Bohag Bihu, also known as Rongali Bihu or Haat Bihu, is the chief festival celebrated in Assam and North-Eastern states of India, that marks the Assamese New Year. Bihu refers to a set of three festivals and each coincides with a distinctive phase in the farming calendar – Magh Bihu/Bhogali observed in January, Bohag Bihu/Rongali Bihu observed in April and Kaati Bihu/Kongali observed in October. The Rongali Bihu is the most celebrated among the three, as it marks the Assamese New Year and the beginning of the agricultural season. It is the festival of merriment and feasting and is celebrated for seven days. While Bhogali Bihu is all about food and Kongali Bihu is an animistic festival. The word ‘Bihu’ is believed to be originated from the word ‘Bishu’ meaning ‘to ask for peace’. The word transformed to ‘Bihu’ as per the local linguistic preferences. In 2018, Rongali Bihu commences on April 15 and ends on April 21.
Bohag Bihu is celebrated by gorging on traditional Assamese food and preparing the fields for cultivation of paddy. It is also a fertility festival, where people, especially women, dance with their signature steps using hips and arms. The songs associated with the festival are called Bihu geets or Bihu songs.
Related: Bohag Bihu of Assam
To celebrate the festival of harvest and the abundance of crops, Bohag Bihu is celebrated by cooking green leafy vegetables. Other food items that hold significance during the festival are rice, sesame, milk, jaggery and milk products.
The seven-day celebration (7 pinnacle phases)
The seven-day festival is also called as ‘Xaat Bihu’ and the days are known as Raati Bihu, Chot Bihu, Goru Bihu, Manuh Bihu, Kutum Bihu, Mela Bihu and Chera Bihu.
This phase commences on the first night of Chaitra and lasts till Uruku. Celebrations involve the gathering of local women of the local women in an open field illuminated by lighting up the torches. Men folks participate to play ‘pepa’, an instrument made from buffalo hornpipe, and ‘bholuka baahor toka’, a musical instrument made of split bamboo.
Related: Festive Garbs of Assam
Also known as Bali Husori, the phase begins on the second day of Chaitra and is celebrated by organising dance and song events by the young at a field or a community prayer hall.
It is the last day of Chaitra month. On this day, cattle are brought to a water source and are bathed and cleaned using turmeric and gram paste. The cattle are thanked for giving good harvest and are offered vegetables and ‘Bor Pitha’ – a delicacy made from rice and jaggery. The day ends by burning rice bran.
Related: Magh Bihu - Assam’s Festival of Feasts
Manuh Bihu falls on the first day of the Vaisakh month and is celebrated by having a special bath, seeking blessings from elders and wearing new clothes. The elders in the family are gifted the Gamusa cloth or Bihuwan as a symbol of cultural pride and respect.
On this day, people visit houses of their relatives and friends to greet and bond over a meal. ‘Kutum’ symbolizes family.
Related: Types of Bihu Dances in Assam
The day is marked by cultural events, fairs, and competitions. These fairs and events are attended by people from all over Assam.
Also called as Bohagi Bidai, it the last day if Rongali Bihu and is celebrated differently in different regions. The common theme is to wrap the festival with future resolutions. On this day people exchange ‘pithas’ among their family and friends.