The Bihus are the national festivals of Assam. There are three Bihus, in the months of January, April and October, and have been celebrated in Assam from ancient times. Each Bihu coincides with a distinctive phase in the farming calendar. The Bohaag Bihu marks the New Year at the advent of seeding time, the Kaati Bihu marks the completion of sowing and transplanting of paddies, and the Maagh Bihu marks the end of the harvesting period. In this agrarian state, joie de vivre typifies the celebration of Bihu with the rich and the poor dancing together to the sound of the Bihu drums – Mother Nature been bountiful again! Even if she hasn’t, there’s next year.
Also known as the Rongali Bihu, it augurs a wish for a good harvest, since this is the time when the farmers start sowing seeds. On the onset of the Assamese New Year, this is the time for feasting and merrymaking along with folk singing which are known as bihu songs or ‘Bihu Geet’.
Celebrated during mid-October, this festival is also called the ‘Kati Bihu’, which is observed to mark the cutting and binding of the grains. It has a totally different flavor as the atmosphere is solemn and constrained with work and less of merry making. Earthen lamps are lit on this day all around the household and the paddy fields. Generally associated with lighting, lamps are also lit at the tip of a tall bamboo pole, so as to show the souls of the dead the way to heaven.
Occurring during mid-January, it is also called the ‘Magh Bihu’. With plenty of eating and enjoyment, this harvest festival marks the end of the harvest season. Men-folk go to their fields and stay in a makeshift cottage during the night and where they prepare food and community feasting is observed everywhere. With plenty of exchange of sweets and greetings during this time, this night is spent with people beating the ‘Dhol’ and singing bihu songs.