Fairs and Festivals
Assamese Hindus observe the Durga puja, the Daul Utsava called Fakuwa, the Janmashtami, the Saraswati, Lakshmi and the Kali pujas. The Muslims observe the Id and the Muharram. In some parts, the snake goddess Manasa is worshipped by tribals and non-tribals alike.
The national festivals of the Assamese, irrespective of caste, creed or religion are the Bihus. It is secular in concept because it is intimately connected with agriculture. There are three Bihus that come off at various stages of cultivation of paddy, the principal crop of Assam. They are Bahag (Baisakh) Bihu, Kati (Kartika) Bihu and Magh (Magha) Bihu. Among the Bihus, spring festival called Bahag Bihu is the most important. The Bahag Bihu is also popularly called Rangali Bihu or the Bihu that cheers, while Magh Bihu is the Bhogali Bihu or the Bihu that one enjoys with food and drink. In between comes the Kati Bihu observed on the last day of Aswin, also called the Kangali or Beggars bihu, for there is nothing much to eat at this time. The term Bihu is traced to the Sanskrit word Visuvan; i.e. equinox .The bihus take place on a Sankranti day, which means the time when the sun passes from one zodiac sign to another.
The Bahag bihu (spring time Bihu) starts on the last day of the month of chaitra which is also the last day of the Hindu calendar year and ushers in the new year (mid-April being the beginning of the Hindu calendar year). The first day is called Garu bihu. It is the day of the cattle when bulls, cows and calves are bathed anointed with turmeric, fed with brinjals and gourds and given new tethering ropes. The second day, i.e. new year's day is called Manush bihu. It is the day for men, women and children. New clothes are put on, delicacies are prepared in every household for feasting and alms are given to the indigent. Old quarrels and differences are settled, friends and relatives are visited and entertained with food and presents of hand -woven scarves are made for near relations and close friends. The bihu continues for seven days. The main activities during the bihu festival besides those mentioned above, are dancing and singing and serving rice-beer to visitors.
The Magh or Bhogali bihu
is celebrated in mid-January on the last day of the month of poush and the first day of magh during which the harvest is gathered. On the Uruka day, i.e. the evening preceding the actual bihu day, young men build a temporary shelter in the open, collect firewood, often by stealing, which is permissible on this occasion, for a bonfire. A non-vegetarian feast is held at night and at crack of dawn, fire is ceremoniously applied to the meji constructed the previous evening .The meji is a structure built of logs of wood placed in pairs, tier above tier till they rise to considerable heights and present the appearance of a lofty temple. The male folk of the entire village or locality gather at the site of the meji and there take place a tea party in which cakes of various kinds are served. The feasting is followed by sports throughout the day. The half-burnt sticks and ashes of the meji are strewn on the fields and at the root of the fruit trees as they are believed to increase fertility. The Kati or Kangali bihu
is the poor bihu and is held on the last day of Aswin (Sep-Oct) coinciding with the autumnal equinox .It is called Kangali (poor) because there is not much to eat at this time of the year. The main function associated with this bihu is the worship of the sacred tulasi (basil) plant at the root of which earthen oil lamps are placed. For a whole month lamps are lighted at the foot of the tulasi plant. Although Bihu is observed in all parts of Assam, in Goalpara and Kamrup districts of lower Assam and in Darrang district of central Assam, where it is called Domahi
it is not attended with dancing as in upper Assam.
A festival called Bhatheli
in some parts and Sori in others, which is celebrated in the first week of Bahag can be regarded as a substitute for Bihu in these parts. A special feature of the festival is a colourful fair to which people from all the neighbouring villages flock especially young men and girls in new and gay attire.
Deul of Barpeta,
is another festival; celebrated by Assamese. Deul is Doul Yatra which synchronizes with Holi. Devaddhvani
is another noteworthy festival held once a year at Kamakhya. It lasts three days from the last day of Sravana to the second day of Bhadra. It is connected with Manasa or Maroi puja. Manasa the serpent goddess is worshipped by many people of Goalpara, Kamarupa, Darrang and Nowgong districts of Assam. In Sualkuchi and Pasariya villages, the festival continues for five days .
Buddhist, Shans and Burmese on the borders of Assam have their two great festivals, Pocham and Pochi
, in honour of the Buddha.