Bhogali Bihu is one of the most important harvest festivals celebrated in the North Eastern state of Assam. Festivals related to agriculture occupy a prominent role in the culture of India. Many states in India celebrate a festival during the season of harvest. The northeastern states of the country are no exception. Assam, one of the major states in northeastern India too celebrates its own harvest festival called Bhogali Bihu. Just like most of the other harvest festivals celebrated in India, Bihu is celebrated in the month of January. The festival marks the end of the harvest season in the state. Bhogali Bihu is celebrated in the similar fashion as Makar Sankranti and Pongal - two other important harvest festivals of India. Women cook various delicacies while men play traditional games and participate in competitions.
Significance of Bhogali Bihu
Bihu in Assamese denotes three separate cultural festivals that are celebrated by the Assamese people. Three different Bihus are celebrated that coincide with the phases of the farming calendar, viz. Bohag Bihu, Kongali Bihu, and Bhogali Bihu. Bohag Bihu is celebrated during the month of April and marks the coming of spring. At the time when Bohag Bihu is celebrated, farmers prepare their fields for cultivation. Kongali Bihu is the second Bihu and is celebrated during the month of October. Kongali Bihu marks the time when the granaries are empty and farmers are working hard to protect their growing crops. Bhogali Bihu is the last of the Bihus and marks the time when all the hard work of farmers comes to fruition. Bhogali Bihu is also known as Magh Bihu and Maghar Domahi.
Farmers work hard all through the year to grow the crops. It is during the month of January that farmers sell their harvest. The granaries filled with harvest bring immense joy to farmers. Apart from its cultural significance, Bhogali Bihu also has a lot of economic significance as farmers get money by selling their harvest. Due to the advent of globalization and the increase in the share of other sectors of the economy like manufacturing and services, harvest festivals like Bhogali Bihu are losing their significance. But it still remains one of the most important festivals celebrated by the people of Assam.
The word 'Bhog' in Assamese means food. From the word Bhog the name of the festival Bhogali Bihu was derived. It involves feasting and enjoyment.
The first day of the Bhogali Bihu festival called the Uruka is marked by a grand feast (Bhog). Bhog is organized on the Uruka night and is one of the most important celebrations of Bhogali Bihu.
Men actively participate in the celebrations. On the morning of Bhogali Bihu, young men go to the nearby fields and build a temporary cottage called Bhelaghar. They also build another structure called Meji with hay. During the night, villagers gather at the Bhelaghar and cook different kinds of delicacies. A community feast then follows and is attended by all the people in the village. People visiting the Bhelaghar exchange greetings and different kinds of sweets. Villagers spent the whole night singing and dancing. Men and women sing Bihu songs and play music beating the Dhol. Dhol is a traditional Assamese musical instrument and makes a soothing sound. Men also play different kinds of conventional games all through the night. Participants leave the Bhelaghar early in the morning and head to their homes to make preparations for the next day.
First Day of Magh
The day after Uruka is the first day of the Magh. This day is also marked by celebrations during the day time. The first day of Magh starts with the young people in the village visiting the farms and burning the Mejis. While burning the Mejis, people throw rice cakes and betel nuts into the fire. Mejis built for Bhogali Bihu are always burnt down and rebuilt every year. After burning the Meji, people take a bath and pray to the fire god to give good harvests during the next harvesting season. In a way, burning the Meji signals the end of the harvest season as Mejis are built using the wood and straw from the crop that was cut down during the current harvesting season.
People start the day with another round of celebrations. Young boys would like to go out and steal fruits, vegetables, and firewood for recreation. The half burnt wood from the Mejis that were burnt would be carried back to the homes and thrown among the fruit trees for getting better results during the next harvest season. The day will continue with people visiting the homes of their friends and relatives. Visitors are served with different kinds of delicacies by the hosts. Some of the most preferred Assamese delicacies enjoyed on the day of Uruka are pithas, jalpan, and sira-doi. The delicacies are also taken back to the place where the Mejis are burnt and offered to the fire god. A widely held belief among the people celebrating Bhogali Bihu is that the Meji fire would burn away the winter cold.
Harvest festivals in India are marked by different kinds of recreational fights organized in villages. Similar to the bull fights organized in Tamil Nadu (Jallikattu), Assamese people also organize bullfights during the Bhogali Bihu festival. But the bull fights organized are different from the ones organized in other parts of the country. In bullfights organized during Bhogali Bihu, two bulls belonging to different farmers fight with each other rather than a person fighting a bull. The master of the bull which wins the fight is awarded a prize. Other recreational fights organized during Bhogali Bihu are Cock fights, Nightingale fights, and Egg fights. In the egg fights, two players throw eggs at each other. The person whose eggs do not crack open even when the opponent tries to open them during the game is the one who is declared the winner. All the recreational fights organized during Bhogali Bihu are viewed by large crowds from the village and visitors from the neighboring villages.
Bhogali Bihu Activities
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
Bhogali Bihu Date
Bhogali Bihu or Magh Bihu is a traditional festival of the people of Assam and it is celebrated with much fervor and vigor. It's the last of the three Bihu festivals and is celebrated in the mid of January month: a time when winters start to diminish and give way to the upcoming spring season.
Bhogali Bihu Significance
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