Bihu marks a series of 3 cultural festivals celebrated by Assamese Diaspora in Assam. It is a well known harvest festival and counterpart of Vishu in Kerala and Vaisakhi in Punjab. It also implies Bihu dance.
In 2017 Bihu will be celebrate on 3 dates of April on 14,15 and 16.
According to the timing of crop cycle, there are three celebrations.
- Rongali Bihu (Bohag Bihu) – An important festival marks the Assamese new year.
- Magh Bihu (Bhogali Bihu) – It is related to food.
- Kati Bihu or Kongali Bihu is another one celebrated at the end.
Bihus are celebrated in Assam irrespective of creed, caste and belief. Rongali Bihu is celebrated with great joy and fervor and comes from various traditions – Sino Burmese, Austro Asiatic and Indo Aryan. Celebrations start in the mid of April and last whole month. On the other side, Kongali Bihu relates to September equinox in October and Bhogali Bihu relates to January solstice.
The Bihu Festivals
Bohag Bihu is the most popular Bihu festival which marks the beginning of Assamese New Year (usually around April 14 to 15) and the onset of spring season. It also marks the beginning of Hindu solar calendar and celebrated also in Manipur, Bengal, Nepal, Mithila, Orissa, Kerala, Punjab and Tamil Nadu in different name. The feasting and merriment lasts for 7 days. The fields are prepared by the farmers for cultivating paddy fields. These seven days are called as Chot Bihu, Manuh Bihu, Goru Bihu, Senahi, Kutum, Mela and Chera Bihu.
Falls in mid October, Kati Bihu or Kongali Bihu has another taste as the environment has the feeling of solemnity and constrain and it has less merriment. The paddies are in growing stage in the fields and farmers’ granaries are virtually empty. The farmers light the earthen lamps at the foot of Tulsi plant at their home, the garden, granary and paddy fields. Cultivators whirl the bamboo piece and chant Rowa-Khowa and spell to avoid evil eyes and pests to safeguard the growing paddy. They feed special rice meals like pitha to their cattle. This kind of Bihu includes lighting Akaxbonti or Akaxi Gonga lamps at the foot of bamboo pole to show the way to heaven to the souls of the dead.
Falls on mid January, Bhogali Bihu is all about food and enjoyment. This harvest festival marks the finishing of harvest season. The granaries are almost full and a lot of feasting and eating is done during this period. On the evening of the day “Uruka”, young men used to go to the paddy field, especially near the river, build Bhelaghar, a makeshift cottage with the bonfire and harvest fields.
They prepare food and it starts community feasting. It also starts exchange of greetings and sweets at that time. People are used to sing traditional Bihu songs and spend the night around the fire. They beat Dhol, a special type of drum. Boys roam around in the dark to steal vegetables and firewood for fun. They take bath next morning and burn Meji. People gather around it and throw rice cakes (Pithas) and betel nuts on it and burn it.