The Harvest festival in India is celebrated in various parts of India with great festivities and joy. The agricultural state of Assam also celebrates major agricultural events as the festival of Bihu. When we have a look at those we realize that notably there are three Bihu festivals in a year namely – Rongali Bihu or Bohag Bihu, Bhugali (Magh Bihu) and Kangali (Kati Bihu) marking the distinctive phase of farming in Assam.
The Rongali Bihu is the celebration of people to welcome the agricultural New Year at the advent of seeding time and is celebrated as the occasion of joy and merriment. This Bihu is celebrated in the month April. The Kati Bihu marks the completion of sowing and transplanting of paddies and it comes in the month of October.
The festival of Bhogali Bihu, the last of all the three Bihus, is celebrated after the year long hard work, it marks the end of the harvesting period and leaves the farmers with granaries filled to content. TheMagh Bihu marks the end of the harvesting period and is celebrated during Mid January at the time of Baisakhi Festival. Magh Bihu is also called Bhogali Bihu of enjoyment or Maghar Domahi . It is a harvest festival which marks the end of harvesting season in the month of Maagha (January–February), hence the name.
The preparation to welcome the harvest home begins a few days before. The ladies of the households get to work to bring together an array of feasts to munch on the actual day of Bhogali Bihu. On the eve of Bhogali Bihu, known as Uruka, young men go into the harvested fields and set up structures called Mejis, using thatch and firewood which becomes the center of the celebrations that continues all night long. All the people gather around these Mejis and celebrate this night as one big community. They feast on homemade rice cakes called ‘Pitha’ and other sweets made of coconut known as ‘laru’.
This community feast is called Bhog . Music, singing, and dancing to the tunes of Bihu songs and other entertaining games also take place around Mejis. Then at the break of dawn, after taking a bath, the Mejis are set on fire and people worship the Agni Devta (Hindu God of Fire) . Rice cakes, beetle nuts are thrown into the fire to offer the same to Agni devta. Next day the people spend their entire day in socializing and exchanging bihu greetings and distribute sweets and rice cakes to their friends and family. Like all Bihu , Magh Bihu also has the tradition of showing respect to the elders by gifting them a ‘Gamosa’ ( traditional Assamese towel). A unique part of the festival is that various traditional animal sports that are organized including buffalo fights. Various other sports like egg fight, Cock fight, Nightingale fight etc are held throughout the day.
While taking part in this celebrations, people wear new clothes. Assamese women wear the rich ‘Mekhela Chador’. Mekhela is the traditional skirt woven in rich Assamese silk featuring authentic floral bootis and jaal work. The skirt is worn with a matching blouse and a embroidered ‘Chador’ or shawl which draped around the waist meticulously with pleats. For Assamese men, the dhoti Gamosa combines to give them an authentic Bihu look.
So if you planning to visit Assam , a Bihu festival can be the right opportunity to witness the unique cultural celebration around a harvesting season. And don’t miss out to explore the rich silks from Sualkuchi ( the silk belt of Assam)