Bihu is the most important cultural festival of Assam. It is the only prime festival celebrated by the Assamese people with much joy and festivity. It is a festival that transcends all religious and class barriers bringing people together in a free and uninhabited manner. There are three types of Bihu which are celebrated in different times throughout the year.
The three main types of Bihu are the Rongali Bihu (or Bohag Bihu), Kongali Bihu (or Kati Bihu) and Bhogali Bihu (or Magh Bihu)
. The Rongali Bihu is celebrated in the month of April (in the Assamese month of Bohag), the Kongali Bihu is celebrated in middle of October (in the Assamese month of Kati) and the Bhogali Bihu is celebrated in the month of January (in the Assamese month of Magh). Among the three, however, the Rongali Bihu is celebrated with much festivity and ceremony.
Origin of the Word Bihu
There are two schools of thought regarding the origin of the word ‘Bihu’. According to one school, the word Bihu is originated from the language of Dimasa Kacharis and Bodo. According to another school of thought, the word Bihu is originated from the Sanskrit word ‘Vishu’ meaning the vernal equinox of the winter solstice. The Bihus coincide with the farming calendar. They are also celebrated to celebrate the farming season in its different time periods. As the traditional Assamese population is mostly engaged in agriculture, the Bihu festival is thus associated with farming. Assam being a land of composite culture reflects a chain of festivals of different tribes throughout the year. Bihu is the most important festivals of Assam, celebrated with fun and abundance by all Assamese people irrespective of caste, creed, religion, faith and belief. The breathtaking hills and valleys of Assam come alive with the sound of Bihu thrice a year.
The Bihu festival also signifies a celebration of farming, especially paddy. For example, Rongali Bihu marks the beginning of sowing of seeds, the Kati Bihu marks the completion of sowing and transplantation of the saplings and the Magh Bihu marks the advent of the harvest period. This is truly a regional festival, which brings a sense of solidarity and unity among the people of the Assam region. It also marks the changes in the seasons.
Celebration of Bihu outside Assam
Bihu is celebrated all across the state of Assam with much merriment. It is also celebrated by the Assamese across India and the world. The Assamese people living in different states of India celebrate Bihu by conducting functions in Assamese societies. Likewise, in abroad, different Bihu associations and communities celebrate this festival with great enthusiasm. The London Bihu Committee is one of the significant groups amongst others.