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Vintage Culture and Heritage of Bihu under Threat

Bishaldeep Kakati

The melodious lullabies of the cuckoos, the shining bright green covers of the trees, the enticing aroma and dazzling beauty of the orchids, the newfangled aura in the ambience and most importantly with all these, when mother nature silently and lavishly bestow her belongings to the earth, then we can definitely conceive the notion in our minds that the queen of all seasons i.e. ‘The Spring Season’ has once again made her joyous presence felt in the planet. And that is the reason whenever we confabulate about spring season we are more often than not carried to a mystic world, which is full of glee.
However, with the advent of this season, many festivals as well as fiestas are also celebrated by many communities across India. And if we focus our attention towards Assam, we definitely know the fact that during the spring season, the people of Assam celebrate their most awaited festival that is ‘Rangali Bihu’, which is referred to as the ‘Lifeline of the Assamese Community’. Along with it, the spring season also marks the beginning of the Assamese year in the local calendar.
Like any other festival of India, ‘Rangali Bihu’ too has its unique ways of celebration. However, the striking fact is that Bihu has of late, generated a great deal of enthusiasm among people in the entire the country with the musical ambience it generates through ‘Bihu dances’, ‘Dhol’ ‘Pepa’, ‘Gogona’ etc . And that is the reason many celebrities, actors and actresses of Bollywood have also adored Bihu and danced the same. Thus, the festival has brought a new distinctive specification to Assam.
Nevertheless, a detail analysis on the history of ‘Rangali Bihu’ celebration in Assam will bring forward numerous ideas and notions about its origin and its forms. But the folklores lingering about its origin, thus mention the fact that the festival started during the ‘Ahom Kingdom’ and gradually it spread throughout the state.  However, there might be other speculations surrounding about its origin as well. Although according to the common tales, ‘Rangali Bihu’ was basically enjoyed by the Ahom kings, by observing it from the historic and ancient ‘RongGhor’ of Sivasagar.
The festival of ‘Rangali Bihu’ is related to nature, and that is why it was actually celebrated in the open fields, in households, as well as under tree shades, where group of young and enthusiastic bihu dancers and singers would musically glorify the ambience. In fact, the Bihu songs that were rhythmically created were also related to nature. In short, ‘Rangali Bihu’ is a festival of fun and gaiety amalgamated with the tunes and scenarios of the nature. And although the festival of ‘Rangali Bihu’ that comes with the advent of the spring season is celebrated throughout the entire month, yet historically it is celebrated for seven days, with each day having its own significance. And those seven days of Bihu are termed as ‘Goru Bihu’, ‘Manuh Bihu’, ‘Goshai Bihu’, ‘Kutum Bihu’, ‘Senehi Bihu’, ‘Mela Bihu’ and ‘Sera Bihu’.
However, with each passing year, this traditional festival of ‘Rangali Bihu’ has also gone through a number of positive changes, so that its aura doesn’t only remain confined to open fields or households only. And that is the reason in the year 1952, Radha Govinda Baruah or popularly known as ‘The architect of modern Assam’ broadened the concepts of ‘Rangali Bihu’ by conceptualizing the first ever ‘Rangali Bihu’ celebration on the stage, thus giving it a new dimension as well as an aura, keeping in terms with its rich tradition. And when ‘Rangali Bihu’ was taken to the stage, it not only made it more alluring but also provided a platform for many talented bihu enthusiasts to unleash their talent, earn a livelihood and also entertain the people. Thus the efforts of Radha Govinda Baruah gifted the people of Assam a new taste of ‘Rangali Bihu’that also properly took care of the rich heritage and traditions. But, as soon as the generation stepped into the 21st century, the festival of ‘Rangali Bihu’ also experienced the perils of modernization, as a result of which the residents of Assam are thus compelled to believe the pathetic fact that the rich cultural heritage and traditions of ‘Rangali Bihu’are also facing the threats of being destroyed, wholly or in parts in due course of time.
The lists of controversies that come up every year during ‘Rangali Bihu’ have only degraded the festival’s rich heritage and traditions. People of Assam are well aware about the hue and cry regarding banning of Hindi songs, wearing of affixed traditional costumes by artistes as well as the controversies associated with Bihu pageants. But amidst all, the one thing that has probably hurt the Assamese people the most is the fact that some of the people have completely forgotten to even follow the minimum rituals like washing and cleaning their domesticated cows and tying them with new ropes on the first day of the festival, and bestowing ‘Bihuwan’ to the elders and seeking their blessings the very next day.
Whenever one confabulates about Bihu, the things that come up are the Bihu songs and dances that can allure one and all. However the horrendous fact is that the evolution of Bihu songs have not only created a negative vibe in the society but also diminished the roots of Bihu songs, which were actually combination of nature and emotions. Added to this, the Bihu cultural nights have also not depicted a good scenario either, with many of the singers creating nuisance with their unethical works and acts. Further, certain alcohol addicted sections of the society also get involved in brawls thus completely destroying the healthy celebration of Bihu. Not only this, but also Bihu functions go on for not less than two months instead of one month and certain private news channels keep on telecasting them again and again. So all these factors have only desecrated the rich heritage of Rangali Bihu. But even then, organizations like All Assam Students Union are still trying their best to hold the rich culture of Rangali Bihu by organizing it in its vintage and original form.
However, the people of Assam should realize the fact that Bihu is the identity of Assam and hence it should not be manipulated every time like a puppet in any way a person wants. Rather its lost glory should be restored.

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Ankur Kalita