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Assam is a land of unique landscape with stretches of green tea gardens and paddy fields with groves of banana, coconut and betel trees. It appears to be a land of mystery to those who are not familiar and it is a place where the population consists of various races and tribes like the Indo Burmese, Mongoloid, Aryans, Indo Tibetans and etc. Majority of the people of this state is associated with agriculture and so most of their festivals and dances have their roots in agricultural activities and are related to the changing moods of the nature.
Bihu is the most important festival of the state and there are three types of Bihu namely the Rongali, Kongali and the Bhogali bihu and all of them celebrate the various stages of the life cycle of the paddy crop. Bihu is said to have originated from the word Bishu meaning “to ask for peace” and the word was slowly transformed to Bihu according to the local language preference. Rongali bihu or Bohag bihu is celebrated in the month of April and it denotes the traditional Assamese New Year and also represents the starting of the fresh harvest season and the advent of the seeding time. This is the first Bihu and is celebrated with great enthusiasm by the people as it marks the arrival of the spring season and also the first day of the Hindu solar calendar.
Rongali Bihu festival and its significance:
The New Year of Assam usually falls on the 15th of April. The word Rongali is derived from the word Rong meaning happiness and celebrations. The festival brings enjoyment and fun to the society and is celebrated in every corner of the state with great passion. This harvest festival is considered as the best time to start afresh and has more significance on the agricultural side.
It is celebrated for several days in the month of April and the first day is dedicated to the cattle. Cows and goats are taken to the nearby riverside or ponds and are given a ritual bath. Fresh turmeric and black gram is applied and the old cattle ropes are removed and new ropes are tied to them. They are also freed and left to roam anywhere for the entire day. It is just like a thanksgiving ritual as the cattle provide the people with dairy products and meat.
The second day of the Rongali bihu festival is dedicated for the humans and everyone takes an early bath and seeks blessings from the elders. New clothes are gifted and people visit their friends and relatives.
The third day is for the elders of the village when the males form a band and visit one house to another and sing traditional Rongali bihu songs in chorus. Young people and pretty girls dressed in the traditional Assamese attire sing songs of love and romance. They are welcomed by the hosts and they perform traditional ring dance. The elders are then offered betel nut and paan on a brass dish.
The traditional Bihu recipes prepared in the kitchen:
Leaving behind the traditional songs and dance, the traditional food also holds a special place during the celebration. The Rongali bihu involves preparing some certain food items like the famous dhekia xak, which represents abundance of crops.
Some other food items that hold great importance during the festival includes coconut, rice, sesame, jiggery and milk products. Some sensational preparations from the local kitchen include the pithas, olive jiggery chutney, Assamese fish curry, pumpkin oambhal and etc.
Colorful rituals mark the celebration and the mood of festivity is seen throughout the state for the seven days of Rongali bihu festival.