Assam marks Rongali Bihu with joy

by - 1:43 PM

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The trill of the cuckoo, the lilting Bihu songs to the beating of drums and cymbals accompanied by the mellifluous notes of bamboo flutes and buffalo horns heralded the spring festival of Rongali or Bohag Bihu in Assam welcoming the New Year. Replacing the strident cacophonous campaigning for the assembly elections in the first week of the month, the cheerful Bihu songs with lyrics of youthful love played to the background as young men and women danced merrily. 'Bihu Pandals' sprouted up everywhere where cultural programmes are held almost non-stop. Beginning with Goru Bihu on Wednesday when the cattle of the household were given a ceremonial bath at the village river or tank, this agrarian festival marked the new year on Wednesday for the State. The joyful spirit of the occasion is represented in the community Bihu pandals set up by the people of almost every locality across the State where the dances and songs of the Assamese, ethnic communities and others from the rest of the country are peformed for four to five days. Rongali Bihu, being the queen of the three Bihus celebrated by the Assamese every year, is the festival of colour, creation, brotherhood, harmony and joy, besides being the heralder of the Assamese new year today on the first day of Bohag month. The week—long festival casts its spell on both the old and young to forget their pain and problems and instead converge to dance and sing in an atmosphere of gay abandon. They celebrate the beauty of nature in spring when new leave sprout and orchids (kopou phool) are in full bloom to welcome the new year. Re—enactment of the old fertility rites, ardent exuberance of youthful hearts and partaking of traditional delicacies are the hallmark of Rongali Bihu celebrations cutting across all barriers of language, dialect, religion and culture. Scholars say that Bihu is essentially an agriculture based festival and has nothing to do with religion or priests. The songs are blessings for a happy new year and the dances are associated with an ancient fertility cult. Having no sectarian bias, Bihu has its songs woven mostly around themes of love to the accompaniment of blowing of buffalo—horn pipes and beating drums by young men while the women, who enjoy an equal social status with their male counterparts, dance with wild ecstasy choosing their life partners there.

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