Anthropologists have long been interested in the ways a community communicate in different situations. They have been studying how symbols , words, gestures and colours are used to communicate cross-culturally.
In Barak Valley, other than words and visual symbols and colours, milk of cows is used to communicate in different situations. Strange and incredible!
Milk is turned into a molten paste like solution by boiling with sugar. This is called “Kheer” Then this kheer is used to craft decorative shapes called ” Sandesh” The molten solution of Kheer is put into moulds of different shapes which give them particular shapes. The shapes are varied like that of fish, fruits like lichi, mangoes, and what not. The moulds are usually made of black stone by the potters.
These milk products are called “Sandesh”, a sanskrit word meaning message. Infact, these milk products serve the purpose of sending messages. They are symbolical of many ideas like love, auspiciousness, friendship, fertility, adoration etc etc.
Sometimes , coconut pulp and coconut milk is also used to make sandesh. This has a unique flavour. During marriage ceremonies sandesh is exchanged between the families of the bride and the bridegroom . This is done to exchange the message of love, and bond and auspiciousness.
Anthropologists will find it interesting to study the motifs used in these milk products like fish, fruits, leaves etc. They will be able to explore the deeper significance of these motifs.
Sandesh are an integral part of the culture of Barak Valley. They are offered in marriage ceremonies , birthdays, and pujas or worship of god.
Incredible India , Incredible Barak Valley!