Jonbeel Mela | Only Barter Fair in India
Jonbeel Mela, where cashless transactions have been in vogue for 500 years, is organized by the Tiwa community at Dayang Belguri in Morigaon district in Assam. It witnesses the exchange of goods between tribes from the hills and plains of Assam as well as Meghalaya. A few days before the mela, tribes like the Tiwas, Karbis, Khasis, Jaintias from the Meghalaya hills and other hills of Assam, come down with their various products for this Mela. On the occasion of the ‘mela’ a big bazar is held here where these tribes exchange their products with local people in barter system which is very rare in a civilized modern society. In the other words, Jonbeel Mela is the only fair where barter system still alive in India.
The Jonbeel Mela is held after few days of Magh Bihu at Jonbeel which is 3 km away from Jagirod in Morigaon District and 32 km from Guwahati in Assam. It is a three-day annual indigenous Tiwa Community fair held in Assam. The Mela is said to be begun not later than 15th century AD. It was first held by Tiwa (Lalung) to discuss the prevailing political situations.
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The Jonbeel mela starts after performing a grand puja of fire for well being of mankind and villages. During the Mela there are traditional tribal dances to attract more and more local people and tourist for better business in exchanging their products. King of Tiwa known as “Govaraja” along with his courtiers visit this Mela and collect taxes from his subjects.
The significant point of Jonbeel Mela is its theme of harmony and brotherhood among various tribes and communities. Every participant addresses the other as ‘mama’ or ‘mami’ (maternal uncle or aunt). The bonhomie only grows as tribal families stay on for days at the venue of the fair, a paddy field.
In the Jonbeel Mela, most of the hill folks brought items like ginger, turmeric, black pepper, cinnamon and yam, which were exchanged for beaten rice, rice flour, fish and traditional sweets from their counterparts on the plains. In the Mela, the items were sold without the use of weighing scales, like old days. Measurements were made with bowls and hands, and both parties decided how much each should get.
In simple words, Jonbeel Mela is the only place in India where money is literally no object during the three-day-long community fair.
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Video courtesy : Alfred Basumatary