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Bihu Dance of Assam

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The Bihu dance is a folk dance from the North Eastern Indian state of Assam. It is most related to the festival more commonly known as the Rongali Bihu. This festival is the most anticipated and is celebrated with a tremendous amount of enthusiasm. The festival brings together all the Assamese people, disregarding of their caste, creed and religious beliefs and ways of life. For the people of Assam, Bihu is not just an important festival but also a time to celebrate their livelihood and cultural traditions.

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This celebration is traced all the way back to 3500 B. C. when it was originally celebrated for a month but now is only celebrated for a week. The land of is filled with fairs and festivals. The colorful festivals of Assam reflect the culture, tradition and lifestyle of Assam. Most of the festivals celebrated have their roots in the diverse faith and belief of the people. The three main dances of Bihu are they way the Assamese people follow what is going on in the festival.

Bohag Bihu is the most important day of all and the most important dance; this day/dance begins with the sowing of seeds, Kaati Bihu marks the complete process of sowing and transplanting of paddies and the Magh Bihu marks the end of the harvesting period. All the three Bihu festivals of Assam are related to harvesting. Being a agriculture based state, Assam, has always marked this Bihu as the symbol of joy. Traditionally Bihu is celebrated with Bihu dance and Bihu Geets (songs) in the village fields and courtyards, with groups of youths going from house to house, singing Bihu songs, which are known as Husori.

Husorti is just a form of singing in the Indian culture. The same practice slowly got transformed to holding community functions mainly in towns and cities where cultural functions are held; such functions are based on Bihu dance and Bihu geets (songs) which depict mainly Bihu dances and songs. Competitions are held and performing group from every corner of Assam join in and even move from one city to another to take part. The Bihu dance is performed with traditional Bihu folk music.

The folk songs associated with this dance are known as ‘Bihu Geet’; Bihu Geet is symbolic of communication of love and romance among the village youth and the village belles. Assam men play the music with various instruments. The Dhol is one instrument that is similar to a drum. The Pepa is a pipe instrument made from a buffalo horn. Other instruments are the some sorts of cymbal, the gagona, which is a piece of bamboo with a vibrating reed and lastly a toka— a bamboo clapper.

The toka is the only instrument that is played by both men and women. The songs that accompany the dance have been handed down for many generations. The subject of the lyrics ranges from welcoming in the Assamese New Year to describing the daily life of a farmer. Most songs are focused on themes of love and carry erotic overtones. This festival has very little religious significance and is celebrated as a harvest festival. The Bihu takes place on a Sankranti day, which is the time when the sun passes from one zodiac sign to another. Nearly 80 per cent of the people of Assam are dependent on agriculture and spontaneous celebration of festivities is associated with the beginning and end of the harvest season,” said Pradip Kumar Sarmah in his article called Bihu: Bihu, the Unifying Festival of Assam. There are three main forms of dance in the actual Bihu festivals, but there are also many other forms of the Bihu dance. Bohag Bihu, the most popular of the three forms, is associated with the vernal equinox. This is the most colorful of the Bihu festivals; it takes place around mid-April and can continue over several days.

Kati Bihu the second most popular is associated with the autumn equinox and Magh Bihu is with the winter solstice. Bohag Bihu is celebrated at the time when the people are preparing the fields, Kati is at the sage when young seedlings are transplanted and Magh is when the crops are harvested. The word Bihu can be traced back to the Sanskrit word Visuvan or equinox. (Nasadiya Arts Copyright 2008) The first phase of Bohag Bihu is also known as the “festival of merriment” and comes during the Spring. It focuses on nature and how it is blossoming into radiant light, beauty and color.

It has roots in a fertility cult. This dance invites young boys and girls to come together in the land of romance. The Bohag Bihu Dance expresses the joys of Spring and the vigor of being young. This dance is accompanied by songs of “erotic sentiment” along with the beating of the dhol, the strains of the pepa as well as all the other instruments. The Maagh or Bhogali Bihu is the second most important festival celebrated after the harvest is collected. This dance is also known as the “festival of food”. Things like bonfires, social get-togethers and feast are all part of the Magh Bihu.

As the people do chants various offerings are made to Agni, the God of Fire. The Kati Bihu also known as the “festival of poor” is unlike the other two festivals. Unlike the other two festivals this one is simpler. It occurs on the last day of the month of “Ashwin” when the previous harvest has disappeared and the new crops are not ready for harvesting. “Ashwin” is the seventh month of the lunisolar Hindu calendar. This all means that people are looking for food because there isn’t a lot around. People say prayers, which are the most significant part of the dance and offer for a good harvest in the coming season.

Other forms of this dance are the Moran Bihu, Deori Bihu, Mishing Bihu, Jeny Bihu and Mukholi Bihu. There are two other important types of Bihu Dance – Khasi and Garo Bihu Dance. The Bihu dance is performed by the Chakmas during Chaitra Sankranti. The Khasi dance is characterized by brisk stepping, flinging and flipping of hands, and swaying of the hip symbolizing the fever of Spring. Garo Bihu Dance is performed by the Garos of Bihu Tribe. “Except for Bhangra, no other folk dance in India can compete with the rhythmic exuberance of Bihu. Young boys and girls, who dance together, perform this dance but there is no mixing of the sexes.

The dance is characterized by brisk stepping, flinging and flipping of hands and swaying of hips representing youthful passion and reproductive urge. ” This is a quote from the book Let’s know dances of India. This was a good quote because it describes perfectly what is happening in the dance. The dance is performed in an open space during daytime but there is a clear distinction between the sexes. Bihu can also be performed in forests, on the side of riverbanks or in an open field during the night. The youths perform this dance accompanied by songs created by the beating of the Dhol, and soft strains of the Pepa.

The dancers commonly form a circle or parallel rows. The dance has been noted for maintaining authenticity and at the same time displaying the traditional Assamese beauty of the dancers. With changing social development and industrialization, Rongali Bihu moved from open fields and courtyards to the stage. As Assam is the eastern frontier where the sun rises first, the Bihu is the morning shine of the vast cultural sky of India. It has brought together people of different origin, religion, caste and creed living in Assam through its emotional appeal and affinity to the mother earth.

Bihu is an influencing factor of social integration and the source of unity in the diverse heritage of composite Indian familyhood. The girls dress in their best traditional clothes, which is usually a red floral mekhela which is the bottom part of a cloth that is draped from the waist downward with a red border, a shawl woven out of the golden silk fibers, and a red blouse. Their feet and palms are painted with a red pigment. The young men wear a dhoti, which is a rectangular piece of cloth that is wrapped around the waist and the legs and tied at the waist.

A kurta which is a loose fitting shirt that ends either just above or somewhere below the knees and lastly they tie a towel that is woven with designs what the Assemese people call a gomacha around their heads and waists. Another item that plays an integral part of the Bihu celebrations and is also symbolic of Assamese Culture is the Japi – a traditional Bamboo hat with colorful designs. A more simple bamboo Japi is normally worn by the farmer while cultivating in the field protecting oneself from the sun and rain.

Cite this Bihu Dance of Assam

Bihu Dance of Assam. (2017, Mar 23). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/bihu-dance-of-assam/

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