GUWAHATI: Assam is celebrating its harvest festival Magh Bihu, also called Bhogali Bihu, with a difference. The traditional buffalo fight – Assamese version of Tamil Nadu’s Jallikattu – is off the celebration. So is the fight of the bulbuls.
This is for the second year that the fights of the animals and the birds did not figure in the celebrations in deference to court orders. Dozens of the bulbuls used to die bleeding every year in the fights at Hajo, some 35 km from Guwahati. The buffalo fights used to take place mainly at Ahotguri in central Assam’s Morigaon district and Sivasagar in eastern Assam. The fights entailed cash prizes for the winners. Some locals in Sivasagar said they would organise a “token” fight of the buffalos on Sunday.
“We respect the court orders. But as it is very difficult to part with tradition, we’ll organise a token fight,” they said. Celebrated for three days, Magh Bihu marks the end of harvesting season. It is a time for community feasting, merry-making and thanksgiving to God for a rich harvest. It is the most popular of the three Bihus. Rongali Bihu, the spring festival, is celebrated in mid-April while Kati Bihu is celebrated in October.
The celebration began on Friday morning with community fishing. In cities and towns, all roads led to local fish markets despite the woes for cash owing to demonetisation. Tonight (Friday night), people will congregate around a bonfire, called “meji”, and take part in a community feasting, mostly organized in an open field.
On Saturday morning, people will seek the blessings of elders. They will throw pithas (rice cakes) and betel nuts in the fire, offer prayers and celebrate the good harvest. “The spiraling prices of commodities are surely pinching our pockets but that cannot dampen our spirit,” said Mousumi Konwar, a housewife. “It (Magh Bihu) comes once a year. It is more than a festival to us,” said Bijit Bora, a college teacher.