Like all other places in India, festival celebrations in Assam are very vital to the people as they embody the spirit of togetherness and positivity among the people. India is well known for its cultural diversity and the festivities in Assam are a true representation of this as people from all religions, caste and creed gather to celebrate festivals throughout the state. Assam’s festivals are a representation of its rich culture and heritage brought about by a display of scintillating colors, dance and music. Here is a list of some of the most commonly celebrated festivals by the people of Assam and the significance they hold in their hearts.
The most prioritized and important festival of Assam is undoubtedly Bihu. All the people of Assam take part in this vibrant festival irrespective of their religion, caste and creed, hence symbolizing the unity of the people of the state. The state of Assam celebrates Bihu three times throughout the year, each highlighting a different purpose for celebration. The first type of Bihu, celebrated as the new calendar year ushers is the ‘Bhogali Bihu’ celebrated in the second week of January. The primary focus of the Bhog Bihu is offering prayers for a good harvest as the farmers begin to collect the grain. The celebrations are accompanied by singing and dancing that takes place around bonfires, while certain small villages organize local competitions for everyone to participate in.
The second Bihu to be celebrated is the ‘Rongali Bihu’ in April which marks the start of the new harvest season at the time of the new year in the Hindu calendar. Prayers for a great and prosperous year ahead are accompanied by the preparation of local delicacies and sweets as people adorn new clothes to mark the beginning of something new.
The final Bihu celebration of the year occurs in the month of October and is called the ‘Kati Bihu’, again prayers are offered for a successful harvest to occur next season. This is the most somber Bihu celebration and it only involves preparation of good food and offering of prayers. All in all, Bihu is the most important harvest festival celebrated by the Assamese.
2. Tea festival
One of the largest producers of tea in the world, Assam has a special festival dedicated to celebrate this feat every year. Observed for three days in the month of November, the tea festival is celebrated in the city of Johrat which is known as the tea capital of the world. The main focus of the festival is the celebration of Assam's authenticity in terms of its tea production. Tea in Assam ranges from white to green to black tea and even thin or wide leaves. The organic and powerful aroma of Assamese tea is something you just cannot overlook. Tea taste tests and exhibitions are put up for visitors as well as tours around the lush green tea gardens. More than a festival celebrated by the people of Assam for themselves, this is a festival celebrated by the people to highlight their rich tea culture to the world.
3. Ambubachi Mela
The Ambubachi mela is the most famous Hindu festival celebrated in Assam. It holds a special place among the Hindu beliefs and practices. Celebrated during the monsoons every year, this festival occurs at the Kamakhya Devi Temple in Guwahati. This four day festival is a representation of the strong tantric culture in Assam and is believed to be celebrated to commemorate the commencement of Kamakhya Devi’s menstrual cycle. There are various types of rituals that are practiced during the four days, some include bathing Goddess Kamakhya Devi in milk and water while some devotees refrain from bathing, cooking and even reading religious scriptures during this time. Fairs and food stalls adorn the Temples throughout the city and is a vibrant sight to all visiting tourists.
4. Majuli festival
The best time to visit Assam is probably during the celebration of the Majuli festival as beautiful and vibrant colors take up most of your vision. Celebrated along the banks of the Brahmaputra river on the island of Majuli, cultural activities are the main façade of this festival. Troops from all over the country come to Assam during the time of this festival to showcase their creative talents. Local handicrafts, food and dance displays capture everybody witnessing this beautiful festival, it has often been described as a truly magical sight to witness.
Celebrated in the Bhogo month of the Assamese calendar i.e. in April, Baishagu is the festival of the Bodo Kacharis of Assam. Positive energy and colorful displays are what represents this festival that welcomes the arrival of the new year like many other local Assamese festivals such as Bihu. The first day commences with the worshiping and bathing of cows, while the second day sees young individuals seeking blessings from the elderly. The Bagurumba dance is the highlight of the festival as everyone joins in irrespective of their age, religion, caste or creed. Singing and dancing to the melodious local instruments goes on throughout the night as they hope for a prosperous new year ahead.
We all know the Ahom dynasty was the longest ruling empire in North Eastern India, hence, their influence must still be felt today in some form or the other right? Well, it surely is and it is for that reason that the Assamese people celebrate Me-Dum-Me-Phi. This is the most important Ahom festival and is celebrated in a grand manner by the entire Ahom community. Celebrated on the 31st of January, this festival holds a strong place in the hearts of the Ahom community as they believe if this festival is not celebrated in the manner in which it should be it will upset the deities and they will unleash their fury on the people of Assam. Large processions, gatherings and other cultural practices accompany the festivities bringing joy to each and every member of the Ahom community.