Bohag mathu eti rhitu nohoi
Nohoi Bohag eti maah
Asomia jaatir ee ayux Rekha
Janajibonor ee xaah
— Bhupen Hazarika captured the essence of Bohag in his song
Dual celebrations of Rongali Bihu and the Assamese New year in spring bear a unique significance in the lives of every Assamese. The advent of spring indicated by the cooing of kooli, blooming of kopou and the beat of dhol together with the strains of pepa and gogona mesmerise everyone. Bohag Bihu, the vibrant and colourful festival has become the identity of the Assamese people.
Bihu is celebrated not only in Assam, but also in various other places. The non-resident Assamese people, living either in different parts of India or in the nook and corner of the globe are very sensitive towards their culture and tradition. As they have to be away from home basically for work or studies, they try to celebrate the festival with the fellow Assamese in their respective places. The Assamese Diaspora living across the globe form Assamese Associations, which carry on different socio-cultural and religious activities. In the metros like Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai and Kolkata Bihu is celebrated with great fervor. The Assamese communities in these cities come together for the celebrations every year. “In Mumbai, many Bihu pandals can be seen during the season in places like Goregaon, Vashi, Khargarh and Navy Nagar. Various other cultural activities are also carried out throughout the year under the aegis of Assamese Associations” says Nandini Sharma, an Assamese entrepreneur, based in Mumbai.
Moreover, in the global sphere too, Bihu is gaining recognition. The Assam Association of Singapore works actively in the cultural front. “Apart from celebrating Bihu every year, the Assamese families residing in Singapore, which are around fifty in number, organize Moina Mel, where we read and narrate famous Assamese stories. The Association also raises fund for the flood afflicted people of Assam”, notes Sweety Hatibaruah, an IT professional. On 28th July, 2018, Asom Sahitya Sabha inaugurated a branch in Singapore, which aims in promoting and spreading Assamese language and culture. The few Assamese families in Malaysia too celebrate Bihu with one another, as a formal Assam Association has not been formed there till now.
“We are very much concerned about the fact that our children should be aware of their roots, and so try to make our culture and tradition familiar to them by making them learn Assamese songs along with Bihu and modern Assamese dance, which they perform during Bihu and other cultural programmes. They are exposed to a different culture, so with the limited resources we have, we try to keep up with our own culture”, remarks Rubi Devi, a resident of Indianapolis, U.S. In the U.S A and Canada Bihu is celebrated with great enthusiasm. The Assamese families from Pacific North West area, Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and some parts of Canada jointly organise Bihu every year, and this year it is in Seattle. In Dallas and Texas the festival is celebrated grandly as many Assamese families are there. “Bihu is a huge affair in Dallas, we make a lot of preparations for the cultural function”, mentions Karabi Sharma, a teacher based in Dallas.
The London Bihu Committee, which was established on 11th January 1987, aims to promote the Assamese New Year. The committee also encourages in spreading Assamese language and literature. It is indeed very inspiring to see the Assamese Diaspora relentlessly working towards upholding Assamese culture, tradition and language, making the world familiar with Assamese heritage. Their effort to stick to the roots, maintaining their identity amidst various cultures, is truly commendable.
At present when Assamese people are going through a lot of turmoil in terms of language, ethnicity, culture and identity, Bihu appears to be a binding force to keep the greater Assamese society united. When people irrespective of caste, creed, language and culture come together to celebrate Bihu, it signifies how petty are the issues people fight for and how strong is our root. Every Assamese takes pride in the rich cultural heritage of Assam, and this need to be carried forward to the next generations to keep our identity intact. Hence, hope this Bihu and New Year herald positive changes for all to strive more for peace, prosperity and happiness, holding on to values, creating an atmosphere of kindness and goodwill.