STORY: Week-long New Year celebrations, called ‘Rongali Bihu’, began on a joyous note in India’s northeastern Assam state on Friday (April 14).
‘Rongali Bihu’ also the end of the harvest season in the state.
The first day of the festival is called ‘Goru Bihu’ and dedicated to the cattle.
People in Guwahati and Jorhat cities took their cattle to ponds and rivers early in the morning and bathed them after rubbing a traditional paste called ‘dighalati pat’ on their bodies. ‘Dighalati pat’ has medicinal properties and helps keep ticks and other pests away from the cattle.
Cattle owners recite traditional hymns while praying for the good health of their animals.
This is followed by song and dance and a lavish feast with family members.
Dishes like pitha (ricecake), tilor laru (sesame balls), narikol laru (grated coconut balls), curd, handoh (a dish of jaggery and grains), tel pitha (fried cake), til pitha (sesame cake) are prepared in every household as savouring traditional food is a major part of Bihu festivities.
Bihu is celebrated thrice in a year in Assam – ‘Rongali Bihu’ in mid-April, ‘Kongali Bihu’ in mid-October and ‘Magh Bihu’ in mid-January.
The three Bihus mark the three stages of cultivation, i.e. beginning of agricultural season, completion of sowing and the end of harvest season.
‘Rongali Bihu’ is the most joyous of the three as it symbolizes a fresh start in life.