Magh Bihu 2021 to be celebrated on 15 January: Significance of festival that marks end of harvesting season in Assam

Magh Bihu, Bhogali Bihu or Maghar Domahi is a harvest festival celebrated in Assam and marks the end of the harvesting season in the region.

The festival is observed on the first day of Magh month, according to the Bengali almanac. The equivalent of Sankranti in Assam, the celebrations last for a week. In 2021, Magh Bihu is being celebrated on 15 January.

According to Drikpanchang, the festival of Magh Bihu is dedicated to Agni, the Lord of Fire. In contrast, the rest of India celebrate Sankranti, which is dedicated to Surya, the Sun God.

The celebration of Magh Bihu is synonymous with feasts and bonfires. The day before Magh Bihu is known as Uruka, the last day of the month of Poush as per the Assamese calendar.

On Uruka, people erect makeshift huts called Meji from bamboo, leaves and thatch. The food for the feast is prepared in the Meji with a community gathering. The next morning, the Meji is burned down and the ashes scattered on the farmlands to increase the fertility of the soil.

Bihu is a set of three important Assamese festivals which include Rongali or Bohag Bihu in April, Kongali or Kati Bihu in October and Bhogali or Magh Bihu, observed in January.

The word Bihu has been adopted from the Sanskrit term Bishu which roughly means 'to ask blessings and prosperity from the Gods' during the harvest season. Magh Bihu is also known as Bhogali Bihu and the word Bhog means eating, referring to the festival where one eats with the community.

Magh Bihu sees various types of rice cakes, including sesame or til pitha, narikol (coconut) pitha, tekeli, gila and sunga pitha along with other sweet dishes made of coconut called Laru being made and distributed among people.

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