Bihu: Everything To Know About This Assamese Festival

Mar/02/2022 / by Richa Sharma
Bihu festival
Image credits: Wikimedia Commons

Bihu is a collection of three significant Assamese holidays celebrated in the Indian state of Assam: Roongali or Bohag Bihu in April, Kongali or Kati Bihu in October, and Bhogali or Magh Bihu in January. The most prominent of the three is the Rongali Bihu, commemorating the spring celebration. Bhogali Bihu or Magh Bihu is a harvest celebration that includes communal feasts. The Kongali Bihu or Kati Bihu is a solemn, frugal event that commemorates a season of scarcity.

When Is Bihu Celebrated In 2022

On January 15, 2022, Magh Bihu will be observed. It is an Assamese harvest celebration that commemorates the conclusion of the region’s harvesting season.

The Significance of Bihu

Image credits: Wikimedia Commons

The Rongali Bihu falls on the Assamese New Year and the Hindu and Buddhist calendars in other parts of the Indian subcontinent, East Asia, and South-East Asia. Each year, the Assamese people celebrate two more Bihu celebrations. Like many other Indian festivals, Bihu is related to agriculture, namely rice.

Bohag Bihu is a sowing festival; Kati Bihu is an animistic festival linked with crop protection and plant and crop worship, and Bhogali Bihu is a harvest celebration. With feasts, music, and dance, the Assamese commemorate the Rongali Bihu. Some people display brass, copper, or silver pots on poles in front of their homes, while youngsters wear flower garlands and welcome the new year as they walk through rural neighborhoods.

The three Bihu are Assamese festivities that honor Krishna, cattle (Goru Bihu), family elders, fertility, and a mother goddess. All Assamese people, regardless of religion, caste, or creed, celebrate the Bihu in modern times. However, the celebrations and ceremonies include Southeast Asia and Sino-Tibetan traditions. It is also observed internationally by the Assamese diaspora population.

Additionally, the name Bihu refers to Bihu dance, also known as Bihu Naas, and Bihu folk music, also known as Bihu Geet.

Bihu’s History

Image credits: Wikimedia Commons

Bihu is derived from the Deori (a Boro-Garo language) term Bisu, which translates as “extreme delight.” The Chutes, SonowalKacharis, and Deoris retain the ancient form of Bihu. These tribes, dubbed SadiyalKacharis, were linked to the medieval Sadiya Kingdom. Since ancient times, the other branches of Bodo-Kacharis, such as Boros, Dimasas, Rabhas, and Tiwas, have also celebrated Bihu. The Boros refer to it as Baisagu, while the Dimasas, Tiwa, and Rabha refer to it as Bushu or Bushu Dima, Pisu, and Dumsi.

Bordoisila (BardaiSikhla in Bodo) (meaning north-westerly winds in Assamese) is considered the daughter of God Earth who married a husband from a faraway location in local legend. Bordoisila comes from the Bodo term Bordaisikhla, which translates as “daughter of the storm” (Sikhla meaning girl and Bardai meaning storm).

Bordoisila visits her mother’s house once a year in the spring, signaling the start of Bihu, and departs after a few days, signaling the conclusion of Bihu. Assam sees a violent gale (wind) at that time period, heralding the start of Bihu, and another strong storm after her departure, both of which are disastrous. There is also a dance of the same name performed by the Boro people during Bwisagu, indicating that Bihu originated among the Bodo-Kachari communities.

Bihu initially appears in the copperplate inscription of Chutia king Lakshminarayan. The inscription was discovered in the Ghilamara area of Lakhimpur district in 1935 and dates from 1401 A.D. It relates that monarch Lakshminarayan distributed land grants to Brahmins on the auspicious festival of Bihu.

Celebrations During Bihu

Magh Bihu is a two-day festival. The first day is called Uruka or Bihu eve. To celebrate the feast, young people construct improvised shelters called Meji and Bhelaghar out of bamboo, leaves, and thatch. On this day, ladies prepare a feast using food products such as Chira, Pitha, Laru, and Curd. ‘Bhuj’ is planned at night, and participants eat wonderful meals in improvised shelters while socializing with their loved ones.

On the second day of the festivities, a post-harvest ritual called Meji is held, and people light bonfires in the fields to worship their ancestral gods. On this day, people burn their improvised shelters as part of the MejiJwala rite.

The event is connected with delectable cuisine, and on this day, a variety of rice cakes, as well as sweets made of til (sesame) and jaggery, are cooked.

FAQs About Bihu

What does Bihu mean?

Since ancient times, Assam has celebrated the Bihu festival. Bihu is derived from the Sanskrit phrase Bishu, which means “to invoke the Gods’ blessings and prosperity” during the harvesting season. On Bihu, farmers and community members pray and thank God for a bountiful harvest.

Which God is worshiped on Bihu?

The festival’s importance lies in people expressing gratitude to nature, and it is consequently observed around the harvest season for rice and other grains such as sugar cane and turmeric. People worship Lord Indra on the first day of the festival and participate in festivities by singing songs and dancing around a campfire.

What is the food served on Bihu?

Bihu is Assam’s harvest festival, commemorating the changing of seasons. Assamese people celebrate this holiday by performing their distinctive Bihu dance and sharing a big dinner with their loved ones. Typically, rice, coconuts, jaggery, sesame, and milk are used to prepare recipes.

What is the first day of Bihu called?

The first day of the Bihu is named gorubihu or cow bihu, and it is when the cows are cleaned and worshiped. It occurs on the final day of the previous year.

Conclusion

Now that you know everything about Bihu, it’s time to get ready to celebrate this festival with a lot of pomp and love! For more blogs about popular Indian festivals, keep reading Seema!

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