Bihu: A celebration of Assamese culture

Submitted by aurora on Sun, 07/27/2008 - 18:07

japi.jpg (13188 bytes)Bihu is the Biggest Festival of Assam, one of the most beautiful states of India, known for its tea gardens, lush green forests and the mighty Brahmaputra river.It is the celebration to welcome seasons and it is vital for a farmer’s life in Assam. Although this festival retained its originality it incorporated specific characteristics of the city life. The origin of the word ‘Bihu" is said to be from the Sanskrit word ‘Vishu’.

The Assamese celebrate three types of Bihu in a year - Rongaali Bihu or ‘Bohaag Bihu’, Kati Bihu or Kongaali Bihu and the last but not the least Magh Bihu or Bhogaali Bihu’. Rongali Bihu or Bohag Bihu:It is feted at the offset of the sowing season during spring. It also marks the beginning of Assamese new year and around 15th April as per English calender. Goru bihu or cow bihu commemorates the first day of festival and celebrated on the last day of the previous calendar year. .On that day the cows are laved and revered. manuh (human) bihu is celebrated on the next day which is the New Year Day for Assamese. Truly, it is celebrated in the territory of Assam in great fiesta. Woman make ‘desi’ sweets called ‘pithas’ and ‘larus’. Buhugeets, traditional folk songs , are composed to create an ambience of delight and merry-making.

In the Lakhimpur area of Assam ‘Pat Bihu, an archaic form of Bihu , is feted with ebullience . The myth is that Sukaphaa, the 1st among the Ahom kings, came to the region to have a glance of it. Rongali Bihu is regarded as a festival of fertility and the young women are encouraged participate with great juvillance,dancing and singing through out .

Kongali Bihu (mid-October, also called Kati-Bihu) has a different flavour as there is less merriment and the atmosphere has a sense of constrain and solemnity. During this time of the year, the paddy in the fields are in the growing stage and the granaries of the farmers are almost empty. On this day, earthen lamps (saki) are lit at the foot of the household tulashi plant, the granary, the garden (bari) and the paddy fields. Culture of Assam.To protect the maturing paddy, cultivators whirl a piece of bamboo and recite rowa-khowa chants and spells o ward off pests and the evil eye. The Bodo people light lamps at the foot of the siju (Euphorbia) tree. This Bihu is also associated with the lighting of akaxi gonga or akaxbonti, lamps at the tip of a tall bamboo pole, to show the souls of the dead the way to heaven,.There is also exchange of sweets and greetings at this time.

It is celebrated after harvesting the crops. It is also known as Magh Bihu as it is celebrated in the middle of January. Fun, feasts, community feeding are part and parcel of it. Small huts called mejis are built for preparing food and feasting. During ureka(night) the people circle around the bonfire and sing and play games. Magh BihuIn the next morning they throw ‘pithas’ and betel nuts in the fire . They also worship fire gods marking the finale of harvesting season . There are other conventional festivals observed by various ‘enthno- cultural’ groups. Me-dam-me-phi , Ali-aye-ligang , Porag, Garja, Hapsa Hatarnai, Kherai are few among them.

Bihu dancer with a horn.The Bihu dance is a folk dance from the Indian state of Assam related to the festival of Bihu. This joyous dance is performed by both young men and women, and is characterized by brisk dance steps, rapid hand movement, and a rhythmic swaying of the hips in order to represent youthful passion. Dancers wear traditionally colorful Assamese clothing. The Bihu dance is performed in conjunction with traditional Bihu folk music, played with: the "dhol", similar to a drum; the mohor singor pepa, a pipe instrument made from a buffalo horn; the tala, a cymbal; the gogona, a reed and bamboo instrument; and the toka, a bamboo clapper.The songs (bihu geet) that accompany the dance have been handed down for many generations. The subject of the lyrics ranges from welcoming the Assamese new year to describing the daily life of a farmer.The dance takes several forms among the different northeast Indian tribes, e.g., the "Garo Bihu dance" and the "Khasi Bihu dance." However, the underlying goal of the dance remains the same: to express the desire to feel both pain and happiness.