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Bohag Bihu Celebrates the Assamese New Year

John Grams

Bohag Bihu celebrates the beginning of the Assamese New Year which coincides with the harvest. It is a celebration of diversity. The festival unites the population of Assam regardless of their religions or backgrounds.

Bohag Bihu has 7 phases: 'Chot', 'Raati', 'Goru', 'Manuh', 'Kutum', 'Mela' and 'Chera'. Each are celebrated separately, recognizing an agricultural cycle of the paddy crops.

Raati Bihu is performed beneath an ancient tree or in an open field illuminated by burning torches. It is a gathering for local women. Men would participate by playing the pepa (a buffalo hornpipe) or the bamboo bholuka baanhor toka. Raati Bihu includes ceremonial dances.

Chota Tingrai Organic Tea Garden celebrates sustainability during Bohag Bihu

Women dancing during Bihu

Chot Bihu, the second day, is organized by the young at outdoor locations and features songs and dances up till Uruka, the formal beginning of Bohag Bihu.

Goru Bihu recognizes the agricultural roots of Assam. We hold a reverence of livestock as both an ancient and contemporary method of livelihood. This first day of Bohag Bihu is dedicated to the caring upkeep of livestock and a cattle show. Families come together at the river to wash their cattle with a combination of symbolic herbs and plants.

Tea Harvester celebrates Bohag Bihu at Dinjoye small batch Tea Garden

Photo by Rajib Jyoti Sarma/HT Photo for India News

There is a traditional song of Goru Bihu that may be sung, much like “Happy Birthday” may be sung in the US. The words are sung to the livestock: "With our herbs and the leaves of dighloti, we drive away the flies which disturb you; we hope you accept our offering of brinjals and gourds and continue to grow every year. May you outgrow your parents"

The cattle are fed pitha, an Assamese candy. The leaves and branches used in the washings are used to decorate the ranches.

Games are organized for the young, meant to celebrate and honor agriculture. One game collects 101 types of vegetables. Kids are sent to gather the larvae of the weaver ant. Girls may bind betel leaf plants while boys plant bamboo roots. The day won’t end without the fun of a Kori Khel…a food fight.

At Dusk, the cattle are paraded back to their ranches, decorated with new harnesses, dressed in garlands. The day's end is marked by burning rice bran to create smoke.

Tea Harvester at Durrung Tea Garden celebrates

Manuh Bihu is the seeking of blessings from the elders in a family. We present our parents or grandparents with a Gamusa, a special ceremonial cloth. It is worn and used as a symbol of cultural pride. A Gamusa has a rich symbolic significance to the people of Assam. It represents the ideas of friendship, love, regards, warmth, hospitality and it is intimately woven into the social fabric of our communities.

Kutum Bihu symbolizes family. It is a day to visit families, relatives and friends and have lunch or dinner together to share love, news and stories with each other.

Mela Bihu is a fair that offers cultural events and competitions outdoors. In ancient times, the King and his staff used to come mingle in these celebrations. The fairs are attended by people from all over Assam and are aimed at fostering a communal atmosphere of brotherhood with the inclusion of everyone. Diversity and brotherhood are very important values in Assam.

Chera Bihu is the final day of Bohag Bihu. People celebrate it differently in different regions of Assam. But the common theme ends the celebrations with contemplation and new year’s resolutions. It is marked by families and friends exchanging pithas candy they made during the holiday.

This year, Bohag Bihu will run from April 14th – 20th. It would be a wonderful time to visit our gardens in Assam. Let us know if you’d like to arrange a tour.

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