Assam, the land of the red river and blue hills, with its picturesque landscape and exotic fauna is shrouded in myths and mystery. With the ushering of the spring season, the breathtaking hills and valleys come alive with the sounds of the month long Rongali Bihu. Rongali Bihu or Bohag Bihu is the most important festival of this land and marks the beginning of the New Year beginning with the month Bohag and hence the name Bohag Bihu.
Rongali Bihu is also a festival to mark the coming of age for young girls and fertility, with them dancing in brisk sensuous movements of hips, arms and the upper parts of the body swaying to the male counterparts playing the pepa a flute made of buffalo horns and the beat of the toka drums and gogona made from bamboo held between the teeth and small cymbals, in ecstatic rhythms. The young unmarried men and women, dance the night away under the gentle breeze of banyan trees in open fields, or groves, or even in jungles.
They also sing spontaneously created couplets expressing love for their sweethearts. Starting with a slow tempo, the rhythm builds up to a crescendo. Traditionally the occasion also has been a mating ritual by young women and their male counterparts. The fair maidens of the land drape themselves in gorgeous floral silk mekhala with a red border, a shawl woven out of the golden silk fibres, and a red blouse and ornate gamkharu in their hands made from an alloy of silver and gold nuggets found in the rivers. Kapou flowers orchids adorn their hairs adding a whimsical touch to the formality of the outfit. Their feet and palms are painted with the red pigments made of myrtle leaves.
The young men wear traditional clothes like dhoti and kurta and tie the gamocha a traditional Assamese hand-woven cotton towel with red designs with a white background) around their heads and waists along with the Japi, a traditional Bamboo hat with colorful designs. Bohag Bihu also involves various delicious Assamese recipes. Every house cooks various pitha made from rice and coconut, laddoo made from shredded coconut and til ladoo made from sesame seed and other delicacies which gives the real essence of the season.
Women grind pitha guri with a dheki and prepare delicacies ahead of Magh Bihu or Magh Domahi. The festival involves a lot of feasting with doi curds, chira dry rice, fish like Aari, Rohu, Borali and Bokhua, Chital, meat, etc.and sporting with a traditional buffalo fight.
The elders also celebrate this festival in the form of Husori Bihu where they move from house to house singing carols, in the style of bihu geets. Husori Bihu is traditionally an all-male celebration and the women celebrate it through Jeng Bihu in which the song and dance performances are watched only by women.