Bhogali Bihu, also known as Magh Bihu, is the last of the three Bihu festivals that are celebrated in the state of Assam. Celebrated to mark the end of the harvest season, the significance of Bhogali Bihu to the people of Assam is same as that of the festivals of Makar Sakranti and Pongal to the rest of India. On this day, celebrated in the mid of January month, people not only offer their thanks to Gods for the harvest but also seek their blessings for a generous crop in the upcoming season too. At this time of the year, the granaries of the farmers are full, which to them calls for grand celebrations with much merrymaking and feasting. Even the word from which Bhogali is derived: Bhog, means eating. The celebrations, once started, go on for a several days with a few of the rituals holding semi-religious significance.
Importance of Magh Bihu
It all starts on the eve of the Bhogali Bihu day when young men move into the fields and set up Mejis: structures made of thatch, firewood, and hay, which are burnt on the following morning. Around these Mejis, temporary hut like structures called Bhelaghars are also set up. People, especially the agrarian community, spend the whole of the night in these Bhelaghars, guarding the Mejis through the night and partaking in community feasting, fun, games, music and dancing to Bihu geets. In the night, a grand feast is prepared and the whole community partakes in it. In the morning at sunrise, people move out from Bhelaghars, take a bath, and then return to light fire to Mejis. Edibles like coconuts and betel nuts are thrown into the fire which is like symbol of thanksgiving for the harvest that has been collected. People also pray to the Agni Devta and seek his blessing for the next harvest season.
The half burnt firewood gathered by the people is thrown among the fruit bearing trees to seek an abundant harvest. Then all the trees in the compound are tied to bamboo strips or paddy stems. The celebrations then go on for the rest of the day with more feasting and exciting sports, some of which are region specific, like buffalo fighting, cock fighting, and egg fighting. These however, have no religious significance and are played simply for some competitive enjoyment. The birds that are caught for the sports (few days before the events) are fed nutritiously and also trained. The owner of the winning bird or buffalo takes away a cash prize of Rs. 2001 and a trophy as collectible. In the end all the birds are freed and the celebrations continue for some more time, or days in a few culturally ethnic groups. Thus ends the festival of Bhogali Bihu and people await eagerly for a new beginning with Rongali Bihu.