Bihu is the most important festival for the Assamese people. There are three kinds of Bihus celebrated – the Rongali Bihu, the Kongali Bihu and the Bhogali Bihu or the Magh Bihu.
The Magh Bihu is celebrated in the middle of the month of Magh or mid January. It is the harvest festival and celebrates and marks the end of the harvesting season.
Bhog literally means enjoyment or eating. This is celebrated on the day of the Makar sankranti, which is on the 14th of January. The feasting lasts for the next one week as the granaries are full at this time.
On the auspicious eve of the day, called Uruka, which is the last day of the Pausha , men go to the fields and build a temporary hut which is called the BHelaghar.
This is made with the hay found in the fields where the bonfire or the Meji will be held in the night. In the night of the bonfire there is community cooking and in general merry making.
The huts prepared, are burnt on the next morning, i.e. on the morning of the Magh Bihu or sankranti. This is the main day of the Magh Bihu. People awake early in the morning and prepare in the burning of the Meji or the hut. People throw rice pancakes called peethas at the fire and also betel nuts. This is a ritual worshipping of the Fire God and thanking him for the harvest. Rice pancakes or peethas are prepared and distributed amongst all.
The elder family members are shown respect by gifting them Gamosha or a kind of thin woven cotton towel. Throughout the day people take part in various sports such as Buffalo fights, cock-fights, Nightingale-fights etc.
Women participate in the Bihu dance to the lilting music. Numerous ethnic- cultural groups organize programs such as Hapsa Hatarnai, Kherai, Me-dam-me-phi, Ali-aye-ligang, Porag garja etc. the instruments used for Bihu are – Taal, Dhol, Pepa which is made of Buffalo horn, Baanhi or flute, Xutuli, Toka and Gogona.
People of Assamese descent all over the world celebrate the Magh Bihu or the Bhogali Bihu with much gusto and fanfare.