Bihus are the most important festivals for the people of Assam; three Bihus are celebrated in a year, with each of it representing a different phase of farming. Rongali Bihu, first of the Bihus, represents the beginning of the harvest season and also the first day of the New Year according to the Hindu calendar, and is celebrated with great enthusiasm and splendor. Kongali Bihu, second of the Bihus, represents a season when the sowing and fertilization process of the crops is over. Though it is celebrated with much less festivities, the respectful integrity of it is maintained throughout. Celebrations, once again end on a high note with Bhogali Bihu, the last of the Bihus, marking the end of the harvest season and providing the rewards to the farmers for their laborious efforts throughout the year. In its premise, Bhogali Bihu is equivalent to Makar Sakranti and Pongal and is derived from the word "Bhog", which means eating.
Bhogali Bihu Rituals & Customs
A lot of both, ritualistic and fun activities take place on and around Bhogali Bihu, starting with the eve of the day called Uruka. At this time, the young men from the villages and communities move into the freshly harvested fields and set up Mejis, which are structures made up of thatch, firewood, and hay. Around these structures, temporary huts known as Bhelaghars are also prepared, in which the families stay and guard the Mejis through the night. Owing to the filled up granaries, people partake in a lot of feasting, which goes on for a few days. A grand community feasts comprising of Pitha (cake made of flour of rice), doi (curds), chira (dry rice), fish, meat, etc takes place on the eve of the day, which is accompanied by fun and games, singing and dancing to Bihu folk songs i.e. Bihu geets on the beats of dhols and other traditional musical instruments. Then at the break of dawn, people take a bath and then head back to the Mejis and light them on fire as a ritual.
The Hindu God of Fire i.e. Agni Devta is worshipped by throwing coconut and betel nuts into the fire. Thanking for the season that has gone and blessings for the season that is about to come are sought from the God, after which, the half burnt firewood is gathered by the people and thrown among the fruit bearing trees to seek a bountiful harvest. The celebrations don't just end here; they go on throughout the day with people visiting their neighbors, relatives, and friends and exchanging greetings and sweets. After this, people bear witness and also partake in different types of sports like buffalo fighting, cockfighting, and egg fighting, etc. The birds for the sport, captured ahead of time, are fed with nutritious foods and are trained for the fight. The winner gets Rs. 2001 and a trophy as a reward. All the birds are freed after the fight and the jubilations continue to go on for some more period.