The Assamese people of north east celebrate New Year with the rest of India during mid-April. The celebration is popularly known as Bohag Bihu after the name of the first month of Assamese calendar, Bohag. Bihu is the national festival of Assam. It has now turned into the largest platform for Assamese people to showcase their culture and festival.
Bihu is celebrated thrice a year. But it the Bohag Bihu or Rongali Bihu, as it is also called, is the most famous one. The celebration of Bohag Bihu coincides with the harvest season of this area and hence, is observed with great exuberance. The people of Assam usher in the New Year with great enthusiasm and pray to their deities for good harvest.
The word Bihu is said to have been derived from the ancient Dimasa Kachari dialect, where ‘bi’ means ‘to ask’ and ‘shu’ means peace. People of the Dimasa Kachari tribe used to offer the first crop of the season to their worshipping god, Brai Shibrai and pray for prosperity and peace.
The celebration is marked with many rituals which the people follow earnestly. The celebration begins with people cleaning their houses and preparing themselves for the event.
The Bihu celebration may extend for more than a day with each day having its special significance. On the first day people will take a bath early in the morning and put on new clothes. They will buy new ropes for cattle, which they called 'Tara Pogha'.
The celebration begins with the special prayer being organized at the prayer hall or ‘namghar’. The prayer is called ‘Bihu Husori’ and after the prayer the priest announces the beginning of the festivity. The first day of the festival is also important for worshipping cattle and reserved for cattle rites. So, it is also called ‘Goru Bihu’ or ‘Cow Bihu’.
On Goru Bihu, cattle are bathed and decorated with garlands, flowers and bells. A special meal for the cattle is prepared with aubergine and gourd. Cows are allowed to graze in any field without any restriction.
The second day is specified for human and therefore, called ‘Manuh Bihu’. On this day a special dish of flattened rice, curd and ‘gur’ or jaggery is prepared. People take an early morning bath and wear new clothes. They will wear their traditional dresses of vest, dhoti and ‘gamocha’ for the men and ‘Mekhla’ for women. Special delicacies like Chira' and 'Pitha' are prepared to be shared with friends and family.
On the third day of the observance special offerings are made to the deities. The day is called ‘Gosai Bihu’.
Bihu dances are the single most important feature of the celebration. During this period the state turns into a gigantic dance platform for accomplished dancers to showcase their talents. Bihu dance competitions are organized in different parts of Assam and the winner teams are awarded with laurels and certificates. The best female dancer is awarded the title of Bihu Kunwori.