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ASSAM..... Journey to the Green Land

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Besides the religious and national festivals observed throughout the Country, Assam has a large number of colourful festivals of its own replete with fun, music and dances. Assams fairs and festivals are as varied as its population which comes from different racial origins, both tribal and non-tribal.

The Bihus
The three Bihus or agricultural festivals --- Rongali Bihu in the Spring to celebrate the beginning of the sowing season; Bhogali Bihu or the harvest festival in January and the Kongali Bihu which marks the passage of a lean period sometime in November --- are the festivals indigenous to the State and closely associated with its culture. These are considered to be the national festivals of the Assamese.

Rongali Bihu
Rongali Bihu, also known as Bohag Bihu because it is celebrated in the Assamese month of Bohag, is the most colourful of the Bihus.

It marks the beginning of the Assamese new year. With Spring in the air, the mood is buoyant and the atmosphere one of joy and romance. Young boys and girls flirtingly sing and dance to the tunes of a prolific variety of Bihu songs which are mostly woven around themes of love.

The boys in shirts made of muga silk and the brightly coloured Assamese towel gamocha tied around their heads, play the buffalo horn (mohar pepa) and beat the drum (bihu dhol), and the girls dressed in the vividly designed mekhela chaddar, dance with gay abandon in an exotic expression of matters of the heart. Peculiar musical instruments which accompany the singing and the dancing include the toka, a pair of clappers made of a split bamboo, and the gagana, a small reed instrument which repeats a single high-pitched note. Rongali Bihu strikes a common chord among people of all religions, sects and caste as it is celebrated without any secterian bias.

With the invasion of urban influences, the casual traditional way of celebrating Rongali Bihu where boys and girls of a village or a number of village used to gather together in a field and dance and sing away has given way to a more commercial and public manner of celebration where big open-air stages are constructed in different parts of towns and cities and professional Bihu dance troupes from all over the State are invited to perform. But traditional Bihu still persists in the villages, and the Bihu atmosphere still pervades notwithsatnding whether it is a big city or a small village.

Bhogali Bihu
As it is celebrated in the Assamese month of Magh, Bhogali Bihu is also known as Magh Bihu. This is the harvest festival of Assam, and is more centred around the idea of pleasing ones appetite. On the eve of the Bihu day, when winter is at its height, people gather around huge bonefires called mejis and feast to their hearts content. A wide range of Bihu delicacies from the rice-powder pastries stuffed with coconut and til (pithas) to the sweet balls of coconut and til (larus) are prepared with great care in every home to serve guests who will come visiting during the season.

Kongali Bihu
Kongali Bihu is perhaps the most solemn of the Bihus and is observed by singing of hymns near the revered tulsi plant in the flickering light of a small mustard oil-fuelled earthen lamp called the saki. Kongali Bihu is also known as Kati Bihu because it falls in the Assamese month of Kati.

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Nirtya (Dance) of the Vaisnavites

The Vaisnavites commemorates the birth and death anniversaries of prominent Vaisnava saints. Hymns are chanted and bhaonas (dramas) are staged. A unique dance form known as the Ojapali is associated with the worship of the serpent Goddess Manasa. Ambubasi is observed in the Sakta shrines and Sivaratri in Saiva temples.

The Muslims of Assam celebrate all the festivals of Islam but also have their own unique form of religious chants known as Zikirs and Jaris which were propagated by the great Muslim saint of the State, Ajan Fakir. Zikirs and Jaris are a part of the Assamese folk repertoire. Likewise, the Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains observe all their religious festivals.

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Among what can be termed the pan-Indian festivals, Durga Puja is celebrated with much fanfare with puja pandals being put up in nearly all the localities of the towns and cities and people turning out in great numbers for darshan or just to enjoy the mood of festivity.

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Bagarumba dance of the Bodo Kacharis

Among the tribals, the Kacharis observe Bathow Puja which is equated with the worship of Shiva through animal sacrifices.

The Bodos of the plains have an intricate pattern of indigenous dances associated with primitive rituals such as the Kherai Puja. The shifung flute which accompanies the dances is an inherent feature of the Kherai Puja. The Dimasa celebrate Rajni Gobra and Harni Gobra at the start of the cropping cycle for prosperity and to ward off calamities.

Ali-ai-ligang is the spring festival of the Mishings observed with jubilant singing and dancing. Po-rag is their harvest festival.

Assam Links

* This page has been compiled and edited form informations available at the official Assam government site. Please visit for more informations.