Kongali Bihu is celebrated on the first day in the Assamese month of Kati (mid-October) and therefore also called Kati Bihu. This bihu is associated with crop protection and worship of crops and plants. Kati is a season of short supplies and hence no festivities or merriment take place as such. Kongali literally means dearth or poor.
Kati bihu is one of the three bihu celebrated in Assam, the other two being Bohaag bihuand Magh Bihu. The word bihu has been derived from the Deori word “bisu” which means “excessive joy”. And true to its name, bihu is about merriment and feasting. Kati bihu, however, doesn’t involve much feasting but definitely is joyous because of the hope for a better crop.
During the month of Kati the granaries are almost empty, and the paddy in the fields are in the growing stage. On this day of Katibihu earthen lamps are lit at the paddy fields as a worship to the Laxmi (crop) seeking blessings in the form of abundance. The lamps lit on the paddy fields are referred to as “Akash Bonti” literally meaning sky candle because these are lit high up in a bamboo pole. Scientifically it is believed that the light of the lamps attract insects which gets burned in the fire. This helps in getting rid of the insects ensuring the healthy growth of the crops.
Tuloxir tole tole
Mrigo pohu sore
Take dekhi Ramchandrae
Xar dhonu dhore
Kar ghorot logai saki
Guxhai phure dine rati
O Ram, O Ram
Ram Ram Ram
Every Assamese household nurtures a plant of tulsi (ocimum sanctum) in their courtyard which is worshipped as a form of Goddess Laxmi, the Goddess of abundance. On the day of Katibihu earthen lamps are also lit at the altar of the plant and sing this verse as a prayer. In fact some practice lighting this lamp at the altar throughout the month of Kati which is considered auspicious.
Assam is an agrarian state and therefore crops, cows and everything associated with cultivation and agriculture is worshipped. Every traditional Assamese rural household has a granary which stocks the harvest where earthen lamps are lit during katibihu in the evening.
Apart from lighting the earthen lamps in the evening, an offering of maah praxad is made at the main prayer house which is very basic. This includes different types of fruits (usually 5 different types) along with green gram and black chickpeas. The praxad is then served to every family member and guests, if any. The essence of Kati bihu is to keep everything simple and basic because this is not a season of abundance.
Kati Bihu is basically Laxmi puja where we offer prayers to Goddess Laxmi to bless us with abundance. In Assam we consider the crops as our Laxmi, the one who feed us, since Agriculture is the main source of livelihood for the people here. So the rituals revolve around the paddy fields, the granary, the gardens, and the tulsi plant.
Barpeta is a very popular tourist destination in Assam mainly because of the Satras that are located here. Satras are associated with the ekasarana tradition of Neo-Vaishnavism propagated by Mahapurush Srimanta Sankardeva in Assam. Satras are like cultural institutions that preach the life of Lord Krishna and allow young boys to lead a disciplined life in the praise and dedication of the Lord.
Barpeta is a combination of two words ‘bor’ meaning big, and ‘peta’ meaning pond. Literally Barpeta means the land of big ponds because there used to be many big ponds previously.
Barpeta Satra is the main tourist attraction of Barpeta and it is here that the Holi or Doul Utsav is ritualistically celebrated every year with much fervor and enthusiasm. The Doul Utsav, as we call it here, is a very important festival which has great religious and cultural connotation. Thousands of devotees and tourists visit Barpeta during doul utsav to witness this colorful festival.
Holi, celebrated on the full moon day in the month of Phagun is called the Deka doul and the festivities continue for three to five days. The first day is called gandhasava or banhutsava when Mahaprabhu Doul Govinda and Kalia Thakur are brought out to the courtyard and rituals and festivities ensue with the burning of the mehdah.
The second day is called bhar doul when naam prasanga, ojapali, gayan bayan and dhuliya nritya are held at the naamghar by the vaishnavs.
The last day is called phakua or suweri. On this day the Gods are taken out to roam in douls and people offer prayers and throw phaku at the douls of the Gods. Many tourists and devotees take part in this religious and cultural procession singing holi geet and dancing their hearts out.
There’s a tradition called the bah bhonga parba. The legend goes that Mahaprabhu left Laxmi and went to Ghanusa’s house. However on his return he is not permitted to enter the premises and is faced by a hurdle of four bholuka bamboos. The disciples of Mahaprabhu and Laxmi join in a power battle in which the bamboos are broken and Mahaprabhu once again enters the temple premises. The doul of Mahaprabhu after breaking this bamboo barrier walks around kirtan ghar seven times and finally resumes his position inside the monikut.
Holigeets sung on the occasion by the devotees are in praise of Lord Krishna. The sound of the dhol, nagara, taal along with the singing reverberates through the satra premises and people transcend to a totally mystical phase. When holi was celebrated for the first time in Barpeta Satra by Mathura Das Burha Ata, it was in the model of vaikuntha or heaven. To this day the true holi spirit prevails and people rejoice in this idyllic place called Paradise, or vaikuntha.
How to reach there:
Barpeta is located at a distance of 95 kms from Guwahati city. If you are traveling by flight then Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport, Guwahati is the nearest airport from where you can directly book a cab to Barpeta. If you are traveling by train then Barpeta Town Station is your destination.
Places to visit:
Barpeta Satra was established by the Vaisnavite saint Sri Madhavdeva in 1583 AD which was earlier known as Barpeta than. After spending 8 years here Sri Madhavdeva passed on the responsibility to Sri Mathura Das Burha Ata and left to learn under Srimanta Sankardev, the pioneer of Neo-Vaishnavism.
Kirtan Ghar is the main prayer hall situated at the centre of the satra complex. The three Guru Ashanas are kept here which are associated with the names of Srimanta Sankardev, Sri Madhavdev and Padma Ata. In the bhajghor or monikut the Akshay Bonti has been burning incessantly for more than 500 years now. Behind the asanas are two chairs for burha satriya and deka satriya where they do their day to day activities.
There are three entry gates to the Satra from north, south and west. The main Satra complex is surrounded by a wall which again can be entered from three gates or batchara. They are Nahati batchara (west side entry), Uttarhati batchara (north side entry) and Dakshinhati batchara (south side entry). On the east flows a small stream or canal prohibiting entry. This area was used for bathing by Sri Madhavdeva along with his disciples and is known as the khatkhati ghat.
Sundaridiya Satra was established by Sri Madhavdeva in 1570 AD and he stayed here for 14 years 6 months. Some of his best literatary works were composed here which includes Chordhora, Namghosa, Bhakti Ratnakar. Paal Naam and Thio Naam were also created here. Three guru asanas are placed here in the name of Srimanta Sankardeva, Sri Madhavdev and Sri Badula Ata.
Ganakkuchi Satra is another spiritual destination in Barpeta. Sri Madhavdeva founded this satra and is visited by thousands of devotees from around the country. Many sachi puthis composed by Srimanta Sankardev have been preserved here.
Dargah of Syed ShahnurDewan
Syed Shahnur Dewan was the disciple of the Muslim Sufi saint Ajan Shah. This dargah is an important shrine for the Muslims and devotees visit to offer prayers. The dargah is a symbol of Sufi philosophy and Islamic brotherhood.
Manas National Park
Manas National Park is a UNESCO world heritage site, a Project Tiger Reserve, an Elephant Reserve and a Biostar Reserve located at a distance of around 42 kms from Barpeta.
Manas is a very popular tourist destination and this year too there has been a huge influx of tourists during the holiday season. Manas is definitely one perfect destination post lockdown to clear your mind and enjoy the calm serene environment.
Hotel Kabyashree: Located in Naamghar link road, Hotel Kabyashree is a budget hotel with 15 rooms.
Hotel Mayur: Located in College Road, Pathshala the hotel is at a distance of around 35 kms from Barpeta. The hotel has 20 rooms with decent amenities.
Prashanti Tourist Lodge: This is a budget hotel with all basic amenities such as room heater, attached bathroom, hot/cold water with medical assistance and 24 hours room service etc.
Hotel Diya Disha: Hotel Diya Disha is a decent budget hotel in Barpeta providing basic amenities like TV, telephone, attached bathroom with power backup, room service and medical assistance etc. The hotel has an in-house dining option too providing delicious Assamese cuisine along with other cuisines as well.