History and Significance of the Assamese Festival


Assam’s Bohag Bihu festival is a time of celebration marks the beginning of the Assamese New Year. The word “Bihu” is derived from the Sanskrit word Bishu, meaning “to ask blessings and prosperity from the Gods” before the onset of the harvest season. It is celebrated over seven days. This year it starts on April 14.

Based on the yearly weather calendar, there are three types of Bihu: Bohag or Rongali (April), Kati or Kartik (October), and Magh or Maghar Domahi (January). All three are related to the primarily agrarian society of Assam. The April Bihu is named after the starting month of the Assamese New Year, “Bohag”. Kati Bihu marks the ongoing harvest season when the crops are at a growing stage and the Magh Bihu symbolises the end of the harvest season.

During the Bohag Bihu, Assamese people, dressed in their traditional attire such as dhoti, gamosa, and saadar mekhela, dance in circles singing the traditional Bihu Geet.

The Bihu festival commences with Raati Bihu, when women gather in an open field and celebrate around a bonfire.

The first day of this Bihu is known as Goru Bihu and usually falls on the last day of the outgoing year. On this day, farmers take their cows to a pond or river to give them a bath. Later, they apply Mah-Haldi of turmeric powder and pulses on the animals and decorate them with plant twigs.

The second day is Manuh Bihu when people wear new clothes and eat sweets to mark the new year. The third Gosai Bihu is the day of worship. On Kutum Bihu, people visit their relatives. Senehi Bihu is reserved for lovers who exchange gifts called “Bihuwan”. The festival culminates with Mela Bihu when people organise fairs.

Throughout the seven days, a variety of dishes are prepared and community feasts are organized. It is believed that it began when people started tilling the land in the Brahmaputra Valley for sustenance.

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