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Festivals - Kati Bihu

BIHU COMES THREE TIMES IN THE YEAR, AND MARKS THE change of seasons in the lush green hills and the valleys at the foothills of the Himalayas in Assam.Every home in Assam used to have a loom. The women wove their own cloth and one of the special weaves is the gomacha, a decorated towel with intricate designs woven in. They are a prized possession, given as any Bihu (Bihu presents), especially by a mother to her son, a wife to her husband, a girl to her father, brother or a special boyfriend.These gomachas are worn by the men around their waists over their white dhoti or lungi or as head bands, especially during festivity.


They are also used to cover the special places reserved for tamul (paans or betel leaves) to be offered to the 'Bihu Dals' that come visiting and dancing all through the week with their musical instruments-dhool (drum), pepa (an instrument made from buffalo horn) and gagana (an instrument made from bamboo and held between the teeth), with small cymbals keeping rhythm. They sing devotional songs, in a style known as hosari, invoking Lord Krishna to bless their households with health, wealth and happiness.


The 'Bihu Dals' complete the rounds of the neighbourhood and then gather in open grounds called 'Bihu toli' where teams from other neighbourhoods also come. Each group tries to outshine the other in the dancing copetitions and beauty pageants that are held. The winners are announced in the local papers within the seven days of the festival.

Each day of Bihu has a specific name. The first one, Garur Bihu, is the actual day of Sankranti, also known as Uraka: this is the Bihu of the cow. On this day the cows are taken to the river and bathed with great love and care. Cows are one of the greatest assets of the farmer. Besides giving milk, which in itself is a complete food and yields butter, buttermilk and ghee, the cow also provides cow-dung which is made into uplas for fuel. The male calf also plough the fields and bullock-carts act as transport for men, crops and baggage. Cows have always been revered in India. Sri Krishna was a cowherd, and he taught everyone to revere the cow as a mother. The Hindus bestow upon the cow the status of a deity.


On this day of Garur Bihu cows are made much of and, after a through bath in the river or pond, they are brushed and their hooves and horns cleaned with whisks made from the twigs of the deegloti or makheatr (Lilsoca salocrfolea ) to remove parasites and to disinfect. Turmeric paste, mixed with black moong dal paste is applied on their horns and hooves ( turmeric is a very good disinfectant ).


The livestock is brought into an open space and everyone throws small pieces of gourd and brinjal as food to them, singing and fanning the cows with new fans.
The song goes like this: Deegloti deegotpot, makhi maru jat jat
Lau ka begena ka, bosore bahija
Mar khoru bapes khow toi habi bor.
I kill the flies by the flock with the leaves of deegloti, you feed on gourd and eggplant and grow every year. Your father is small, your mother is small but you became a big cow.


After feeding the cows, vermillion is put on their foreheads and they are then led back to their sheds. The sheds have been also thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, new ropes are put on the pegs where the cows will be cows will be tied when so needed. A lamp is lit and incense burnt in the cowshed. The Assamese are mainly farmers and this 'worship' ensures the health of the cows and bullocks and keeps them fit for the heavy work of the new sowing season.


For the household, special food is prepared. Rice is not made in the usual manner but flat rice (chirwa) is cooked in different ways. Many kinds of sweets are made and families and friends enjoy each other's hospitality.


The second day of Bihu is also the first day of the Assamese new year and is known as Manuhor Bihu or the Bihu of the human being. This falls on 14 April. Friends and close relatives are invited along with the daughters of the house and their husbands and families to a feast known as Bihu Kabo Loi. The daughters-in-law are allowed to go to their parents' house, but if the daughters and guests are coming for dinner, the daughter-in-law could go to their house for lunch. Since the celebrations last for at least a week, these feasts a

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