Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu is the harvest festival of Assam celebrated on January 14th, a celebration that coincides with Lohri, Thai Pongal, and Makar Sankranti celebrated in other parts of India.
Traditionally, boys built a hut called the bhela ghar with bamboo and hay left over after the harvest. The night before Bihu is called Uruka, and a large communal feast is held in the bhela ghar. There’s an unusual activity on this night. Since this is harvest season, the gardens are full of vegetables. The village boys would steal vegetables from the gardens. Of course, families post guards, but this is all done in sport. When the kids bring back whatever vegetables they manage to ‘steal,’ they get to roast these on the open fire for snacks.
Everyone wakes up early the following morning, takes a bath, and then lights a bonfire. The bonfire made of bamboo, haystacks, and wood is called meji. Families throw betelnut, black gram, and rice cakes as auspicious offerings, are thankful for a good harvest, and pray for prosperity.
Our friend Geetali shared that her father built a smaller meji for the kids so that they could light it on the night of the Uruka. He knew that it would be hard for little kids to wake up very early and bathe to be there for the actual meji in the early hours of Bihu. She also shares how the food for Magh Bihu had a lot of fresh fish and other meat dishes. But her favourite was the pitha made with rice. Isn’t it interesting how the harvest festivals all over India have so many special foods associated with them?
Listen to our Magh Bihu story, The Great Vegetable Robbery here: