Rongali Bihu's significance to the people of Assam is same as that of Ugadi for the people of Karnataka or Andhra Pradesh or of Gudi Padwa for the people of Maharashtra or by many different names for different states, minus the religious aspect. Bihus, three in total, are the most important of festivals celebrated in Assam and Rongali Bihu is the most popular of them. Its significance is threefold: one, it marks the onset of a new harvest cycle; two, it marks the first day of the New Year according to the Hindu calendar; and three, it marks the beginning of spring season, which is considered an ideal time to leave the past behind and start afresh with new mindset. With all this in place, however, its significance remains more on the agricultural side. Great enthusiasm runs among the people and is expressed in the form of dances, songs, and other festivities.
Importance of Rongali Bihu
Known as Bohag Bihu too, it is celebrated over a period of several days in the month of April, generally around the 15th, also the first month according to the Assamese calendar. The first day is dedicated to the cattle and livestock. Cows and bulls are given a ritual bath in the nearby ponds or river banks with a paste of freshly harvested turmeric and black gram. Also the old cattle ropes are cast away through the legs and new ropes are tied to them and on this day, they are freed and are allowed to roam anywhere for the whole of the day. It's like a thanksgiving ritual to the cattle for providing the people with dairy products. A ritual song is also sung while giving them a bath that asks them to be healthy and productive. From the next day, celebrations begin that go for a several days.
During these days, Assam can be seen engulfed in the celebrations with hundreds of young men and women perform Bihu dances on Bihu folk music (Bihu Geets) and sing to the tune of drums, gagana, toka, pepas (flute made of buffalo horns). But before it starts, people get cleaned up, wear new clothes, and infuse themselves with new found energy to go in the New Year. On this day, people also pay respect to their elders by presenting them with Gamosas, which are traditional Assamese hand woven cotton towels with red designs. Also, community feats are organized, sweets and greetings are exchanged with neighbors, relatives, and friends; and traditional dishes like Pitha Larus (made f rice and coconut) and Jolpan are prepared. For each day of the celebrations, different events are organized. The colorful zeitgeist, with which the whole festival is celebrated and concluded, makes it one of the most endearing festivals to be a part of.