The Rongali Bihu is the most important among all the three Bihus. As it falls on the Assamese month of Bohag, it is also called the Bohag Bihu. This Bihu falls in the middle of April during the beginning of the Assamese month Bohag. It is celebrated to mark the beginning of the agricultural season. The Assamese New Year also starts with this Bihu. Rongali Bihu is celebrated by most of the races that inhabit in Assam in their own colors and names. It is the most popular Bihu that celebrates the onset of the Assamese New Year (around April 15) and the coming of spring.
Parallels of Bihu among the other races and tribes of Assam are Baisagu for Bodo Kacharis, Baikhu for Rabhas, Ali- Ai -Ligang for Misings, Bohhaggio Bishu for Deoris. Contemporaries of Magh Bihu are Nara-siga Bihu of Miring, Pushy Par. or Tushu Puja of tea tribe of Assam. Other community festivals of Assam are Rongker of Karbis, Rajini Gabra and Harni Gabra of Dimasa tribe. The Bohag Bihu is celebrated in different other forms in different parts of India. In Punjab, it is celebrated as ‘Baisakhi’ and likewise other places have other forms.
The Rongali Bihu is celebrated for around a month with different festivities going on throughout the Bohag month. The people celebrate this festival with merriment and joy. The feasting starts and farmers prepare the fields for cultivation of paddy. Delicacies like pitha, laru, jolpan (traditional food made predominantly with rice) are prepared by the womenfolk. Rongali Bihu is a time of merriment and feasting and continues, in general, for seven days.
The first day of the Rongali Bihu is the Goru or Cow Bihu. On this day, the cows are washed and worshipped. This day falls on the last day of the previous year, usually on April 14. The cattle are smeared with turmeric paste, bathed in rivers and canals and are the let to stray. The cattle are washed, smeared with ground turmeric and other pastes, struck with sprigs of dighalati and makhiyati and endeared to be healthy and productive. A hearty meal of gourd and brinjal is fed to the cows, while singing the Assamese traditional song (lao kha, bengena kha, bosore bosore barhi ja/ maar xoru, baper xoru, toi hobi bor bor goru) which means eat gourd, eat brinjal, grow from year to year/your mother is small, your father is small, but you be a large one).
In the evening when the cows return home, the old cattle bindings are cast away and new ropes are used. They are worshipped and well fed on that day. The Goru Bihu or cattle worship rites are observed on the last day of the year. The rationale behind the worshipping of cows is very simple. They are the greatest assets of a farmer because not only do they produce milk but also help plough fields, transport men, crop and so on.
Manuh BihuThe next day of the Rongali Bihu, which is the first day of the Assamese New Year is the Manuh Bihu on April 15, the New Year Day. This is the day of getting cleaned up, wearing new cloths and celebrating and getting ready for the New Year with fresh vigor. On this day (which generally falls on April 15th), people get cleaned up and wear new clothes. On this day, elders are shown respect and the young take blessings from them. People visit relatives and friends house to greet the New Year with joy.
With gifts of Bihuwan (Gamosa), which is traditional Assamese piece of cloth, are gifted to elders a mark of respect. Children are also given new clothes, and Husori singing begins on this day, and people visit their relatives and friend. Village elders move from household to households singing carols, also in the style of Bihu geets, called Husoris. Different Bihu pandals also organize cultural functions, which goes on for four-five days.
The third day of Rongali Bihu is the Gosai (God) Bihu. On this day, statues of Gods are worshipped seeking a prosperous year ahead. The Rongali Bihu is the most widely celebrated Bihu with much festivity. This Bihu has many significant aspects of the celebration process.
The Bihu Geets are Bihu songs which are a significant part of the festival. The lyrics of the songs blend in from narrating natural beauty to a lover’s expression, from the social awareness issues to the humorous tales. One of the major folk cultures of the Bihu festival, Bihu songs is widely popular and the playing includes using a variety of instruments in its fold. These songs express the rich culture of Assam.
Bihu dance is the folk dance of Assam. It is a joyous dance performed by both men and women in groups. The dance is characterized by brisk steps accentuated by expressive hand movements. Though both males and females dance in different formations, yet the rhythm and coordination is significant in the Bihu dance. The female Bihu dance has much variation and the dance has different stages from dancing forms to dancing in coordination with the instruments played. The stages include: freehand, twisting, dancing with the rhythm of the pepa blowing, with the kahi and the jaapi with others. There are different forms of Bihu dance like the Mising Bihu dance, Deori Bihu dance among others with respect to the different sub class of Assamese culture.
Husori is another important aspect of Bihu. Here the village elders move from household to household singing Bihu geets and performances. The Husori groups are traditionally welcomed in the courtyard and they after the performances give blessings to the household.
In this form of Bihu, young unmarried men and women attired in traditional golden silk Muga perform the Bihu dance and sing Bihu songs in the open fields.
This form of Bihu is performed and watch only by women. The name ‘Jeng’ is derived from the fact that in earlier time, village women used to surround their place of performance with sticks dug into the ground. This Bihu form is also called Gos tolor Bihu.
This is the urban form of Bihu where the rural festival made its transition into the modernized urban life. It was first started in Latasil field in Guwahati by the Guwahati Bihu Sanmilani 1962. It was promoted by personalities like Radha Govinda Baruah, Khagen Mahanta among others. Here the dancers perform in a makeshift elevated stage which is popularly known as Bihutoli. The performances in the Bihotoli are not confined to Bihu dances. The performances include a range of other theatrical shows; other dance forms performances, solo singer concerts and stand up comedy. the stage Bihu form have become so popular that different Bihu organizers have extended the celebrations to Bohagi Bidai, which is celebrated for bidding adieu to the festive Bohag month.
Instruments Used in Bihu
Bihu celebration is insignificant with the traditional instruments of Assam. There are a variety of instruments which are used during Bihu performances, Bihu geets and dances. Some of them are:
The Dhol is an important instrument of Assamese culture. It is a percussion instrument similar to a drum. The Dhol is made of a wooden barrel. It is played with a stick and the palm on each side. The beat of the Dhol is the life of the Assamese culture. A beat from the Dhol makes one swirl and dance to the rhythmic flow.
It is a small cymbal instrument. There are different types of Taal.
Pepa is a flute like musical instrument used in Bihu. It is a small stem capped with buffalo horn. The sound of the Pepa is striking and mesmerizing.
Other instruments used are the Toka, Gagana, Xutuli and Baanhi (flute).