Bohag Bihu | Kati Bihu or Kangali Bihu2 | Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu | Ambubachi | Biswakarma Puja | Doljatra | Id | Janmastami | Durga Puja | Kali Puja | Saraswati Puja | Lakshmi Puja | Rasa Puja | Doul Festival of Barpeta | Sabha | Bheldiya festival | Me-Dum-Me-Phi2 | The Spring Festival of Kamrup Bhatheli | Ali-ai-Ligang Festival | Baishagu Festival | Rongker and Chomangkan Festivals | Rajini Gabra and Harni Gabra Festival | Jonbeel Mela | Elephant Festival | Brahmaputra Festival | Dehing Patkai Festival | Tea Festival
Festivals of Assam
Assam has a rich cultural heritage as it is a land of composite cultures and is a land of great social and cultural diversity. The development of cuture of a society is expressed through its activities. It is closely related to the rites and ritueals, art and practices of the society. Through the different periods of history, different ethnic groups have enriched Assamese culture with their contributions. Assamese people celebrate most colorful festivals because Assam is a perfect fusion of heritage of different tribes and sub tribes from time immemorial. The festivals of Assam are mainly agricultural, but also include religious and social flavors. From the various festivals and rituals one can easily understand the rich and raw culture of Assamese people.
Major Festivals of Assam
The basic occupation of the Assamese people is agriculture. Therefore, festivals are usually celebrated around the pre-harvesting or the post-harvesting period. Bihu is the best known and greatly loved festival of Assam. It is the state festival and is celebrated by all the people of Assam with the special songs and dances. Three kinds of Bihu are celebrated: the Bohag Bihu (Rongali Bihu), the Kati Bihu (Kangali Bihu), and the Magh Bihu (Bhogali Bihu).
The most popular Bihu is Bohag Bihu or Rongali Bihu. The very name signifies merriment. It is a spring festival that is celebrated to usher in the season of colour and fruitfulness. Starting from the last day of the last month (Chaitra) of the year, on ‘Sankranti' day, the ‘Goru Bihu' is observed with the rites and rituals; the cattle deemed to be ‘Go-Lakshmi'. This bihu depicts the importance of cow in practising Agriculture.
So the first day of Bohag Bihu is devoted to worship of cow to increase to the physical strength and prduction of milk.
The second day is ‘Manuh' Bihu (Human Worship). On this day, after the ritual bath, the people wear new cloths, offer the auspicious ‘Bihuan' Gamocha to one another. A range of mouth-watering delicacies are prepared – Chira, Laru (ladoos made of coconut/ sesame/ rice powder), and the Pitha (rice cake of various types). Womenfolks love to wear their traditional magical golden Muga Silk and White Mulberry Silk cloths.
The Rangali Bihu is also a festival of dance. Groups of young boys and girls go to different places, dancing in separate groups with ‘dhol' (drum) and ‘pepa' (pipes). These ‘Huchari' parties, as they are called, are treated with great respect. They visit every household and pray for the inmates through a joyous rendering of community dancing and singing.
Kati Bihu or Kangali Bihu:
Like Bohag Bihu, the Kati Bihu is intricately related to the agrarian pattern of life. This bihu can be considered as the thanks giving occasion to God and in hope for the better crops for the next year. There is not much eating or merrymaking. This Bihu is celebrated on the first day ‘Kati' month in Assamese calendar. This is the period of time in the year when the paddy grows in the fields and cultivators work hard and eagerly wait for a good harvest. The period is also witness to the emptiness of the granaries of the hard working cultivators. Hence the name – ‘Kongali' Bihu – ‘Kongal' literally means ‘poor'. This Bihu is celebrated in the evening time by lighting lamps, candles, or ‘Saaki' (earthen lamps), in various places. These saakis are light up the path from house to paddy fields. In households, the saaki is lit in front of the Tulsi plant. This plant not only carries medicinal values, but is very auspicious in Hinduism. The Tulsi is cleaned and planted on a specially designed earth platform called ‘Tulsi Bheti'. It is then worshiped with various incantations and the prasad distributed among family and the neighbouring houses.
According to the famous historian Late Raj Mohan Nath Kati Bihu is the first wave of Aryan Culture spread in to Assam around 2200BC.
Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu:
This is celebrated on the last day of the month ‘Puh' and lasts for three days. It is celebrated after the annual harvest; the name ‘Bhogali' suggests banquets and food – indeed, this is the Bihu for those fond of food and eating! The last day of ‘Puh' is called ‘Uruka', when the men folk construct a makeshift cottage called the ‘bhelaghar' and the ‘meji' – a tall structure of fire-wood and bamboo poles in the field. The fun, feasting and gaiety continue through the night. The next day, at dawn, the community pays homage to the god of fire – setting alight the meji and then offering sweetmeats to the fire. After this, people visit each other's homes, and refreshments of various kinds are served. Among the chief attractions of this Bihu is the Buffalo fight and Bulbul fight. The parallels for the Magh Bihu are the ‘Nara-siga' Bihu of the Misings and the ‘Pushy Par' or ‘Tushu' Puja of the tea tribes of Assam.
Description of Ambubachi Mela:
|During the Ambubachi Mela, the doors of the Kamakhya Temple remain closed for three days. It is believed that the Mother Earth becomes ‘unclean' during this time. Owing to these beliefs, any kind of farming work is not taken on at this time. Daily worship and other religious activities are also stopped during the period. After the completion of three days, the doors of the Kamakhya Temple are reopened; the Devi Kamakhya having ‘bathed' and the other rituals executed.|
It is believed that the Mother Earth has now retrieved her purity. This is purely a ritual of the Tantrik cult of Sakta Hinduism. On the fourth day, the devotees of the Goddess are allowed to enter the temple for worshipping the Devi Kamakhya. Thousands of pilgrims from all over India visit the Ambubachi Mela every year.
Time of Celebration of Ambubachi Mela:
|The Ambubachi Mela is celebrated every year during the monsoon season, which happens to fall in around the middle of the month of June. In the Goalpara district of Assam, the people worship the bamboo during a spring festival. The bamboo god ‘Bah Gohain' is said to visit the villages for six days. Cleaned bamboos symbolically representing the god Madan and Gopal are worshipped during this time, with songs and dances as part of the rituals.|
In Hindu religion, Biswakarma is the supreme god of architecture. And this puja is performed to pay homage to Biswakarma – the god of Construction. It is celebrated on 17th September every year. Artisians, carpenters, industrialists, mechanics, smiths, industrial workers, factory workers and all other kinds of workers pray God Biswakarma
to protect the business life and trade.
The name of Biswakarma is mentioned in Rig Veda. The divine god of architecture is believed to compose the Sthapatya Veda, the famous science book of architecture and mechanics.
The celebration mainly took place in the industrial area and factories. A new idol of the god placed on the industry or factory and special puja is performed on that day. A festive look is seen all over the area. In some places the organizers arranged the cultural shows in the evening also.
Doljatra is celebrated during the spring time. It is entirely a religious festival introduced into Assamese society by Srimanta Sankardeva. At the Barpeta Kirton Ghar, this puja is celebrated with colour and fervour. It also celebrated in all the Satras and the Devalayas. The first day is called ‘gondh'. Holi geet are sung to the accompaniment of conch-shells, drum and cymbals, and processions are taken out to mark this festival.
The Muslim community of Assam celebrates this festival along with Muslims all over India and the world. ‘Id-Ul-Fitr', also known as Ramjan festival and Id-Ud-Zoha, known as ‘Bakri Id' are celebrated every year. As per Islamic belief, the Ramjan month is a holy month of prayer and fasting. People keep themselves away from all kinds of pleasures and observe fasts, not even drinking water. Prayers are held at sunset. When the crescent moon appears at the end of the Ramjan month, the fasting ends and Id is celebrated. People go to the Mosque and greet each other. Sacrifices of cows, goats, camels and the like are made.
This is a festival to mark the birth anniversary of Lord Krishna. It is a widely observed festival throughout Assam (as also in India). In the ‘namghars', ‘devalayas' and in individual houses, this festival is celebrated joyously, and the story of the miraculous birth of Lord Krishna is narrated in the form of songs.
This special festival dedicated to the worship of Maa Durga is celebrated in the month of September-October in the autumn season. Durga is invited on the sixth day of the month of ‘Aswin' and worshipped on the seventh, eight, and ninth days. On the tenth day, the Devi is immersed in water and this is known as ‘Bhasaan'. Goddess Durga is represented as having ten hands and She is the symbol of power. In Assam, this festival was introduced by the Ahom king Pratap Singha. This festival is the filled with fun and enjoyment along with reverence to the Mother Goddess.
Goddess Kali too, is the symbol of female power in the Hindu pantheon. Kali Puja is celebrated in the autumn season. Those who have earlier performed the Durga Puja must mandatorily observe Lakshmi Puja and Kali Puja. This Puja is seen to be widely performed in Assam and West Bengal. Sacrificial offerings of buffalo, goat, pigeon and duck are made during this puja.
In Assam Saraswati is the goddess of learning and knowledge, observed in Vasant Panchami every year. Vasant Pachami is the fifth day of the fortnight of Magh Month of Indian Calendar which is the birth day of goddess Saraswati. She embodies wisdom, fortune, intelligence, nourishment, brilliance, contentment, splendor and devotion. The idol has four hands representing four aspects of human personality viz mind, intelligence, alertness and ego. In one hand she has a lotus, the symbol of true knowledge, in another she has sacred scripture. With the other two hands she plays musical instrument Veena. She rides in a white swan which symbolizes Sattwa and her white dress suggests purity.
So this puja is observed in great enthusiasm in the educational institutions. The youth folk enjoy this festival very much. In Hindu religion this day is considered to be very auspicious and the parents usually taught their kids reading and writing their first words on this special day. Almost all Educational institutions organize special prayer for Saraswati in this day.
Goddess Lakshmi is the worshipped for wealth and prosperity in both material and spiritual aspect. In Hindu religion Lakshmi means luck.
This puja is celebrated in the autumn season on the night of the full moon – ‘Purnima'. Usually Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped daily in the Hindu families. She is very popular among women folk. Goddess Lakshmi is considered to be active energy of lord Vishnu. The puja is performed in every household of Hindu families praying for prosperity and it is popularly believed that on that particular night the Goddess visit her devotees houses and replenishes them with wealth.
This is the festival of the Vaishnavites that celebrates the life of Lord Krishna. Various episodes from the life of Krishna are displayed by clay figures that are very popular. The characters are also played by the people, in the form of the ‘Rasa Bhaona' or ‘Rasa Lila'. This Puja is considered to have tremendous socio-cultural significance in Lower Assam
This festival is also related to Krishna or Vishnu worship. It is observed in the Barpeta district of Lower Assam. This is an important festival where Lord Krishna is worshipped for several days by a large number of people. The idol of Krishna is brought out of the Kirtan-ghar on the first day amidst the singing of hymns, the bursting of crackers and the playing of drums and cymbals. In the evening, the idol is taken around the Bhela-ghar (constructed for fire worship) seven times. The next day, people from different places gather and pay homage to the idol with ‘Faku' (coloured and perfumed powder), sandal and the like. The last day is called ‘Fakua' and the city turns pink with the colours of the faku.
It is a popular folk festival observed by the people of lower Assam. They believe that the month Magh is an auspicious month, and generally organize ‘Sabha' for the overall well being of the people in this month. The people from all walks of life assemble together at the Sabha – which is considered a place of unity and peace.
This is a festival of the fishermen, the farmers and the boatmen who worship the River Goddess. In this festival a boat is made out of the banana plant which is decorated with paper flags, flowers and filled with nine pairs of duck's egg, nine ripe bananas, nine lighted ‘saakis' and nine pairs of betel-nut and betel-leaf. In the day time ‘namkirtan' and readings from the Bhagawat are organized in a public place and in the evening, the banana boats are set afloat in the river.
The most important Ahom festival is M-Dum-Me-Phi. In Assam Me-Dum-Me-Phi is celebrated by the Ahom people on 31st January every year.This festival reflects the manners and custom of Ahom. This festival is observed for the memory of the departed family members or one can say that it is an ancestor worship festval. In this celebration they offer prayer to three gods namely Me Dum Me Phi, Dum Changphi and Grihadum. The Ahom priests perfoms the rituals by chanting Thai Mantras. Ahom people believe that after death, for first few days the soul remains as 'Dum' (means ancestor) and then he becomes 'Phi' (God). They believes that the soul unites with the supreme God and always blesses the family. They worship the dead with homemade wine, rice with meat and fish and mah-prasad.
The Spring Festival of Kamrup Bhatheli:
This agricultural festival is performed in the month of ‘Bohag'. On the festival day, the children take an early morning bath and cut two bamboos, cleaning and washing them properly. They decorate the bamboo with colourful clothes. The taller bamboo is considered to be the bridegroom and the shorter one the bride. These bamboos are then planted near the ‘Bhatheli-ghar' (the hut with a roof of banana leaves). The people keep things like ‘prasad', fruits or sweets to fulfill their wishes within this hut. This festival is said to usher in unity, happiness, co-operation and fraternity among the people of different religions and castes.
Some of the other folk festivals of Assam are the ‘Suwari', the ‘Mo-Ho-Ho', the ‘Chou' and the ‘Palnaam'.
Ali-ai-Ligang Festival is celebrated in Assam by the Mishing tribe of people in the spring season. It is observed on the first Wednesday of the month of Gimmur Polo which falls in (February- March) and last for five days. This is the most vibrant and colorful festival of Mishing tribe. This festival is related to agriculture and in this day the sowing in the paddy fields is started. The 'Ali' means root, seed, 'AI' means fruit and 'Ligang' means sow. That is why ceremonial sowing of peddy fields statrs on this special day.The sowing ceremony is followed by dance programme performed by the youths. The dance is performed with brisk stepping, Flinging and flapping of hands and swaying of hips reflecting youthfull passion and reproductive urge.A grand feast is organized after the dancing. Dried Fish, pork meat and rice beer is served in the feast. The Missing people enjoy this festival very much.
The Bodo Kachari tribe celebrates the Baishagu festival. This the most popular festival of Boro Kachari,s. In the month of Baishak ie in the month of mid April this festival begins which is the New Year for the Boro tribes. This festival is celebrated with great excitement. The festival starts with the worship of cow like in the Bihu of Assamese people. The next day the supreme God ‘ Bathou' or Lord Siva is worshipped by offering chicken and rice beer. The young people bowed down to their parents and elders in this day. This is followed by dance which is participated by all without any limitation of age or sex. This is followed by grand feast where rice beer and meat is served. During the dance These traditional musical instruments are used during the dance festival and are known as ‘Kham', a drum, ‘Jotha', a Manjari, ‘Khawbang', the Taal, ‘Gogona', the mouth-organ, and ‘Siphung', the flute. It is customary at the closing time comminity prayer is offered at a particular place called 'Girjasali'.
Rongker and Chomangkan Festivals:
These two festivals are celebrated in the Karbi group of people of Karbi new year ie April. The elderly male village people offer prayer to the different God and Goddesses for the well being of the whole village. They pray for good health, good harvest and free from natural calamities for the whole year. The special thing about this festival is that women are not allowed to enter the worship ground.
Chomangkan festival can be observed at any time depending upon the convenience of the locality. It is a death festival and lasts for four days and nights continuously. This ceremony is compulsory for every Karbi family.
Rajini Gabra and Harni Gabra Festival:
These two festivals are celebrated by the Dimasa group of people of Assam. These festivals are agricultural festival and celebrated before the beginning of new cultivation. Both of them are socio-religious festival before starting a new cultivation.
In the Rajini festival the chief of the village offer prayer to the family deity. The village gate is closed to maintain the peace on that particular day. At night puja is offered for the security and prosperity of the whole villagers. This is known as Harni Gabra. Precaution has been taken so that no outsider can enter the location. Even then if anybody entered to that place the whole ceremony is considered as spoilt and the intruder has to bear all the whole cost of a fresh ceremony.
This spring festival is observed by the Deori tribes of Assam. This festival is a spring festval and observed in the month of April. It is customary that a ‘Than Puja' is observed before the day and the festival should start on the Wednesday. It is a socio-religious festival of the Deori tribe. Every four year a white buffalo is scarifies in this puja. Another attraction of this festival is Deodhani dance. Also Huchari (a carol song party) is another attraction of this festival. In Dibregargh, Lakhimpur, Sibsagar districts this festival is celebrate with great excitement.
This spectacular mela (fair) is held every year during at Jonbeel of Jagiroad, 32 kms from Guwahati. A few days before the mela, tribes like the Tiwas, Karbis, Khasis, Jaintias come down from Meghalaya hills with their various products. In this mela all the products are exchanged with the local people in barter system. This is the speciality of this mela.
Before the mela they offer prayer to the god of Fire for the well being of mankind. The theme of harmony and brotherhood among the different tribes is the main purpose of this mela. Another special issue of this mela is the King of the Tiwa tribe along with his courtiers visit this mela and collect taxes from his subjects.
Assam organizes the biggest elephant festival in India. The aim is to protect and conserve of Asiatic elephant and is to the create awareness of the elephants struggle, also to highlight and solution for increasing men-elephant conflict. This festival is started from 11th February and lasts till 17th February.
This festival is organized at Kaziranga National Park jointly by the Forest Department and Tourism Department. This unique festival held every year, various elephant activities, cultural programmes are organized to make the festival more attractive. In this festival the Elephants are groomed to perfection; they move gracefully in procession, there are run races and various games played by elephants. Lots of tourist visit Assam during this festival.
Kaziranga National Park is well connected by air, road and railway. Nearest air port is LGB International Airport which is 217 km from the park. Jorhat airport is 96 km away. The nearest railway station Furkating is 75 km away, at Kohra the main entrance for the road visitors. For accommodation there are lots of hotels, forest rest houses, lodges and bungalows.
This festival organized at Guwahati for the purpose of attracting tourists. Assam Boat Racing & Rowing Assaociation in association of with the Department of Tourist organizes this festival every year. This festival is arranged on the sandy beach of the river Brahmaputra. There are lots of adventurous sports and cultural shows organized. There are fairs also at the ground representing art and crafts of Assam. Beach Cricket. volleyball, kite flying, elephant race are main attraction of this festival. Guwahati is well connected by air, rail and road with different part of the country. Nearest airport is LGB International Airport, railway station is Paltan Bazar and All India tourist permit vehicle are available for local transportation. Guwahati provides excellent accommodation for all types of torists.
Dehing Patkai Festival:
This festival is celebrated at Lekhpani on 16th of January every year. This festival lasts for three days. This festival consists of ethnic fairs, golf, tea heritage tours, adventurous sports, trips to World War II cemeteries and the Stillwell road. There are lots of opportunities for fun and feast. One can enjoy elephant ride to enjoy the natural beauty of the place. Lekhpani is 70 km away from the Tinsukia town. Craft Mela, Food Festivals, Cultural programmes are organized for the visitors. One can visit the Tea Garens, Digboi Oil Field and many more.
Nearest airport is Dibrugarh. Tinsukia is well connected by Broad Gauge Railway. National Highway 37 connects Tinsukia with rest of the country. There is regular day and night Delux bus services from different part of Assam.
Moderate qualities of accommodation are available in Lekhpani.
Assam Tourism organizes this festival in November every year. It is consists of river cruise, golfing, jungle safaries and visit to the tea gardens. This unique festival is celebrated at Jorhat as Assam is the largest Assam is the largest producers of Tea and also Jorhat is known as the tea capital of the world.. Visitors can enjoy the warm hospitality of the local people with local cuisine, rafting in turbulent river, angling and cultural extravaganza.
Jorhat is well connected by air as there is daily flights from Guwahati.
Nearest railhead is Jorhat and well connected by road also.
There are lots of comfortable accommodations for tourists.
In contemporary times, one may witness modern day festivals such as The Brahmaputra Beach Festival, the Dihing-Patkai Festival, the Majuli Festival, Tea Festivals and the Elephant festivals that are among the most popular. Many of these festivals are sponsored by the government, and arranged by the tourism department of Assam.
Assam-The Emerald Treasureland by Assam Tourism
North East Quarterly by Lt. Col. H Bhuban Singh
Traditional Performing Arts North East India by Birendra Nath
Assam-Its Heritage and Culture by Chandra Bhusan
Assam and Assamese Mind by Nagen Saikia
Asomar Jananjati by Promod Chandra Bhattacharya
Assam Land and People edited by Basanta Deka