Guwahati, Jan 03: The harvest festival – Magh Bihu is celebrated in Assam, it is one of India’s most popular festivals. Many festivals revolve around agriculture, especially harvest in the world. Harvest season marks not only the beginning of a new season but also the start of something completely different.
There’s no surprise that many cultures around the world mark their new year with the harvest as well. It is common even within India for regional festivals to be centred around harvests and the relationship between the sun and earth. Magh Bihu derives its origin from similar reasoning.
In case you haven’t taken part in this famous harvest festival yet, this is the perfect time to learn about our country’s diverse and rich culture. The date, celebration, and significance of this fun and colourful festival are all explained here.
When is Magh Bihu and how did it derive its name?
It always falls around January 14-15, when the sun’s northward journey begins, marking the end of the winter season.
Magh Bihu consists of two words –
- Magh: the name of the month in the Northeast between January and February.
- Bihu: derived from Bishu, which refers to a prayer asking for the prosperous harvest from God.
Tribal roots of Magh Bihu
- Bihu is known to draw its roots from the Tribal Asians, Sino-Tibetan, and Austroasiatic, constituting the majority of the Assamese population.
- This festival’s origin is largely attributed to magans from Kachariby and Indo-Aryan cultures.
- It is also a part of Tibeto-Burman heritage, steeped in Austroasiatic traditions.
- A major part of the festival is praying to the God of fire.
Celebration of Magh Bihu
- Uruka or the Eve of Bihu, preparations begin.
- The majority of women prepare Chira, pitha, large, and curd, traditional food prepared from traditional recipes.
- By completing this a day early, the celebration can begin the next day without interruption.
- On the fields, thatch, leaves, and bamboo are used to build Bhelaghars, huts made by young men (mostly).
- A prayer offering to the Gods called Meji starts early in the morning.
- It is cold and shivering when they take their baths on the second day.
- Several of the huts (called Bhelaghar) they built the day before were burned down.
- In addition to egg fights and buffalo fights, some traditional games are played such as pot-breaking or take bhonga.
Food served during the week of Magh Bihu
- During the weeklong celebration, delicious foods are served.
- The rice cake category includes til (sesame) pithas, narikol (coconut) pithas, take pithas, while pithas, and sunga pithas.
- A feast would not be complete without chicken, duck, fish, or mutton curries.
- During the harvest season, rice is commonly used in all recipes.
North India celebrates Makar Sakranti and Lohri around the same time as Tamil Nadu begins its Pongal feast.