Rang Ghar, the oldest amphitheater in Asia, the imposing red structure at Joysagar, about 3 Kms from Sivasagar town, is one of the most important structures built during the Ahom era. Rang Ghar, which means entertainment or recreation house, is a double-storied structure, which was used as the royal pavilion of the Ahom kings for watching various games by the royal families. These included many of Assam’s indigenous games like birds fight, buffalo fight, etc.
The central unit of the ground plan is rectangular and annexed with small structures of trapezoid ends making the entire ground plan like an octagon. The roof of the structure is parabolic which is supported by rows of massive columns and semi-circular arches. A unique pleasure boat with reptile emblems on either side marks the outer beauty of the structure and a trefoil arch canopy rests at the top of the structure. Rang Ghar was built with locally available raw materials and without the use of steel. The brick structure was plastered with a locally made paste like Bora Chaul (a special variety of rice, sticky in nature) and eggs and the exterior walls were carved with unique sculptures. The building was constructed during the reign of Swargadeo Pramatta Singha in 1746(AD 1744-1750).
The adjoining field, known as Rupohi Pothar, wore a festive look when games like bull-fight, cock-fight, elephant fight, wrestling, etc., were held on different occasions during the Ahom rule. In fact, Rupohi Pothar today stands as a living example to the various sports and games organized during the Ahom era.
The Ahom royals invited the rulers and tribal chieftains of the neighbouring areas to witness the games on different occasions, who were accompanied by their subjects, spread these games in their respective areas after witnessing these at the Rang Ghar bakori (lawns of the Rang Ghar). This also contributed to the strengthening of the bond of unity among the different tribes and linguistic groups of the Ahom kingdom as well as the neighbouring States.
The Kings started the tradition of observing Bohag or Rongali Bihu at the Rang Ghar and accorded a royal status to Bihu. During Rongali Bihu, the Ahom kings enjoyed Bihu and various other sports and games from Rang Ghar, the royal pavilion, along with his subordinate kings. Rang Ghar today stands as a living example to the unique architecture of the Ahom period. It also portrays the importance laid by the Ahom rulers in sports and other entertainment activities.
A much visited tourism destination in this part of the country, visitors to this structure remain spellbound after witnessing the unique design of the 250-year old monument. The Rang Ghar was the logo of the recently concluded 33rd National Games that was held from 9 to 18 February, 2007 in Guwahati, Assam.
Photographs are by Kanchan Gogoi and Pranjal Borah.