Category: Holidays » Hindu holidays
Magh Bihu (মাঘ বিহু) (also called Bhogali Bihu (ভোগালী বিহু) (Bihu of eating Bhog i.e. enjoyment) or Maghar Domahi (মাঘৰ দোমাহী) is a harvest festival celebrated in Assam, North-East India, which marks the end of harvesting season in the month of Maagha (January–February). It is the Assam celebration of Poy Me Ji as the similarities of Bonfire or Makar Sankranti, with feasting lasting for a week. The festival is developed by the Tibeto-Burman,Tai and Indo-Europian cultures and festivals like Poy Me-ji Of Tai-Ahom, Magan of Kachari and Mai Kwa Sum Phai Tai festivals and Sangkranti festival. The Festival has both Tribal Asian and Indo-European Essence due to variation of Tribes in Assam. Meanwhile the Bonfire Meji is direct entry from South-East Asian Tai Culture.
The festival is marked by feasts and bonfires. Young people erect makeshift huts, known as Meji and Bhelaghar, from bamboo, leaves and thatch, and in Bhelaghar they eat the food prepared for the feast, and then burn the huts the next morning. The celebrations also feature traditional Assamese games such as tekeli bhonga (pot-breaking) and buffalo fighting. Magh Bihu celebrations start on the last day of the previous month, the month of "Pooh", usually the 29th of Pooh and is the only day of Magh Bihu in modern times (earlier, the festival would last for the whole month of Magh, and so the name Magh Bihu). The night before is "Uruka" (28th of Pooh), when people gather around a bonfire, cook dinner, and make merry.
During Magh Bihu people of Assam make cakes of rice with various names such as Shunga Pitha, Til Pitha etc. and some other sweets of coconut called Laru.
A fire or harvesting ceremony Meji is closely associated with Bhogali Bihu, but more significant is Uruka or the Bihu Eve. On this day women folk get ready for the next day with food items like - Chira, Pitha, laru, curd also, various tribes prepare their rice beers usually undistilled like Nam-Lao by Tai-Ahom, Zau by Bodos, Chuji by Chutiyas, Aapong by Missing Tribe. In winters it takes four to five days to get the beer matured.
Another important chore is to build a bonfire in fields. The tradition of Bonfire came from Tai-Ahom Tradition Poy Me Ji as the new harvesting methods higher technology of wet-rice cultivation was introduced to Assam by Tai-Ahoms. The word Me means worshiping - Ji means Bhoral. Bhoral is a type of granary of Assamese people. The bonfire or Meji usually made with green bamboo, dried Banana leaves. Hut-like structures are called Bhelaghar. Sometimes cowherds pass the night in the Bhelaghar warming themselves by fire and making use of the vegetables that they steal from the villagers garden which also a tradition. Uruka feasting may be a family affair or communal. After the feasting, the Uruka is over.
Next morning at the Dawn people prepares to fire the bonfire called as Meji. People take bath and fire the Bonfire Meji before the craw see firing the bonfire as it is a tradition. Various tribes of Assam perform the firing ritual variously. The ritual of Mai Ko Sum Phai or Meji Jwaluwa (Firing the Meji) is very enjoyable. Worshipping the Bhoral and Meji is done by offering Chicken, Rice cakes, Rice beers prepared by different tribes, Chira, Pitha, Horoom , curd, and other eatables. The Bhelaghar is also burnt along with Meji, and people consume a special preparation known as Mah-Karai, that is roasted mixture of rice, black gram. In the breakfast and Lunches of the Bihu people, consume various tasty dishes like Fish curries, Chicken, Rice Bears, Mutton, even Beef by some Non-Hindu Tribes. The ashes of the bonfire Meji and Bhelaghar are used in the trees, and crops to increase the fertility of the Garden or fields.
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