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Bihu being celebrated with joy across Assam

GUWAHATI, JAN. 13. Never mind the spiralling prices of edible commodities and intense cold conditions, Bhogali or Magh Bihu -- the harvest festival of Assam -- is being celebrated across the state with joy and enthusiasm.

Bhogali, meaning feasting in Assamese, is the main activity of this festival falling in the Hindu month of `Magh' at the conclusion of a successful harvesting season.

After Bohag Bihu celebrating the Assamese new year on April 15, Bhogali Bihu is the most important two-day festival of the community beginning today on `Uruka' with young men erecting `mejis' or `bhelaghars' which are temporary bamboo, leaves and thatch shacks.

These mejis are constructed in the farm fields and open spaces where the youth eat together the feast cooked at night in biting cold, which always accompanies the Bihu celebrations.

Despite the festival being primarily a rural tradition, people irrespective of their religion, tribes, caste, location or dialect unite together on this day to celebrate the happy occcasion of thanksgiving.

At the crack of dawn tomorrow on Makar Sangkranti day the mejis and bhelaghars would be set on fire amidst chanting of prayers symbolising victory over evil and obeissance to Lord Agni (god of fire).

Though Magh Bihu is an agricultural festival, its customs over the years have undergone changes as the people in the rural areas are no longer dependent on agriculture today and the urban prefer to remain where they are instead of visiting villages. Constraints of space also compel the urban populace to abandon the mejis for small bonfires outside in their compounds, where they gather with their relatives and friends to cook up a joint feast accompanied by blaring film songs.

With the bulk of the workforce in the cities and towns coming from the rural areas, the floating population make a beeline for their native homes in the villages leaving the urban areas deserted, particularly the Capital city Guwahati.

The various tribal communities, who are an integral part of the greater Assamese society, also celebrate Bihu in their own distinct traditional way.

This Bihu being a feasting one and majority of the Assamese being non-vegetarians, the prices of fish, meat, poultry and vegetables rise limitlessly with the vendors making their quick buck now.

In today's instant food times, the tradition of preparing the various types of `pithas' from the exclusive sticky red `bora' rice grown only in the state has almost given way in the urban areas to the readymade ones available in airtight packets.

Tomorrow the young will visit their elder relatives to offer their respects and partake the special sweetmeats -- `pithas' and other delicacies prepared for the occasion.

Prayers would also be offered at the community `namghars' (prayer halls) as a thanksgiving gesture for a good harvest.

-- PTI

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