Author : Ghanendra Kumar Nath
Baghbheta is an extinct tradition of Jamugurihat, a place of immense historical importance in the Sonitpur district of Assam. The tradition of Baghbheta has disappeared gradually, so has the Forest. Also the number of tiger has declined incredibly. Killing a tiger has become illegal. But there used to be terror of tiger and other wild animals in Jamugurihat and the other places to the east of river Jia-Bharali. Folks out there started facing this challenge very strongly and started coming out voluntarily to kill and drive away tigers from their habitat places. This purpose helped the citizens of the eastern parts of river Jia Bharali to come united and it soon embodied to be a festival in those places. In those days it was not a crime to kill a tiger.
To catch tigers, people from those villages used to prepare jute rope. In case a tiger is traced the village messenger would spread the news to all the villages in the locality. People were swift enough to come out spontaneously with nets and other instruments to catch a tiger.
There were two methods of catching tigers. In the first method, nets used to be placed in three sides of the tiger, people advancing from the fourth one, simultaneously hosting nets in that front. Thus very soon the tiger would be surrounded by nets from all the sides. In this process, if the tiger tears through the net, or dies in attempt to do so, the village who had prepared that particular net used to be penalized. Usually tigers had no chance to tear a net as people across it were ready with javelins and axes. If a tiger tries to tear a net, the poachers would hurt it with the javelins or make noise with the instruments driving him into his confinement.
In the second method, a prey (a dead goat or any other dead animal) is used to trap the tiger. A cage like trap (Jaap) is set and the prey is placed on the threshold of the trap. A liver is placed between the prey and the door of the trap in such a way that any touch in the prey would instantly shut the door of the trap, thus trapping the tiger. This method of catching tiger is called ‘Baghjaap’
The traditional ‘Baghbheta’ festival kept on rolling in the culture of Assam, very much colloquially of course. The festival of ‘Baghbheta’, once epitomizing unity and courage of the Jamugurihatian natives, has become a legend in the present times.