Bihu festival witnesses the colorful show of Bihu dance celebrated for the arrival of spring in the Assamese New Year. For Assamese cult, Bihu is a time for celebrating their cultural traditions and livelihood simultaneously. Assamese folk smudge the oncoming festival and enjoy this same with a lot of pomp and show. This is an extremely energetic, fast and an eye-catching dance performance with the rhythmic exuberance of Bihu. Bihu is generic to celebration in agrarian Assam. This joyous dance is performed by both young men and women, characterized by brisk dance steps, flinging rapid hand movement, stylish footwork and a rhythmic swaying of the hips in order to represent youthful passion and reproductive urge and ‘Joie-de-vivre’.
History of Bihu Dance
Bihu dance has been performed from time immemorial during the seedtime. The spring festival “Bohag Bihu” or Rangali Bihu has a long tradition of being celebrated in the middle of April, Bhugali (Magh Bihu) and Kangali (Kati Bihu) marking its unique phase in the farming calendar and also during the season of marriage. The Rangoli bihu marks the agricultural New Year at the advent of seeding time and is celebrated as the Festival of Merriment. The Kati Bihu marks the completion of sowing and transplanting of paddies while the Magh Bihu marks the end of the harvesting period.
Of the three Bihu festivals, Rongali Bihu is celebrated with greatest thrill as it marks the arrival of spring - the agricultural season. People of all faiths and creed celebrate Bohag Bihu by singing traditional Bihugeets and performing group folk dances. Rongali Bihu has its etymological roots embedded in Sanskrit Vishuvam meaning vernal equinox when day and night is of equal duration. At the time of Rongali Bihu people welcome the spring season and pray for a bountiful and rich harvest. Bohag Bihu falls in the first month of the Assamese calendar called Bohag. This corresponds to mid-April according to English calendar year. Rongali Bihu normally starts from the 13th day of April.
Features of Bihu Dance
The dance is a part of the Bihu festival that starts in mid-April, when harvesting work of farming is over pregnant with the essence, feelings of youth and energy. Songs sung in Bihu are woven around themes of love and often carry erotic overtones with people adorn traditional attires like Dhoti, Gamocha and Chadar, Mekhala. The dance is performed in an open space during daytime but there is a clear distinction of separate sexes. The youths perform this dance accompanied by songs of erotic sentiment, loud beating of the Dhol, soft strains of Pepa made from the buffalo horns and manjira, tokka (bamboo clappers) and many more indigenous musical instruments. Sometimes in between, the performers sometimes sing along with dances. In a course of dancing, the dancers commonly form a circle or parallel rows. The dance has been noted for maintaining authenticity and at the same time displaying the traditional Assamese handlooms and handicrafts in their glory and beauty by the dancers.
Verse VI-28 of Kalidasa’s Ritusamhara accounts: “May the bodiless one, the conqueror of the world, accompanied by the Spring season ever grant your happiness, he whose sharp shafts are the beautiful mango blossoms, whose mighty bow is the lovely Kimshukaleaf of which the string is formed by the row of bees, whose spotless white umbrella is the Moon: whose lordly elephant is the breeze from the Malaya mountain and whose bards are the cuckoo birds” and Bihu Dance aptly establishes such atmosphere.