Bihu dance festival is a set of three festivals denoting the culture of the north eastern state of Assam. It is generally celebrated in Assam but people from the Assamese diasporas have of late started to celebrate in all over the world. The three types of Bihu dance festival are Bohag Bihu, Kongali Bihu and Bhogali Bihu. The celebrations of these three festivals are dependent upon the crop cycle. The Bohag Bihu, also known as the Rongali Bihu is held in the month of April, and signifies the beginning of the New Year according to the Assamese calendar. The Bhogali Bihu, also called the Magh Bihu, is held during winter, in the month of January. This festival generally coincides with the Winter Solstice. The third Bihu is the Kongali Bihu, or the Kati Bihu, which is celebrated in the month of October and coincides with the autumn solstice. Among these three, the Bohag Bihu is celebrated with a lot of zeal. Since it is also most colorful of the three Bihu dance festivals, it is called the Rongali Bihu. It also symbolizes the beginning of the agricultural season in this part of the country. The Kati or Kongali Bihu is the time when the completion of seeds and transplantation of the paddy is done whereas Magh Bihu celebrates the harvesting period.
History of the Festival
The term Bihu has originated from the Sanskrit word meaning “Vishu”. The Assamese people have been celebrating Bihu from quite a long time. Since Assam has predominant agricultural seasons, it is the Bihu festival which mark the cycle of farming for the state. It is also a celebration of the change of season. Thus, Bihu is the state festival of Assam.
Duration of the Festival
The duration of the Bohag Bihu is 7 days. Each of the days has different names such as Chot Bihu, Goru Bihu, Manuh Bihu, Mela Bihu etc. The Kongali and Rongali Bihu are celebrated for a day each.
Highlights/ Important Rituals of the Festival
A number of rituals are performed in all the three Bihu.
- On the first day of the Bohag Bihu, the farmers prepare the fields for cultivation. Women make various traditional sweets, and cows are washed and decorated. Folk songs are sung, and young men and women dance to the tunes.
- The Kongali Bihu is a time when earthen diyas are lit all around the house and granaries, at the feet of trees etc. Lamps of the tip of a long bamboo are also lit.
- In Bhogali Bihu, a bonfire is made, and food items are thrown in it. Sports like bull fight, cock fight etc are organized.