PHOTO FILE The Hill Tiwas of Assam have a unique way of storing paddy, a community activity that strengthens bonds.

The Hill Tiwas, who are found in two districts of Assam (Karbi Anglong, Nagaon) and one in Meghalaya (Ri-Bhoi) practise Jhum or the slash and burn method of cultivation. This shifting form of cultivation usually involves cutting down forests, allowing the slashed vegetation to dry on hill slopes prior to burning and sowing. Rice is intercropped with vegetables, maize, cotton, mustard, and so on.

The Hill Tiwas have a unique method of preserving and storing harvested paddy. A khitri or round vessel from the bark of a tree is prepared. Dry straw is used to line the Khitri before the paddy is put in. Bamboo strips are used to secure the Maiphurs or baskets, which weigh approximately 20 kilos each.

The “maiphurs” are carried back to their homes by men and women to the singing of songs. Harvests are associated with dance, music and merry-making and there is a great deal of cooperation among the tribals who take part in the rituals of preserving and storing paddy for future consumption.