Saturday, 19 January 2013

Festivals of India in the month of January


Rongali Bihu

Bihu is the most important cultural festival of Assam. It is the only prime festival celebrated by the Assamese people with much joy and festivity. It is a festival that transcends all religious and class barriers bringing people together in a free and uninhabited manner. There are three types of Bihu which are celebrated in different times throughout the year.
The word Bihu is derived from the language of the Dimasa people who have been agrarian since time immemorial. Their supreme god is Brai Shibrai or Father Shibrai. The First crops of the season are offered to Brai Shibrai while wishing for peace and prosperity. So Bi means "to ask" and Shu means "peace and prosperity" in the world. Hence the word BISHU gradually became Bihu to accommodate linguistic preferences.The other suggestion is that "Bi" means "to ask" and "Hu" means "to give" and so came BIHU.

The three main types of Bihu are the Rongali Bihu (or Bohag Bihu), Kongali Bihu (or Kati Bihu) and Bhogali Bihu (or Magh Bihu). The Rongali Bihu is celebrated in the month of April (in the Assamese month of Bohag), the Kongali Bihu is celebrated in middle of October (in the Assamese month of Kati) and the Bhogali Bihu is celebrated in the month of January (in the Assamese month of Magh). Among the three, however, the Rongali Bihu is celebrated with much festivity and ceremony.

Celebrating Bhogali Bihu

Bhogali Bihu (mid-January, also called Magh Bihu) comes from the word Bhog that is eating and enjoyment. It is a harvest festival and marks the end of harvesting season. Since the granaries are full, there is a lot of feasting and eating during this period. On the eve of the day called uruka, i.e., the last day of pausa, menfolk, more particularly young men go to the field, preferably near a river, build a makeshift cottage called Bhelaghar with the hay of the harvest fields and the Meji, the most important thing for the night. During the night, they prepare food and there is community feasting everywhere.There is also exchange of sweets and greetings at this time. 


The entire night (called Uruka) is spent around a Meji with people singing bihu songs, beating Dhol, a typical kind of drums or playing games. Boys roam about in the dark stealing firewood and vegetables for fun. The next morning they take a bath and burn the main Meji. People gather around the Meji and throw Pithas (rice cakes) and betel nuts to it while burning it at the same time. They offer their prayers to the God of Fire and mark the end of the harvesting year. Thereafter they come back home carrying pieces of half burnt firewood for being thrown among fruit trees for favourable results. All the trees in the compound are tied to bamboo strips or paddy stems. Different types of sports like Buffalo-fight, Egg-fight, Cock-fight, Nightingale-fight etc. are held throughout the day. There are other conventional festivals observed by various ethnic-cultural groups. Me-dam-me-phi, Ali-aye-ligang, Porag, Garja, Hapsa Hatarnai, Kherai are few among them.The koc celebrates this bihu as pushna.  All Assamese people around the world celebrate this tradition on the month of January as per English calendar. The Uruka comes on 13 January & Bihu is on 14–15.

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