bihu: All about Rongali Bihu, the Assamese festival of joy & harvest

Today marks the beginning of Bohag, or Rongali Bihu, a major Assamese harvest festival.

Although Assam celebrates many kinds of Bihu—Kongali or Kati Bihu, Bhogali or Magh Bihu, the Bohag Bihu is the most popular of them all and represents abundance and gaiety. It also marks the onset of spring as well as the New Year in Assam.

The seven-day festival is celebrated in the month of April, after the seeds of the Ahu paddy are sown and before the seeds of the Sali paddy are transplanted. This year, the Bohag Bihu will be celebrated from April 14–20.

In Assamese, the word ‘rong’ denotes joy. So Rongali Bihu is celebrated with great pomp and fervor.

How Is Rongali Bihu Celebrated?
The first day of the festival is dedicated to cattle. Also known as Garu Bihu, on this day, the Assamese bathe their cattle, paint their horns and hooves, and adorn them with garlands.

On day two (Manuh Bihu), the people apply turmeric paste to their bodies and take a bath. On this day, traditional sweets such as til (linseed) laru, pitha, murir (puffed rice) laru, etc. are prepared. People exchange gifts. Gamusa or towels are popular gift items.

The third day is known as Guxai Bihu. Many household deities are invoked and worshipped. The fourth day is called Taator Bihu. In Assamese (and Bengali), Taat means handlooms.

Day five, also known as Nagolor Bihu, is dedicated to farm equipment. The sixth day, which is called Gharosia Jibar Bihu, is dedicated to pets. The final day is known as Chera Bihu. On this day, women dress up in the traditional golden brown silk Muga saree. Men and women dance to the beat of dhol, gogona toka, etc. Kids may engage in an egg fight known as koni juj.

History Of Bihu
No particular date can be traced back to the first Bihu celebration. This is an ancient harvest festival, which is a variation of the spring festivals celebrated throughout India. However, some scholars have linked the festival of Bihu to the day of Bisuvari which is dedicated to worshipping Lord Agni or the fire deity for a better harvest. The word Bisuvari is found in ancient texts like the Atharva Veda and Aitareya Brahmana.

There are some myths associated with the festival. It is believed that during Bihu, Bordoisila returns to her motherland and her parent’s home.

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