The Essence of Bhogali or Magh Bihu
It is the season of festivities, and Assam is celebrating Bhogali Bihu or Magh Bihu - the most awaited feasting time of the year. While there are three variants of Bihus that are celebrated or observed at different times of the year, Bhogali Bihu, the festival of harvest, is celebrated in January. This agrarian festival, as the name itself suggests, is all about celebrating a bumper crop through feasting.
The eve of the festival is called Uruka. On this day, men build small cottages (Bhelaghar) with hay and prepare the Uruka feast there. The rest of the family members gather around a bonfire to play games and dance to folk music. Next morning, they wake up and light the Meji (normally a towering structure made of inflammable hay, twigs etc) and offer prays to the God of fire.
People make several types of food items with grains, called Pithas. The different types of Pithas are Til (sesame) Pitha, Narikol (coconut) Pitha, Tekeli Pitha, Ghila Pitha, Sunga Pitha, Kholasapori Pitha, Lau (gourd) Pitha and Kolpat Pitha. Other items eaten during the festival are Sandoh Guri, Bora Saul – varieties of locally produced grains. The Laru (a round sweetmeat prepared from a variety of items like coconut, til, etc is another Bhogali Bihu delicacy.
Sandoh Guri is made with rice flour. It is eaten with milk or curd and is sweetened with jaggery or sugar. Other delicacies are Maah Korai and Jolpan. Maah Korai is prepared with black sesame seeds, Bora Saul, gram or Maah, Chana fried and is flavoured with some mustard oil, ginger and salt.
Another interesting delicacy of the festival is Bora Saul or sticky rice. It is grown in Majuli - the world’s largest river island located amidst the ever-shifting sandbanks of the river Brahmaputra in Assam. The rice is soaked overnight in hot water and consumed the next day. Locals prefer eating it with curd/cream and jaggery. They also eat it with mustard oil and Aloo Pitika (mashed potato).
The rice has low content of amylose, a starch component that contributes to the hardness of food grains and is easily digestible. It does not have a distinctive flavour so it gets dominated by other flavours that are added to the rice.
Since the rice has unique qualities, scientists at the Cuttack-based Central Rice Research Institute (CRRI) has successfully grown a similar grain called Agonibora in Odisha to see if the rice can be grown outside Assam.
The festival of harvest is celebrated throughout the country. In the South, it is called Pongal while the rest of India calls it Makar Sankranti. Down south, people worship Lord Indra. Their celebration is similar to that of Assam’s. Makar Sankranti marks the arrival of spring season in India and is celebrated in various different ways throughout the country.
- Bhogali Bihu
- Magh Bihu
- Bihu in Assam
- Assam Pitha
- Bihu fesṭival in Assam
- Essence of Bhogali Bihu
- Essence of Magh Bihu