March 1, 2021

Explained: Today the Prime Minister, in place, recalled an Assam icon

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to visit Assam on Saturday, January 23 – for the first time in the Assembly elections in April. The venue for Modi’s plan – he will launch an Assam government initiative to distribute one lakh land parcels (documents) to the state’s tribal communities – is the historically significant Jerenga Pothar in Upper Assam’s Sivasagar district.

Shivsagar, formerly known as Rangpur, was the site of the powerful Ahom dynasty that ruled Assam for six centuries (1228-1826). It is part of Upper Assam, which saw strong opposition to the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) last year.

What is the historical significance of Jerenga Potter?

The open-air Jerenga Pothar in Shivsagar is famously associated with the heroism of the 17th century Ahom princess Jaimoti. Although the courage of the Ahom kings is well documented, the story of Jaimoti – little known until the late 19th century – is celebrated today and used as a symbol of inspiration.

A still from the 1935 Assamese film Jaimati produced by Jyoti Prasad Agarwala.

“From 1671 to 1681, the Ahom kingdom was in turmoil under ‘ministerial supremacy’, that is, the nobles and prime ministers were more important than the king, and they were often puppets,” said Dr. Jahanabi Kokoy, a professor at the University of Dibrugarh. Specializes in the medieval history of Assam.

It was during this time that Sulikba, also known as the ‘Lora King’ or the boy prince, and his prime minister, Laluksala Borbugan, found and killed potential heirs to ensure a clear path to the throne. Joymoti’s husband, Prince Godabani, was in the front row, but he escaped to Naga Hill before King Lora and his men could capture him. “That’s when Lora Raja searched for Godabani’s wife, Joymoti, hoping she would tell him about his whereabouts,” Dr. Kokoy said. She died, she sacrificed her life for her husband, and eventually became king, establishing an era of stability and peace in Assam.

The place where Joymoti was tortured was Jerenga Bothar.

How did Joymotti become a nationalist symbol?

According to historians, the Jerenga Potter chapter is not officially recorded in any Puranic or Ahom era. “These were mostly written by men, or at the king’s command,” Dr. Kokoy said, “so this chapter was not considered sufficient to record. However, the story was passed down by word of mouth from generation to generation.”

Many publications have recorded the chapter, beginning with Dr. Kokoy, Jonaki magazine written by Ratneshwar Mahanta in the early 20th century. In 1935, cultural icon Jyoti Prasad Agarwala based his first Assamese film, Jaimati, on Lakshmanath Pesparova’s play, Jaimoti Konwari (1915). “It was only when the public became aware of his sacrifice and strength,” Dr. Kokoy said.

Cultural historian Ankur Tamuli Buchan says this paved the way for Jaimoti to become a nationalist symbol. “Joymotti’s story is not only about the strength and loyalty of an Assamese woman, but also about her resistance and courage to the relationship between family / domestic life and national life,” he said.

What is the significance of Jerenga Bothar today?

Although Jerenga Pother is not a protected archeological site, there are several protected sites nearby, to the east of which is the Na Pukuri Tank and to the west of the Bohukar Zoo, a natural zoo built during the Ahom period. There is also a large Joy Sagar tank and the Vishnu Toll Temple built by the Ahom king Swarkadio Rudra Singa in 1697.

According to Zitan Porpatra Cohain, a retired professor of history at Namroop College, the Gerunga pot was originally called the Jeranga Hobby or Jarenga Forest. “In the first Assamese newspaper, Orunodo, there will be references to wild buffaloes killing people in the Jerenga Botar,” he said.

He said that it was 1707 when Rangpur (formerly Swasagar) was established as the capital of the Ahom Kingdom and many monuments (Rang Kar, Talatal Kar, Kareng Kar) came nearby.

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Sonaram Barua, a retired principal of Sibsagar Women’s College, said that Jeranga Pothar was located in a low-lying area and was still flooded during the monsoon today. “Jerenga Bothar is an open space, surrounded by villages on all sides. On rare occasions it is used for important events.” In 2017, the field was used for the centenary celebrations of the Assam Literary Council, the apex and influential literary body.

Preparations for Prime Minister Modi’s land distribution event on Saturday are in full swing, in line with the BJP’s 2016 referendum plan to protect caste, caste and caste (community, land and stove). According to Tamuli Buchanan, Upper Assam is where the strong opposition to the BJP-led government’s CAA came from. “Not only Jerenga Pothar, Shivsagar is of historical significance and represents the‘ nation ’of Assam,” he said.