Bohag Bihu or Rongoli Bihu is one of the most important and significant festivals that is celebrated by Assamese people. It celebrates the beginning of the harvesting season, also the first day of the Hindu solar calendar. Like other harvest festivals of India, Bihu involves the farmer community which offers thanks to the almighty for the successful harvest as well as hoping for a better harvest in the future.
Bihu is celebrated thrice during the given year which signifies three different farming cycles: Bhogali Bihu, Bohag Bihu and Kongali Bihu. Bohag Bihu coincides with other harvest festivals such as Baisakhi, Vishu and Tamil New Year.
The Significance of Bohag Bihu
Bohag Bihu signifies the harvest season and the start of the spring season. It brings along singing, festivities and feasting. Men and women perform the traditional Bihu dance marking the celebration of the new year. Bihu is celebrated over a span of seven days. In observance of Bohag Bihu, people wake up early and bathe with raw turmeric and urad dal paste, wear new clothes and seek blessings from elders followed by jalpan - a light breakfast of sticky rice along with curd and jaggery.
During Bohag Bihu, there are seven phases: Chot, Raati, Goru, Manuh, Kutum, Mela and Chera. Let’s review them in detail.
- Raati Bihu: It begins on the first night of the month of Chot. This phase is performed under an ancient tree or in an open area illuminated by burning torches.
- Chot Bihu: This phase marks the beginning on the second day of the month of Chot Mah and the day is marked by Bihu songs and dances.
- Goru Bihu: This phase is associated with the agricultural roots of Assam and the significance of livestock.
- Manuh Bihu: The phase marks the first day of Vaisakh month of the Hindu calendar (Manuh refers to elders). It involves the tradition of seeking elders’ blessings.
- Kutum Bihu: The second day of the month of Vaisakh month and involves the tradition of people visiting their relatives and friends and the day is marked with sumptuous lunch or dinner.
- Mela Bihu: This is the third day of Bihu and is marked with cultural events and competitions.
- Chera Bihu: Also known as Bohagi Bidai, it’s the fourth and final day of Rongali Bihu with the celebration concluding with future resolutions.
Bohag Bihu is celebrated with colourful and vibrant clothes with young boys and girls donning dhoti, gamosa and saadar mekhela while they perform Bihu songs and dance showcasing the culture and the significance of Bohag Bihu. At several places, the festival witnesses Bihu fairs where people of Assam gather to take part in games and enjoying Assamese delicacies.