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Boy king?s barter bazaar

More than 15,000 tribal villagers from distant locations in northeastern India are thronging a sprawling meadow at a roadside village for an exotic fair.

india Updated: Jan 21, 2006 17:16 IST

More than 15,000 tribal villagers from distant locations in northeastern India are thronging a sprawling meadow at a roadside village for an exotic fair where currency is forbidden.

Villagers clad in traditional costumes have set up makeshift stalls for commodities from rice to turmeric, wild potatoes, fish, fowl to fruits in this unique three-day annual bazaar in Jonbeel, about 60 km east of Guwahati. The fair concludes on Saturday.

"The most interesting aspect of this fair is that people practice the age-old barter system. Cash transactions here are considered a crime," Dipsing Deo Raja, the 14-year-old king of the Tiwa tribe in Assam, said.

Dipsing, perhaps the world's youngest living king, inaugurated the fair on Thursday by invoking Agni, the fire god. "It is a sight to watch, with people from far-flung areas coming to participate at the fair carrying items ranging from rice to dry fish, bamboo shoots to poultry," said the king, a Class VIII student.

"They do their business like any other trader and at the end of the fair, return to their villages happy and satisfied although there is no question of profit and loss." For the hundreds of people who come down from the hills and dales to participate in the fair, it is like a gala carnival they set up makeshift bamboo and thatch huts for the three days and eat together in groups.

"This fair is a part of the tribal tradition. There is no recorded history as to when it first began," said Nagen Barbaruah, a Tiwa tribal elder.

First Published: Jan 21, 2006 17:16 IST