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 bihu and 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 Kati bihu 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 Ramchandra e
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 Kati bihu 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 kati bihu 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.