Bihu, also known as the Assamese New Year is one of the three main festivals of Assam. The first day of the Hindu solar calendar is celebrated in different states of India in Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Orissa, Kerala, Manipur, and West Bengal with different names and traditions. Bohag Bihu or Rongali Bihu sees a grand celebration throughout Assam and marks the start of the harvest season. Bihu falls on the second week of April and this year would be celebrated from April 14-16, 2022.
Assam is bestowed with lush green forests and mountains. Bihu becomes a time for the locals to pay respect to the abundant flora and fauna. It is typically a 7-day celebration. The word 'Rongali' means joy in Assamese. The festival truly is the time to rejoice and spend time with family and friends.
People believe that around 3500 BC, an agrarian tribe that used to live in the north-eastern part of the world, thousands of years back celebrated the festival by making fire sacrifices for a better harvest.
Like many other religious festivals, people wake up early in the morning, apply a paste of turmeric and urad dal on their bodies and then bathe. Later, people seek blessings from their elders and relatives. They visit each other's houses and eat traditional dishes like sesame laddu, pittha, murmura laddu, Ghila Pitha, and Poka Mithoi.
Hiranmoy Gogoi from Calcutta shares some of Bihu traditions with us, "We gift Gamusa(shawls) to pay respect to our elders. A group of boys and girls(Hosori group) visits people's houses on this day and perform the Bihu dance. There is also a fun tradition where two people greet each other with raw eggs, one whose egg doesn't break, wins."
The first day of the Bihu festival known as Goru Bihu is celebrated by worshipping cattle for their services. At first, the cattle are offered, a turmeric and oil massage followed by a bath, and lavish food is offered to the cattle as a mark of gratitude for the tireless service. The other days are dedicated to cattle, household deities, handlooms, and farming equipment.
Among rich customs, people dress up in different attire and dance to the folk song known as Bihu Geet. The Bihu dance, also known as Bihunach is an alluring folk dance with typical rhythms, poses, body and waist movements. It is performed by both women and men.
Bihu in Delhi: Bihu celebration in Delhi can be witnessed through the small Assamese population in Delhi. Young students in colleges of Delhi University organize special programs. They wear their traditional outfits and enjoy their regional food. Apart from this, associations over Delhi NCR also organize community programs.