Bihu festival is celebrated in three parts, ie Bohag Bihu or Rongali Bihu (midth of April), Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu (midth of January) and Kaati Bihu Bihu ( October/ November).
It is also called 'Rongoli Bohag Bihu', since the word 'Rongali' is originated from 'Rong', which means happiness and celebrations. All the three Bihu festivals of Assam are related to harvesting.
Being a agriculture based state, Assam, has always marked this Bihu as the symbol of joy.
Bohag Bihu or Rongali Bihu is the national festival in Asam as it marks the beginning of the New Year.
Bohag Bihu reflects the coming of spring and usually falls on April 15 every year. Rituals and customary practices of Bohag Bihu begin from April 13. This is a biggest festival in Assam and is celebrated in every corner of the state.
Bohag Bihu is celebrated for seven days and called as Xaat Bihu. The seven days are known as Chot Bihu, Goru Bihu, Manuh Bihu, Kutum Bihu, Senehi Bihu, Mela Bihu and Chera Bihu.
This festival represents happiness of the people. Asam is a land of fairs and festivals. The colorful festivals of Asam reflects the culture, tradition and lifestyle of Asam.
Most of the festivals celebrated have their roots in the diverse faith and belief of the people. Bordoisila is one of the most popular and fascinating legends of Bohag Bihu.
Bordoisila is said to be the daughter of Assam (the land) and is married to a groom from a distant land. She visits her maternal home once a year during spring.
As per legend, she was in a hurry to meet her mother that she removed everything that came in her path. Soon the moonsoon arrived with full swing, hence it is believed that Bordoisila brought with her Bohag, the spring season to begin the carnival.
Kongali Bihu, also called Kati-Bihu has a different mood with less celebration. On this day lamps are lit at the tip of a tall bamboo pole, to direct the souls of the deceased to the heaven. During this period, the paddy in the fields are in the growing stage and nothing is left in the store houses of the farmers.
On this day, lamps (saki) are lit at the base of the household tulsi plant, the store house, the garden (bari) and the paddy fields. Some people also light lamps at the base of the Siju tree. To safe guard the the paddy from the evil eyes, the farmers recite rowa-khowa chants. During the evening, cattle are fed specially made rice items called pitha.
Bhogali Bihu is derived from the word Bhog, which denotes eating and enjoyment. It is a harvest festival and marks the end of harvesting season. On the eve of the day young men go to the field, preferably near a river, erect a temporary structure called Bhelaghar with the hay of the harvest fields.
In the night there is community feasting everywhere and exchange of sweets and greetings is done. People sing and dance for the full night around a Meji and the next morning after taking a bath they burn the main Meji. People throw Pithas (rice cakes) and betel nuts in burning Meji, while offering their prayers to the Fire God.
This marks the end of the harvesting year. Later on, the half burnt firewood are brought home for favourable results. Various sports such as - Buffalo-fight, Egg-fight, Cock-fight, Nightingale-fight etc. are organized for the whole day.
The seven-day festival is celebrated in seven phases - Chot, Kutum, Mela, Raati, Goru, Manuh and Chera. It begins with Goru Bihu or Cow Bihu on April 15, when all the cattles are worshiped. They are taken down to river, ponds etc. for a bath and also some rituals are done.
The womenfolk clean clothes and prepare special Bihu delicacies like 'Chira' & 'Pitha' while men collect necessary items like 'Tara Pogha' (ropes for the cattle). This is followed by Manuh (human) Bihu on 16 April, homage is paid to elders and relatives.
The people wear new dresses and sing Bihu geet or Bihu folk songs, also perform traditional Bihu dance. On the day of new year, 'Manhuor Bihu' is celebrated. This day is the actual Rongali Bihu day and the celebrations start from the very early morning with religious activities.
It is celebrated with distinctive Bihu dances. People are in full form and dance on various Bihu geets called husuris, that is a fun way to give and take blessings by wishing everyone a happy and prosperous new year, which continues for the whole month of Bohag.
This festival lasts for several days. People wear new and traditional clothes like dhoti, gamocha and saadar mekhela. On this day pitha (rice cake) and laddoos (traditional food made of rice, coconut) are prepared. Traditional drinks like Chuje, Nam-Lao by Tai-Ahom, Aapong by Mising tribe and Jolpan are also prepared and shared among family and friends.
Rongali Bihu or Bohag Bihu dances have transited from villages to towns and from open fields to auditoriums. It has lost the basic culture and tradition but has become more popular and it's getting popularity across the world. There are various types of Bihu dances.
Rongali reflects the rich culture of Assamese society. Bihu songs involve various Assamese folk musical instruments like dhol, pepa, gogona, taal, toka, hutuli, etc. The Bihu dance is related to rich colourful attire of the Assamese culture. This Bohag Bihu also involves various delicious Assamese recipes.