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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Happy Bhogali Bihu!

  
Bhogali or Magh Bihu—the harvest festival of Assam is celebrated in mid January that is the month of Magh about to begin. Bhogali means ‘aplenty’. And it’s winter when people are more energetic. Bhogali Bihu belongs to the farmers who harvest the ripe golden paddy crops after long and hard work and have a well deserved community feast of new rice, fish, meat and other delicacies. Plus celebrations. In some villages of Assam buffalo fights are still a rage. 


Magh Bihu falls normally on 13th-14th January as per the timing of Makar Sankranti. Sankranti means changing of direction. The time when the sun changes direction from one constellation (of the zodiac) to another is known as Sankranti. Transition of the Sun from Sagittarius to Capricorn during the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere (Uttarayana) is known as Makar sankranti. Only this year, a leap year, Bhogali Bihu is being celebrated on 14th and 15th of January, 2012.

Days prior to the Bihu get really hectic in a typical Assamese village. Stacks of harvested golden paddy crops collected in the backyard are taken to the inner courtyard, opened and spread in a circular shape. More and more stacks are added and it becomes a rustling circular bed. Then two bullocks are brought in and made to do a merry-go-round thrashing out the grains from the paddy branches by continuously treading on it. The separated grains are then packed in long bags and deposited in the barn or bharal-ghar. Bagfuls of paddy are then taken to the rice mills as per requirements of daily meals and making of a rich variety of rice cakes.
 
 The first day of the two day festival is Uruka when people get together in specially made bamboo-frame pavilion called bhela-ghar--thatch-roofed and walled by dry banana leaves for a feast with the new rice and fish, meat and other delicacies. This pavilion is lit and burnt up at dawn next day and people worship the fire god with various offerings. Apart from the community feast folks also make a haystack with bamboo and firewood added called meji and burn it up in the morning. During the uruka night people get warm with endless bonfires and hardly sleep.

The second day it’s a bonanza of rice cakes, laddoos of various types and other eatables at all homes with relatives visiting throughout the day. As it’s an auspicious day of Sankranti people do not take cooked rice and non-vegetarian items during daytime.
 
For Magh Bihu 2012 there is just one major problem in Assam--very high prices of fish and other items. On the other hand a very severe winter going on and people have really been enjoying the warmth of bonfires.
 
Assamese people all over the globe cannot help but observe this joyful festival though they may not get the right kind environment and climatic boosters.



 
The rounded balls made from fried coconut paste and sugar are as tasty as they are attractive! People living outside Assam or even abroad never forget to make such traditional delicacies and take pains to get those ready for the morning of the second day.

Happy Bhogali or Magh Bihu to All of You! Enjoy!



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