Bihu

Assam is one of those states in India blessed with scenic locations, panoramic hills, dense forests, and tea gardens and the great Brahmaputra River. It is one of the oldest states in India and is always on the list of tourists' itinerary due to its breathtaking locations, and the wildlife. The Kaziranga National Park is world famous for its single horn Rhinos. Besides, with features worth visiting, Assam is famous for its culture and tradition as well. The Assamese takes pride in celebrating the practices started since time immemorial. The Bihu festival is one such established practice the residents celebrate it with lots of emotion.

Bihu Festival

Bihu is the national festival of Assam and comprises three different celebrations all under one name. It is rejoiced thrice a year. The first one is the Rongali Bihu or Bohaag Bihu, which is the most popular and marks the beginning of the New Year for Assamese. It falls in the mid of April every year. The second one is the Kati Bihu or Kongali Bihu and held in the mid of October. The last in the series is the Magh Bihu or Bhogaali Bihu that falls in the mid of January. All these Bihus are important for the people of Assam. Each of these events signifies the New Year, and the harvest.

The Assamese offer prayer and first harvest crop to their God, Brai Shibrai. They pray of peace and prosperity. Initially, it was Bishu, but for the native and colloquial purpose, it is named as Bihu. Bi means, "To ask" and Hu means, "To give." Bihus have great importance according to the farming calendar and connect with the agricultural season. All the communities in Assam enjoy them regardless of their financial conditions.

Rongali Bihu

Rongali or the Bohag Bihu is celebrated in the mid of April and is most popular among the three festivals. It marks the beginning of the New Year and the spring season. This is the time when the farmers have enough stock of crops and the spirit of the festival is high. The enjoyment goes on for seven days in a row by indulging in feasting and merrymaking.

The farming communities worship the cattle, and the farming tools for helping them in agricultural production on the first day. Cattle are bathed and offered prayer. They are fed with vegetables. Women prepare the traditional food, which includes pitha, lorus and jolpan. On the second day, young respect their elders and present them a Gamsa, sort of handkerchief or a towel that is placed on the shoulder or worn as a turban while dancing. Men and women form in a group, perform the Bihu dance, and sing the Bihu folk songs. These types of gatherings are arranged either in the field or in the open courtyards of houses. The traditional musical instruments played are the dhols, pepas, toka and gagana. Neighbours and relatives visit each other and exchange sweets. People break all the inhibitions guarded by the so-called caste and creed and participate with pure feelings thereby giving the festival a secular look.

Kongli Bihu

This Bihu falls in the month of Kati according to the Assamese calendar, and hence it is called Kati Bihu. This is the time when the agricultural stock in the granaries has resided and the saplings are just starting to emerge in the field. This festival is less on the side of merrymaking or feasting and is observed in total sobriety. Lighted lamps are kept near the door, tulsi plant, granary, and garden and in the paddy fields to attract and kill pests for crop protection. Since the crops are not yet matured, farmers spin a piece of bamboo standing in the field and recite rowa-khowa chants to ward away evil spirits. A special dish is prepared for the cattle in the evening called pitha.

Bhogali Bihu

Bhogali Bihu is associated with the Hindi word 'Bhog' which means eating and enjoying. It is also called the Magh Bihu and marks the end of the harvest season. This is the time to enjoy the abundance of granaries with feast and engaging in different types of sports. The main purpose of this festival is to offer prayer to the God of Fire. A temporary cottage is built at the riverside. They call it Bhelaghar and is constructed with the materials collected from the harvest fields known as Meji. On the night, a community feast is arranged and men and women perform the Bihu dance. The enjoyment goes on the entire night. The second day in the morning, people burn the Meji. Pithas and betel nuts are thrown into the fire as offering to the Fire God. The daytime is full with activities such buffalo-fight, cockfight and bird-fight.

The Bihus festivals in Assam serve in spreading the message of peace and goodwill. They also offer an example that people should respect the cattle and the farming tools that help them in their livelihood.