It would not be wrong to call Bihu festival as the most celebrated festival of the Assamese Community. Although the word Bihu does not have a translation into English, yet it is not just a word, it is an emotion altogether.
Bihu teaches every Assamese to celebrate the joy of harvest. Fundamentally, there are three Bihus celebrated by the Assamese Community.
They go by the name- Rongali or Bohag Bihu ( festival of happiness), Bhogali or Magh Bihu(festival of feasting) and Kongali or Kati Bihu ( reflecting scarcity).
All these festivals have their own significance and marked certain occasions for the farmers of Assam.
Initially, these festivals were celebrated during the leisure periods between the farming seasons. However, over the years it became the identity of the Assamese people.
Bihu Festival – Origin and Significance
The history of Bihu can be traced to the ancient amalgamation of Assamese Traditions celebrating a good harvest.
There is a popular belief that Bihu festival is as old as the mighty river Brahmaputra.
While exploring the early songs of intricacies of the traditional Bihu dance, one can assume that it came to its existence when people started tilling the earth for survival.
Bonoriya Geet was performed which was the only source of occupation for the people. Hence, it depicts the scene of youth feeding the cattle in the paddy fields.
Even though the connection with nature is on the brink of shrink, festivals like these add a local flavour to the harvesting process and make it exciting.
It is one of the most significant non-religious festivals of the Assamese people.
Celebrated and observed by the people irrespective of class, it has been observed from time immemorial.
The festival of Bihu is not only about merriment but talks a lot about unity and brotherhood.
Three Bihus And The Significance They Hold
As discussed above the festival of Bihu is categorised into three different kinds namely Rongali Bihu, Kongali Bihu and Bhogali Bihu. All these festivals are celebrated during different time periods.
It mainly reflects the agrarian culture and society of the Assamese community. There exist several interesting facts about this festival. Let us explore them one by one.
Rongali or Bohag Bihu
Bohag Bihu is celebrated during the month of April marking the advent of the Assamese New Year. Fresh new leaves started to appear on the trees and are closure to the dry weather of February and March( Known as Fagun and Choit) in the Assamese New Year Calendar.
Gradually with Bohag Bihu, there is a road to a greener landscape. Beautiful flowers like Nahor, Kapou, Togor can be seen in the gardens blooming to the fullest. This is the festival when one can hear the rhythmic beats of the dhol played from every corner of a village.
The motive behind celebrating Rongali Bihu is to express joy. The word Rongali itself suggests the idea of joyfulness. There exist several inter[retations around the festival of Bihu.
Most of the Bihu songs right from the ancient period had interpretations of love. Because of this, Bihu has different emotions where one can explore an array of different interpretations.
Kati Bihu or Kongali Bihu
The word Kongal reflects scarcity and yes the festival of Kati Bihu talks about scarcity. This Bihu falls on the days when the paddies in the field are not fully grown and there are no reserves in the granaries.
This Bihu is observed during the month of (mid-October) also known as the month of Kati in the Assamese Calendar. Since scarcity is attached to this Bihu, there is no merriment or celebrations. However, people used to light earth lamps to ward off evil from the crops on the day of Kati Bihu.
Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu
Bhogali Bihu is known as the festival of the feast. This festival is observed in the month of mid-January ( Magh-Assamese Month). The festivity marks the harvesting of new crops when the farmers get to enjoy the hard labour in the fields with surplus food. The motive is to thank God for the blessing of a surplus harvest.
During the two days of the celebration, people of a particular village or Khel come together to have a feast together. The rituals during this festival vary from place to place.
In many parts, people organized the feast during day time and some during the night. Basically, the last day of the month of December(Puh month in Assamese Calendar), is observed as Uruka.
The uniqueness about celebrating Uruka is that people tend to build Bhela Ghar and the next morning the Bhela Ghar is put on fire-offering prayers to the almighty for a good harvest. In the morning session, pitha( a particular flour snack) is made by the people to serve the guests visiting homes.
Bihu-of Festivities and Traditional Cuisines
Assamese Bihu dance has got international recognition in several international events. Like any other harvest festivals, Bihu is all about the farmer community thanking almighty for a good harvest in future.
Bihu dance being the indigenous folk dance is performed in a group where Bihu dancers decked up in Assamese traditional Mekhela Sadar perform with rapid hand and hip movements. This dance seems to create a bond among individuals into communities.
Food on Bihu festival
Food is equally celebrated during Bihu. Since Magh Bihu is about celebrating a successful harvest, it involves traditional fish curry with elephant apple, duck meat fry, chicken with palang xak, olive jaggery chutney and more.
An authentic Assamese Bihu feast consists of Guti Alu, Tangy Fish Curry, Leafy Green Dish with Amaranth leaves, Sesame Chicken Curry etc.
Conclusion – About Bihu festival
Everything said and done the festival of Bihu is all about food, dance, harvest and merriment. It involves making the best use of agricultural produce. It gives a chance to celebrate unity through the exchange of greetings and home-cooked food.