GUWAHATI: The ancient Devi Doul or Durga temple in Sivasagar district of Assam displays a shining instance of communal harmony, with the distribution of 'prasad' to an Ahom and a Muslim family on the auspicious occasion of Maha Ashthami, resuming the age-old practice after two years of the Covid- 19 pandemic that put a damper on the puja festivies.
The Assamese Muslim family of the Doullahs, which will partake of the Puja prasad, in earlier times used to beat the traditional drums (nagara) in the temple, while the Borpatragohain family, representing the Ahom community, is the other.
Sharing his thoughts on the revival of the tradition, Secretary of the temple development board Basanta Gogoi, said, "It gives us immense pleasure to revive the medieval-era tradition of communal harmony that the Covid-19 pandemic had put the brakes on. Though the celebrations were allowed albeit with some restrictions last year, we had to do away with prasad distribution to the two renowned families of Sivasagar altogether in 2020."
It was during the reign of Ahom kings in the medieval period that this practice is believed to have first started. The temple management said though there is no written history of this tradition, there are records with the temple management that read the "prasad of harmony" was received by the family of Konseng Borpatragohain, the first Borpatragohain- one of the three great Gohains (counsellors) in the Ahom kingdom created by Suhungmung Dihingia Raja in the year 1527.
Tosmia Doullah, daughter of Monirud Doullah- who died of Covid last year, along with her family, will go to the Devi Doul ceremony this Maha Ashtami to revive the tradition. Tosmia is enthusiastic as she will go down in history as the one at the forefront of the tradition's revival. "My father's demise was unexpected and came as a shock to us. Being the seniormost member of the family, I will have to take the lead role in the ceremony to uphold the tradition," Tosmia told TOI from Dhai Ali in Sivasagar.
However, Jiten Borpatragohain, a retired college teacher, belonging to the 18th generation of Konseng Borpatragohain, said the Doullahs joined them later, which marked the beginning of a new chapter of harmony in Sivasagar. Known for Hindu-Muslim unity, Sivasagar remained undisturbed even during times when that harmony was put to the test.
"During the rule of Siva Singha, Ahoms endorsed Hindu religion in large numbers. But our Borpatragohain family was a follower of Shakta cult and devoted to Devi Durga. Our ancestors used to get prasad at home on Ashtami since the early 18 th century, mostly in the form of a goat sacrificed to the goddess on Maha Ashtami," he said.
Sivasagar was the capital of the Ahoms and and a large number of temples, tanks, and other historical sites, apart from the Kareng Ghar and Rang Ghar, are found here. It is a place of great historical value and tourist interest.