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Monday, November 29, 2021

Magh Bihu 2018: History, significance, festive songs and how Bhogali Bihu is celebrated

Celebrating a good harvest, people of Assam prepare a grand feast on the eve of Magh or Bhogali Bihu thanking gods. After offering prayers to a bonfire people celebrate the week-long festival singing songs, performing folk dances, distributing traditional delicacies and taking part in ancient sports.

By: Lifestyle Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: January 15, 2018 9:33:44 am
Bihu is celebrated thrice in Assam and Bhogali or Magh Bihu is the harvest festival of the state. (Source: File photo)

One of the most important festivals for Assamese people around the world is Bihu, which is also the harvest festival of the state. But unknown to many is that there are actually three types of Bihu, starting the Gregorian new year with Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu. Much like Makar Sankranti and Uttarayan, the festival – which is also known as Maghor Bihu – is celebrated to mark a slight shift in the earth’s rotational axis that brings in the end of chilly winters and the beginning of spring. Celebrated during the month of Magh, Sankranti marks the end of harvest season and also the departure of the cold winter season, where people welcome new produce with a week-long celebration. This falls on January 15.

This is one of the three Bihu celebrated by the community and the term Bhogali Bihu is derived from the word Bhog, which refers to eating and enjoyment. And as the name suggests, there is plenty of food involved in the celebrations along with song and dance.

The eve of the Bhogali Bihu is called the Uruka, the last day of the lunar month of Pousha. On this day, a grand feast, or bhog, is prepared on the night of the first day of the festival. Young men build makeshift thatched-roof huts, known as ‘bhelaghar’ and a ‘meji’ (bonfire) is created with hay and bamboo. Women prepare the feast in the bhelaghar. People spend the night near these mejis by singing songs and performing folk dances. The next morning, people take bath and then the Meji is burnt. It is believed that this burning of the bonfire helps to put an end to the cold season.

Here are some examples of Bihu songs sung during the festivities.


For the puja, people throw in pithas (delicacies made with rice) and betel nuts into the flames, a tradition very similar to Lohri. People thank the fire god to mark the end of the harvest season and take back his blessing in form of burnt woods and bamboo.

For the next few days of the festivities, people distribute sweet dishes like Pithe, Sira-doi and Jolpan to spread cheer. Many traditional games and art forms are performed. From cock-fights to bull-fights, many such competitions are organised on the first day of Magh.

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