Barter Trade Festival, North East India Traditional Festivals, Festivals of Assam, North East India Tribes and Tours, Assam Handicrafts and Handlooms

“Thou shall not pay you money for the goods I buy from you.” This statement is sure to scare the living daylights out of any person in the business of trading. But there is congregation of villagers in Assam’s Morigaon district who agree to the above statement.

Confused?! Well, this is the ‘Jonbeel Mela’ – an annual occasion where a huge bazaar or ‘Mela’ is held. Tribes like Karbi, khasi, Tiwa and Jayantia come down from the hills with their products and interchange their merchandise with the local people in a barter system. It is perhaps the only fair in India where barter system still exists at least for these three days.

‘Jonbeel Mela’ is a three-day community fair held the weekend of ‘Magh Bihu’ at a historic place known as ‘Dayang Belguri’ at ‘Jonbeel’. It is 5 km from Jagiroad in Marigaon district of Assam and 32 km from Guwahati. The ‘Jonbeel’ (Jon and Beel are Assamese terms for the Moon and a wetland respectively) is so called because a large natural water body is shaped like a crescent moon.

This festival demonstrates the age old barter system in a very interesting way. The event starts off with ‘Agni Puja’ where the locals pay homage to the ‘God of Fire’. After the ‘Puja’, the locals get together to fish in the wetland which is called ‘JonBeel’. The visitors to the ‘Mela’ and the participating tribes engage in freewheeling exchange of commodities. Typically you will find families from the hills bringing in herbs, spices and exotic fruits which are found only in those places and then exchanging them with rice, fish preparations and ‘pitha’ sweets as the latter cannot be found in the hills. The 3 (three) day ‘Mela’ sees participation of over 1000 Tribes. It is a splendid example of communal harmony as all of them eat and laugh together ultimately behaving like a large and happy family.

If you visit Assam during January then don’t miss out on the ‘Jonbeel Mela’. If you are lucky you will get to see the cockfights, Assamese traditional dances and fish exhibitions that are held during this time. This festival is a glorious representation of the age old barter system prevalent among the ancient tribes.

Jungleideas welcomes you to India’s North East to witness an age old practice that is on the verge of extinction at the Jonbeel Mela, the State of Assam, Incredible India!

Recommended Itinerary for your Visit: Festivals of North East India

Barter Trade Festival, North East India Traditional Festivals, Festivals of Assam, North East India Tribes and Tours, Assam Handicrafts and Handlooms
Fresh Fishes for Barter Trade by the North East India Tribal Lady at the Jonbeel Mela

Recommended Itinerary for your Visit: Festivals of North East India

Barter Trade Festival, North East India Traditional Festivals, Festivals of Assam, North East India Tribes and Tours, Assam Handicrafts and Handlooms
Tribal Lady brewing the ‘Apong’ – Locally prepared Alcohol of the Tribes of North East India

Recommended Itinerary for your Visit: Festivals of North East India

Barter Trade Festival, North East India Traditional Festivals, Festivals of Assam, North East India Tribes and Tours, Assam Handicrafts and Handlooms
Indigenous Local Spices for Barter Trade at Jonbeel Mela

Recommended Itinerary for your Visit: Festivals of North East India

Barter Trade Festival, North East India Traditional Festivals, Festivals of Assam, North East India Tribes and Tours, Assam Handicrafts and Handlooms
Indigenous North East India Bamboo and Cane Handicrafts for Barter Trade at Jonbeel Mela

Recommended Itinerary for your Visit: Festivals of North East India

Barter Trade Festival, North East India Traditional Festivals, Festivals of Assam, North East India Tribes and Tours
Metal Goods for Barter Trade at Jonbeel Mela

Recommended Itinerary for your Visit: Festivals of North East India

Barter Trade Festival, North East India Traditional Festivals, Festivals of Assam, North East India Tribes and Tours, Assam Handicrafts and Handlooms
Indigenous Metal Swords of Assam for Barter Trade at Jonbeel Mela

Recommended Itinerary for your Visit: Festivals of North East India

Barter Trade Festival, North East India Traditional Festivals, Festivals of Assam, North East India Tribes and Tours, Assam Handicrafts and Handlooms
Indigenous Handicrafts and Handlooms for Barter Trade at Jonbeel Mela

Recommended Itinerary for your Visit: Festivals of North East India

Barter Trade Festival, North East India Traditional Festivals, Festivals of Assam, North East India Tribes and Tours, Assam Handicrafts and Handlooms
Bamboo Handicrafts for Barter Trade at Jonbeel Mela

Recommended Itinerary for your Visit: Festivals of North East India

Barter Trade Festival, North East India Traditional Festivals, Festivals of Assam, North East India Tribes and Tours, Assam Handicrafts and Handlooms
Wooden Toys for Barter Trade at Jonbeel Mela

Recommended Itinerary for your Visit: Festivals of North East India

Barter Trade Festival, North East India Traditional Festivals, Festivals of Assam, North East India Tribes and Tours, Assam Handicrafts and Handlooms
Man Brewing fresh local alcohol and serving the Khorika – the Assamese Barbecue

Recommended Itinerary for your Visit: Festivals of North East India

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Welcome to the 600 year old tradition of the TIWA tribes of North East India ~ the Festival of Barter Trade at the Jonbeel Mela

Recommended Itinerary for your Visit: Festivals of North East India

Festival of Barter Trade Assam, Jonbeel Mela Festival Assam, Traditional Festivals of North East India, Indigenous Festivals of Assam, Tiwa Tribes of North East India, Handlooms and Handicrafts of North East India
Traitional Metal Crafts of the TIWA Tribes of North East India on display at the Jonbeel Mela

Recommended Itinerary for your Visit: Festivals of North East India

Festival of Barter Trade Assam, Jonbeel Mela Festival Assam, Traditional Festivals of North East India, Indigenous Festivals of Assam, Tiwa Tribes of North East India, Handlooms and Handicrafts of North East India
TIWA Tribes Handlooms fo Barter Trade at the Jonbeel Mela

Recommended Itinerary for your Visit: Festivals of North East India

Festival of Barter Trade Assam, Jonbeel Mela Festival Assam, Traditional Festivals of North East India, Indigenous Festivals of Assam, Tiwa Tribes of North East India, Handlooms and Handicrafts of North East India
Bodo handlooms at the Jonbeel Mela

Recommended Itinerary for your Visit: Festivals of North East India

Festival of Barter Trade Assam, Jonbeel Mela Festival Assam, Traditional Festivals of North East India, Indigenous Festivals of Assam, Tiwa Tribes of North East India, Handlooms and Handicrafts of North East India
Bamboo Handicrafts at the Jonbeel Mela in Morigaon, India.

Recommended Itinerary for your Visit: Festivals of North East India

Festival of Barter Trade Assam, Jonbeel Mela Festival Assam, Traditional Festivals of North East India, Indigenous Festivals of Assam, Tiwa Tribes of North East India, Handlooms and Handicrafts of North East India
‘Khorika’ ~ the Assamese Barbecue at the Jonbeel Mela

Recommended Itinerary for your Visit: Festivals of North East India

Festival of Barter Trade Assam, Jonbeel Mela Festival Assam, Traditional Festivals of North East India, Indigenous Festivals of Assam, Tiwa Tribes of North East India, Handlooms and Handicrafts of North East India
Men at Work! Pork ready to be Barbecued at the Jonbeel Mela

Recommended Itinerary for your Visit: Festivals of North East India

Festival of Barter Trade Assam, Jonbeel Mela Festival Assam, Traditional Festivals of North East India, Indigenous Festivals of Assam, Tiwa Tribes of North East India, Handlooms and Handicrafts of North East India
The Traditional Liquor of the Mishing Tribes ~ ‘SAI MOD’ being freshly brewed at the Jonbeel Mela

Recommended Itinerary for your Visit: Festivals of North East India

Festival of Barter Trade Assam, Jonbeel Mela Festival Assam, Traditional Festivals of North East India, Indigenous Festivals of Assam, Tiwa Tribes of North East India, Handlooms and Handicrafts of North East India
The Jonbeel Mela 2016 in Morigaon, India.

Recommended Itinerary for your Visit: Festivals of North East India

Exploring the Jonbeel Mela Festival – January 2019

On the 18th of January 2019, I decided on visiting the Jonbeel Mela at Jagiroad. The ;ast time I visited this festival was in January 2016, and my brother and I had visited the festival in the early hours of the first day of the festival and so we were not able to see all of the festivities here as the traders were still setting up their stalls and we missed on the practice of witnessing the barter trade in person. So this time I decided to visit the Jonbeel Mela alone on the second day of the festival as most of the traders would have come on the first day itself and set up their shops so that I do not miss out on the festivities of the Jonbeel Mela.

Jagiroad is around 45 km from my home in Guwahati so the drive time would be around 45 – 60 minutes so I left home at 8 AM. I crossed Khanapara and later Sonapur and Khetri to reach Jagiroad at 9 AM. From Jagiroad town I took a left from the market to go to the Jonbeel Mela venue grounds. The road was not good for the next 20 minutes drive so I drove slowly. As I reached in the morning hours there were not many visitors as yet so I found a parking place close to the venue grounds. By the time I started to explore the Jonbeel Mela it was around 9.30 AM. A huge entrance gate welcomes visitors at the Jonbeel Mela festival at Morigaon district in Jagiroad in Assam. The King of Morigaon had already finished his visit during the morning hours here so I missed out on the opportunity of seeing him in person. But I did get a chance to witness the ancient system of Barter trade as many local Tiwa tribe people were indulging in barter trade where it could be seen them trading one local good for another with the other vendors.

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The other traders had set up their shops already here and most of them were migrants who had settled themselves in areas around Morigaon district. They had bought in several goods to be sold at the bazaar here. From clothes, shoes, stationeries, there was everything being found here at cheap prices in the bazaar of the Jonbeel Mela. There were other shops being run by the local Tiwa people here and were selling traditional handicrafts and handlooms of their tribe. As it is in the name of Jonbeel Mela, a Mela or a fair is incolpete with the Giant wheel and other games for children like revolving cars were also present at the Jonbeel Mela festival grounds. There was a magic show going on and as well as a place where there was a dance session going on. Crossing these I reached the food joints where various stalls were set up selling food items like roti sabji, paratha sabji, rice thali, fast foods like noodles, fried rice, chicken fry, etc. I was not interested in eating so I crossed these stalls to reach the ethnic food stalls.

The Mishing community of Assam from Majuli Island had come here and set up various stalls selling traditionally brewed rice beer, rice wine along with grilled pork, chicken, fish, etc. The meat would first be boiled and then chunks of it would be pierced across a bamboo stick and roasted over fire. This way of cooking is called as the ‘Khorika’ – the Assamese way of barbecue. I decided to treat myself with this food and it was almost a month that I didn’t visit Majuli at my Eco camp and trying the local rice wine called as the ‘Sai Mod’ tempted me to visit one of the stalls here to try the wine and meat as well. I ordered for pork stick and a prawn stick along with a half litre bottle of rice wine. The meat and prawns were slowly roasted over fire and then cut into tiny pieces mixed with onions, green chillies, ginger and coriander and served to me. The prawn was tasty but the pork was so so as the fat content was too much and very less chunks of meat was present. I finished my wine and prawns and packed the left pork to take home and feed my cats. After this I took a final walk across this years Jonbeel Mela festival and started my car to come back home at Guwahati.

Kaziranga National Park, Jonbeel Mela, Bihu Festival Assam, Assam Festivals,
Dalmia cement welcomes visitors at the Jonbeel Mela festival ~ Jagiroad ~ Assam ~ India
Kaziranga National Park, Jonbeel Mela, Bihu Festival Assam, Assam Festivals,
The performance and discussion stage at the Jonbeel Mela festival ~ Jagiroad ~ Assam ~ India
Kaziranga National Park, Jonbeel Mela, Bihu Festival Assam, Assam Festivals,
Rice Wine and roasted pork and prawns at the Jonbeel Mela festival ~ Jagiroad ~ Assam ~ India
Kaziranga National Park, Jonbeel Mela, Bihu Festival Assam, Assam Festivals,
Ancient weapons of the Tiwa people at the Jonbeel Mela festival ~ Jagiroad ~ Assam ~ India
Kaziranga National Park, Jonbeel Mela, Bihu Festival Assam, Assam Festivals,
Traditional Handloom stalls at the Jonbeel Mela festival ~ Jagiroad ~ Assam ~ India
Kaziranga National Park, Jonbeel Mela, Bihu Festival Assam, Assam Festivals,
People shopping at the Jonbeel Mela festival ~ Jagiroad ~ Assam ~ India
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