Magh Bhogali Bihu Date 2016
Saturday 16 January
Celebrated on the confluence of two months of Assamese calendar- Puh and Magh- Bhogali Bihu is rightly called Maghar Dumahi (Dumahi means confluence of two months). No need to explain the term Maghar, which originates from the name of the month ‘Magh’ of Assamese calendar. The actual festival is on the first day of Magh month but the celebrations start on the eve of this day, which, of course falls on the last day of the previous month ‘Puh’. No, wonder, this is also called Magh Bihu. And why the popular name Bhogali Bihu? ‘Bhog’ means enjoyment and feasting and on this Bhogali Bihu, people all across Assam enjoy and have variety of foods, just like the other two Bihu festivals, Rongali Bihu and Kongali Bihu. Not only those in Assam, all the Assamese people, staying anywhere in India (and even abroad) observe this community festival marking the end of harvest season with much joy and fervor. Thus, there are three names of the same festival- Bhogali Bihu, Magh Bihu and Maghar Dumahi. This is the harvest festival of Assam based on solar calendar just like the other harvest festivals of India like Pongal of Tamil Nadu and Lohri of Punjab, of almost all of India!
Two Days of Bhogali Bihu Celebrations
The main Magh Bihu day is on the first day of Magh month which we know by the name of Bhogali Bihu. But the last day of Puh month already marks the beginning of this Bihu festiival. This eve of Bhogali Bihu is called ‘Uruka’.
Uruka: All the people from village go to fields and build a ‘Meji’ preferably near a river, pond or some water body. Meji is the traditional form of modern bonfire (in towns though, bonfires only are made to celebrate Uruka). Meji is built with wood and leaves, twigs etc. They also build Bhela Ghar- the temporary houses or makeshift huts made with hay. The Meji is made for burning in the morning, on Magh Bihu day. Bhelaghar houses are meant for the villagers to stay there and guard the Meji for all night while staying awake feasting, singing and dancing on Bihu songs. Meji also represents the offerings to the Lord Agni, the God of fire. The entire festival of Bhogali Bihu is, in fact, meant for thanksgiving for good harvest and resultant prosperity. The people staying at Bhelaghars feast on variety of sweets and other delicacies called ‘Bhog’ and sing and dance for the whole night waiting to burn the Meji next day.
Bhogali (Magh) Bihu: And then comes the big day, the day of Bhogali Bihu. Everyone have bath right at dawn and get prepared to burn the Meji. One of the senior members or the one who is respected by the community lits up the meji. In towns and cities, usually priests are the ones who do the job. However, there is no hard and fast rules as to who will initiate the burning of Meji. Many rituals are followed and offerings are made to the Meji. Coconut, betel nuts, pitha (sweets made with rice) etc. are offered. People also roast various types of potatoes in this fire and have it. Bhelaghars too are lit up along with Meji. People celebrate the moment, youngsters burn cracker type things made with bamboo called ‘Hiloi’. The environment is more or less like Lohri where also people sing and dance and worship and enjoy around a bonfire!
Once, the Meji burns out completely, its ashes are scatterd over the field with the belief that the soil there will get even more fertile. Elders are paid respect by people. They are specially presented with Gamosa, a white piece of cloth with red border on three sides, a traditional symbol to pay respect to elderly. While women make sweets and various other delicacies since many days before Magh Bihu day, the main food that is eaten on the festive day is vegetarian including Chira (beaten rice), curd and pitha (rice pancakes).
Many sports and games are also organized that are specially menat for enjoyment. Tekeli Bhonga (pot breaking), egg fight, bull fight, cock fight, nightangle fight etc.are common on the Magh Bihu day.
People visit their friends and family and present them with gifts that are mostly various Magh Bihu delicacies including Laroo, Pitha, Sira etc. In fact, the modern day adaptation of this traditional festival is also seen when people send gifts to their loved ones through online portals, including dishes specifically made for Bhogali Bihu. One of such sites is Order my Treat, that I found while researching about Magh Bihu traditions.
While Magh Bihu is traditionally two-days festival, the feasting lasts for even a week. That’s why perhaps, this Bihu is called ‘Bhogali Bihu’!
Three Bihu Festivals of Assam
Magh or Bhogali Bihu is the first Bihu festival celebrated in any year from among the three Bihu festivals of Assam. Kongali and Rongali Bihu are the two other important Bihu festivals.
- Rongali or Bohag Bihu– celebrated on the first day of Bohag month and of new year as per Assamese calendar (Mid-April)
- Kongali or Kati Bihu– celebrated on the first day of Kati month of Assamese calendar (Mid-October)
- Bhogali or Magh Bihu– celebrated on the first day of Magh month of Assamese calendar (Mid-January)