Rongali Bihu: The Advent, the previous post, I have mentioned that Bihu is the thread that holds the people of Assam together, irrespective of community, ethnicity, language or religion. Rongali Bihu is the Assamese New Year but people of Assam come together as a state to celebrate this colourful festival.
Rongali is symbolic of youth. Nature bears new leaves during this season, the dullness of winter gives way to new life and Rongali is the celebration of this fresh breath of life. The youth therefore finds a gust of new life and this is the topic of many Bihu geet or songs. The mesmerising sound of the Dhol, pepa and baahi leaves everyone spellbound as young girls dances gracefully to the beats completely oblivious of the surroundings.
Eibeli bihuti romoke jomoke
Nahor phul phulibor botor
Nahor phulor gundhe pai
Nasonir tot e nai
Gosokot bhangi jai jotor
Bihu geet or songs
Bihu geet are the songs sung during Bihu which follow a certain tone, melody and lyrics. They are a very important part of the Assamese culture and the dominant themes being nature, love, friendship and youth. Most bihu songs are a playful expression of love by either a young boy or a girl. Bohaag adds colour to the lives of young boys and girls and love confessions and courtships are an integral part of Rongali Bihu.
In one such song the lover tries to woo his beloved by gifting her the kopou phool. The beloved, on the other hand, secretly goes to meet her lover giving some other excuse to her mother.
Pahar bogai bogai senimai kopou phool ani dim
O senimai khupate
Khupate guji dim buli
Maarok phaki di senimai bihu loi ahili
O senimai sereki
Sereki anugoi buli
Love is a sweet emotion and has been metaphorically compared to ‘sira doi’ the traditional Assamese jolpaan. Love is like the river which flows incessantly :
Piriti piriti piriti
Piriti mitha sira doi
Piriti piriti piriti
Piriti buwa buwoti noi
Piriti piriti piriti
Ure jibon thakibo boi
These are some very popular Bihu songs on love. The river imagery has been beautifully portrayed to emphasise that love is never-ending but forever growing.
Husori / Jeng Bihu
Husori or courtyard bihu is a form of dance performance done during Bihu by visiting every household. Young boys get together led by an elderly and sing bihu songs followed by bihu dance. When young girls perform in a troupe in the same manner it is called jeng bihu. A husori or a jeng bihu troupe visiting your house during Bihu is considered auspicious. They usher in good luck and prosperity by singing:
Jaya Rama bula
Jaya Hari bula
Bula jai Hari bula
When a husori troupe visits you are suppose to welcome them with a gamucha leading the way to your courtyard. At the end of the husori performance a xoraai is offered to them which usually contains tamul-paan, a gamucha and a certain amount of money. Sometimes jolpaan and pithas are also offered along with tea.
Manuh Bihu is the first day of Bohaag, the Assamese New Year. People have a ceremonial bath with maah-halodhi ( black gram and turmeric paste) and put on new clothes. Prayers are offered by lighting the chaki ( earthen lamps) in the household prayer place. The young ones of the family then seek blessings from the elders and offer the traditional gamuchas woven specially for this occasion. All family members sit together to enjoy the elaborate traditional breakfast of doi-jolpaan and pitha amidst chit-chat and laughter.
It is also a tradition to visit family, relatives and friends on the occasion of bihu. The reason being to spend quality time together over a family meal.
Bihu celebration on stage
In the earlier days, during the Ahom rule Bihu was celebrated with much gaiety and performances were organised for the royals. Swargadeo, the king and the other royals clad in their traditional attire sat majestically to enjoy these performances which took place in the Ranghar premises of Sivasagar.
Swargadeo ulale batsorar mukholoi
Duliya e patile dola
Kanot jilikile nora jangfai
Gaat e gumsengor sula
Even today a day long celebration is organised in the premises of historic Ranghar on the occasion of Rongali Bihu keeping in view the grandeur of the tradition.
Other than Ranghar bakori bihu, Bihu stages are organised every year in every nook and corner of the State where the community come together to take part in the celebration. Husori, jeng- bihu, bihu dance, bihu song, and a variety of other cultural competitions are organised. On the first day of Bohaag , mukoli bihu is organised in Latasil field of Guwahati every year. Both Ranghar bakori bihu and Latasil field bihu are very popular and people from around the State witness it with great enthusiasm.
Mukoli Bihu is like an open stage for performances without any makeshift stage. In the earlier days, unlike the makeshift stage now, bihu either meant mukoli or gos tolor bihu.
Rongali Bihu is the main festival of Assam which falls in the Assamese month of Bohaag, hence also called Bohaag Bihu. Bihu ushers in the spring season as we hear the melodious voice of the Cuckoo, the fragrance of nahar, togor and kopou phool. Rongali thus is the celebration of new life.