Last year, the festival was a damper because of the overhanging threat of Covid-19. This year, many organisations had to call off their night functions in view of the virus threat and the SOP. Bihu marks the beginning of the Assamese New Year. The celebrations usually continue for a week.
Essentially a harvest festival, Bihu brings different native communities of Assam together. The festival begins with ‘Goru Bihu’, which is celebrated on the last day in the month of Chait. On Goru Bihu, cattle are brought to a water body like a pond or river and bathed with maah-halodhi (black gram and turmeric paste).
On Thursday, the first day of Bohag, as per the Assamese calendar, people celebrate the ‘Manuh Bihu’ (Bihu of humans). The gamosa, a traditional rectangular piece of cloth representing Assamese tradition, is offered as a bihuaan to the people on the day of Manuh Bihu.
People turn up in their traditional attire and sing and dance to the beats of Bihu on this day. Performers, including Zubeen Garg and Papon, keep alive the festive spirit with their shows all over the state.
“Night functions are very expensive. Apart from erecting the stage, we have to incur a lot of expenditure. Sponsors have pulled out because of the SOP, so how do we run the show?” asked a member of a Bihu committee.
The health department has made face masks and sanitizers mandatory at Bihu programmes. Covid-19 tests of organisers, volunteers and performers have also been made mandatory for public safety.
“I was waiting with excitement to celebrate this festival after missing it last year. I have bought bihuaan and some new clothes,” said Junaki Konwar, a girl from Sivasagar district in upper Assam.
The Muslim community also began Ramadan with communal prayers on Tuesday. Believers taking part will not eat or drink anything in the day. Fasting is considered to be an act of worship and they believe it brings them closer to God and strengthens their spiritual health and self-discipline.