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Bihu, the celebration of prosperity and togetherness is known for its secular character and grand festivities. The three Bihu festivals around the year portray Assamese culture and heritage. Stories of mankind are told through Bihu dance and “Bihu geet” with light platonic references. This festival of unbounded joy is a reminder of the vivid and rich cultural tradition of our country. Sweets and gifts are exchanged on these occasions as tokens of solidarity. The articles assigned in this chapter discuss about the customs, celebrations, traditions and history of Bihu festivals.
Bihu is the chief festival of Assam and it falls three times in a year : Rongali or Bohag Bihu celebrated in April, Kangali or Kati Bihu observed in October and Magh or Bhogali bihu celebrated in January. Each Bihu has it's own significance, tradition and different method of celebrating it. You can even send gift to India on each of these three times Bihu is celebrated. If you are living in the United States then, you can easily send gifts to India from USA to make yourself a part of these celebrations. The Rongali Bihu is the most popular of the three, Bhogali Bihu is all about food and Kangali Bihu is the sombre one marking the end of food supplies. Let us look at how these are celebrated
Rongali Bihu : It is the most popular bihu and celebrates the onset of Assamese New Year and the coming of Spring. It's a time of merriment and feasting and continues, in general, for seven days. The farmers prepare the fields for cultivation of paddy and there is a feeling of joy around. The woman make pithas, larus, jolpan which gives the real essence of the season. Bihugeets are sung all day long. The first day of the bihu is called goru bihu or cow bihu, where the cows are washed and worshipped, which falls on the last day of the previous year. Then, on the next day they wash themselves and wear new clothes. The third day is the day of the Gods and they all worship the Gods with increased fervour.
Kongali Bihu : Also known as Kati Bihu, this has a different flavour and less merriment and the atmosphere is more of constraint and solemnity. During this time of the year, the granaries of the farmers are almost empty as the seedlings are in growing stage. On this day, earthen lamps are lit on the foot of the Tulsi plant in the household, the granary, the garden and the paddy fields. To protect the maturing paddy, cultivators whirl a piece of bamboo and recite rowa-khowa chants and spells to ward off pests and the evil eye. During the evening, cattle are fed specially made rice items called pitha. The Bodo people light lamps at the foot of the siju tree.
Bhogali Bihu : Bhogali Bihu comes from the word Bhog that is eating and enjoyment It is a harvest festival and marks the end of harvesting season. Since the granaries are full, there is a lot of feasting and eating during this period. On the eve of the day called uruka, i.e., the last day of pausa, menfolk, more particularly young men go to the field, preferably near a river, build a makeshift cottage called Bhelaghar with the hay of the harvest fields and the bonfire or Meji, the most important thing for the night. During the night, they prepare food and there is community feasting everywhere. There is also exchange of sweets and greetings at this time. The next morning they take a bath and burn the main Meji. People gather around the Meiji and throw Pithas and betel nuts to it while burning it at the same time. They offer their prayers to the God of Fire and mark the end of the harvesting year.
You can easily send gifts to India to your dear persons on the occasion of Bihu. This online gifting portal helps you with many Bihu gift ideas which you can send on all of the three Bihus and delight your loved ones. After all this special occasion of Assam bring peace, harmony, loving nature for your well being and being in sync with the almighty all together.
Bihu, the most important festival of Assam is a carnival of social integration. People of all demographics participate in the festival indiscriminate of any class divides.The agrarian community is predominant in this region. Naturally, Bihu and its festivities are deeply rooted in agricultural activities and the changing mood of nature. The Bihu festivals of Brahmaputra valley not only remind her people of the tradition of Assam but also tell the story of man, built on the edifice of agricultural and pastoral life. The people of Assam celebrate three Bihu festivals in a year. “Rongali Bihu” or “Bohag Bihu” is celebrated in the middle of April, “Magh Bihu” or “Bhogali Bihu” is observed in January and “Kaati Bihu” or “Kongali Bihu” falls in the middle of October.
Rongali Bihu or Bohag Bihu like other festivals of Assam is a synthesis of diverse cultures which have blended to become a common heritage of the people of the state. This harvest festival of Assam inspires unbounded joy and enthusiasm, expressed through melodious songs and sensuous dance moves.
The week long festival of Bohag Bihu commences on Vishuva Sankranti Day (On this day the Sun enters the Zodiac sign of Aries or “Mesha rashi” on its celestial path). It is celebrated to welcome the Assamese new year. Grand feasting and distribution of sweets are integral parts of this vibrant carnival. Fairs are organised in various places making the mood of festivity tangible.
On the first day of the celebration cattle are worshipped and raw turmeric is applied on them. The cattle are adorned with twigs of “dighalati” and “makhiyati” (special trees found in Assam and North East India and these are endeared to be healthy and protective). New ropes are tied to their neck. The cattle are set free to roam around on the day. The commencing day of Rongali Bihu is also called “Goru Bihu”. On this day, people in Assam eat 101 types of herbal plants in various places.
Traditional cultural events are organised by the youth of the villages to make the festival pompous. These events consist of graceful dances and Bihu songs primarily based on romantic themes.
Kaati Bihu or Kongali Bihu
Unlike Bohag Bihu, Kaati Bihu is a solemn affair. The women observe prayers of Goddess Laxmi (The deity of Wealth) to welcome her home. Earthen lamps are lighted in paddy fields and they are placed on bamboo poles. These special type of lamps are called sky candles. These ceremonial rituals continue for the whole month of Kartik (October-November).
Magh or Bhogali Bihu
Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu generally falls on Makar Sankranti ( It marks the transition of the Sun into the Zodiac sign of “Makara Rashi” or Capricorn ). People get involved in merriment and distributing sweets and cakes. Young boys visit houses and chant traditional numbers to collect donations.The fund is raised to repair the village “Namghar” ( Community Prayer Hall ) and organise community feasting. The celebration culminates with burning small huts of straw constructed solely for observing traditional rituals.
Bihu dance is known for its subtle and graceful moves and effervescent charm. Male and female dancers merge together in a group but maintain different gender roles. The male dancers and the accompanying musicians enter the dancing area first in synchronized patterns. The female dancers enter the area later following strict circular formations. The female dancers maintain the order of the dance. Definite and sensuous postures, movements of the hips, arms, wrists, twirls and squat make Bihu dance a visual treat.
The Bihu dance is accompanied by Bihu music. Dhulias (drummers) play seus (traditional rhythmic compositions) with one stick and a palm. The “mohor xingor pepa” (a kind of trumpet) is blown in the beginning to set the mood for dancing. “Gogona” (a reed and bamboo instrument), bamboo clappers, “Xutuli” ( clay whistle) are other popular musical instruments assisting this beautiful dance.
Bihu Geet or Bihu songs complement the youthful Bihu dance. Bihu songs not only convey the mood of lucid amorous flirtation but they also depict every mood that is reflected in human behaviour. Social life of the farmers, commentary on contemporary socio political issues are other popular subjects of the lyrics. Bihu Geets portray spontaneous and passionate thoughts in couplet. Sweetness and subtle shades of suggestion are integral parts of these melodious numbers.
Bihu, the inspiration of social life is celebrated with wild ecstasy. Since time immemorial it has been the face of Assamese culture and heritage. The festival is celebrated with unmatched vigor and grandeur. With little religious fervour it has become the festival of oneness with the passage of time.