Bihu is the important cultural festival of Assam. It is the only prime festival celebrated by the As
Bihu is the important cultural festival of Assam. It is the only prime festival celebrated by the Assamese people with much joy and festivity. There are three types of Bihu which are celebrated in different times throughout the year. The Bihu is celebrated by Assamese all over the world irrespective of color, creed, religion, faith and belief.
Types of Bihu:
The three main types of Bihu are the Rongali Bihu (or Bohag Bihu), Kongali Bihu (or Kati Bihu) and Bhogali Bihu (or Magh Bihu).
The Rongali Bihu is celebrated in the month of April (in the Assamese month of Bohag), the Kongali Bihu is celebrated in middle of October (in the Assamese month of Kati) and the Bhogali Bihu is celebrated in the month of January (in the Assamese month of Magh). Among the three, however, the Rongali Bihu is celebrated with much festivity and ceremony.
There are two schools of thought regarding the origin of the word ‘Bihu’. According to one school, the word Bihu is originated from the language of Dimasa Kacharis and Bodo. According to another school of thought, the work Bihu is originated from the Sanskrit word ‘Vishu’ meaning the vernal equinox of the winter solstice. The Bihus coincide with the farming calendar. They are also celebrated to celebrate the farming season in its different time periods. As the traditional Assamese population is mostly engaged in agriculture, the Bihu festival is thus associated with farming.
The Rongali Bihu is the most important among all the three Bihus. As it falls on the Assamese month of Bohag, it is also called the Bohag Bihu. This Bihu falls in the middle of April during the beginning of the Assamese month Bohag. It is celebrated to mark the beginning of the agricultural season. The Assamese New Year also starts with this Bihu. The Bohag Bihu is celebrated in different other forms in different parts of India. In Punjab, it is celebrated as ‘Baisakhi’ and likewise other places have other forms. The Rongali Bihu is celebrated for around a month with different festivities going on throughout the Bohag month. The people celebrate this festival with merriment and joy. The feasting starts and farmers prepare the fields for cultivation of paddy. Delicacies like pitha, laru, jolpan (traditional food made predominantly with rice) are prepared by the womenfolk.
The first day of the Rongali Bihu is the Goru or Cow Bihu. On this day, the cows are washed and worshipped. This day falls on the last day of the previous year. The cattle are smeared with turmeric paste, bathed in rivers and canals and are the let to stray. In the evening when the cows return home, the old cattle bindings are cast away and new ropes are used. They are worshipped and well fed on that day. The next day of the Rongali Bihu, which is the first day of the Assamese New Year is the Manuh Bihu. On this day (which generally falls on April 15th), people get cleaned up and wear new clothes. On this day, elders are shown respect and the young take blessings from them. People visit relatives and friends house to greet the New Year with joy. The third day of Rongali Bihu is the Gosai (God) Bihu. On this day, statues of Gods are worshipped seeking a prosperous year ahead.
The Rongali Bihu is the most widely celebrated Bihu with much festivity. This Bihu has many significant aspects of the celebration process.
The Bihu Geets are Bihu songs which are a significant part of the festival. The lyrics of the songs blend in from narrating natural beauty to a lover’s expression, from the social awareness issues to the humorous tales. One of the major folk cultures of the Bihu festival, Bihu songs is widely popular and the playing includes using a variety of instruments in its fold. These songs express the rich culture of Assam.
Bihu dance is the folk dance of Assam. It is a joyous dance performed by both mean and women in groups. The dance is characterized by brisk steps accentuated by expressive hand movements. Though both males and females dance in different formations, yet the rhythm and coordination is significant in the Bihu dance. The female Bihu dance has much variation and the dance has different stages from dancing forms to dancing in coordination with the instruments played. The stages include: freehand, twisting, dancing with the rhythm of the pepa blowing, with the kahi, the jaapi etc.
There are different forms of Bihu dance like the Mising Bihu dance, Deori Bihu dance etc with respect to the different sub class of Assamese culture.
Husori is another important aspect of Bihu. Here the village elders move from household to household singing Bihu geets and performances. The Husori groups are traditionally welcomed in the courtyard and they after the performances give blessings to the household.
In this form of Bihu, young unmarried men and women attired in traditional golden silk muga perform the Bihu dance and sing Bihu songs in the open fields.
This form of Bihu is performed and watch only by women. The name ‘Jeng’ is derived from the fact that in earlier time, village women used to surround their place of performance with sticks dug into the ground. This Bihu form is also called Gos tolor Bihu.
This is the urban form of Bihu where the rural festival made its transition into the modernized urban life. It was first started in Latasil field in Guwahati by the Guwahati Bihu Sanmilani 1962. It was promoted by personalities like Radha Govinda Baruah, Khagen Mahanta etc. here the dancers perform in a makeshift elevated stage which is popularly known as Bihutoli. The performances in the Bihotoli are not confined to Bihu dances. The performances include a range of other theatrical shows, other dance forms performances, solo singer concerts, stand up comedy etc. the stage Bihu form have become so popular that different Bihu organizers have extended the celebrations to Bohagi Bidai, which is celebrated for bidding adieu to the festive Bohag month.
Kongali Bihu is also known as Kati Bihu as t falls on the Assamese month of Kati. It falls on mid-October and is the Bihu of less merriment. This Bihu is characterized with a feeling of solemnity as the granaries are almost empty during this season. On this Bihu, people light earthen lamps in front of the tulsi plant, the granary, garden and the paddy fields. The cattle are fed with pithas. This Bihu is associated with the lighting of the earthen lamp or ‘akaxbonti’ on the tip of a bamboo pole to show the souls of the dead the way to heaven.
Bhogali Bihu is also called Magh Bihu as it falls on the Assamese month of Magh. Bhogali Bihu is also the Bihu celebrating harvest when food is available in abundance. That is why it is known as Bhogali for eating and enjoyment (Bhog means food). This Bihu marks the end of harvesting period and granaries at this time are full. There is lot of feasting and eating during this Bihu. On the eve of the Bhogali Bihu day, it is called the Uruka. On this day, the young men folk go to the nearby field and build a makeshift cottage call Bhelaghar and also a Meji with hay. During the night, the people of the village cook in the Bhelaghar and community feast occurs. The entire night is spent in the Meji merrymaking and playing games. The boys go out and steal vegetables and firewood for fun. In the morning, the people take a bath and then burn the Meji. They offer pithas to the burning Meji and pray to the Fire God to mark the end of the harvesting season. The day is marked by different types of sports like buffalo fight, egg fight, cock fight etc.
Instruments used in Bihu:
Bihu celebration is insignificant with the traditional instruments of Assam. There are a variety of instruments which are used during Bihu performances, Bihu geets and dances. Some of them are:
The Dhol is an important instrument of Assamese culture. It is a percussion instrument similar to a drum. The Dhol is made of a wooden barrel. It is played with a stick and the palm on each side. The beat of the Dhol is the life of the Assamese culture. A beat from the Dhol makes one swirl and dance to the rhythmic flow.
It is a small cymbal instrument. There are different types of Taal.
Pepa is a flute like musical instrument used in Bihu. It is a small stem capped with buffalo horn. The sound of the Pepa is striking and mesmerizing.
Other instruments used are the Toka, Gagana, Xutuli and Baanhi (flute).
CELEBRATION OF BIHU OUTSIDE ASSAM:
Bihu is celebrated all across the state of Assam with much merriment. It is also celebrated by Assamese people across India and across the world. The Assamese people living in states across India celebrate by conducting functions in Assamese societies. Likewise, in abroad, different Bihu associations and communities celebrate this festival with great enthusiasm. The London Bihu Committee is one of the significant groups amongst others.