Rongali Bihu - The Harvest Festival of Assam
Rongali Bihu, one of the major festivals of Assam commonly known as Bohag Bihu, is celebrated in Assam during the middle month of April. This most popular festival marks the onset of the Assamese New Year and upcoming of Spring.
Rongali Bihu marks the first day of Hindu Solar Calendar. In the year 2020, it will fall on the 14th of April. The first day of the Hindu Solar calendar is also observed in many states of India with different names like Punjab – it's Baishakhi, in Tamilnadu – it's Pongal.
This festival is celebrated for the whole of the month. Rongali or Bohag Bihu falls at the time where no work is for the cultivator, but there is enough storage to enjoy.
Bohag Bihu is always marked as the symbol of joy and happiness and is the biggest festival of Assam and celebrated in every corner of Assam.
The new year starts in the month of Bohag, that's why it is known as Bohag Bihu, and word Rongali derived from an Assamese word 'Rong' which means celebrations and happiness, so this festival represents the happiness of the society.
In the evening women prepare special delicacies like Piha, Chira etc. In rural areas, men remain busy collecting necessary items like ropes for the cattle made out of Tara and also gathering vegetables such as raw turmeric, brinjal, gourd for the next day to celebrate "Goru Bihu" or "Garu Bihu."
The first day of the Bihu is dedicated to the cattle
As cows and bullocks provide them with basics of livelihood. Early in the morning, the animals are bathed in a river and ponds, horns and hoofs are painted various colours and are adorned with flower garlands.
Vegetables like brinjal, gourd etc. are offered to them to eat. Their old ropes are cut, and they are let loose for the day. On this day, they are permitted to fodder in any field without restraint.
After giving bath to cattle, everybody takes a unique bath, and the younger people seek the blessings of their elders. In the evening, when the cows return home, they are tied with new ropes (Pogha) and are entertained with cakes especially prepared for them.
The next day, called Manuh Bihu
dishes made of flattened rice, curds, and jaggery and sweets are prepared and eaten. On this day 'Bihu Husori' is formally inaugurated at the Prayer hall (Naam Ghar).
The third day is called Gosain Bihu
This day is dedicated to the worship of deities. On all three days of the festival, troupes of musicians and dancers visit houses and perform the Bihu dance in the open.
The young boys and girls wear new clothes on this day and after enjoying the special preparations of the Bihu, spend the time in egg fight ('Koni Juj'), singing songs of love and romance. Such gatherings are called "Mukoli Bihus" (Open Bihus). The songs are prevalent among all sections of the people.
The folk songs associated with the Bohag Bihu are called "Bihu Geets" or Bihu songs. Young men and women perform Bihu dances and sing to the accompaniment of drums and Pepa, a flute made of buffalo horns.
Fairs are organized at different places, and the mood of festivity is present everywhere. Where available the girls decorate their long hair with Ko-Pou flowers.
The Bihu dance is related to vibrant, colourful attire of the Assamese culture. This Bohag Bihu also involves various delicious Assamese recipes.
When it comes to Assamese culture and society, the first thing that comes to anyone inside or outside of Assam is nothing but Bihu, to be more specific, Rongali (Bohag) Bihu.
Next Bihu is known as Kati Bihu.
Kati Bihu is also related to agriculture. Kati means "cut". Kati Bihu is also called Kongali Bihu, i.e. Poor.
It signifies empty, and there is not much to eat at this point of the year.
The last Bihu is known as Magh Bihu, also known as Bhogali Bihu
Magh Bihu is celebrated with community feasts after the annual harvest. The highlight of this festival is the food due to the abundance of grains after the harvest. It is the time when winter sets out on its last course, making way for Spring.