Mandalay Assamese ladies feted in city

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GUWAHATI, November 29 (The Assam Tribune): Two Myanmar-based Assamese women, whose ancestors were taken by the Burmese (Myanmarese) army as a ‘gift’ from the Ahom kings about 200 years back, were accorded felicitation at the Kumar Bhaskar Natya Mandir on November 28. The event was organised by city-based surgeon Dr Satyakam Phukan, teacher of North Guwahati College Dr Tapan Sarma and city-based businessman Binoy Sarma, who visited Myanmar between January and February 2013 in search of the people of Assam origin.

The ancestors of the two women, who were felicitated, had to leave their motherland after the repeated Burmese invasions of Assam between 1817 and 1826, along with the Burmese armymen. Though these people have lost their language and culture, they still maintain that they are Assamese people. Initially, there were around 5,000 such people living in Myanmar. But today, a majority of them have assimilated into the Myanmarese society and those who are still maintaining their Assamese identity, are mostly settled in Mandalay, the second largest city of Myanmar and Bhamo, another city of the neighbouring country.

The two women – Ratnamoyee and Rajani Devi – who came to the city, accompanying two groups of Manipuri and Bengali people of Mandalay, however, had to speak in Burmese during their felicitation. They said that they have a very weak economy. They have lost their language and culture. But they take great pride in identifying themselves as Assamese, they said.

They told the audience at the Bhaskar Natya Mandir: “If you help us now to learn how to speak our language (Assamese), it would be a great service rendered to us (the Assamese people living in Myanmar).”

They said that they had a dream of returning to Assam, the land of their origin, one day. Since they have been able to realise that dream, their happiness knows no bounds. The Assamese clothes displayed in the Assam State Museum and their learning to wear these clothes have given them the idea of the dress codes of their ancestors, they said.

Their versions were translated into Assamese by prominent Manipuri personality Sundar Gopal Sarma (Uhtun Shwe), also a resident of Mandalay, and a virtual guardian of the Manipuri and Assamese people of Mandalay. Sarma is also the vice president of Upper-Myanmar India Business Association.

Noted lyricist Kirti Kamal Bhuyan gave them the idea of the Bihu festivals, Bihu dance and Borgeet. Local artistes also performed Bihu dance and Borgeet on the occasion. The function began with a Naam.

The function was also addressed by Sundar Gopal Sarma, Dr Phukan, Dr Sarma and Binoy Sarma.

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