Bihu of Assam

By Biren Dutta

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The Assamese Bihu is not one single festival but rather a festival-complex basically associated with the agricultural cycle. The Bohag Bihu is the springtime festival which comes at seed-time. It also ushers in the Assamese New Year. As it is celebrated with lusty singing and dancing by young men and women, it has the alternative name Rongali Bihu, meaning merriment. Magh Bihu is the harvest festival falling in the winter. Apart from the lighting of bonfires, feasting and eating of goodies are distinctive features of this Bihu which is endearingly called the Bhogali Bihu or the Bihu of Enjoyment. The Kati Bihu, also known as the Kangali Bihu, comes in autumn and is observed in a modest way with the lighting of earthen lamps for the welfare of the standing crop.

Nowadays, however, it is the Bohag Bihu which has come to be identified as the festival symbolising Assamese national pride. It is celebrated with great fanfare in urban and semi-urban areas on stages where night-long performances of various genres take place in front of cheering crowds.

Dr. Birendra Dutta, is a Padmashree and former President of Asom Sahitya Sabha. Also former Professor and Head, Department of Folklore research, Gauhati University. He is the author of several distinguished research articles. He has written several books in Assamese and in English. A highly acclaimed singer of Assamese modern songs, was a top class vocal artist of All India Radio of yester years. Before joining the University, he was a teacher of several degree colleges of Assam and also served as Principal of two degree colleges.