Bhogali or Magh Bihu: History and Significance

Bhogali or Magh Bihu: History and Significance

In Assam, Bihu is the most important festival. It is a festival celebrated by the people of Assam to mark the transition between seasons. Its significance to Assamese culture and history lies in the central role it plays in agriculture and fertility. 

Origin of the word “Bihu”

The genesis of the word “Bihu” has two different theories. According to the first theory, the name Bihu is derived from the word "Bishu," which refers to individuals praying to the gods for success during critical times of the harvesting season. With time, the word evolved, and it came to be known as Bihu. The alternative explanation for the origin of the name of the festival is that it is a combination of the words "bi," meaning "ask," and "hu," meaning "gift."

Significance of Magh Bihu/Bhogali Bihu

In the Hindu calendar, Bhogali Bihu falls in the month of Magh, which corresponds to about the middle of January in the Georgian calendar. Also, Magh Bihu falls during a time when winter is about to end. It is believed that the fire of Meji burns the winter out! This festival is mainly a feasting event due to the abundance of grain in people's storage facilities. 

Magh Bihu is a time to rejoice in the good fortune bestowed upon us by Mother Nature. People enjoy all kinds of food made from the newly harvested crops. It's a time for folks to come together and bask in the glory of nature's bounty, fostering a stronger sense of community and bonding over a shared experience. The numerous sweets, snacks, and savory dishes that are prepared and consumed during the festival embody the spirit of indulging and sharing. 

The evening before the festival, known as "Uruka," is marked with pomp and circumstance and a communal feast. Bhelaghar, a temporary dwelling, is built and used for a feast. At dawn on the day of Magh Bihu, everyone takes a bath early in the morning and heads to the place where the holy Meji is set up. An elderly member of the community or village lights the Meji. Various edibles, such as coconuts and betel nuts, are sacrificed to the Meji, or Hindu God of Fire (Agni Devta). People of all ages, including children and the elderly, enjoy eating various types of potatoes, such as mitha aloo and muwa aloo, that are roasted in the large meji fire. 

The following morning, the faithful pray to the Fire God while spectators enjoy a variety of sporting events, including cockfights, buffalo races, nightingale contests, and egg throwing.

For the community as a whole, Magh Bihu is an opportunity to strengthen bonds of friendship and brotherhood by coming together in celebration. Traditional games, sports, and gatherings of young men and women also take place during this time. Magh Bihu also provides an excellent opportunity to create memories with friends. There is a tradition of stealing simple items like hay, vegetables, ducks, bamboo, etc. for the feast. During this festive time, everyone is in a generous and jolly mood, and it is simply considered part of the fun. 

Bhogali or Magh Bihu: History and Significance
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