A Guide to Ancient Market in Assam Where Barter Still Thrives


Driving to Morigaon at pre-dawn was all the time a troublesome name for me. However, the lure of the Jonbeel Mela was such that I couldn’t maintain myself again. The low visibility due to the early January dense fog on the National Highway 37 delayed me by an hour. By then, the soccer subject size-fair was full of individuals from the hills and the plains. There have been individuals in their tribal apparel on each side of the entry street buying and selling their commodities.

For me, it was a possibility to break free from the shackles of routine metropolis life and lose myself in the rarest market in the world. A place the place I might neglect my pockets, my debit or bank cards… principally all my worries.

People come to the truthful with a superb quantity of selfmade ‘teel pitha’ (native candy delicacy), which is exchanged with wild turmeric, ginger and native folding knife by the indigenous individuals. It’s astonishing that in this age of crypto cash, one should purchase issues with none forex. Yes, this occurs solely in India.

(Image: News18)

This is the one occasion in which the world’s oldest commerce mode continues to be alive. Today is the second day of the three-day annual truthful and essentially the most related one. On this present day, one should purchase the merchandise of hills introduced by the tribal of the Tiwa, Khasia and Karbi communities in change in your personal. No weight or scale is used, and most transactions are primarily based on stable belief, perception and mutual consent.

BJP’s Morigaon MLA Ramakanata Deori, who attended the truthful, mentioned he took round 12-kilogram of hill-grown pepper. “I’ve been visiting this truthful since my childhood. The truthful has grown and prospered at this time. You get some uncommon hill produce which you received’t discover wherever. The hill tribal brings lac and the dhuna. I exchanged them for pithas,” he stated.

History of Jonbeel Mela

Held by the banks of the crescent moon-shaped lake and thus the name Joon(Moon) beel (lake) mela, the genealogy of the fair can be traced back to the 15th century with a three-day programme celebrated under the auspices of the then Gobha kingdom with the participation of the Jaintia king of neighbouring Meghalaya.

(Image: News18)

The world’s oldest system of trade is kept alive by the Tiwas, a tribe of Central Assam and neighbouring Meghalaya in the fair. A few days before the fair, which falls on the Makar Sankranti, members of Tiwa, Karbi, Khasi and Jaintia tribes come down from the neighbouring hills with various products.

(Image: News18)

The products usually traded during the fair include ginger, bamboo shoots, turmeric, pumpkin, medicinal herbs, dried fish and ‘pithas’ (rice cakes). The tribals barter their products with salt, oil, clothes, utensils and other items which mother nature does not bestow upon them. The transactions defy all laws of business economics.

“I have been coming here since my childhood. We bring chira (flattened rice), dry fish, pitha and exchange them with the special chilli from the hills, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon rolls and pepper pods. They are of exotic quality and pull through the year. We do not fight or quarrel about the exchange portions or the amount exchanged. Everything is based on trust and friendship among us,” expressed Rupali Bordoloi, an area from Morigaon.


The truthful begins with an ‘Agni Puja’ (obeisance to the fireplace god) for the well-being of humanity. The ‘Tiwa’ king Deepsingh Deoraja (additionally referred to as Gova Raja as the traditional kingdom of the Tiwas was often known as Gova), alongside along with his ‘courtiers’, participated in a neighborhood feast after which collected a customary tax from his topics.

Two peethas for a hand filled with turmeric. Ten parts of turmeric for ten pitches. It’s attention-grabbing; nobody offers in money right here, however nothing is measured on scales too. It’s all ‘bhags’ (components). The economics right here is straightforward and sorted.

(Image: News18)

The Tiwas, one of many many Tibeto-Burman tribes discovered in Assam, are subdivided into hill Tiwas and plains Tiwas primarily based on their habitat. They have their language and tradition, however most now converse Assamese.

The kings, on this present day, meet and work together with the individuals to try to perceive their points. He additionally collects the Khajna (tax) for the merchants in the truthful.

Participants in the mela from distant villages and the hills, typically addressed as Mama and Mami, convey native rice, lac, pumpkin, wax gourd, sponge gourd, yam, cinnamon barks, uncooked pepper, dried fish, and baskets, amongst different issues.

(Image: News18)

However, in the barter commerce this yr, the turmeric and ginger bought like scorching truffles as individuals from the plain traded them with dried fish, puffed rice, flattened rice and pithas.

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma Himanta Biswa Sarma, in a tweet, mentioned: “Jonbeel Mela, an integral a part of Tiwa cultural heritage, has been selling peace & brotherhood between the individuals of hills & plains since medieval interval,” He also addressed a meeting in presence of Gova Raja Deepsingh Deoraja.

By 8:30 AM, when my friends in Guwahati were sitting with their morning tea cups, the fair here was over.

I gathered the commodities Shila asked for, including a few rolls of cinnamon. Without shelling a dime, I pondered what keeps the ancient trade practice alive in the 21st century. Probably, it’s the barter of love for love which is the driving force behind the fair’s uniqueness in the world. Barter- perhaps we should think about it; if not goods, let’s use this system to exchange ‘love for peace’ and ‘peace for unity’. Let’s make ‘barter of love’ the new cool. Don’t you think this revived concept will make the world a better place?

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