Vintage Culture and Heritage of Bihu under Threat

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Vintage culture and heritage of Bihu under threat

Bishaldeep Kakati | April 13, 2018 17:43 hrs

The melodious lullabies of the cuckoos, the shining bright green covers of the trees, the enticing aroma and dazzling beauty of the orchids, the newfangled aura in the ambience and most importantly with all these, when mother nature silently and lavishly bestows her belongings to the earth, then we can definitely conceive the notion in our minds that the queen of all seasons i.e. the Spring season has once again made her joyous presence felt on the planet. And that is the reason whenever we confabulate about spring season we are more often than not carried to a mystic world, which is full of glee.

However, with the advent of this season, many festivals as well as fiestas are also celebrated by many communities across India. And if we focus our attention towards a state of northeast India, known as Assam, then we definitely know the fact that during the spring season, the people of Assam celebrate their most awaited festival that is Rongali Bihu, which is referred to as the ‘Lifeline of the Assamese community.’ Along with it, the spring season also marks the beginning of the Assamese year in the local calendars.

Like any other festival of India, Rongali Bihu too has its unique ways of celebration. However the striking fact is that Bihu has of late, generated a great deal of enthusiasm among people in the entire country by the musical ambience it generates through Bihu dances, Dhol, Pepa, Gogona etc . And that is the reason many celebrities, actors and actresses of Bollywood have also adored Bihu and danced the same. Thus, the festival has brought a new distinctive specification to the state of Assam.

Nevertheless, a detailed analysis on the history of Rongali Bihu celebration in Assam will bring forward numerous ideas and notions about its origin and its forms. But the folklores lingering about its origin, thus mention the fact that the festival started during the Ahom Kingdom and gradually it circulated throughout the state.  However there might be other speculations surrounding about its origin as well. Although, according to the common tales, Rongali Bihu was basically enjoyed by the Ahom kings, by observing it from the historic and ancient Rang Ghar of Sivasagar.

The festival of Rongali Bihu is related to nature, and that is why it was actually celebrated in the open fields, in households, as well as under tree shades, where groups of young and enthusiastic Bihu dancers and singers would musically glorify the ambience. In fact, the Bihu songs that were rhythmically created were also related to nature as well. In short, Rongali Bihu is a festival of fun and gaiety amalgamated with the tunes and scenarios of the nature. And although the festival of Rongali Bihu that comes with the advent of the spring season is celebrated throughout the entire month, yet historically it is celebrated for seven days, with each day having its own significance. And those seven days of Bihu are termed as ‘Goru Bihu’, ‘Manuh Bihu’, ‘Goshai Bihu’, ‘Kutum Bihu’, ‘Senehi Bihu’, ‘Mela Bihu’ and ‘Sera Bihu’.

However, with each passing year, this traditional festival of Rongali Bihu has also gone through a number of positive changes, so that its aura doesn’t only remain confined to open fields or households only. And that is the reason in 1952, Radha Govinda Baruah, popularly known as ‘the architect of modern Assam’ broadened the concepts of Rongali Bihu by conceptualizing the first ever Rongali Bihu celebration on the stage, thus giving it a new dimension as well as an aura, keeping in terms with its rich tradition. And when Rongali Bihu was taken to the stage, it not only made it more alluring but also provided a platform for many talented Bihu enthusiasts to unleash their talent, earn a livelihood and also entertain the people. Thus the efforts of Radha Govinda Baruah gifted the people of Assam a new taste of Rongali Bihu that also properly took care of the rich heritage and traditions. But, as soon as the generation stepped into the 21st century, the festival also experienced the perils of modernization, as a result of which the residents of Assam are thus compelled to believe the pathetic fact that the rich cultural heritage and traditions of are also facing the threats of being destroyed, wholly or in parts in due course of time. 

The lists of controversies that come up every year during Rongali Bihu have only degraded the festival’s rich heritage and traditions. People of Assam are well aware about the hue and cry regarding banning of Hindi songs, wearing of affixed traditional costumes by artistes as well as the controversies associated with Bihu pageants. But amidst all, the one thing that has probably hurt Assamese people the most is the fact that some of the people have completely forgotten to even follow the minimum rituals like washing and cleaning their domesticated cows and tying them with new ropes on the first day of the festival, and bestowing ‘Bihuwan’ to the elders and seeking their blessings the very next day.

Whenever one confabulates about Bihu, the things that come up are the Bihu songs and dances that can allure one and all. However the horrendous fact is that the evolution of Bihu songs have not only created a negative vibe in the society but also diminished the roots of Bihu songs, which were actually combination of nature and emotions. Added to this, the Bihu cultural nights have also not depicted a good scenario either, with many of the singers creating nuisance with their unethical works and acts. Further certain alcohol addicted sections of the society also get involved in brawls thus completely destroying the healthy celebration of Bihu. Not only this, Bihu functions go on for not less than two months instead of one month and certain private news channels keep on telecasting them again and again, often crossing all limits. So all these factors have only desecrated the rich heritage of Rongali Bihu. But even then, organizations like All Assam Students’ Union are still trying their best to hold the rich culture of Rongali Bihu by organizing it in its vintage and original form.

However, the people of Assam should realize the fact that Bihu is the identity of Assam and hence it should not be manipulated every time like a puppet in any way anyone wants, rather its lost glory should be restored. 

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