Bihu is not only a festival of Assam, it is the identity and pride of the Assamese people. The people of Assam always makes it a point to come together to celebrate all the three kinds of Bihu no matter how busy they are in their lives. In the age of social media, Bihu has been linked quite distinctly with the Assamese culture on the global map. Bihu is quite well known in the international level in the 21st century than it was during the 20th century. Moreover, the youths of Assam have now taken upon themselves a slew of measures to protect the beautiful festival of the Assamese culture. So now the three kinds of Bihu and the rituals associated with it are more well-known.
The month of January is associated with Magh Bihu by the Assamese people. Also called Bhogali Bihu, it is adored by the people of Assam as during this Bihu, they get to satiate their taste buds with various Assamese delicacies. Therefore, Bhogali Bihu is a season of feasting.
Celebrated in the middle of January, Bhogali Bihu is celebrated with great merriment and celebration. According to the Assamese calendar, Bhogali Bihu celebrations start before the Magh month.It may continue for the whole of the Magh month due to the abundance of Assamese snacks prepared for the festival .
The arrival of the Magh month brings the end of the harvesting season in Assam. With granaries fully stocked with various kinds of grains, the Magh month is celebrated with great kinds of feasts by the people of Assam. Why not? The word ‘Bhogali’ meaning handiness of rich food, it will surely be celebrated with great feasts of authentic Assamese cuisine.
When the season of Magh Bihu arrives, many Assamese people staying in distant lands come back to their hometowns in Assam with vivid pictures of sumptuous dishes in mind and to celebrate the spirit of the Magh Bihu only with near and dear ones.
However, Assamese people who cannot come to enjoy the festival due to hectic schedules always find out a way to celebrate the dear festival of Magh Bihu even in their place of residence.
Let us see how Assamese people celebrate Magh Bihu during the three days-
The first day of Magh Bihu is called Uruka. It is celebrated prior to the last day of the month of Puh, the month preceding the month of Magh in the Assamese calendar. During this day, Assamese men would gather huge amounts of hay and build a makeshift cottage called ‘Bhelaghar’ or ‘Meji’ in an open space. The Assamese women would prepare Assamese snacks like laru, pitha in large quantities. During the evening, every person of a particular area irrespective of their language, caste or creed would gather near their neighbouring ‘Bhelaghar’ and cook various dishes comprising of various kinds of vegetables and meat . Some persons would enjoy stealing vegetables or meat from their neighbouring group who are celebrating in a different area. However, no one seems to mind even if their food items are lost because after all, Magh Bihu is a season of feasting and everyone just indulges in having food with each other. After preparation of the dishes, people would dance in the open space near the Bhelaghar with great enjoyment. People play various Assamese musical instruments like and burst into dance with great fun. In modern times, some people would dance to popular Assamese film songs . Some groups even hire Assamese singers and dance as they sing their signature album songs. After the singing and dancing sessions are over, the people would gather inside the Bhelaghar and have a great feast together. Overall, Uruka is the day when every people forget their differences and come together to spend some quality time together and relax and have fun.
On the second day of Magh Bihu, i.e. on the last day of Puh month of the Assamese calendar, people of every caste and creed in Assam would first take a bath at the time of dawn. They would gather around their nearby Bhelaghar in the morning. After all the people have gathered together, the Bhelaghar is then burned by one of the oldest members of the group. The people would go around the burning Bhelaghar as a mark of worship and offer their prayers to the God of Fire, Agni. While doing the rounds of worship, various food items like betel nut, coconut , potatoes etc are thrown into the fire as a mark of respect and to seek blessings from the God of Fire for a successful and happy life. After the Bhelaghar has been burnt, people would feast on various kinds of larus and pithas, the famous varieties of Assamese snacks. Later, during the day, various traditional sports are held for the entertainment of the people. Traditional sports like Buffalo Fight, Cock Fight, Nightingale Fight , Egg Fight are held as a part of merriment of the Bhogali Bihu festival.
The third day of the Magh Bihu is spend mainly on gorging Assamese delicacies and paying respects to the elder members of the family. Some people also visit their kith and kin and spend quality time together. During this day, traditional sports are also held for the entertainment of the people.
In modern times, many fairs are held in Assam before the advent of Magh Bihu where rural men and women can earn some income by selling various kinds of food items that are enjoyed during Magh Bihu. Many people of Assam buy the necessities of Magh Bihu from the fairs as due to busy lives, they hardly get time to prepare the food items themselves.
Bhogali Bihu is a good example of a festival that shows the hard work of the farmers who are the main role models of the nation. It is because of the farmers who toil throughout the day ploughing their fields that we get to satisfy our hunger.