What is Xaj Pani?
Xaj Pani is a name known to almost everyone from Assam, a culturally rich state from Northeastern part of India. But for those who have no idea what it is, do read further. Also, if you already know what it is, how about a little revision?
Xaj Pani is Rice Beer made of fermented rice and a mix of rare species of herbs. However, the process and ingredients to make it differ from household to household.
Xaj is known to be the drink of the Ahoms and plays an important role in their socio-cultural lives. But nowadays Xaj is not distinctive of the Ahoms people only. People from other ethnicities and communities also relish and even prepare this at their homes irrespective of it being an Ahom dish. Xaj has become more like the “Drink of Assam”.
Source – assamtribune.com
When and where do you drink Xaj Pani?
Xaj Pani is offered by the Ahom community to their forefathers to please them and seek their blessings. Special ceremonies are held during childbirth, marriage, and even funeral. These are called Na- Purushor Hokaam or Mritakar Hokaam meaning ceremonial offering to the forefathers. Since Xaj is the main element in these ceremonies, we also call them Xajor Hokaam. It is believed that such rituals ward off evil spirits and bring good luck to the family with the blessings of the forefathers.
Apart from these ceremonies, Xaj is also prepared during Bhogali Bihu, the harvest festival, and during Rongali Bihu as well by people of these communities. This is offered as a welcome drink to guests during Bihu along with other varieties of mouth-watering delicacies.
First experience with Xaj Pani
From a personal standpoint, I have been a part of quite a few of these ceremonies, and in my opinion, these ceremonies are very elaborate.
My first experience as I remember was during Na- khua which is basically the meal after the first batch of harvest comes in. Normally during Na-khua, people get together to organize a feast with the fresh harvest of paddy. People arrange such feasts according to their convenience after the harvest is done.
My experience with Na- khua was a little different. Our Na- khua was organized at home and guests were invited along with Tai Ahom purohits.
Around two weeks prior to the set date, my late father-in-law made arrangements to ferment the rice adding some seeds (unknown to me). He chose the Bara chawoul, a sticky variety of rice, steamed it and added the secret ingredient. He then left the mixture to ferment for a few days. I saw that he added little water after 3 – 4 days without touching the mixture. This I believe is done to keep the mixture moist.
On the day of Na- khua, he strained the mixture at first and then added water to the mixture. The initial liquid obtained is called Rohi, and the final product after adding water is called Xaj. We then gave some offerings to our forefathers. Among many other special items/offering made was Xaj. Prayers were offered and rituals were performed, after which the purohits drink Xaj. Only after the rituals were complete, others sat for their feast. Xaj was later served to everyone present.
Why Xaj Pani is so important?
Xaj is one of the most favorite drinks in Assam. It is naturally loaded with a variety of probiotics and has great therapeutic values.
Till now Xaj Pani was a household drink, but very soon this will hit the market as Heritage Alcoholic Beverage. Some reliable official sources say that an MoU has been signed for this purpose between Assam Agriculture University and a private organization giving production rights to the latter. A pilot project has already been initiated to mass-produce Xaj Pani with standardized ingredients and process.
Great! When should I visit Assam to taste this awesome drink?
If you are planning for a trip to Assam, do visit during Rongali Bihu, which falls around mid-April, as it would be the best time to visit and personally witness the rich culture of Assam. People of Assam will always welcome you with open arms and warm hearts.
The scintillating song of the cuckoo, the gorgeous green nature, the reverberation of the traditional Dhol in the distance, the mesmerizingly beautiful dancing muses will make your heart flutter.
The warm hospitality that you will receive here would make you feel at home. And what more than a glass of our heritage Xaj to cheer you up.
Cheers to this unique TASTE OF ASSAM!