The Magh Bihu Festival of Assam

Festivals characterize the unity and solidarity of the various communities of people. There is a multitude of celebrations that bring its inhabitants together. The mixture of colors reflects the spirit, values and unique culture of Assam. The most important festival gets divided into three Bihus. They get connected to the agricultural world. These celebrations have no religious significance.

The inhabitants gather together whatever their caste, creed or origin. The word Bihu comes from the language spoken by the Dimasa and Kachari community. Three bihus get celebrated each year in January, April, and October.

Bohag or Rongali Bihu in mid ­April is the most important and colorful of the three Bihus. It is the New Year of Assam and marks the arrival of spring and the beginning of the agricultural season. The farmers prepare their fields, the cows get washed with turmeric.

They get fresh fodder and their ropes get changed. During the week, the inhabitants exchange traditional scarves (gamochas). They sing and dance to the rhythm of drums (dhol) and buffalo horns (pepa). The songs speak of love and fertility. The men dress in their finest dhoti and gamocha. Women wear their traditional set of Mekhela Chador.

Magh Bihu in mid-January marks the end of the winter solstice. There are buffalo fights and other entertainment. It is also called Bhogali Bihu or food festival. The night before Magh Bihu Festival is Uruka, characterized by community festivities. On the eve of the festival, the inhabitants build mejis with bamboo and straw in their fields. In this bhelaghar, meals get prepared. People gather around a fire and the festivities continue around the fires and the meals.

Different types of cords get tied around fruit trees. The fuel gets stolen from the final ceremony when all the bhelaghar gets burned. Their remains get placed in the fruit trees. Special pujas get offered as a prayer for a good harvest. Since the festival is in the middle of winter, the food prepared for this festival is to keep the body warm.

Families and friends come together to prepare and taste a hearty meal of roasted duck. These celebrations are an opportunity to celebrate with pithas. They get made of rice and pay tribute to the family and the community. The moon, divinities, and ancestors get invoked for the blessing of the crops. The festival is usually celebrated with traditional dances and communion around a feast.

The next day, they burn the Meiji and dispose its ashes in the fields and around the fruit trees. It is to improve the fertility of the soil. Then the inhabitants celebrate and launch sporting challenges.

Kati Bihu in mid­ October compared with the other two bihus is far soberer. It is also called Kongali Bihu or Festival of the Poor. People gather and light small oil lamps in fields and gardens. Lamps on top of long bamboos guide the souls of the deceased to paradise.