Magh Bihu- Harvest Festival of Assam (16th January 2016)
Magh Bihu, also known as Bhogali Bihu and MagharDomahi, is one of the major festivals of Assam which is celebrated mainly by the agricultural community. The festival marks the ending of the harvesting season and thus is also known as the harvest festival. People celebrate Magh Bihu for almost a week and prepare huge feasts. It is celebrated in the month of Maagha which corresponds with the months January-February in the Gregorian calendar. Earlier the festival use to last for a month but because of the changes in lifetime and lack of time, feasting ends in a week.
Magh Bihu is considered synonymous to feasting and bonfires. These two are the major events of the festival. The eve of the festival is known as Uruka. Young people make small huts near the banks of a river with the help of bamboo, dried leaves, harvesting hay and thatch. These huts are known as Meji. Then they make various types of local delicacies in large amount at night. The next day, the food items are distributed and consumed by the people of the village while sitting in meji itself. People sing folk songs and dance on the energetic music of Dhol. It is a double headed drum played using two wooden sticks. It is slung over the neck of the player while he plays the instrument
Playing local games is also a part of the celebrations. The games are known as tekelibhonga in which a pot is placed on a high platform through a rope. A person is blindfolded and then is asked to break the pot with a stick. He wins if he is able to do the same. The other game is known as Mohjuj or buffalo fighting in which two parties bring their buffaloes on a common ground and are made to fight with each other. Sometimes the game turns really violent and people present there to witness or enjoy the game might also get hurt.
The next morning people get up early and take a bath. They then reach the point where mejis are made and burn them to ground. People collectively stand around the bonfire and throw rice cakes, also known as Pithas, in the fire. Betel nuts are also offered and then people pray to the Fire god. Finally, the variation of rice cake like ShungaPitha or TilPitha are disturbed among the people. Community celebrations take place for a week. Elders are also paid respect by touching their feet and thanking them for teaching the younger generation, the art of farming.
The festival is dedicated to Agni or the fire God. Some also pray to Surya, the Sun God on the same day, just as devotees do on Sankranti. People thank the deities for showering them with abundance of crops and helping them lead a successful yet contented lives as farmers. They show gratitude for being able to work and make a living for themselves which is hard-earned and sincere. It is also believed that the heat coming out of the bonfires mark the end of the winter season.