Author : Santanu Kaushik Barua
Translation : Dhrijyoti Kalita
Bihu is the staple festival of the Assamese people. Akin to this Bihu are assorted folk habits; assorted food habits (ja-jalpan), dress and attire, song and dance and musical instruments. Here discussed are some of the facts related to Bihu for a short introduction. It is unnecessary to say that these are only but brief acquaintances to some facts attached to the Bihu. Not an explication or a discussion of those facts.
▪Gagana : This is a bamboo made oral musical instrument used in the Bihu songs and dance. The sound of this instrument is very sweet and soothing. Gaganas are of two types: the girls play the Rupohi or Lahori Gagana and the boys play the Ramdhon Gagana. This instrument is mostly played by all the classes and sub-classes of the Mongolian tribe. The Gagana is known as Gungang in the Mising dialect. It is made out of bamboo. This is played with a phoo- sound of the mouth while moving the fingers on the reed. The Gagana has a special relevance in Assamese Bihu songs and dance. In Bihu naams, the women also use the Gagana.
▪Goru (Cow) Bihu : The very first day of the Bohag Bihu also known as the Sotor Bihu, as is held in the season of spring, is called the Goru Bihu. On this day, goaded with the un-blossomed twigs of the Dighloti, a creeper-like plant, the cows are taken to the fields and bathed in the rivers, ponds and beels while vegetables like gourds, brinjals, et al. are splashed at them. In the evening when the cows return to their homes, they are offered with new poghas (tethers) as Bihuwan (a mark of love and respect offered on the occasion of the Bohag Bihu) and to ensure their well-being, the cow sheds are filled with resin smoke (Jag dhuwa). The cow is the primary substance to be banked upon in Assamese agriculture and as is religiously prevalent it is also regarded as the symbol of fertility. Therefore, the very first day of the yearly Bihu is dedicated to the ceremony of cow.
▪Gamosa : The Gamosa is the utmost used torso cloth in the Assamese society; the most unique signifier of Assamese culture. By gamosa, we generally mean the little loin cloth used to soak water after bath, although the horizon of its usage is much profound and extended in the Assamese life. There always remains a gamosa in the head of every Bihu singing youth; in the waist too they keep gamosa wrapped around. In the primarily rural areas of Assam, the working people use to keep a gamosa always intact in their bodies. To revere a deserving person also the gamosa is indispensable. Likewise while worshipping or while going to the Namghars, wearing the gamosa around the neck is an Assamese social tradition. Guru asanas in the Namghars and the crowns (Singhasana) of the Sattras are also offered with the gamosa as a sign of devotion and reverence. Also in the form of a Bihuwan, the gamosa has a special place of respect in the Assamese society.
There are fringes at the two edges of the gamosa lengthwise and breadth wise, there are either fringes or flowers woven. The flower woven gamosa is placed on a higher pedestal compared to the fringed one. Generally, the gamosa for regular toilette use may bear only fringes on it, but the one used to respect must have flowers woven on it. Most of them even portray God’s names and caricatures (with the hued wool used for weaving flowers in the cloth) in the gamosa meant for the Gosain Singhasana (crown).
▪Gosain Bihu : This is the third day of the Rongali Bihu(after Goru (cow) Bihu and Manuh (man) Bihu. ) On this day, people go and light earthen lamps at the Gosain ghars, Namghars, Sattras and temples and offer their devotion; the rural folk together sing Nam-kirtans. Some place also have a tradition of offering a Gorokhiya (farmer’s) Bhojon (meal). Similarly at some places a bunch of men set out singing naam along with tal (cymbals) and khol (a folk percussion) and offer their blessings to the houses.
▪Sat : On the day of the Goru Bihu, the cows are goaded to the fields by the un-blossomed twigs of the Dighloti, and bathed in rivers, ponds and beels by splashing gourds, brinjals, etc. at them. To splash the brinjals, gourds, etc., a tender and split bamboo auxiliary is used. This auxiliary, which looks like a trident in shape, is known as the Sat. According to folk belief, the Sat is shaped like a trident for the appeasement purpose of the lord Sadashiva. Besides gourds and brinjals, wild turmeric, the sour fruit thekera and the bitter tasting creeper kerela are peeled off and tied to the Sat. While throwing out from the Sat the gourds and brinjals, people sing – “Dighloti Dighol Paat, Makhi Maru Jaat Jaat (some even sing Goru Kobao Jaat Jaat); Maar Xoru, Baaper Xoru, Toi Hobi Bor Goru; Lao Kha, Bengena Kha, Bosore Bosore Barhi Jaa” (With the long leaves of the Dighloti, we thrash off the flies/ we thrash off the cow; Your mother and father are only little ones, But you will surely be a big one; Eat the gourd, and eat the brinjal, And grow bigger with the year). There is a belief that the exchange of the Sat, used for splashing the gourds and brinjals, with others keeps the evil at bay.
▪Sera Bihu : Although the Bihu is celebrated for three days in most of the places of Assam and for seven days or even one month in some of the places, but apart from the first and the last days, the rest of the days have not been termed as such. The last day of both the seven-day long and one-month long Bihu is known as the Sera Bihu. The day of the Sera Bihu can be considered to be the end of Bihu. On the day of Sera Bihu, people eat curd and stale rice and while eating they take the air of the bamboo-made handy fan. While taking the air of the fan, they sing –
“Notun Kapur Purona Kapure Din Jaok, No-bhate Puroni Bhate Jeen Jaok”
(“New and Old clothes all last days long, New and Old rice all to digest soon”)
And thus by taking the air of the handy fan, it is believed that the body remains cool for the entire year. From the day of the Sera Bihu onwards, people start using the handy fan and this usage ends only at the time of the Durga Puja when the idol of the goddess is fanned during the time of aarati (worship). There is a prevalent ritual in the Assamese society of gleaning 21 different types of pot-herbs (some even refer to this as 100) and preparing dishes out of them on the day of the Sera Bihu.
▪Jetuka : Jetuka on the occasion of the Rongali Bihu is an worth mentioning ornament of the Assamese daughters and women. The Jetuka is a short-leafed tree whose leaves when pounded and kept glued to the skin turn into red. In the evening of the Goru Bihu day, sticking Jetuka leaves into their hands is an indispensable and merry-making tradition of the Assamese daughters and women. Jetuka leaves, betel leaves and the sour thekera are all together pounded on the stone to retrieve the color and then rubbed into the palm of both the hands. The Jetuka leaves are put into a large bowl, washed well and then pounded on the stone to retrieve its color. To make the Jetuka dense in color and endurable, it is blended with the keheraj leaves (a kind of grass which when rubbed turns into black) and smoothly rubbed into the hands and tied tight by fire-dried and leaned plantain leaves. Together with the belief that the Jetuka keeps away skin diseases, it is also known to help in keeping the hearts of young ladies happy. In modern times, this Jetuka also known as Mehendi apart from the Bihu has been of use in many other occasions, especially to ornate the hands of the bride during marriage. Similarly the Jetuka is also of utmost use now-a-days by the name of Heena.
▪Toka : This is a bamboo instrument played with the hands. This is primarily played during the festival of Bihu. This is made out of the front part of a bamboo which has knots/joints at its two edges. Keeping the joint at one edge of the bamboo piece intact, the toka is made by splitting the other edge of the knot lengthwise and then by peeling off the upper part of the intact piece in the shape of a cone. The toka is basically used to maintain the rhythm of the Bihu songs and dance. While being played, it sounds like tok tok and thus the eponymous name of this instrument. Apart from its use in the Bihu songs and dance, it is also used in the Moh-kheda songs (songs of chasing away mosquitoes).
▪ Dhol : An instrument pendant around the neck, made by splitting the wood asunder and by attaching skin into its two edges. Generally the skull of the dhol is made of wood from the tree trunks of mango, jackfruit and large timber. The two edges of the dhol are given skins and then it is played by keeping it pendant around the neck. There are to be found different kinds of dhol prevalent in Assamese music, but the Bihu dhol is the most popular among all in Assam. The dhol is indispensable on the occasion of Bihu. There is a special significance of the rhythm of the dhol in Assam. The Oja dhuliyas of Assam can produce spellbinding music and sound out of the beat of the dhol. Among the various kinds of dhol known in Assam, the Bihu dhol of Upper Assam and the Dhepa dhol, Bor dhol, Joi dhol, Pati dhol of Lower Assam are worth mentioning. Used with the Deodhoni dance, the stature of the Joi dhol is a bit smaller. The Dhepa dhol used primarily in the Mangaldoi region is played filling water into it. There are assorted dhol-like instruments known in Assam, they vary in their names given the elements of shape, size and make. Some of the instruments under the category of dhol are khol, mridanga, doba, nagara, dogor, dhak, pakhowaj, joi dhak, madol, dholok, dhuluki, domboru, etc.
▪ Taal : Round and concave shaped duet instrument made out of brass. This instrument is primarily used to keep the rhythm of songs and dance. It is known that the use of taal in Assam has had been in vogue since the days of Ahom Swargadeo Sudangfa (Bamuni Konwar, 1397- 1407). Measuring by the beauty and profundity of the sound, the kinds of taal used for different occasions vary. The taal of the larger size is known as the Ram Taal or Bhor Taal. There is also another kind of a larger taal known as the Bhot Taal. This apparently is used in the naam-prasangas of the Vaishnavites. The smallest among the taal is known as the Khuti Taal. Another kind of this instrument made of a wooden pin is known as the Kor Taal. The different kinds of taal and other instruments under the same category as the taal as found in Assam are- Paati Taal or Kherengi Taal, Monjira, Xukonnanir Taal, Biyahor Taal, Khonjori or Khonjorika, etc. The taal is made at Sarthebari in Assam.
Kanh is another instrument under the same category as the taal. Round and concave in shape and made of brass (kanh), this instrument has no other name. This is only known as the kanh. Kanh are of two types: Bor Kanh and Xoru Kanh. Some of the other instruments besides these like Monjor, Jhonjhor or Jhonjhorika are worth mentioning.
▪Tant-Xaal : The weaving loom (or Tant Xaal) is closely related to the Assamese folk life and the Rongali Bihu. Also among the folk arts of Assam, the dress made out of the weaver’s loom elicits the highest attention, is the cynosure among all. The weaver’s loom is like the folk art form of the Assamese, and almost every Assamese woman prides of possessing a weaver’s loom. It is in these looms, they weave their assorted sublime crafts in the silk and cotton clothes. The acclaim of the weaver’s clothes is too ancient. The historians who came along with the Moguls, who invaded Assam more than once, have had mentioned that the silk of Assam is of high standard and stands at par with the Chinese silk. Under the patronage of the Ahom Swargadeos, the weaving art progressed formidably. History has that in ancient times the Assamese women weaved amulets in their weaving looms under only a night for their gladiator husbands. Every Assamese woman, once upon a time, used to be a dexterous weaver. Each Assamese attire became a symbol of mental toil and beauty under the confluence of the heart and the hands of the Assamese weavers. Even Mahatma Gandhi was praiseful in his comment that the Assamese women built dreams of the angel in their weaving looms. Even now the women in the villages of Assam know well to weave and embroider flowers in their loom. Not knowing to work at the loom was considered a disgrace for the Assamese women once upon a time. Moreover, no person in earlier times married a girl who didn’t actually know to work at the loom. The weaver’s loom has also received a special significance in assorted places of the Assamese literature. There is to be found frequent mentioning of the weaver’s loom and various auxiliaries related to the weaver’s loom in many Assamese Bihu songs and folk songs. There are numerous folk habits, proverbs and Assamese riddles based upon the weaver’s loom. The word glossary related to the weaver’s loom (for example, words like ugha, mohura, xaal, aasu xuta) has also enriched the Assamese literature and culture. But, in modern times the significance of the weaver’s loom has grossly decreased. The weaver’s loom is now bound to vie with the machine made clothes. There has been a significant decrease in the number of weavers who earlier knew to weave clothes that ‘dried in the shade and hid inside the fist’ (‘Saate Xukuwa Muthite Lukuwa’). The use of the weaver’s loom now is only confined to Sualkuchi and some other rural areas of Assam.
▪ Pepa : Among all the instruments that blow with the phoo sound, the Pepa is the most popular and important. The Pepa is made by instilling a buffalo horn or some other kind of a pipe in the main instrument which is made out of the reed of the khagori or nol grass. The buffalo horn Pepa is an indispensable accompanying instrument in Assamese Bihu songs and dance. This Pepa is still in vogue among the rural and the tribal people. The buffalo horn part of the buffalo horn Pepa is known as the khola and the part to blow the phoo through the mouth is known as the supohi. The Pepa is also made with two buffalo horns. This kind of Pepa is known as Juriya (duet) Pepa. The Juriya Pepa has a sharper sound than the other one.
▪ Faat- Bihu : This is a regional name for the Bihu primarily celebrated in the Dhakuakhana region of Lakhimpur district. According to the dictionary, the word Faat implies to the riverside place through which the mercenaries commute for business and also pay their taxes (ref. Chandrakanta Abhidhan, Thrid Edition, Page 632). During the Ahom reign, the Swargadeos ordered establishment of the Faat at certain areas of the riverside to ensure better business prospects and trade. The scholars had expressed that these kinds of Faat or Haat were also established at Dhakuakhana in Northern Assam to collect taxes. People from different places assembled at the Faat for being the centre of business and tax collection. Gradually the people belonging to different communities who assembled at the Dhakuakhana Faat started celebrating Bihu. Because of its celebration at the Faat, this Bihu is known as the Faat Bihu. In this Bihu, apart from people of the entire Dhakuakhana, people coming from places like Ghilamora, Maskhowa, Bordoloni, Majuli, etc. also assembled. It is known that from the Ahom age until the second decade of the twentieth century, the Faat Bihu was organized at Dhakuakhana in the first seven days of the month of Bohag. The end of this Faat Bihu is known to have come around the year 1918. The Faat Bihu was regionally organized again at Dhakuakhana with the endeavor of the local people towards the eighties of the twentieth century. The Faat Bihu,organized at the Mohghuli Sapori at the banks of the Sarikoriya river which flows by Dhakuakhana, is regarded as a festival of unity and secularity given the mass participation of people coming from different communities like the Ahom, Chutiya, Kaivarta, Mising, Deori, et al. The uniqueness of this Faat Bihu is that, it has the traditional elements of the Bihu of far ancient times. Furthermore, the Toka Bihu which is being performed during the Faat Bihu also demands its individual significance.
▪Bordoisila : The violent storm occurring during the time of Bohag Bihu. During the Bihu season, rain-storm, or in other words, the monsoon wind blow. This rain is necessary for the fertility of the agricultural soil. The Bodo tribe, especially have created the term Bordoi Sikhola based on the significance of nature. In the Bodo dialect, Bor implies to the wind, Doi meaning water and Sikhola stands for a girl. Meaning, a girl of wind and water. This Bordoi Sikhola of the Bodos is known as the Bordoisila in Assamese language. It is believed that during the Bohag Bihu, girls irrespective of being married or unmarried return to their mother’s home along with the wind, rain and storm. The Bordoisila has a significant place among Bihu songs and Bodo folk songs.
▪ Borhomthuri : A kind of Aaokathi tree with the sprouting of long-leaved buds. This leaf when chewed with betel-nut or even alone, lips and tongue turn black in color. In the ancient times, the Borhomthuri was imagined to be a symbol of love. The village youths caringly gifted the Borhomthuri to daub at the lips of their beloved and thus expressed their heart’s love. The Bihu dancing girls used to daub a layer of Borhomthuri on their lips. The Borhomthuri layer is black. But the use of Borhomthuri is almost nil now-a-days in the Assamese society.
▪ Baisagu or Bisu : Observed during the end of the Assamese month of Sot, Baisagu or Bisu (Bohag Bihu) is the chief festival of the Bodos. Besides this, they also observe Domasi (Magh Bihu ) and Katrigasu (Kati Bihu).
▪ Spring festival of different folk tribes: The observation of Bihu varies with different places and communities of Assam. The Tiwas start their festival from the first Wednesday of the month of Bohag. On the other hand, the Lalungs belonging to the slanted areas of the hills observe their Bihu during the end of Bohag. These people also have the tradition of using pulses, turmeric, brinjals, thekera et al. in their Bihu along with the ritual of the younger ones to show respect and regards towards their elder ones and also the tradition of singing and dancing Bihu Husori. The Misings also celebrate Bihu, although their chief spring festival is the Ali-aai-Lrigang. They start their festival from Wednesday. The Deoris do not actually start their festival from the last day of the month of Sot. They start their celebrations only on the following Wednesday from the advent of Bihu. Wednesday is considered to be the most pious day for them. The Rabhas also celebrate their Baishakh Domahi festival with sufficient splendor. The Rabha youths and ladies sing and dance accompanied by their musical instruments viz. Hen, Kara, Gamena, Lakhor Brangsi. The Dimasas call their Bihu as Busu. They also dance playing various musical instruments on their Bihu day. The Sonowal Kacharis also observe their Bihu with much excitement and merriment. They sing Haidang and Hilali songs during the Bihu. The bamboo made toka is the contribution of this Sonowal Kachari community. The Tiwas also celebrate their Bihu from Wednesday like the Misings and the Deoris. The Tiwa youths and ladies dance dressed in beautiful clothes. The Bihu is also the chief festival of the Morans, one of the acclaimed communities in the history of Assam. They also start their Bihu festival from a particular Wednesday in the month of Bohag. The Morans do not sing Husori every year during Bihu. They fix a certain day at a gap of three-four years to sing Husori during the Bihu. The Hajongs of Goalpara too observe their Bihu zealously. They call this Bihu as the Levatona Bihu. According to the oral speech of Western Assam, leva implies to a creeper (lota). The youths and ladies respectively clasping at the two edges of a creeper sing and dance in a tug-of-war. The Bodo-Kachari society also has high regards for the Bihu like the non-tribal Assamese society. Among the three Bihus, they celebrate the Bohag Bihu and the Magh Bihu with lot of excitement. The Bodos call the Bohag Bihu as Baisagu.During the Baisagu festival, the Bodo-Kachari youths and ladies sing Baisagu-Methai, which means Bihu songs. Like the Husori, they have a tradtion of Magon. They allow their cows and buffaloes to eat crops in the early morning of the Goru Bihu day. On the second day, they worship their god Bathou or Mahadeva and welcome the New Year by playing the flute. The Bodos, according to the tradition of their ancestors, play with coins during the Bihu. The Baisakhi-Doul festival is celebrated during Bihu in the Mangaldoi region of Assam. A big fare is organized along with this festival. People from far-off villages come to watch and participate in this festival. There is also a fare organized at the Haigriv Madhav Mandir of Hajo during the Bihu.The Tai-Buddhists living in the plains also observe a spring festival like the Bihu. They call this festival Poisangken. They bathe the idol of Buddha during this festival. After this, they bathe their parents and teachers and finally they enjoy playing Pani (water)-Bihu pouring water into their friends. This tradition is prevalent in every Buddhist nation. The other tribes of Assam and the North-east like the Tripuri, Nokte, Tangsa, Ao Naga, Angami Naga, Latha Naga, Chema Naga, Rengma, Mizo, Manipuri, Adi, Monpa, Serdukpen, Khamti, Singpho and the Jayantias also celebrate their spring festival parallel to the Bihu with enough excitement and merry-making. The New Year is welcomed with songs and dance everywhere from the plains to the hills of Assam. The use of the dhol during this festival among the tribal and the non-tribal as well as the hills and plains people is worth noticing. Among the local people of Barpeta, the women have a certain and unique tradition of observing the Bihu.
▪ Bixua : Certain parts of the Goalpara district in Lower Assam call their Bihu as Bixua. The people of Goalpara also observe a seven-day long Bixua beginning with the Goru (Cow)Bihu, like they do it in Upper Assam. The Shri Shri Mahamaya Dham at Bogoribari lying in the northern banks of the Brahmaputra in Goalpara observe the seven-day long Bixua starting from the first day of Bohag and at the Aai Shakati Than, Bixua festival is observed on the Goru Bihu day with worshipping and fares and much splendor.
▪ Bihu Urua or Bihu Xamora or Bihu Thoa : The Bihu Urua or Bihu Xamora or Bihu Thoa ritual is observed on the seventh or the eleventh day after the Sera Bihu. On this day, the village youths and ladies worship offering betel nut and leaves and Bihuwan in the Namghars. After this, they go to the roots of a huge tree far from the village and worship the tree by hanging a Bihuwan and sing ─
“Hurai lo dhan-kheror sai,
Oti senehor Rongali Bihuti,
Haatote Molongi Jai”
(“Take the swept-off ashes of crops and hay,
The much adorable Rongali Bihu
Ends with the blink of an eye”)
And thus after singing they return leaving or breaking any substance used in the Bihu (like, the stick used to beat the dhol or the toka). This is Bihu Urua. While returning homeward after the Bihu Urua ceremony, one must never look backward.
▪ Bihu Naas (Bihu Dance): The principal element of the Bohag Bihu is the Bihu dance. This is generally danced by the youths and ladies. The Shringara(Passion) Rasa is significantly evident in the soothing music of the Bihu songs used for the dance. Similarly sexual connotations are also evident in the vigorous movements of the Bihu dance. Some of the Bihu dance songs are just orally passed on from man to man and some of the others are written in extempore in similar lines. Many of the lyrical poems in the Assamese language are to be found in these Bihu songs. The strength and frequency of Husori and Bihu songs are higher in the Upper Assam compared to that in the Lower Assam.
▪Bihu Naam: One of the unique assets of the Assamese folk literature, the Bihu Naam is born in the cradle of the Bihu. The portrayal of the sublime nature of Assam, the Assamese imagination, feelings, and the news of the heart along with the entire culture, color and abundance of Assam are circumscribed in the Bihu Naams and Bihu songs. Similarly in the rhythm of the Bihu dance are portrayed the form and pulse of the ancient beliefs and customs. Tied together are the customs and rituals of the Bihu which contain the confluence of the flux of all lives throughout the eons in the land of Assam.
▪ Bihur Jolpaan (Bihu Meal): Apart from bathing with turmeric and pulses both during the Goru (Cow) Bihu and the Manuh (Man) Bihu, people take a hefty and delicious meal (jolpaan) with parched rice (sira), corn (aakhoi) and rice cakes (pitha-pona). The bowlful corn (aakhoi) of the Bor Bora dhan (ready to be husked rice crops) and the Bokul Bora dhan together with the meticulously preserved solid buffalo curd are an enticer during the Bihu. Similarly the pounded rice (xandoh), the tamarind shaped parched rice (sira) of the higher rice crop (Bor Dhan) along with pure milk (enwa gakhir) are some of the delicious elements of the Bihu meal (jolpaan). Together with the assorted rice cakes known to us as the Ghila Pitha, the Til Pitha, the Xutuli Pitha et al., it is like the luster in the face of gold (xonote xuoga sora). The bulk of the items of Bihu are made from the rice crops. The numerous food items like the sira (parched rice), aakhoi (corn), muri, hurum, xandoh (pounded rice), komol saul (sticky rice), got korai, korai guri, pitha guri that are made from the rice crop are some of the special items of the Bihu meal. The various rice cakes from the pounded rice are all prepared during the Rongali Bihu. Apart from rice, the various food items made out of the rice crop like sira, muri, aakhoi, boka saul or komol saul, hurum, pitha guri, xandoh are all favorite food items of the Assamese people. From the pounded rice are made numerous other rice cakes like Til Pitha, Ghila Pitha, Khola Soporiya Pitha, Tekeli Pitha, Fenee Pitha, Bhat Pitha, Topola Pitha, Xutuli Pitha, Lao Pitha, Kola Pitha, Urohiya Pitha, Jokai Pitha, Nangol Dhuwa Pitha, Sunga Pitha, Bhurbhuri Pitha, et al. Similarly rice boiled in milk (payox or poromanno) and served sweet is another favorite dish of the Assamese meal (jolpaan). The various round-shaped laroos along with the rice cakes are delicious elements in the Assamese jolpaan. Unfortunately these rice cakes and laroos are only to be found during special festivals now-a-days. The pitha-ponas (rice cakes) are now bound to face a dire competition with the cakes and biscuits and their gradual decrease in use today are the result of a drastic change in the contemporary times, or in other words, the causal effect of a city-oriented Assamese society. Even then, these pitha-ponas, laroos, etc. apart from introducing us to the awareness of the delicacy also acquaints us with the knowledge of beauty of the Assamese women. Further, during the Rongali Bihu traditions of fishing and hunting are still prevalent among people from certain regions of Assam.
▪ Bihur Dinot Hoa Khel Dhemali (Sports on the occasion of Bihu): Apart from the Husori, Bihu dance, etc., in the earlier times the actual merriment of the Bihu lied upon the various sorts of sports and merry-making practices. The primary among all of them were the falcon game or falcon fare, buffalo fight, wrestling, elephant fight, cock fight and egg fight. During the reign of the Swargadeos, these sports and merry-making activities received royal patronage and were embraced well by all. At that time, the centre for all these activities was the Ronghor tract in Sivasagar. The sports and merrymaking activities that occurred during Bihu at the Ronghor tract in those days apparently appeared like the Olympic national festival held in the Olympia Mountains of ancient Greece. Under the royal patronage, games and sports like the cock fight, buffalo fight, elephant fight, egg fight, the Bulbul bird fight, tree climbing, horse riding, running race, javelin throw, wrestling, boat race, etc were held at different places of Assam at different times during the Bihu. To ensure health care, competitive spirit, physical and mental development as well as to ensure individual recreation and the entertainment of their subjects, the Ahom Swargadeos organized these sports activities spending a lot of money from the royal fund. Organizing sports activities like the horse race, wrestling, elephant race, etc. among the royal officers, soldiers and workers, the Ahom Swargadeos certainly displayed their love and affection for sportsmanship. The buffalo fight, egg fight, Bulbul fight, swimming, tree climbing and all sorts of other sports activities came into vogue holding the chief Assamese festival Bihu as the pivot. Sports activities like the buffalo fight, egg fight, Bulbul fight, et al. had since been traditionally held in the villages of Assam. These sports activities are primarily held during the Rongali and Bhogali Bihus. The people of Assam, amidst intense excitement on the occasion of the Bihu, enthusiastically participate in these sports activities. Although scantily observed now, yet these activities are still being held today at some places of Assam.
▪ Bihu Xobdor Utpotti (Etymology of the word Bihu): There are more than one opinion prevalent related to the etymology of the word “Bihu”. According to one opinion, the birth of the word Bihu is the Sanskrit term “Bixuvot”. To Dr Nabin Sharma, “The horizon of the semantic field created by the lines of the ‘Vedic Vishnuvarna’ implies to the day in between the year-long “Sattra” or “Yajna”. In other words, “Bixuvot” is the day when the day is at par with the night. On this day, the Fire God is worshipped for the well-being of the domestic animals and for the wish of possession of cows and buffaloes. Secondly, on this day itself a festival is organized to appease the Sun God for the fertility of the land and surplus of crops. This festival is known as the “Goamayon”. The term “Bixu” in Sanskrit literally means two equal parts. Similarly, the dictionary meaning of the word “Bixuvon” is “the equatorial line” and this meaning is consonant with the day referred to be in between Yajna-Sattra. There is a worth noticing similarity in between the pristine meaning of the prevalent Assamese word “Bihu” (Bihu< Sn. Bixu) and the implying nature of the Vedic word “Bixuvon”, as apart from the performance of the religious rites, the Fire God is also worshipped on the day of the Bihu for the well-being of the domestic animals like the cows and buffaloes. The Vedic God of Fire is not separated from the Sun God and Bishnu. Therefore, there is no doubt in the belief that the worship of the Sun is similar to the worship of the Fire and further, the worship of the Fire stands at par with the worship and devotion towards Bishnu. From this perspective, it can be easily inferred that the Vedic “Goamayon” festival has expressed itself later as the Bihu festival.” (ref. art. ‘Axomor Utxov-Onusthan’, txt. ‘Axom Darpan’).
By another opinion, the Bihu word is believed to have originated from the Tai word “Pongo”=Hu>Pee>Hu>Bihu. Jaykant Gandhi writes in this prospect, “The ancestors of the Tai-Ahoms used to organize a festival known as the “Pongo-Sam-Nam”, meaning enjoying and making merry by splashing water at people. Arriving at the Soumar land (Soumarkhondo) as early as in the thirteenth-century, they saw the previous inhabitants from the Austric, the Alpine and the Tibbeto-Burmese tribe celebrating a festival of worshipping the cow by splashing water at it. Having seen this, they called it as Pongo-Hu (from Poi meaning worship, Hu meaning the cow). The term “Poi” by leaps and bounds became “Pee” and later “Bi” and now eventually it has come to be known as “Bihu”.
▪Mohouxodhi (Elixir): It is believed that on the Goru (Cow) Bihu day, eating of the Mohouxodhi (Elixir) made with the conglomeration of elements like the pulses, the flowers of the full blossomed mango, the ripening jackfruit, neem leaves, salt, et al. while sitting under the bed does away with all the illnesses and diseases for the entire year.
▪ Manuh (Man) Bihu : The day following the Goru (Cow) Bihu is the Manuh (Man) Bihu. This is known as the “Bor Domahi” in Lower Assam. Wearing and giving of the Bihuwan is the most significant factor of this Bihu day. On the occasion of the Assamese New Year or Rongali Bihu, Gamosa, new dresses or other gifts are exchanged among the kith, kin and friends in the Assamese society. By the word “Bihuwan” we generally mean the Gamosa, yet any other sort of gift given on the occasion of this Assamese New Year is considered as the “Bihuwan”. The Bihuwan has a special place of significance in the Assamese society. Both on the days of the Goru Bihu and the Manuh Bihu, people sit down to taste/devour a delicious meal (jolpaan) comprising of parched rice (sira), corn(aakhoi) and rice cakes (pitha-pona) after getting bathed with pulses and turmeric (mah-halodhi). On the day of the Manuh Bihu, the old hatchet gets buried; people wish and exchange greetings with their friends and relatives, gregariously invite and receive all with a Bihu meal (ja-jolpaan), they distribute alms to the poor and the Brahmins, the elderly and aged ones are revered and offered genteel respects. With hopes, happiness and wishing everyone’s well-being, the New Year is thus welcomed.
So that the New Year stays free from all evils and diseases, to ensure peace, happiness and refuge from wind and storm, on the first day of the Bihu, people write the under given montro (hymn) and place it either at the threshold of their house or insert it under the roof.
Dev Dev Mahadev Neelgreev Jotadhor, Baat Brishti Horong Dev Mahadev Nomostote
(A hymn for the lord Mahadeva to take away all the pains and obstacles on the way)
▪ Xaat Bihu (Seven-day long Bihu): Earlier it was for seven days that the Bihu was observed. Each and every day had a distinguishing name of their own: Goru Bihu, Manuh Bihu, Gosain Bihu, Tantor Bihu, Nangolor Bihu, Ghorosiya Jivo-Jontur Bihu and Sera Bihu. These seven types of Bihu are together known as the Xaat Bihu (the Seven-day long Bihu). At some places, people celebrate Bihu throughout the entire month with all sorts of recreational activities, although apart from the first six days and the last day, the others have no such names of their own. But, the last day of both the seven-day long and one-month long Bihu is known as the Sera Bihu.
▪ Husori: Among the many events of the Rongali Bihu, the one worth mentioning is the Husori. The Husoris are the songs of merriment. Under the able leadership of the elderly people, the young boys and men visit to every household and give a performance of Bihu songs and dance. The Husori generally starts from the night of the Goru Bihu day. The first performance of Husori is generally held at a known or the chief household of the village. This is known as the Husori Gheta Mora. Usually for the first Husori performance, a seleng (a torso-wrapper), a fulam gamosa (a flower ornate gamosa) and a rupee of silver are offered as a sign of respect. Most often, the money collected during the Husori is made into use during the building or repairing of the village Namghar or library or perhaps in organizing a public banquet. It is a mandatory and pious tradition to offer at least a pair of betel nut and leaf and seek blessings from the group of people performing Husori in the annual Bihu. According to folk legends, if the household people do not come out to receive the Husori singing people, an irrevocable curse of the Husori is passed to that house. The Husori group enters the threshold of a house with a shout appealing victory (joyodhwoni), which is indispensable and mandatory. Then they sing from the pod and ghosas (hymns, prayers and poetic lines from the Namghosa and Kirtan Ghosa respectively of Mahapurusha Madhadeva and Mahapurusha Shankardeva). After this, they play the lohori (sing in the motion of a wave), which is a part of the Husori. After this, they entertain and enjoy while singing and dancing the Jongali, the Bihu songs, etc. And then when the household puts forward the offerings on a brass stand (xorai), they bring an end to the Husori and shower their blessings. The Husori visits every household and wishes their well-being, and every household, according to their affluence and affordability, take the blessings of the Husori people offering either a pair of betel nut and leaf, a gamosa or money.
This, That and The Rest of Bihu :
▪ To the prominent litterateur, Dimbeshwar Neog the Bihu primarily were of four types: The Bohag Bihu, The Magh Bihu, The Kaati Bihu and The Aahar Bihu.
▪ According to Kalaguru Bishnu Prasad Rabha, the word Bihu is of tribal origin: “Bi” meaning to give and “Hu” means to take.
▪ As early as in 1950-51, under the initiative of Radha Gobindo Baruah, the first Bihu stage performance was organized at Guwahati Bihutoli (Latashil).
▪ The design of the Bihu flag hoisted now-a-days at all the Bihu conventions and Bohagi Bidai (Farewell to the month of Bohag) functions was planned by eminent film-maker, director Nip Baruah.
▪ Usually the red color is selected to design flowers upon the Gamosa. According to folk beliefs, the red color stands for fertility.
▪ Closely associated with the Bihu Naam is the Jongal Naam. This Jongal Naam is primarily known as the Jojona Naam.
▪ The buffalo horned Pepa is generally made from the horns of a breed of buffalo known as the Genya Moh (Buffalo). The word Genya (or Geya with a nasal bent) means young.
▪ Another substance that is closely associated with the Bihu is Jetuka. According to specialists, the Jetuka is believed to have come from the island of Cyprus.
▪ The first Assamese film to incorporate Bihu in it is Smritir Porosh (1956). The director of the film is Nip Baruah.
▪ The shirt worn by the Bihu dancing youths is generally known as Sapkon.