Since ages, the Charhepis of Karbi Anglong in Assam have been singing songs of lament for the deceased and virtually guiding their last journey.
According to Karbi legend, without the wails of the Charhepis and their heart-rending songs, the souls of the dead cannot gain access to the "village of ancestors" or the "land of the dead".
The songs called Kecharhealun are lengthy narratives of the journey of the souls.
The Charhepi is the central figure in a death ritual and "performs the vital role of guiding the soul like a shaman, through pre-destined resting places to the land of the ancestors", writes Dharam Singh Teron in his article "Charhepi's song: Guiding the souls back to the land of the ancestors".
"In the Charhepi's lengthy song, called Kecharhealun, the geography of the return journey of the soul is described in elaborate details. The Charhepi narrates the entire sequence of the rituals performed after an occurrence of death till the cremation," he says.
This unique ritual finds mention in 'Loksanskriti', the first volume of an annual bilingual journal of folklore.
The publishers say that the journal is an attempt to revitalise the indigenous cultural expressions of the diverse communities of the Northeast.
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