Gure Rodila (Horse Festival)

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Gure Rodila (Horse Festival)

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Gure Rodila or Horse Festival

By J.L.R.Marak, Megartsculture

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Gure Rodila or Horse Festival is one of the major festivals of the Garos of Goalpara and Kamrup districts of Assam which bears relationship with the Ganna Nokma Ceremony of highlander Garos. Ganna Nokma ceremony is performed by a man who can show his wealth among the members of his village community. He performs this ceremony to gain respect from the relations of his wife's chra male members and other members of the village. The person who performs "Ganna Ceremony" is respected and honoured in the society. Gure Rodila is also an act of showing the wealth of the performer. It is done by offering sacrifices to the diety " Gure Mitde" or Horse God with much feasting, drinking and merry making.

The "Gure Rodila" literally means looking after the horse. It is believed that the deity takes the form of a horse. Then horse here represents the god of fertility. In early days, god was worshipped with pomp and grandeur. But it has lost much of its importance at present. This festival has connection with the Nokma Ganna Ceremony and Nokma Jaksil Ceremony, another festival of the Garos. The Nokma wears 'Jaksil' - a brass elbow ring as a sign of richness followed by animal sacrifices where feasting, drinking and merry making went on for two or three days together. This festival has both religious and social functions. This ceremony is performed to appease 'Misi Saljong' - god of wealth. 'Misi Saljong' is believed to have blessed mankind with food grains.

Therefore, this deity is worshipped by the rich men to show their wealth to the members of village community to gain honourable and respectful place in the society. The ceremony starts with "Gure wata" which means literally 'Woven Horse' is linked with the preparation of the image of horse god as soon as the Nokma Jaksil Ceremony ends. It is on this occasion a rich man wears 'jaksil' an elbow ring. The Garos believe that the horse god remains in the house of a man who regularly performs the ceremony, 'Gure wata' by offering sacrifices. 'rokkime' - the mother of rice sends the horse god to a person to become rich. Therefore, to worship this god animal a sacrifice continues. Then this family starts becoming rich more and more. But if a family once propitiated this god and later discontinued this practice of offering sacrifices, the adverse effect is becoming poorer and poorer. Thus in the long run, it brings misery, sickness and curse on the entire family.

The shape of horse god cannot be woven by any person other than the selected one. The selected one should either be a participant in the ritual ceremony or he should be well versed with the ceremony. The image of the horse is made out of a shapely bamboo structure to bring the image of a horse. The head of a horse is somewhat similar of a common horse. There are two horns similar to the horns of a goat. Tail is also similar to a tail of a yak. This image of horse god cannot be installed without offering sacrifice and the ritual ceremony 'guru wata' starts. After completing the head of the horse god, the body is covered by a special cloth known as "Ba'ra a'sim". Yak is known as 'Matchik or Donggru' in Garo. To complete this image of horse god takes seven days or more. Thus with the installation as first stage of the ceremony comes to an end. The next ceremony is known as "Gure Ba'a" which denoted releasing of a horse. Literally it means carrying a horse on the back. This horse god thus carried by a well-known person.

The belief is that he rides on the horseback and dances. Actually the person carries the horse on his back. It appears that the horse is dancing. So a well known person has to be selected from amongst the villagers who are well versed with the rites and rituals of this ceremony. Usually the village priest, known as "Kamal" takes the rein and dances from house to house in the village. In this dancing, "Kamal" is followed by the 'Oja' - the medical practitioner of the village. While dancing from door to door, the dancer suffers from natural convulsion and in trance. The 'Oja' has to give medical help as soon as the madness appears in the dancer. So the duty of 'Oja' is very important in this ceremony to control the horse god, Otherwise the dancer becomes mad permanently where the 'Oja' has to over power the strength of the horse god. This is known as 'Mitde Rim'a'.

This door-to-door visit continues many days depending on the number of houses in the village. The dancer is followed by the 'Oja' as well as 'Kamal Tuara' the high priest to meet any eventuality.

The third stage of the ceremony is 'Gure Rimnapa'. In this ceremony the horse god is allowed to bring inside the house in the evening only. Another sacrifice is offered to the horse in this occasion. As soon as the horse is brought near the house the 'Nokma' village chief and the 'Kamal Tuara' burns the incense in front of the residence of the 'Nokma' and recites prayer. The wife of the 'Nokma' then brings an egg and puts the contents of it by breaking on the forehead of the horse god. She slowly carries the egg to the center post of the house known as 'maljuri'. Then the 'Nokma' and his wife along with the horse god move slowly and come to the center of the house. Then the Nokma and the Kamal Tuara move towards the 'maljuri' and offer sacrifice by killing a fowl. The blood of the fowl is smeared at the post 'maljuri'. Again the incense is burnt in the process. Immediately after this sacrifice and incantation of sacred words the Kamal Tuara and the Nokma partake in leading the dance as 'grika'. Thus all others present there start singing in chorus and participate in the dance of this ceremony.

The Nokma and the Kamal Tuara along with the dancers come out in the next morning which is known as 'Sa'ra or A'tilla Roa' and dance in the court yard of Nokma and then the horse is carried to the nearest house and dance there also. In that they eat, drink and enjoy merry making. Nokma does not go further this house but the other dancers go on dancing and collect eggs as much as they require for the sacrifices until they cover the whole village. In this they collect eggs, rice etc. which they distribute among themselves. Sometimes the priest is fooled by the dancers throwing rotten eggs at him, for which he does not show any effect. Then the horse god again brought back to the house of the Nokma where another round of eating, drinking and enjoyment is done. Then the last day of the festival, the Kamal comes out of the Nokma's house right after the cock's crow, and takes bath before the sun rises. When the sun is bright, the procession again starts towards the water source like river, stream or pond for immersing the horse god. Thus the ceremony starts by immersing the horse god in the water and it is known as 'Gru Sim'a or Gopa'. During the preparation of immersion, the cover of the horse god is removed and the 'matchik ki'me' (the tail), susuak the anklet bells, and the horse are also taken out. In this ceremony, a goat is sacrificed in the Nokma's house. All the villagers tried to touch the horse god, which they believed, touching the horse god before the immersion cleans all the sins. At this place, the indigenous games are also organised like gando makkal pala, wa'pong sika, etc. With this, the festival of horse god comes to an end. Similar type of horse worship is also found in Tamil Nadu in South India known as 'Karpana' (horse god) as well as Village god.


Primary Sources 1. Shri Hales Sangma, Village Mallangkona, West Khasi Hills Interview taken on 17th September 1991. 2. Shri Goblin R.Marak, Village A'magoan, Kamrup, Assam. Interview taken on 5th April 1998. 3. Shri Roston R.Marak, Village Badaka, East Garo Hills. Interview taken on 3rd June 1992. 4. Shri Gajiram R.Sangma, Village Mariampur, Goalpara, Assam. Interview taken on 2nd April 1995. 5. Smti Ratche R.Marak, Village Mariampur, goalpara, assam. Interview taken on 6th August 1998. Secondary Sources 1. Carrey, William, "The Garos Jungle Book" (1919) page. 192. 2. Magazine, "North Eastern Affairs Annual" (1976) page. 82. 3. Magazine, "Nokdangni Ripeng" page 27.

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