Karbi Anglong, Meghalaya and Jaintia have already been preparing for the barter that will start from the early morning hours on the second day of the fair.
It is said to be a hi-tech age barter system and perhaps the only fair in India where barter system is still alive. The second day of the Joon Beel mela will start with the tradition of the community fishing at the Joon Beel.
Starting in the late 15th century AD, this fair was first organised by the Tiwa rulers to discuss the prevailing political situations of the day. In ancient times, the mela would start with a community feast which the king enjoyed with his subjects at the banks of the Joon Beel, a crescent shaped water body located near the fair grounds.
Today, on the first day of this year’s fair, Team InsideNE witnessed many families of the tribal communities who had come down from the hills and were seen preparing small shelters to stay overnight. The people prepared their traditional food items by making small ‘choukas’(a mud made stove).
People from the hills brought spices, herbs, ginger, and fruits to exchange them for rice, fish, rice cakes (pithas) that cannot be grown in the hills. Some 10,000 tribal villagers come down to the plains of the beautiful valleys and exchanged their wares.
The traditional and the old weapons of the Tiwa rulers are being displayed at the mela. Hiloi, Bortup, Bonduk, Pistol, Bakhor, Sword, handcuffs of both male and female, the frame of dola, and command are some of the weapons being showcased at the mela.
Stalls were put up with the traditional Tiwa costumes. The stalls showcased the traditional Tiwa mekhla, nara, and mufflers that cost around three to six thousand rupees.