Tezpur: Residents perform rituals before setting ablaze a traditional ‘bhelaghor’ or ‘meji’ on the occasion of Magh Bihu, in Tezpur, Wednesday.(PTI)

For an agriculture-based country like India, our joys, fun and celebrations revolve around harvest festivals. The whole nation comes together in celebrating the end of the harvest season and the cold, harsh winters.

In Assam, Magh Bihu is celebrated with much fervour. It is marked with prayers to the gods, making of traditional dishes and get-togethers.

Significance of Magh Bihu

· The word ‘bihu’ is believed to have originated from the term ‘bishu’ which means ‘to ask for peace’.

· It is also known as Bhogali Bihu. The word ‘Bhog’ means eating and this is what the festival stands for, eating with the community.

When is Bihu celebrated

· The Magh Bihu celebrations start on the last day of the month of ‘pooh’ in the Assamese calendar.

· The celebrations continue in the month of ‘Magha’, which is between the English months of January and February.

· Eating and enjoyment goes on for about a week.

How is Bihu celebrated

· On the eve of Bihu, also known as Uruka, young people, mostly men, go to the fields and build makeshift huts, known as Bhelaghar. These huts are prepared using bamboo, leaves and thatch.

· A Meji or bonfire is also an integral part of Magh Bihu. A bonfire is lit early in the morning of Bihu and prayers are offered to the gods.

· During the night of Uruka, people prepare food and spend the night singing and dancing around the Meji.

· The main Magh Bihu is celebrated the next day. On this day, people take bath early in the morning and burn down the Meji.

· The celebrations also feature traditional Assamese games like tekeli bhonga (pot-breaking) and buffalo fighting. Cock fight, egg fights are also held.

· Rice cakes form the highlight of the festival and are distributed among everyone. Other delicacies include various variants of rice cakes. These are called til (sesame) pitha, narikol (coconut) pitha, tekeli pitha, ghila pitha and sunga pitha.

· Sweets made of coconut called Laru are also made. Laddoo are also made of sesame, coconut and murmura or puffed rice.

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