‘Bihu’ – the word itself is enough to bring joy and a smile on the face of any Assamese person anywhere in the world. Bihu is the essence of the life of the people of Assam. It is the chief festival of Assam. There are three types of Bihus which are celebrated in three different months – Bohag Bihu or Rongali Bihu is celebrated in the month of April, it also marks the beginning of the Assamese new year ; Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu celebrated in the month of January ; and the Kati Bihu or Kongali Bihu celebrated in the month of October. The names Bohag, Magh and Kati are respectively names of the Assamese months in which they are celebrated.
It is a common saying among the people of Assam that the Assamese people celebrate 13 festivals in 12 months. This shows their zeal and joyful nature. And they do live true to this saying. Whatever religion, tribe or race the festival may belong to, the whole Assamese community gets together to celebrate it.
Bihu is one of festivals which is celebrated with great extravaganza in the state. In their names are the meaning and nature of each.
In Rongali Bihu it’s all about merry making and thanking and celebrating the nature itself. ‘Rongali’ means happiness and this bihu lives upto its name. It is celebrated on the onset of Spring season when nature is at its best. The famous ‘Bihu dance’ of Assam is danced during this bihu. This Bihu lasts for a week where each day is dedicated to a different entity. It is the main bihu among the three and usually starts from the 13th of April. Along with dancing and merry making, feasting is also at full force during this bihu.
‘Bhog’ means feast or food. Hence Bhogali Bihu is all about feasting and celebrating the harvest and thanking God about it. It is celebrated immediately after the harvest season and usually falls on the 13th – 14th January each year. There are community feasts and different varieties of ethnic sweets, snacks and other dishes are prepared.
Last comes the Kongali bihu. ‘Kongali’ means nothingness. It is named so because during this time the rice reserves are almost exhausted after sowing the seeds for the new crops. This bihu falls immediately after the fields are swon and planted. This Bihu is generally for praying to the Gods for a good harvest. Diyas are lit in the peddy fields to keep pests and evil away. There is no merry making associated with this bihu.
Assam is an agricultural state. The livelihood of most of the people of the state is associated with peddy cultivation. Bihu, the main festival of the state is related to the different stages of cultivation. This itself shows the importance of the fields and agriculture in the lives of the people. Bihu joins all the people of Assam and they celebrate it as one. There are different traditions followed by the different communities for bihu and the type of bihu dance varies too but at the end of all it is the same Bihu that is celebrated throughout the state making the diverse communities and tribes of Assam into one.