Bidding good bye to another year of bitter-sweet experiences, here we have welcomed a brand new one with all booze and grand bash. Some of us might be still in a mood of hanging out somewhere and some others might be planning to spend the winter vacation in an unusual way. But honestly speaking none of the aforesaid has inspired me that much. Rather, the chilly winter of Delhi and the sweet sunlight is working its magic on me and making me nostalgic about my dear state Assam. Let me share with you a few reasons why is it making me that crazy to go and visit my hometown Assam in January.
January is the month of Bhogali Bihu, one of the grand festivals of feast and merry making in Assam. It is celebrated in January when the farmers are done with harvesting and the fields are left with the remnants of paddy plants. The paddy fields then turn to an exciting spot of different local games enjoyed by both kids and young blokes. Farmers often grow various seasonal veggies in paddy fields, in their small yards, gardens and even on the river beds which creates a wonderful site to witness. Unlike other Indian states, the weather of Assam in January turns comparatively cosier as it experiences a temperature between 25 0c – 10 0c. In such a pleasant season, the festivals of Assam are celebrated when mouth watering delicacies are prepared. Here is a brief idea about what are the things to experience in Assam in January.
Image Courtesy: Sanjiv Sinha Lalwani
When northern part of India celebrates Makar Sankranti festival, the Assamese community of Assam gets ready to celebrate the festival of harvest Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu with great fun and merry making. Celebrated on the 15th of January i.e., on the last day of Poush month according to Assamese Calendar. The festival is dedicated to Agni, the deity of Fire. The day before Magh Bihu is known as Uruka when people make temporary hut like structures called Meji Ghar inside which grand feasts are arranged. A special variety of dish is prepared with Chitol Mach (Clown Knifefish) along with other non-vegetarian food items. On the morning of Magh Bihu, the Meji Ghar is burnt after taking holy bath in a pond. The actual festival starts on this day with people going to Namghar (place of worship) and delicious homemade sweets like Narikol pitha, til pitha, bor pitha, ghila pitha etc being prepared, which really are mouth-watering. The festival continues for one week during which the villagers exchange varieties of homemade desserts among themselves.
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Perhaps the most unique food to have in Assam in January is the Chonga Pitha. An item made at almost every Assamese household (especially in the villages), this special food item is prepared without adding any spice. A special type of rice obtained from “Bora Dhaan” (a type of paddy) is used to make this item. Hollow bamboo pipes are filled with this particular rice and water and later the pipes are roasted over the fire (set up by burning straws). Instead of a kitchen this special food item is roasted in courtyards and no utensil is needed to prepare this delicious Pitha.
N.B. If the tourists are not able to visit villages, they can try looking for Chonga Pitha in any normal sweet shops of Guwahati town in January
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As the gigantic Brahmaputra shrinks in size during January, the tourists can grab this opportunity to plan a short picnic party in close proximity to Guwahati. Arranged amidst unbound tranquillity this picnic trip will be utterly relaxing as you get the chance to spend some time with your friends or family without investing much money. Arrange a music system, hire a private vehicle as per your need, take some food and head to the nearest picnic destinations in Guwahati like Peacock Island, Bhalukpong, Kulsi, Shivakunda or Chandubi.
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The best part about Assamese breakfast is the less use of kitchen utensils and spices. Healthy and delicious food items are offered in bell metal containers which is an age old tradition of the Assamese community. Yoghurt, handoh gudi, pitha gudi, Chida (puffed rice), liquid jaggery are offered in breakfast. Sometimes pithas (sweets made of rice powder and flour) are also added in this list. Do not forget to chew Tambul (betel leaves and betel nut) after your breakfast.
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A traditional fair organised since the 15th Century AD, Jonbeel Mela is held at Dayang Belguri in Jonbil. 5 km from Jagiroad in Morogaon district of Assam, this not-so-popular place of Assam is thronged by people of the neighbouring districts for three days. The fair starts from the first day of Magh Bihu and continues for three days. The most attractive element to be witnessed in this fair is the practice of barter system among the tribal people who gather at the fair. It is in this fair that the people of hills exchange commodities with the people of the plains. Tribal people from different corners of the state gather in this fair and a small get together is arranged among them. People perform traditional tribal dances and fun games like cock-fights are organised for entertainment.
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Celebrated on the tranquil beaches of the divine Brahmaputra, the Beach Festival unites unthinkable varieties of cultural programmes, fairs, and water sports activities together. It coincides with the festival of Magh Bihu and continues for three consecutive days. Various stalls selling traditional handicrafts of Assam are set across the beaches of the river. Tourists can witness glimpses of the traditional games of India like Cock Fighting, Kite Flying, Elephant Race, Egg Breaking etc. If you are a sporty soul, take part in activities like beach cricket, beach volleyball, kayaking, canoeing and rafting etc.
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Though there is no fixed season for exploring the Satras of Majuli, I would suggest you to plan for the same in January. The only reason is during winter season you can see the largest area of this natural wonder that remains out of water. The giant Brahmaputra slightly shrinks in this season and one can go bird watching or taking leisure walks in the small villages of this island. If you are interested to know the details about the rich Assamese tradition and culture, explore the satras of Auniati, Garmur, Dakhinpat, Shamguri and some more. They are the most popular ones where you can see multiple varieties of traditional musical instruments, beautiful handmade masks, dummy weapons and jewelleries. Satriya Dance, the classical dance form of Assam is a must see attraction. Bhaona, the traditional form of entertainment of Assam is another attraction of Majuli.
Recalling the days of my young age I prepared the list of things to do in Assam in January and thought of visiting my beloved state once again in this chilly winter. I looked up my schedule in the calendar and couldn’t find a suitable date as leaves are really very precious!! But you should try planning before it gets too late for Bhogali Bihu. I bet you will end up thanking me if you are visiting Assam in January. Well, do not forget to share your experience as I want to relive those days listening to your words virtually.
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