Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Bhogali Bihu Fish Market at Uzaan Bazaar

An Assamese friend of mine, invited me to the fish market on Saturday (January 14th) morning. She said it would be special as the market was specifically expanded for Bhogali Bihu (Makar Sankranti - the sun transitions from Saggitarius to Capricorn. The celebration heralds the lengthening of days, arrival of spring and is also one of the two annual harvests )

Normally the Uzaan Bazaar fish market is a place where medium sized traders buy fish from the fishermen or the large traders. If you want to buy fish here on a regular basis you need to get here really early in the morning like 4:30am. And you just buy your fish, rarely will you be able to get it cut and cleaned here itself. Today, each stall had 1 or 2 people on hand to descale, clean and cut the fish.

On Bhogali Bihu, a lot of smaller fishermen also set up stalls here. When we arrived the stalls stretched out for almost a kilometer and 6 rows deep on the sandy riverbanks of the Brahmaputra. If you plan to buy fish here, then do note that you will have to buy the whole fish and not just a piece. Fish size here, ranges from 2-20kgs each. Not like Mangalore, where you get 5-6 bangdas in a kilo of fish.So fish markets in Guwhati allow you to buy just a couple of pieces from whichever part of the fish is available.

The tail isn't preferred here, but the head is prized by a lot of families.The primary varieties of fish available here are the ari (fresh water cat fish), bhorali and chital (a flat fish). Rohu is sometimes available, but its very bony.

Most fish in Guwahati comes from outside Guwahati. But even though they have higher transport costs, local varieties of the fish are more expensive as people prefer the taste of the local varietes of the same fishes.

Given that it was Bhogali Bihu, prices of food items in the city skyrocketed. Chicken which is normally around 120/kg was selling for 400/kg. The fish was selling from 550/kg onwards. Prices of vegetables and milk products also hit the roof. I was told that in the economically weaker sections of the society, they buy lottery coupons for various proteins. The prizes for each of these lotteries are things like a dozen eggs or half a kilo of fish, chicken, mutton. So only the winners of the lotteries get protein on their plates during this festival.

I did visit the market with my friends, but given that I was forewarned about the prices of fish, I left my wallet behind and only carried my camera.

The market:

The Fish:

Weighing / Buying/Cleaning Fish:

Some people proudly carry the fish home whole, so everyone can admire the size of their catch.

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