and Festivals of Assam
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). The Bihus have been celebrated in Assam from ancient times. 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 Rongaali Bihu or the Festival of Merriment, Maagh Bihu is also called Bhogaali Bihu or the Festival of Food, Kaati Bihu is also called Kongaali Bihu or the Festival of the Poor.
Of the three Bihu festivals which are secular and non-religious, the Bohaag Bihuushers in the period of greatest enjoyment and marks the arrival of Spring. The folk songs associated with the Bohaag Bihu are called Bihugeets or Bihu songs. The Bohaag Bihu lasts for several days during which "the young people in the village may be seen moving about in groups gaily dressed or forming circles in the midst of which the prettiest girls dance" (The History of Human Marriage by Edward Western-March) 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 language of the Bihu songs have changed from generation to generation. The songs are composed in couplets that rhyme (and are almost always accompanied by a distinctive form of dancing), and each couplet depicts a different emotion. The language is simple and suggestive, and the style is neat and clear. Scholars agree that the songs have no influence of Sanskrit, the ancient language of religious text and learned commentaries.
The Bihu songs have exercised great influence on Assamese literature. Even the translator (Madhav Deva,1596 - 1849 AD)of the great Hindu epic Ramayana and the great hymn composer Sankar Deva (1449-1569AD) could not escape their influence.
At the current time, Mukoli Bihus are not common any more. In towns and cities, there are well-organized Bihu fairs where professional or amateurtroupes perform Bihu songs on stage with accompanying dancing. Bihu Kunwori (The Princess of the Bihu) contests are held widely. In these contests, young women competein dancing to the tune of Bihu songs.
The best dancer is given the title of Bihu Kunwori .
Tea Festival :-
The Tea festival organised by Assam Tourism in the month of November is a unique experience. One cannot miss this festival which offers holidays combining visits to Tea Gardens, Golf and River Cruises. A visit to the "Guwahati Tea Auction Center" (GTAC) in Guwahati, the largest in India is a must.
Ambubasi Mela :-
This festival is organised every year during monsoon period at the Kamakhya temple of Guwahati. The fair attracts thousands of devotees from all over the nation. Ambubasi is closely related to the Tantrik rituals that are performed during this festival. The legend associated with the fair is that this period comes during menstrual cycle of Goddess Kamakhya. On the occasion, the temple remains close for first three days and devotees can worship the Goddess only on the fourth day.
Jonbeel Mela :-
Jonbeel of Jagiroad is host to one of the most spectacular and popular fairs in Assam. Come winter and tribes & communities like Tiwa, Karbi, Khasi, Jaintia come down with their products for this Mela. This is perhaps the only fair in India where barter system is still alive. A big market is organised during this fair and people from various tribes and communities exchange their products. But before the fair opens fire worship or Agni Puja is performed. Another interesting feature is that the King of Tiwa tribe collects taxes from his subjects. Colourful dances and music mark the fair. The whole atmosphere is swinging with fun and joy. Mutual understanding and harmonious living is the message of the fair.
In the month of Baishakh , Baishagu is celebrated. This festival is riot of colours and merriment. Baishagu begins with the worship of cow. Second day of the festival coincides with Bohag, first day of the Assamese almanac. It is from this day that the actual merriments start. Lord Shiva is worshipped. At the close of festival community prayer is offered at a particular place called 'Garjasali'.
Rajini Gabra & Harni Gabra :-
This essentially a religious practice before starting the new cultivation. The Dimasa tribe celebrates the festival. Rajini Gabra starts with Kunang or the village headman propitiating the family deity by closing the village gate on the Puja day. In the night, presiding deity is worshipped for protection and prosperity of the people. This function is called Harni Gabra. An interesting feature of this festival is that if any outsider enters the functions after the gates are closed, then the celebrations are considered spoiled and the intruder has to bear the cost of starting the functions afresh.
Dosa Thoi! Long Nai :-
This is a very important religious dance performed at the 'Bathou Puja' or worshipping of their God-Shiva. In this dance the priestess called Deodhani dances with a bowel on her head in which the blood of a sacrificed fowl is kept. It is believed that while the Deodhani performs this dance in a condition of trance lord Bathou (Siva) will snatch away the bowel and drink the blood.
This again is a spring festival celebrated by the Mising tribe. This is one of the most colourful festivals of Assam. It is organised in the month of 'Ginmur Polo' (February-March) on the first Wednesday of the month. 'Ali' means root, 'Ai' means fruit and 'Ligang' means sow. Hence, it is festival which initiates cultivation. Fish is essential in the feast and certain taboos like cutting trees, fishing, ploughing, burning jungles are strictly observed. Young boys and girls perform this dance.
Rongker and Chomangkan :-
Karbi Anglong, the serene and beautiful abode of the peace loving Karbis. This Mongoloid tribe migrated to this region several years ago. They celebrate two festivals Rongker and Chomangkan. Rongker is essentially a spring festival, which propitiates different God and Goddess for the welfare of village. The festival is organised to keep away diseases, natural calamities and ofcourse for good harvest. On the other hand Chomangkan is an elaborate death ceremony. There is no fixed time for this ceremony and it is organised according to convenience of the community. This four day and four night ceremony is a must for every Karbis.