Moho-ho: A Festival Of Mosquitoes

“O HariMaho-ho

MahKheidbaTokan Lo

MaheBuleMoillu De

TepolPura Khali De

TepolotNahal Nun

ChaolKahre Don Don…..”

Maho-ho or “Repelling Mosquito” is one of the top-rated folk festivals of lower Assam, representing the districts of Goalpara, Barpeta, Nalbari, and Kamrup and Darang. The word ‘Maho-ho’ is derived from the Assamese word ‘Mah’ means mosquito, and Bodo word ‘Hw’ (‘Ho’) means to drive out or to repel. This signifies the assimilation of culture between the tribals and non-tribals.

This popular folk-fest is celebrated throughout the lower Assam both by the tribals and non-tribals on the full moon night of the eighth Assamese month Aaghon. In its true form, Moho-ho is a magnificent folk-fest to watch. A group of young people, generally the Assamese cowboys, make the team perform the Moho-ho dance all together in the Chotal (front yard) of every house in the villages singing ‘Maho-ho’ songs. One among them dresses like a bear using dry banana leaf and self-made masks. They dance round and round, centring the bear in the front yard and knocking the ground with the bamboo sticks and ‘thorka’ (an instrument made of bamboo) on their hands for driving out mosquitos. The bear represents the victorious power against the mosquitos representing the evil and defeated power. Carrying out dance in every household, they also pray for divine blessings and well-being for everyone. The head of the family offers them some food-grains and money that the team takes with pleasure and makes fun-feast with the things offered afterwards.

Assam is a region densely populated by mosquitos and sparsely inhabited by people since ancient times. People are the worst sufferers of mosquito-borne diseases like malaria, dengue etc. In the village folk tradition, it is believed that bear eats mosquitos. So, people hoped that this kind of symbolic fight against mosquito could vanish mosquito from the village and save village people from mosquito bite and ailments it causes. The Moho-ho festival seems to have originated from an agri-based culture and society. It shows signs of primitive magic belief and is directly related to the fertility cult.  The Moho-ho team altogether utters and prayers for the progress of each household they visit. From the primitive ages, humans are trying to defeat evils and control nature using the logic of primitive magic. We see Moho-ho is not only a thing of traditions and beliefs. It also encourages bondage among the rural youths as well as keeping the process of socialisation alive. Moho-ho festival also breaks the barrier of religion in the rural Assamese society. People of lower Assam, irrespective of religion and others, participate in and make fun on the day of Moho-ho. The Moho-ho songs are of great importance from the literary point of view also.

Except for its dialectical variations in the lyrical form, the nature and objective of the Moho-ho festival are the same throughout the lower Assam. However, it has some local names in the respective areas. In some places of Goalpara district, O’ riMaga or EuriMaga, ‘Bhaol’ in Barpeta, ‘Bhalok’ or ‘Bhal-Bhowlka’ in Nalbari so forth. In the Tamulpur region of Assam a similar festival called ‘Bambolpita’ is being observed. Another festival known as ‘SenaiHunai’, which is observed in the north Goalpara region has a similarity

with the Moho-ho. In recent times, though the Moho-ho festival is continuing in the whole region of lower Assam, it has gone far away from its original style of performing. As the actual cowboys are few in the present rural scenario of Assam, the village students and the youth workingmen are, for the sake of fun, continuing the festival without performing any Moho-ho dance and songs. Many of them have no idea about the Moho-ho songs transmitted orally from their grandparents to their parents. Thus, it has become a symbolic festival to observe. Perhaps, if not preserved well within a few coming years, this fantastic traditional folk festival called Moho-ho would become extinct in the greater waves of globalisation and cultural hegemony.  

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