Guwahati/Agartala, Jan 14 | Amid the ongoing Covid-19 surge, the northeastern states on Friday celebrated Bihu and Makar Sankranti, both harvest festivals, with traditional fervour.
Various state governments, including Assam, slightly relaxed the Covid restrictions to celebrate the festivals.
As the celebrations were affected due to the pandemic in the last two years, a festive atmosphere prevailed in the residential areas, villages and in mela (fair) grounds in the region.
In Assam, people celebrated Bhogali Bihu, a harvest festival also called ‘Magh Bihu’, displaying a glimpse of pre-pandemic festive fervour.
The Bhogali Bihu, which began on Thursday night with the celebration of ‘Uruka’, is an occasion for feasting and praying to god for a rich harvest.
The ‘Uruka’ is the night of feast and merriment which is celebrated a day before the Bhogali Bihu, the main and colourful harvest festival of Assam.
The Bhogali Bihu celebrations began with people assembling around ‘Mejis’ (makeshift houses made of straw and bamboo) and lighting them, seeking the blessings of the elders.
People of all ages, mostly women and children, throw ‘pithas’ (rice cakes) and areca nuts after setting fire to the ‘Mejis’ and then offer prayers as part of the festivity.
After the traditional rituals, community feasts were organised in the open grounds and even in paddy fields as ‘Bhogali’ comes from the word ‘bhog’ which in Assamese means feast.
The festive enthusiasm among the people is more this time compared to the last two years, when Bhogali Bihu was a very low-key affair due to the series of protests against the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Act.
The Assamese people also could not celebrate ‘Rongali Bihu’, a spring festival in April that marks the onset of Assamese New Year, last year due to the Covid-19-induced restrictions.
The people of Assam also celebrate ‘Kongali Bihu’ or Kati Bihu’ in October each year.
Meanwhile, Makar Sankranti is also being celebrated in the region, especially Tripura.
There are some similarities between ‘Bhogali Bihu’ and ‘Makar Sankranti’ as in both festivals community and family feasting is the main event.
People during ‘Makar Sankranti’ take holy dips in various rivers and ponds while rural fairs are also organised in many villages and semi-urban areas.