Religion and magic: The Kherai puja of the Bodo community of Assam

Religion and magic: The Kherai puja of the Bodo community of Assam

Bodo community Bodo community

Guwahati, April 30, 2019:

Kherai puja is one of the greatest religious festivals of the Bodo community, which predominantly resides in Assam.  It is a symbol of hope and desire, which has been prevailing among them since time immemorial.

The main purpose of the Kherai puja is the welfare of both private and public lives. For the welfare of private life, they perform Kherai puja individually. On the other hand, for the welfare of the villagers as a whole, they perform Kherai puja collectively once or twice in a year.

Besides the welfare of both private and public lives, the Kherai puja is performed for the good harvest of crops. The Bodos are generally dependent on agriculture. So, before and after cultivation, they perform Kherai puja and propitiate different gods and goddesses for the success in cultivation. Kherai puja is very expensive and elaborate too.

Through a series of elaborate rituals, the Bodo community calls upon the supreme Bodo deity Bathow Borai- and eighteen other deities – to answer the problems faced by them and provide solutions. The Bodos' sacred Shijou tree is at the centre of the puja setup.

There is a similarity between the Kherai puja of the Bodos and the Ker Puja of the Tipras of Tripura, the Khernang of the Dimasas of North-2 Cachar and the Kheralma of Nepal.

Dance and music are two of the most important elements of the puja and many indigenous instruments are used by the Bodos to create an intoxicating blend of dance and music. Moreover, magic is a strong component of the ritual as the Bodo deities are said to enter the bodies of the priests after which they participate in rituals. In this manner, the priests and priestesses continue to ‘perform’ until all the deities have left the site of the puja after providing counsel.

It may be mentioned that many Bodos are now conducting the Kherai puja without making animal sacrifices. Moreover, the after-puja feasts have also become vegetarian to a large extent.