Assam is a state that is inhabited by a large number of tribes who led a simple and sustainable lifestyle in tandem with nature and its elements. As a result, across the state, the local food traditions are mostly dominated by traditional and rustic dishes. Traveling further into the state in search of local and street foods has acquainted us with the unique and vibrant cultures and traditions of the communities belonging to the respective areas.
In this episode, we bring you our food explorations pertaining to the Deori tribe of Assam. For this, we have come to the Kolowlowa Deori Village in Dibrugarh along with our host Monali Hazarika. Here we met Sri Ishwar Deori who is a native of this village. He was a genial and enthusiastic host who was enthused to take us through the village and familiarized us with their own tradition, culture, and society.
We started with a tour of this beautiful village. Our first stop was the religious and cultural center where the community gathers to worship or celebrate any festival. Ishwar Ji informed us about the significance of the place.
From there we went to see the Changghar or the traditional houses of the Deori tribe. These stilt houses are designed in such a way so as to provide them protection from flooding. The Deori tribe resides closer to the river hence flooding is a menace that they have to face every year.
Next was the turn of their traditional folk dance called the Deori Bihu dance that is popular for its rhythmic movement and vivacity. Generally performed during the Bohag Bihu festival, this native dance form is a highlight of their culture. We were mesmerized by the way the young girls dressed in traditional attire were performing the briskly rhythmic dance movements to the tunes of native songs sung by fellow womenfolk. Bihu is an important festival of the Deori tribe and dance is one of its important elements.
From there we straight away went to Sri Ishwar Deori's home for a traditional meal. In the Deori household, the kitchen and the eating space are the same. As we arrived there, we were greeted with a bunch of villagers mostly women folks who have gathered to prepare the most soulful spread.
Their smiles and warmth made us feel at home. We first tried the crispy fried small fish that they had caught from the river, along with the traditional rice beer called the Chuze. Then came other dishes a traditional raised bell-metal plate called the Baan kahi. It had steamed rice, dal, fish fry, and country chicken curry. Every dish was cooked with simple, fresh, and basic ingredients. The Deori people eat locally produced food that is prepared in the most simple manner. They love their rice and meat or fish.
The rice beer was sharp yet it had a finesse. The meal was followed by a customary Tamul or betel leaves with areca nuts. Before departing we witnessed some native dance movements performed by the womenfolk. It was so rhythmic and enthralling.
Soon it was time to bid goodbye to all our genial hosts. We feel privileged for the opportunity to know them and their culture up close and personal.