Celebrating a ‘Quarantined’ Rongali Bihu
The month of April brings with it the most anticipated festival of the Assamese burgess. With the advent of the spring season, the blooming flowers and the melodious voice of the cuckoos carry alongside the fervour which is hard to explain with words, but is rather felt.
The Assamese people welcome these vivid changes of Mother Nature by celebrating the joyous festival of Rongali Bihu. And when one confabulates about Rongali Bihu, it is all about fun, frolic, days of jollification and most importantly a distinctive way to break the monopoly of the humdrum lives of the people.
In fact, when we speak of Rongali Bihu, another thing that increases the overall excitement of it is the Bihu functions that are organized on different platforms. And these Bihu functions since time immemorial have not only glorified the nights of the dwellers during the entire Bihu season, but also have provided an opportunity to many artistes to showcase their hidden potential. So, the palpable fact is that in the modern era, it is almost impossible to imagine Rongali Bihu without Bihu functions.
However, the year 2020 has not at all been a salubrious one for the entire global community. With the outbreak of the infectious Covid-19, many countries around the globe have already announced lockdown for their countries and in this regard India is not an exception either. The uncontrollable spread of the infectious disease and with it the announcement of the lockdown have together meant that the Assamese people won’t be able to enjoy the Rongali Bihu in the same way they used to, and the major jolt to the unique ways of celebration was the cancelling of all the Bihu functions for this year.
But the clear cut fact is that since Rongali Bihu is ingrained within the hearts of the people of Assam, hence the exuberant Bihu lovers would anyway find one or the other way to celebrate Rongali Bihu amidst the period of quarantine.
The scrupulous deliberation done above is basically to focus on the various ways to celebrate the Rongali Bihu by making oneself isolated at one’s place, keeping in terms with the rich culture and heritage associated with the festival. Moreover, another thing that often comes into the limelight, every time the celebration of Rongali Bihu takes the centre stage is the controversy regarding people’s failure to maintain a balance between modernity and vintage ways of celebrating the festival. Hence this year, people at large might just get that rare opportunity to settle or bring an end to all the controversies lingering around the festival.
Speaking of vintage ways of celebration of Rongali Bihu, the dwellers might still have the possibility to experience the same vibe even though they would be locked down at their respective places. The first day of Rongali Bihu which is known as ‘Goru Bihu’, the Assamese people residing in the hinterland would still have the opportunity to bathe their cows by simply taking them to the pond at their backyard. But for those who do not have the facility of a pond, simply cleaning their cows or buffaloes with water would simply be enough to satisfy the cause. Thereafter, these cows or buffaloes could be tied with new ropes or fed with pumpkins or brinjals, thus maintaining the rich cultural heritage of Bihu.
The second day of the Bihu which is known as ‘Manuh Bihu’, the quarantined people would still get the chance to bestow respect and gratitude to the elders present in their own family, and if some members of the family reside in the countryside or elsewhere, people shall still be able to show the love and respect to them either by calling them over phone or for that matter of fact even a video call would be a perfect option for that purpose. In this way even the main essence of the second day of Rongali Bihu i.e. ‘Manuh Bihu’ would be kept intact.
However the major issue for the dwellers would be to able to maintain a similar vibe created either by a ‘Huchori Dol’ or a Bihu function amidst the quarantine. But even this issue could be solved if the Assamese people figure out some innovative ideas. In this regard, the Assamese people either living in villages or in cities won’t find it that difficult if they become successful in simply creating the same vibe by converting the ambience of their residence into the one created by a ‘Husori Dol’ or a Bihu function.
For this purpose, people residing in the hinterland should make use of the wide courtyard of their respective places to sing Bihu songs and dance on them, thus creating the Bihu ambience. People living in the city who are often bereft of wide areas, however, could simply move to the balcony of their flats or apartments in order to create the musical ambience like that of Bihu.
In fact, if all the people residing in a residential construction move to the respective balcony of their flats, and in an organized manner sing or play the Bihu songs or ‘huchoris’ as well as dance in the same rhythm, then automatically the ambience which would be created would somewhat nullify the absence of Bihu functions and to some extent also would be able to enable people to get the feel of the melodious ‘Bihu Huchoris’. Moreover, individuals could also opt for cooking some ‘Rice Pithas’ and if by any means a small amount jiggery remains at one’s place, then it would be the perfect icing on the cake. Hence amidst the quarantine too, people would be still able to observe the festival, which is often regarded as the ‘lifeline of the community.’
Furthermore, the masses might also consider the notion of growing some exotic flowers like Orchids (Kopou Phool) which would not only beautify their residence but also would give the opportunity to the people at large to get a vibe of the majestic spring season.
Thus, even though the lockdown would no doubt have an impact upon the celebration of Rongali Bihu, but the Assamese burgess still would have the opportunity to celebrate it by undertaking an approach, a bit different compared to the yesteryears.
(The views expressed in the article are the author’s own)