Poi-Sangken: The Man-Tai Community Water Festival


Poi-Sangken is a Water festival observed by the Shyam community settled in Karbi Anglong and parts of upper Assam. These people came to this land during the Burmese invasion of Assam controlled by the Ahom dynasty when the rest of India was under the occupation of the British East India Company.

Poi-Sangken is a religious service observed by the Man Tai community settled in Shyam village in the eastern part of Karbi Anglong, in the month of April. The Man Tai are Buddhist by faith.

The two day festival is marked by bathing of the idols of Lord Buddha by devotees. Holy water is drawn from a nearby source and the idols are ceremoniously taken out from the shrine amid chanting of hymns and other sacraments.

The idols are made of various substances, so great care is taken to cleanse each of them in a different way. Water is poured through a conduit by the devotees, to drench the idols. After bathing the deity, the water hits a rotating wooden wheel and the process goes on.

During the ceremonial bathing, people of all age pour water on each other and enjoy the lighter moments. On this occasion, the entire shrine is also thoroughly cleaned.

The next day, in the evening hours, the idols are retrieved and placed back inside the place of worship and settled in the appropriate place accompanied by chanting of mantras and other rituals.

Sushanta Roy is a journalist in Assam, India, who photographs and writes about the people, animals and flora of Assam, and the things that affect them.