The Barter System and Assam’s Jonbeel Mela
In an era of crypto currencies and cashless transactions, there still exists a tradition where exchange of goods for goods comes live! Known for being one of the most unique festival in Assam , Jonbeel Mela is arguably the only fair of its kind in India, with its existence dating back to 15th century
Jonbeel Mela, the traditional 3-day long fair of Tiwa Community is held at Dayang Belguri in Jonbeel, situated 60Kms from Guwahati in Morigaon district is known for following Barter System as a means of. The festival- Joonbeel (Joon meaning moon and beel meaning wetland) derives its name from the large moon shaped water body that flows across the area.
Organized in the weekend after Magh Bihu in January month, this fair is a meeting point for all neighboring hill and plain tribes to promote trade, harmony, and brotherhood. This is also a time for the kings of these two tribes to discuss their political matters. Traditionally the fair is inaugurated with hoisting of flag by the king, Gobha Roja followed by community fishing in the river. This very lively and vibrant festival includes traditional dances, community singing and many exciting sports including cockfights by the tribal communities
During the 3-day festival, fresh farm produces, traditional handloom and poultry are on display by the tribes each exchanged only with goods of similar value. The tribes from each community bring their harvest and produced to the mela by early morning hours. Within a few hours, children and elderly from all age groups are seen rushing from shop to shop. Although now all varieties of food are available equally between hills and plains, traditionally this festival was an opportunity between the tribes in hills to sell their unique produces (vegetables, fruits and berries) with the produces in plains (rice, flours, rye) and vice versa. It is a common sight to see rice flour or beaten rice exchanged with turmeric or fresh vegetables between the communities. Traditionally, the items exchanged between two parties were decided mutually without use of any measurements or weighing scales
The festival would let you witness a large variety of unique vegetables, sweets, pithas and farm produce. The furniture bazaar has its special attraction with some of most unique handlooms , handmade furniture and clothes including traditional mekhela sador on display. Nearly 40 thousand people including foreigners come every year to experience this unique festival of Assam.
With Magh Bihu round the corner, it can be an exciting plan to visit this unique festival and experience the age old barter system !