Welcome to my blog and I hope you are managing to stay cool while the Indian summer gathers more heat. Kolkata’s weather is behaving surprisingly well this year. At least till now it is. But I know that this is going to change soon. As spring announces it’s arrival with bougainvilleas, it’s also the time to welcome another new year, according to our Assamese and Bengali calendars.
While the fish prices in Kolkata is soaring like it’s temperature, it’s still unable to dim the excitement of “Poila Baisakh”. And far away in my home state Assam, it’s time indulge in the most beloved of our festival “Rongali Bihu” or “Bohag Bihu”
Rongali Bihu has always been very special for me. When I was a small kid, my father used to insist on visiting our ancestral home in Sibsagar during Bihu. My earliest memories of Rongali Bihu is the excitement of going to the village home, and how those couple of days were spent eating the most amazing Bihu preparations and indulging in some “husori”, our beautiful Bihu dance.
Since Bihu is a harvest festival, the first day of the Bihu is dedicated to the cow which is an intrinsic part of the farming culture in Assam. On this day, all the village menfolk gather around the nearest pond with their cows to give them a good bath, and me as a kid from Guwahati used to find it most amusing and fun. Bihu in Guwahati is a more modernised version as there aren’t any cows to give a bath you see. But as it’s our beloved Bihu, Guwahati people too do their best to keep the traditions alive in their own little ways.
The second day of Bihu is for the humans, to wear new clothes and take blessings of our elders. To eat some delicious “jolpan” and adorn our hands with “jetuka” and visit family and friends while more food is served and rolls of laughter stretches on to the night.
Bihu is also the time to wear our finest clothing and also indulge in some new clothes. My mom used to take out her finest mekhela sador’s and put them out in the sun to wear during Bihu. The golden threaded “mugar mekhela sador” is the pride of every Assamese woman. Today, my blog is a dedication to our beautiful mekhela sador and Bihu.
“Bohag mathu eti ritu nohoi’
nohoi bohag eti maah.
Axomiya jaatir ayux rekha
Gono jibonor haah”
In the words of Late Dr Bhupen Hazarika “Bohag is not just another season, neither is it just a month. It’s the lifeline of the Assamese community and the strength of the society.” That I think pretty much sums up how important Bohag Bihu is for the Assamese community.
Coming back to “mekhela sador”, for people who are not familiar with it, it’s a two piece clothing which is worn somewhat like a saree. They are handwoven in different natural fibers. The most renowned being the “muga silk” which is native to the state of Assam and is the only silk which comes in the natural golden colour and cannot be dyed in a different colour. Muga silk is known to outlive the person who wears it and it retains the shine all along. To beat the heat, I am wearing my mom’s very old “muga riha” which is the third element of the mekhela sador and is mostly worn on special occasions underneath the sador but since it is lighter in weight it can also be worn to act as a sador and for the same reasons is worn by Bihu dancers too.
The second type is “paat silk”, which can be dyed in different colours and the feel is somewhat similar to the kanjeevarams and benarasis. The paat silk mekhela sador I am wearing has been handpainted by my mother-in-law and was a part of my wedding trousseau. You can only imagine the effort it must have took. The love I feel when I drape it is immense.
And last but not the least is the cotton mekhela sador which we all love as it helps us beat the heat.
So that’s all for this blog guys. I hope I could help you all understand Bihu and for those already familiar, I hope I could make you a tiny bit nostalgic. After my “handloom blog” which I hope you guys have read by now, many people asked me about why I didn’t include “mekhela sador” and now you know why.
I am off to Guwahati for the first vacation of this year and to celebrate Bihu with my family and friends. So here is me signing off. Bohag Bihur ulog and Poila Boishakher shubheccha. A very happy rongali Bihu and poila boisakh to all of you guys. Until next time.