Magh Bihu
Asian water buffalo fight held at Nagaon District of Assam, on the occasion of Magh Bihu
Official nameBhogali Bihu
Also calledMaghar Domahi, Magh Bihu
Observed byPeople of Assam and other North eastern states
CelebrationsMeji, Bhela Ghor
Begins14 January
Ends15 January
Date14 and 15 January
FrequencyAnnual
Related toHarvesting

Magh Bihu (মাঘ বিহু) (also called Bhogali Bihu (ভোগালী বিহু) (of eating Bhog i.e. enjoyment) or Maghar Domahi (মাঘৰ দোমাহী) is a harvest festival celebrated in Assam, North-East India, which marks the end of harvesting season in the month of Magh (January–February).[1] A bonfire (Meji) is lit for the ceremonial conclusion and prayer to the God of Fire.[2] The festival is a regional variance of Makar Sankranti.

Overview (Rituals)

The festival is marked by feasts and bonfires.[3] Young people erect makeshift huts, known as Meji and Bhelaghar, from bamboo, leaves and thatch, and in Bhelaghar they eat the food prepared for the feast, and then burn the huts the next morning.[4] The celebrations also feature traditional Assamese games such as tekeli bhonga (pot-breaking) and buffalo fighting.[5] Magh Bihu celebrations start on the last day of the previous month, the month of "Pooh", usually the 29th of Pooh is 14 January, and is the only day of Magh Bihu in modern times (earlier, the festival would last for the whole month of Magh, and so the name Magh Bihu).[6] The night before is "Uruka" (28th of Pooh), when people gather around a bonfire, cook dinner, and make merry.

During Magh Bihu, people of Assam make rice cakes with various names such as Sunga Pitha, Til Pitha etc. and some other sweets of coconut called Laru.

Uruka or Bihu Eve (Beginning)

"Uruka" redirects here. For the Japanese dish, see Shiokara.

The first day of Magh Bihu is known as Uruka or the Bihu Eve.[7] On this day, women folk get ready for the next day with food items like- Chira, Pitha, Laru, Curd. A feast is organised at night known as Bhuj (derived from the Sanskrit word "Bhojana"). Various indigenous communities prepare rice beer, which is usually not distilled. This is known as Chuji by the Chutias, Nam-Lao by Tai-Ahom, Zou by Bodos, and Aapong by the Mising. Uruka feasting may be a family affair or communal. After the feasting, the Uruka is over.[7] Hut-like structures called Bhelaghar are also built in the fields where people stay during the night.[7] More often village youth pass the night in the Bhelaghars warming themselves by the fire and making use of the vegetables that they steal from the backyards of villagers which is considered a tradition.[7]

Ritual of Magh Bihu, people tie fruit-bearing trees with straw on Uruka

On the day of Uruka, it is customary for everyone to tie the fruit-bearing trees in their gardens with straw or rice straw. According to folk belief, if the trees are not tied in this way, the seeds will not be produced. Many believe that the Austrians were the first to introduce this tree-tying (Magh-Bondha) ritual. After tying the tree, they return home saying 'Magh Oi Magh, Dal Bhori Lag.'

Day of Magh Bihu (celebration)

The day of the Bihu starts at early dawn by a post-harvesting ceremony called "Meji". In this, bonfires are burned in the fields and people pray to Agni for blessings.[7][8] The bonfires are usually made with fireword, green bamboo, hay and dried Banana leaves. People take bath before setting up the bonfire, as a tradition. The ritual of Meji Jwaluwa (Firing the Meji) is very enjoyable. Worshipp⁹ing the Bhoral and Meji is done by offering Rice cakes, Rice beers, Chira, Pitha, Akhoi, Horoom, Curd, and other eatables. At the end, the Bhelaghar is also burned and people consume a special preparation known as Mah-Karai,[7] which is a roasted mixture of rice, black gram. In the breakfast and lunch, people consume various traditional dishes like various Pork, Fish, Duck, Chicken and Mutton along with rice, tenga, aloo pitika and doi sira’.[9] The ashes of the bonfire Meji and Bhelaghar are used in the trees and crops to increase the fertility of the gardens or fields.[7]

Related Festivals

Along with the main Me-Ji and Sangken, there are many related festivals can be seen Assam and Arunachal. The Kacharis (a part of the indigenous Assamese community) have similar customs. On the seventh day of Magh Bihu they clean utensils and sacrifice fowls to Bathou, their God and go out carol singing, collecting foods. They set up Bhelaghars and burn them in the morning.[7] In the Full moon day of Magh month, the Khamti people observe a similar Bonfire tradition related to Buddha. Given the fact that no other Tai group follows such ritual, it can be concluded it would be better that the Khamtis merely adopted the ritual from the locals in the 18th century which was later developed into a Buddhist rite, similar to the Kechai-khati worship organised on the same day.[10]

See also

References

  1. ^ "Celebrating Nature's Bounty - Magh Bihu". EF News International. Archived from the original on 17 January 2012. Retrieved 14 January 2012.
  2. ^ Sharma, S. P.; Seema Gupta (2006). Fairs & Festivals Of India. Pustak Mahal. p. 25. ISBN 978-81-223-0951-5.
  3. ^ The New Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 21. 1987. p. 137. ISBN 978-0-85229-571-7. ((cite book)): |work= ignored (help)
  4. ^ "Bihu being celebrated with joy across Assam". The Hindu. 14 January 2005. Archived from the original on 4 February 2005. Retrieved 2 May 2009.
  5. ^ "Bonfire, feast & lots more - Jorhat celebrations promise traditional joy this Magh Bihu". The Telegraph. 12 January 2008. Archived from the original on 15 June 2009. Retrieved 2 May 2009.
  6. ^ "Assamese calendar".
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Goswami, Praphulladatta (1995). Festivals of Assam. Anundoram Borooah Institute of Language, Art, and Culture,1995.
  8. ^ Ranjit, Gogoi,. Cultural Heritage of Assam. Janasanyog, Assam, 2008.
  9. ^ "The aroma of home Bihu feast". 14 January 2017.
  10. ^ Worship of Kechai-khati which takes place on the same day by Khamtis