Dolonga and Kontiki A tale of cultural migration
By H P Khound
A unique technique of catching fish in river known as Dolonga, is a cultural heritage of the people living on the banks of Jhangi River, a tributary of Brahmaputra. The technique is unique in that one does not have to move as far down as the edge of the river, let alone to the midstream beyond one’s depth to catch fish. The Dolonga in essence is an engineering marvel. The Dolonga-centric culture is however not exclusive to the people of Jhangi. There is one other place med Chapanola in the adjacent district of Nowgaong which is known to have adopted and applied this technique of catching fish. The point to ponder is how this technique, which is not even known or applied in the nearby Dikhow river, came to be adopted in Chapanola, a rural habitat about twenty miles from the district headquarters of gaon. A clue to this paradoxical phenomenon is found in the history of Burmese (Maan) invasion of Assam. The Burmese invasion was a nightmare to the people surpassing as it did the savagery of other invading armies or the tyranny of the rulers in the recorded history of Assam.
The Burmese soldiers came as far inside Assam as Jamuguri chapori (an elevated platform of land mass). It was in Jamuguri chapori that the people witnessed to their horror the wanton savagery of the Burmese soldiers resulting in bloodshed on a scale unknown to them. The innocent people fled in whichever direction they could to avoid being slaughtered by the soldiers. A section of those who went westward and entered gaon district and went as far inside as a place called Chapanola about twenty miles from gaon town. In Chapanola, they settled on the banks of a river by that me. And it was to Chapanola that they carried the Dolonga culture. This is how the Dolonga culture migrated. This is the nearest instance of cultural migration.
A similar case of cultural migration is the one that took place between two continents. The story of ‘Kontiki’ is a witness to this phenomenon.
Kontiki is the me of the raft made of balsa wood which the voyagers used for undertaking a hazardous journey across the Pacific to a small island situated at a distance of two thousand miles from Amazon valley in South America. On their arrival, they were warmly welcomed by the islanders who happened to migrate from Amazon valley. This is cultured migration at its widest scale.
Dolonga, an engineering marvel:
Right from the initial stage of construction up to its immersion in the midstream of the river, the Dolonga passes through several stages: A mosquito net-shaped device made of finely split bamboo is placed at 45 degree angle to the bank which needs to be pulled towards it by using a long bamboo pole with a hook tide to it. Finely split bamboo strips are woven to give it the look of a plane sheet which then is bent to give it a shape of a mosquito net. Two-thirds of the Dolonga measuring from the front side is covered by branches of bamboo plants and herbs and one-third kept open for fish to rest upon from where they are collected.
There are devices to keep the shape of the sheet intact. A triangular structure made of the upper part of the bamboo plant is duly tied and a long pole with a hook attached to it is used to lift the Dolonga from the bank above without anyone having to go down to the age of the river, let alone to the midstream to collect fish. The process is illustrated by a graphic presentation.