is the most important non-religious festival of the Assamese people.
People of this state observe it every year irrespective of their class and
It has been observed from time immemorial and has been adjusting itself at different ages taking into consideration the changed situation of a particular age.
The Bihus are the national festivals of Assam. There are three such festivals in Assam: in the months of 'Bohaag' ('Baisakh', the middle of April), 'Maagh' (the middle of January), and 'Kaati' ('Kartik', the middle of October).
Each Bihu coincides with a distinctive phase in the farming calendar. The "Bohaag Bihu" marks the New Year at the advent of seeding time, the "Kaati Bihu" marks the completion of sowing and transplanting of paddies, and the "Maagh Bihu" marks the end of the harvesting period. Bohaag Bihu is also called the "Rangali Bihu" or the Festival of Merriment, Magh Bihu is also called "Bhogali Bihu" or the Festival of Food, and Kaati Bihu is also called "Kongaali Bihu" or the Festival of the Poor.
the three Bihu festivals, which are secular and non-religious, the Bohaag
Bihu ushers in the period of greatest enjoyment and marks the arrival of
spring season. The most important festival of the Sonowals is the Rangali
Bihu, which falls on the, 'Sankranti' of(or) 'Chot' (14th April) and
continues for a fortnight.
Traditional Festival Of The Sonawals
Like other Assamese people, the Sonowals, too consider the Rangali Bihu as their traditional community festival. The main trait of this Bihu is the dance of young boys and girls in separate groups along with beating of drums and pipes. On the eve of the Bihu the womenfolk clean the clothes and prepare special Bihu delicacies like 'Chira', Pitha, etc. The men folk remain busy in collecting necessary items such as 'Tara Pogha' (ropes for the cattle) prepared out of slices of 'Tara' - (an indigenous creeper) and vegetables such as raw turmeric, brinjal, gourd etc for the next days 'Garu Bihu'.
The first day of the Bihu is dedicated to the cattle, as cows and bullocks provide them with means of livelihood. On this day, early in the morning the cows and bullocks are ceremonially bathed in a river and cut pieces of the said vegetables are thrown to them. In the afternoon they are roped with 'Tara Pogha' and entertained with cakes especially prepared for them.
The young boys and girls wear new clothes on this day and after enjoying the special preparations of the Bihu, spend the time in egg fight ('Kani Juj'), singing songs of love and romance. Such gatherings are called "Mukoli Bihus" (Open Bihus). The songs are very popular among all sections of the people. The folk songs associated with the Bohaag Bihu are called "Bihu Geets" or Bihu songs.
Next day is the 'Manuh Bihu' and on this day 'Bihu 'Husori' is formally inaugurated at the Namghar (Prayer hall).
Magh Bihu is also known as Bhogali Bihu, derived from the
word Bhoga meaning eating or enjoyment. Harvesting is over at this time
and the people look forward to the coming days without want. It is a
harvest festival. On the eve of Bihu day, called "Uruka", i.e.
last day of "Puh" ('Pausa') month, women get busy preparing rice
cakes and other refreshments.
The most significant part of this Uruka day is the building of 'Meji' and feasting at night. The Meji is a very high temple - like structure of firewood, piled up, one piece over the other held together by bamboo poles from the four corners, which is built outside the house. Nearby a makeshift cottage, Bhelaghar is built. The whole night is spent in feasting, merry - making dancing and singing.
At the break of dawn, on the first day of Magh, people take their bath early and set fire to the Meji and Bhelaghar where offerings of 'Til' (Sesame seeds), rice and other eatables are made to 'Agni' or God of fire.
After Mejis and Bhelaghars are burnt, people sit and sing "Naam-Kirtana'. The mid - day lunch on this day is not rice and curry but 'Chira' (flattened rice), 'Pitha' (rice - cakes) curd and so on. One special preparation is 'Wah-Karai', a combination of roasted rice, black gram, sesame and pieces of ginger, which when offered for chewing is smeared with oil. No meat is allowed on this day.
Kati Bihu is also called Kangali Bihu (Poor Bihu). At this
time paddy seedlings begin to grow. In the evenings, offerings are made to
the 'Tulsi' plant in the courtyard. Little earthen lamps ('Diyas') are
lighted at the feet of the Tulsi plant. Puja's are offered to God for
improved yield of crops.
The significance of this Bihu is more in the villages, where farmers go to their respective fields and light "Akash-Banti" or 'sky-lamp' hanging from a tall bamboo, to ward off pests and other insects.