Assamese folk performances gasping for life

 By our Staff Reporter

GUWAHATI, Sept 27: It is art for art’s sake that has kept alive the once thriving folk performances of Assam, many of which have long been gasping for life. Ojapali, Thioam, garaam, Dhulia, Yatra, Puppetry etc., are some folks performances for which Assam had every reason to feel proud of. These performing arts were very effective altertive media when the mainstream media as we know now was very poorly developed. The mainstream media did have many barriers – illiteracy, poverty, lack of reading culture in society and the like – that did not allow their propagation at a fast pace at that time. The need of altertive media arises in a community only when the existing mainstream media or medium cannot break barriers. It was in such situation a number of folk performances in Assam or elsewhere in the world thrived. However, with the advancement of media, both altertive and mainstream media, many of such folk performances have been on the verge of extinction. 
Religious discourses were confined among the few literate or elite in any community in the past. The commoners in the community did not have much scope to appreciate such matters. In such situations, in folk performances like Ojapali the performers sing songs written in Brajabuli and spell out their meanings in simple Assamese and make them known to all and sundry. This was one of the many ways as to how the non-elite in society could appreciate their religious and other scriptures. Ojapali is gasping for life in Assam. This reporter saw an aged person performing Ojapali in pandal in Guwahati on the Mahasapthami Puja. The man had his son looking at him. When asked, the folk performer said: “My son is looking at me to learn the performance. We simply can’t let this art die along with us. We want to leave the legacy behind. The younger ones aren’t interested to learn such art. They want jobs that help them bring home the bacon.”
Ojhapali is gasping for life in some lower Assam districts like Kamrup, lbari and Darrang. The art is on the verse of becoming history in the State.
Thioam, as the me suggests, is performed by standing. It is a creation of Vaishvite mentor Srimanta Sankardeva. Vaishvite values are themes such performances want to propagate. This performance is mainly seen in Barpeta and Bongaigaon districts.  
garaam is somewhat dividend-paying as it is performed almost round the year. This folk performance does have takers even today, to an extent. However, without any initiative from the government no folk performances in Assam can survive long. It is also seen in Kamrup, lbari and Darrang. 
lbari is famous for Dhulia. Such troupes can juggle with performances – they play dhul, conduct circus, stage dramas, wrestling and juggling. The art is on the verge of extinction. There are only a few Dhulia troupes in Assam. 
Yatra and puppetry are very effective altertive media even today. However, the days of such performances are numbered in Assam.    

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