Guwahati: In a demonetised age where cashless transactions are being projected as the country’s stepping stones to a brighter future, the Jonbeel Mela – arguably India’s only fair that works on the barter system – comes as a veritable blast from the past; to be specific, the 15th century.
The three-day fair, kicked off from Thursday, is organised by the Tiwa Community at Dayang Belguri in Morigaon district for over five centuries. It witnesses the exchange of goods between tribes from the hills and plains of Assam as well as Meghalaya.
Besides trade, Jonbeel Mela is also known for promoting friendship and harmony among tribes in the region. The bonhomie only grows as tribal families stay on for two days at the venue of the fair, a paddy field.
Community fishing at the nearby Jonbeel (the wetland after which the fair has been named), cockfight, cultural shows, community feasts and token collection of taxes by Gova Roja and his courtiers are other highlights of the fair.
Organised under the patronage of the Gobha kingdom, the Gobha King oversees the arrangements for the fair and conducts a “durbar” at the end of the event. This is where he meets and interacts with the people from the fair and tries to understand their issues.
The Mela will be attended by 18 traditional Tiwa kings. Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal is likely to attend the event on the concluding day on January 23 and will distribute the Rajbhatta to the 18 traditional Rajas.
The open fair and cultural functions will not be held this year due to COVID-19 pandemic.