Introduction: India is a land of diversity and as many seasons are found here as many festivals along with their customary trends are celebrated here with gusto, zeal and new vigour. Each turn of season brings with it a different and unique kind of joy and vitality with it and it becomes more significant since India is Agrarian country where people switch to Farming mostly. Bihu is also one of those seasonal festivals which is prominently celebrated in Assam irrespective of caste, creed and belief. This is the occasion when the reaped crop is harvested and the first share of it is offered to the supreme giver (god) of life, i.e. Brai Shibrai or Father Shibrai. And in return, people urge for peace, brotherhood and prosperity to be settled in the world.

Etymology: Earlier, Bihu was famous as ‘Bishu’. The prefix ‘Bi’ means ‘to ask’ and ‘Shu’ refers to ‘peace and prosperity’. And as per the prevailing name, ‘Bi’ connotes ‘to ask’ and ‘hu’ stands for ‘to give’.

Occurrence:

  • Rangali Bihu or Bohag Bihu falls in the mid of April (Baisakh) that customarily lasts till the end of the month. The significance of this occasion enhances since it is also believed to be a beginning of a ‘new year’ as per tradition.
  • Kongali Bihu comes in the month of October (Kartik) signifying the September equinox.
  • Bhogali Bihu is the third occasion when harvest is offered to the deity in the month of January (Maagh) that is related to the January solstice.

Three Bihus:

  • Rangoli Bihu or Bohag Bihu: This eve blows the bugle of the onset of the ‘Assamese New Year’ marking the first day of the Hindu solar calendar and welcomes to embrace the next season ‘spring’. The celebration lasts for seven days.
  • Observed in places: Mithila, Bengal, Manipur, Nepal, Orissa, Punjab, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
  • Practicing trends: Feasting and merriment continue to spread joy and settle brotherhood in the heart of people. Farmers get their fields ready for cultivation of Paddy while singing the notes of happiness. Women prepare Pitha, Larus (made of rice & coconut) and Jolpan.
  • First day of the festival:  The first day of this festival is known as goru bihu or cow bihu. This day is dedicated to cows and thereby, they are bathed and worshipped on 14th April.
  • Second day of the festival:  On 15th April Manuh (Human) bihu is celebrated by cleaning up and wearing new cloths for making over to celebrate the occasion with fervor.
  • Third day of the festival: The third day is called Gosai (gods) bihu. People worship gods for getting bestowed with prosperity and wealthy life.
  • Bihugeets or Bihu songs: The folk song famous among the folks of Assam is sung in a unanimous tone by different demographic groups. 
  • Bihu dance: It is a folk dance while performing which women use sensuous movements using hips, arms etc. singing songs of thanking god for blessing them fertility. It is also a dance form called ‘Mating ritual’ performed by the young males and females.   
  • Seven days: The continuous festive procession lasting for seven days is known as Xaat Bihu. All seven days have their specific names those are Chot Bihu, Goru Bihu, Manuh Bihu, Kutum Bihu, Senehi Bihu, Mela Bihu and Chera Bihu.
  • Kongali Bihu:
    • Significance: The ambience contains a sense of constrain and solemnity and the paddy appear at growing stage while the farmers’ granaries have become almost dried of harvested crop.
    • Customary practices:  People lit earthen lamps called ‘Saki’ near the root of Tulsi plant, granary, garden and the paddy fields. They chant rowa-khowa for warding off the pests and evil aura from their maturing paddy while turning and whirling bamboos.  In the evening, people feed cattle with Pitha made of rice items. The Bodo people ignite earthen lamps at the feet of the Siju tree & akaxi gonga or akaxbonti to get off the souls of the dead showing them the way to heaven. 
  • Bhogali Bihu or Magh Bihu:
    • Etymology: The word ‘Bhog’ means eating and enjoying. Thus, Bhogali Bihu stands for enjoying the eve of harvesting the crop. 
    • Customary practices: People tend to celebrate the cutting down or harvesting of crop for storing it in their granaries. Hence, this occasion becomes a significant moment to go on the joy ride by feasting, dancing and enjoying which signify prosperity, wealth and happiness.
    • Uruka (the last day of Pausa): Uruka is the last day of the Hindu month ‘Pausa’ marking the harvest festival celebration winding-up. Bhelaghar (a makeshift house built of haystacks), a cottage, is made by the menfolk particularly nearby the river side. People land into the ambience of blissful enthusiasm that is glimpsed through their rhythmic beating of Dhols and singing notes.
    •  Meji: Meji is also prepared by the folk group while singing merriment making melodious notes. The night of this festive occasion does not go empty as community feast is held at almost every nook of the region. Warm regards and greetings are exchanged by the celebrants. The young lads wonder in the forest for searching fire-woods and vegetables for having fun. After taking bathe the next morning, they set Meji on fire. 
    • Pitha: The following day after taking bath, pitha – a cake made of rice, along with betel nuts are thrown while standing around Meji.
    • Worshipping: For wrapping-up the entire ritualistic ceremony of this harvest festival, people appease god of fire by worshipping him. Thence, they head to their houses holding a half burnt firewood for throwing it in orchard for reaping fruitful result. The fencing of bamboo strips and paddy stems is prepared around all the trees.
    •  Sport-activities: Buffalo-fight, Egg-fight, Cock-fight and Nightingale fight etc. are organized throughout the day.