Now India is not dubbed as the 'land of festivals' for no reason. This time of the year particularly is a joyride for all those who love festivals, feasting and celebrations. From Lohri, Makar Sankranti to Pongal, the entire nation is immersed in the festive spirit. Assam would be celebrating Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu, on January 15th, 2018. Magh Bihu is one of the most auspicious festivals of Assam. Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu is a harvest festival that is celebrated to mark the shift in the Sun's solstice. The Sun which enters its transitory phase towards North is celebrated with much fervor and enthusiasm across the nation for its significant impact on agriculture and crops. Did you know Bihu is celebrated not once, but thrice in a year in Assam? Rongali or Bohag Bihu is celebrated in April and signifies the Assamese new year and the spring festival. Rongali Bihu coincides with Baisakhi in Punjab, Poila Baisakh in Bengal, Puthandu in Chennai and Vishu in Kerala. Kongali or Kati Bihu is celebrated in October.
Magh Bihu: People build makeshift huts and stay there for the feasting and celebrations
Bhogali Bihu or Magh Bihu is celebrated in January. Magh Bihu celebrations go back centuries in time. Farming is one of the chief occupations in not just Assam but whole of North- east till today. Naturally then, most of its chief festivals revolve around distinctive phase in the farming calendar. Cattle, fertility and mother Goddess-earth are revered deeply during the festivities.
Magh Bihu is marked by feasts, bonding and bonfires and the feasting lasts for a whole week! In fact, in old times the celebration would last for the whole month of Magh!
The time of Magh Bhogali is especially significant for the Assamese, because at this point of time the granaries are abundant with fresh produce. The households make use of all these fresh produce for their festive spread. Family and friends gather over bonfire, play traditional games and make merry as they indulge in the Bhogali Bihu delicacies
Pithas are crepes or thin cakes of rice and are of many kinds
On the eve of the festivities called "Uruka"- the last day of the month Pausa, women and men of the household begin preparing the grand feast. Young people then go and erect makeshift huts, known as Bhelaghar, using the bamboo, leaves and thatch collected from the harvest fields. It is in this makeshift cottage, where they eat and indulge.
During the evenings, everybody gathers and enjoys the various delicacies made of rice, vegetables and meat. One of the most loved preparation are the pithas. Pithas are crepes or thin cakes of rice and are made in many varieties Shunga Pitha, Til Pitha etc. Laru, a sweet made out of sesame, molasses and coconut also makes for a delectable Assamese dish one must try. And that's not all! All through the evening people chat, exchange sweets, sing folk songs and dance (Bihu).
The next morning, people take a bath and burn the makeshift huts and throw 'Pithas' (rice cakes) and betel nuts into the fire. They pray to the God of fire and go back to their houses with pieces of half burnt firewood.
The celebrations continue till the next day when people indulge in a variety of games. This year Magh Bihu would be celebrated on 15th January 2018. Here's wishing all of you a Happy Magh Bihu 2018!