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Bihu: Things You Must Know about the Harvesting Festival of Assam

Pronami Chetia
Pronami Chetia

Harvesting festival is widely celebrated in the mid of the January month across India with different names and colors. In Assam, it is celebrated as Bihu while Punjab observes it as ‘Lohri’ and the rest of the South Indian states vividly celebrates it as ‘Pongal’. These colorful and vibrant harvesting festivals of India always remind us of the outmost and unpayable contribution of farmers towards our society, culture, and economy.

The most colorful Bihu festival comes with three different flavors in different seasons as Magh Bihu, Bhogali Bihu and Kati  Bihu. "Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu which is a harvest festival marks the end of harvesting season in the month of Maagha (January–February) and hugely celebrated across the state. It is the Assam celebration of Sankranthi, with feasting lasting for a week. The word ‘Bhogali’ derived from the word ‘Bhog’ which means eating and enjoyment.

'Bihu the festival of Assam'              

Let’s know why this harvesting festival is widely celebrated across the state.

The highlight of this festival is the food due to the abundance of grains after the harvest.

The night before Magh Bihu is called Uruka, it is the night of feasts where the villagers gathered and enjoy a meal together and spent the whole night in ‘Bhelaghar’.

Villagers make a bamboo hut called Bhelaghor, or community kitchen and begin the preparations. Various dishes, vegetables, meat items and sweets such as Pitha, Laru are made out of sesame, molasses and coconut are prepared.

The next morning has the outmost significance where the community gathers to light the Meji, a large bonfire and pray for a better harvest, better health and better future in the year ahead. Offerings are made to the sacred fire for a prosperous year ahead.

After lighting the meji, people again gathered in the field to play and enjoy the indigenous games such as Dhop Khel, Pot breaking, Egg fights and Buffalo fighting, Bulbul fighting as a part of the celebrations. This can also be observed in the Baishakhi festival and Pongal of South India.

Community fishing by the tribes in the large wetlands can be also seen. The Bhelaghor huts are burnt at the end of the festival.

The festival also marks Mark Sankranti or the transit of the sun towards the Tropic of Cancer. Many other communities across India also celebrate the same occasion as it marks the end of winter and the beginning of longer days.

Magh Bihu is celebrated at a season when winter is about to go. It is believed that the fire of Meji burns the winter out along with all the evil powers of the world. It is hoped to bring peace, prosperity, and abundance of harvest for the next years.

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