The Bihu dance is an indigenous folk dance from the Indian state of Assam related to the Bihu festival and an important part of Assamese culture. Performed in a group, the Bihu dancers are usually young men and women, and the dancing style is characterized by brisk steps, and rapid hand movements. The traditional costume of dancers is colorful and centered round the red color theme, signifying joy and vigour.
The origins of the dance form is unknown, however the folk dance tradition has always been very significant in the culture of Assam's diverse ethnic groups, such as Kaivarttas, Deoris, Sonowal Kacharis, Chutias, Boros, Misings, Rabhas, Moran and Borahis, among others. According to scholars, the Bihu dance has its origin in ancient fertility cults that was associated with increasing the fertility of the demographic as well as the land. Traditionally, local farming communities performed the dance outdoors, in fields, groves, forests or on the banks of rivers, especially under the fig tree.
The earliest depiction of Bihu dance is found in the 9th century sculptures found in the Tezpur and Darrang districts of Assam. Bihu is mentioned in the inscriptions of the 14th century Chutia King Lakshminaryan as well.
The dance begins with the performers, young men and women, slowly walking into the performance space. The men then start playing musical instruments, like drums (particularly the double-headed dhol), horn-pipes and flutes, while the women place their hands above their hips with their palms facing outwards, forming an inverted triangular shape. The women then start to slowly move in tune with the music by swaying, while bending slightly forward from the waist. Gradually, they open up the shoulders and place their legs slightly apart, adopting the main posture used in the Bihu dance. Meanwhile, the music played by the men picks up in temp and intensity, leading women to thrust forward their breasts and pelvis, alternatively, to the tune.
Some variations include men and women forming lines that face one other by holding each other's neck or waist, with more advanced sequences of the dance including men and women pairing up at the center of the performance area and dancing in a manner that imitates copulation.