Bihu is mainly a harvest festival, wherein the farmers thank the lord for the successful harvest and welcome the spring season. It has been derived from the Sanskrit word bishu, which means “to ask for prosperity from the Gods during the harvesting season”.
One of the most important festivals of Assam, Bihu is celebrated three times a year. The three sets of festivals include Bhogali or Magh Bihu celebrated in January, Rongali or Bohag Bihu, which is also the Assamese New Year in April and Kongali or Kati Bihu, reflecting a season of short supplies in the month of October.
To be celebrated on April 14, Bohag Bihu is observed at almost the same time as Baisakhi in Punjab, Poila Baisakh in Bengal, Puthandu in Chennai and Vishu in Kerala. A time of zest, joy, and feasting, it is celebrated for seven days, wherein each day holds a different significance. The seven days are known as Chot Bihu, Goru Bihu, Manuh Bihu, Kutum Bihu, Senehi Bihu, Chera Bihu and Mela Bihu.
To observe the festival, people adorn new clothes and seek blessings from their elders and exchange gifts. They also indulge in a lot of sweet dishes that include pitha (a rice cake), traditional foods like larus (made of rice and coconut or black sesame seeds), and savoury dishes like khar and xaak to get the quintessence of the season.
The first day of Bihu is called Goru Bihu or Cow Bihu. The New Year day is known as manuh (human) Bihu and the third day is called Gosai (Gods) Bihu. On Gosai Bihu day, people worship idols after cleaning their homes.
A traditional Bihu dance is performed by both men and women, which is the highlight of the festival. Bihugeets or Bihu songs bring in a musical environment in the air. Not only does it mark the new year, it also calls for a celebration of fertility.