The Essence of Magh Bihu - Seeker's Thoughts

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The Essence of Magh Bihu

Magh Bihu marks the end of harvest season in Assam and is widely celebrated throughout the state with great fanfare. One unique aspect of Magh Bihu is people building an unusual structure called Meji from bamboo, wood and hay that they construct during this festive period.

On this auspicious occasion, traditional dishes like Narikol laru, Til pitha, Doi seera and mah korai should also be prepared.

The Bonfire of Bhetiya

Magh Bihu festival, one of Assamese culture's greatest showcases, commemorates harvest celebrations while building community bonds and ushering in spring with its abundant harvest. Held across the state each year, this important occasion allows us to express our thanks and appreciation to deities for providing us with such abundant harvest. Additionally, Magh Bihu brings people together fostering social harmony and strengthening bonds of brotherhood and friendship between people across society.

Meji is an integral ritual of the festival. This post-harvest ceremony involves lighting bonfires called bhetiya using fireword, green bamboo, hay and dried banana leaves in fields and gardens to increase fertility of fields while worshipping ancestral gods and increasing fertility of them. The ashes from these bonfires are then used to worship ancestral gods while increasing fertility of their fields.

Womenfolk play an integral part in preparing food for Bihu festivities and this day is dedicated to them. They diligently craft pitha, sandoh and laru dishes along with rice cakes called Mah-Karai for Mah-Karai preparation and create various types of curries made with lamb, chicken, pork or duck dishes at this time as well as crafting rice beer (known locally as Midi-ye-ji).

Magh Bihu, or Community Feast Day, is celebrated annually by residents of a given locality. Men, in particular, gather on this evening in fields to erect temporary homes known as Bhelaghars and stacks known as Meijis to prepare for lighting them up on Bihu morning and praying for a prosperous year ahead. Festive foods like Jolpan are then served after rituals.


Assamese people celebrate Magh Bihu as a festival to thank their deities for providing abundant harvests, as well as commemorate Assamese culture which centers around agriculture with unique traditions. Magh Bihu provides an opportunity for family reunion and to renew our faith for future prosperity.

The Magh Bihu Festival begins on the final day of Pooh month and lasts approximately one week. On Magh Bihu day itself, an early morning bonfire called Meji is lit early to offer prayers to gods before burning down all huts known as Bhelaghar, with subsequent days being spent playing traditional Assamese games like Tekeli Bhonga (pot-breaking), Nightingale Fights and Cockfights etc.

Magh Bihu festivities revolve around the popular dish known as Jolpan - an Assamese rice dish composed of different varieties such as Bora Saul and Kumol Saul rice that has been soaked for at least three hours before being combined with grated coconut, jaggery, crushed cardamom seeds and crushed cardamom pods before being ground in a homemade mill (dheki). Once ready it can be enjoyed with milk or curd, making this an irresistibly delectable dish that is sure to enhance celebration. Other food items such as pitha, Laru Mankho represent Assam's culinary diversity while adding another level to celebration!

Manihari Gin

Magh Bihu marks an Assamese tradition where massive community feasts are organized where traditional Assamese dishes such as pitha (rice cakes) and laru (sesame and jaggery sweets) are prepared, along with prayers to Agni the god of fire, along with rituals like burning of Meji - a bonfire made out of bamboo, wood and thatch that everyone gathers around early in the morning after taking bath to offer items like betel nuts, pithas and coconuts while tossing handfuls of grains such as wheat/rice into flames as offerings!

Magh Bihu marks a change in Earth's rotational axis and thus heralds spring, leading many to offer sacrifices of fruits of their labor to ensure an abundant harvest in the coming year.

Magh Bihu festival holds immense agricultural and social significance for Assamese people, promoting communal harmony while honoring their ancestors for providing abundant harvests. It is also an opportunity for friends and families to come together in celebration. This blog post details its meaning as well as some interesting rituals associated with Magh Bihu - including Meji's role. In addition, we talk about tasty treats made especially for this festive event!

The Traditional Assamese Feast

Magh Bihu, like other harvest festivals throughout the country, is an occasion of feasting and community celebration. It serves as an opportunity to thank god and our ancestors for providing a bountiful harvest, renew social ties with family members and friends, while spending quality time playing traditional games, sports or participating in cultural activities together.

Magh Bihu traditions center on creating and lighting up a Meji or Bhelaghar made out of bamboo, thatch, and other raw materials. On Uruka night, people gather around the Meji to sing traditional Assamese songs and dance Bihu.

Magh Bihu traditions also involve creating delicious food and sharing it with family and friends. Pitha, made of rice flour mixed with coconut, is one such popular meal during this festival; similarly Laru--a sweet treat made of grated coconut mixed with jaggery--is often prepared during this period as well.

Women, commonly known as Uruka, prepare a variety of special dishes on the first day of Magh Bihu known as Uruka. Furthermore, jolpan rice must be soaked for at least three hours prior to being ground into fluffy flour by using a Denki (a traditional wooden handmade mill).

Magh Bihu Games

Magh Bihu Festival celebrates nature's abundance in harvest by gathering together and sharing delicious food over an evening bonfire, creating an experience filled with celebration and gratitude.

Uruka marks the beginning of Bihu celebrations where young men go into the fields to build huts made from bamboo and leaves, lighting a bonfire known as Meji and praying to agriculture gods on this day. Later that night people enjoy many Assamese games including Hen Juj (Cock Fight), Tekeli Bhonga and Kori Khel (Ahom Ruler's Game) that make for memorable entertainment!

As part of their daily ritual, people cook a wide array of pithas for a grand feast and exchange them among family and friends. Jolpan, a sweet platter featuring various varieties of rice such as Bora saul and Kumol saul as well as milk or curd and jaggery is also frequently served alongside Narikol laru, Ghila pitha, Mah Korai and Sunga Pithas as popular dishes.

Women take great pride in creating mah korai, an exquisite dish composed of fried bora rice mixed with sesame seeds, peanuts and jaggery (gur). Women use traditional tools called Denki to pound out their rice so as to give it its characteristic fineness and flavour - an arduous task which requires tremendous energy and skill!

The Bihu Dance

Bihu Dances are performed to commemorate and rejoice with the community after harvest celebrations and to bring them joy. This dance is distinguished by its lively joyous features with quick movements accompanied by traditional Assamese music; dancers don traditional costumes in vibrant hues that represent fertility, ripening season and harvest.

Bihu dance performances are an impressive sight that capture the attention of everyone present at any venue they occur in. Dancers clap and swing their arms while singing songs relating to Assam culture and history.

Male performers typically wear dhotis and gamcha (an elegant piece of cloth with an intricate border, that covers the lower body) while female performers often don chadors or mekhalas.

While its roots remain unclear, Bihu is believed to have started as a harvest festival and later developed into an act of thankgiving toward God and ancestors. Nowadays, this annual celebration serves to highlight Assam's rich cultural history while uniting people from diverse backgrounds.

Magh Bihu, Assamese New Year's festival, also highlights the importance of sharing and giving. People visit relatives to wish them well and exchange gifts; Assamese people also gather around a meal called Jolpan or Sandoh, made with different types of rice like Bora Saul or Kumol Saul mixed with fresh cream or curd and jaggery - along with special Assamese delicacies such as Mah Korai which is prepared exclusively during this festival season.

Magh Bihu, the vibrant harvest festival of Assam, is often overshadowed by a controversy surrounding its traditions and the animal rights organization PETA. While the festival celebrates abundance and thanksgiving for nature's bounty, some practices involving animals raise concerns about ethical treatment. Let's delve into the complexities of this issue:

PETA's Criticisms:

  • Sacrifice of buffaloes: Traditionally, some communities sacrifice buffaloes during the "Bhogali Bihu" celebrations, believing it honors their ancestors and ensures prosperity. PETA strongly condemns this practice, calling it cruel and unnecessary.
  • Cockfighting: The "Manuh" competition, a traditional game involving roosters, is another point of contention. PETA argues that it inflicts pain and suffering on the birds and promotes violence.
  • Treatment of animals during Bihu: Concerns exist regarding the overall treatment of animals during the festivities, including overfeeding, lack of proper shelter, and potential for injuries during celebrations.

Community Perspectives:

  • Cultural Significance: Supporters of the traditional practices emphasize their deep cultural and religious roots, arguing that they are part of their identity and heritage passed down for generations.
  • Humane Alternatives: Some communities have adopted alternative practices like symbolic sacrifices or using non-living representations in place of animals.
  • Economic Impact: The buffalo sacrifice, for example, is often linked to local businesses and livelihoods, and communities argue for alternative solutions that address economic concerns.

Finding Common Ground:

  • Open Dialogue: Recognizing the cultural significance while acknowledging animal welfare concerns is crucial for constructive dialogue.
  • Humane Practices: Exploring and implementing humane alternatives to traditional practices can address both cultural needs and ethical considerations.
  • Community Engagement: Collaborating with local communities, religious leaders, and animal welfare organizations can foster understanding and find sustainable solutions.


The Magh Bihu controversy highlights the complex interplay of cultural traditions, animal welfare, and ethical considerations. Finding a solution requires open dialogue, exploring alternatives, and engaging with communities to ensure a respectful and sustainable celebration of this vibrant festival. Remember, this is a sensitive topic, and it's important to approach it with respect and understanding for all perspectives involved.

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