Friday, 23 March 2012

Blissful Bihu: Assam Celebrates Harvest Season With Bihu Tune

India is a country having plenty of festivals and all the Indians celebrate it in a grand way. There is a lot of preparation before every festival and the enthusiasm amongst people is really surprising. Assam has a festival called Bihu. 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’. There are three such festivals in Assam: in the months of Bohaag (Baisakh, the middle of April), Maagh (the middle of January), and Kaati (Kartik, the middle of October). The Bihus have been celebrated in Assam from ancient times.
Bihu Festival
Each Bihu coincides with a distinctive phase in the farming calendar. The Bohaag Bihu marks the New Year at the advent of seeding time, the Kaati Bihu marks the completion of sowing and transplanting of paddies, and the Maagh Bihu marks the end of the harvesting period.

Assam Girls dressed up in Traditional Attire

Rongali Bihu or the Bohag bihu: The new year of Assamese calendar usually falls on April 15. The new year starts with the month 'Bohag'. This is the reason why Rongali Bihu is also called 'Bohag Bihu'. The word 'Rongali' is derived from 'Rong' which means Happiness and celebrations. So this festival represent happiness of the society. During this Bihu people exchange gifts and the elderly people are gifted Gamucha the traditional towel of Assam to show respect. People wear new clothes marking the beginning of the New Year. It is celebrated by singing folk songs associated with the Bohag Bihu called Bihu geets or Bihu songs and the folk dance called the Bihu dance. The type of celebration and rites vary among diverse demographic groups.

Dancing on Bihu Tune

Performing Dance during Bihu Festival

Kati Bihu is the most quiet Bihu of the three without any funfare unlike the other two. Held in the beginning of the Kati (7th month of the Assamese calendar) (middle of October), the Bihu marks silent prayer in the form of lighting of earthen lamps in the paddy fields and also near Tulasi tree for the success of the crop.

Bhogali Bihu or the Magh Bihu is celebrated in d middle of January. Immediately after the traditional paddy cultivation is harvested. An overnight community function is held in temporary thatched houses (made with thatch and dry plantation leaves/ trunk) known as Bhela Ghar or Meji Ghar) specially erected for the purpose mainly in the barren paddy fields from where the crop has already been harvested. A Community feast is one of the main features of this Bihu which is held near the Bhela Ghar. People spent the night of the community feast in the Bhela Ghar. The next morning people take bath and gather in the field early in morning to burn the meji and also put pithas and betel nuts and leaf in the fire. They offer prayers to the God of Fire marking the end of harvesting year. Various sports are organized like Bull-fighting, cock-fighting, egg- fighting, tug-of-war, running race etc. It is another festival marked with merrymaking and feasting.

Bihu festival with bonfires

Of the three Bihu festivals which are secular and non-religious, the Bohaag Bihu ushers in the period of greatest enjoyment and marks the arrival of Spring.  Bihu isn’t complete without Bihu dance and Bihu songs. The folk here play some really catchy tunes and the lovely dance steps encourage everyone to join dancing. General camaraderie gets sprinkled everywhere with reverence which is unmistakable and atmospheric becomes electric. The folk songs associated with the Bohaag Bihu are called Bihugeets or Bihu songs. The Bohaag Bihu lasts for several days during which the young people in the vilalge may be seen moving about in groups gaily dressed or forming circles in the midst of which the prettiest girls dance, singing songs of love and romance. The songs are very popular among all sections of the people. Bihu songs involve various indegenous Assamese musical instruments like pepa, gogona, dhol, toka, taal, hutuli, etc. The Bihu dance is related to rich colourful attire of the Assamese culture.
Another item which forms an integral part of the Bihu celebrations and is also symbolic of Assamese Culture is the Japi – a traditional Bamboo hat with colorful designs. A more simple bamboo Japi is normally worn by the farmer while cultivating in the field protecting oneself from the sun and rain.

Bihu Festival surpasses all the barriers that might exist between the people here. This festival was started by Dimasa Kachari and it quickly became popular all over. Brai Shibraj is the god of agrarian group. Bi means asking and Shu stands for peach and prosperity. Bishu slowly evolved in to Bihu over a period of time.

Festivals are occasions for celebrating together and for feeling happy. Bihu is a festival which brings all the local people together.

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