Located in the farthest reaches of India and filled with ageless forests and intimidating mountain ranges, North East India is one of the most fascinating places in India.
This region is also called “Paradise Unexplored”, and the natural beauty of the region is a sight to behold. The region is a melting pot of cultures and its heritage is not known to many.
Here are four festivals of North East India that you must know about..
Bohag Bihu (mid-April, also called Rongali Bihu), the most popular Bihu celebrates the onset of the Assamese New Year (around April 14–15) and the coming of Spring.
This marks the first day of the Hindu solar calendar and is also observed in Mithila, Bengal, Manipur, Nepal, Orissa, Punjab, Kerala and Tamil Nadu though called by different names.
It’s a time of merriment and feasting and continues, in general, for seven days. The farmers prepare the fields for cultivation of paddy and there is a feeling of joy around.
The women make pitha, larus (traditional food made of rice and coconut) and Jolpan which gives the real essence of the season.
The first day of the Bihu is called Goru Bihu or Cow Bihu, where the cows are washed and worshipped, which falls on the last day of the previous year, usually on April 14.
This is followed by Manuh(human) Bihu on April 15, the New Year Day. This is the day of getting cleaned up, wearing new cloths and celebrating and getting ready for the New Year with fresh vigor.
The third day is Gosai (Gods) Bihu; statues of Gods, worshipped in all households are cleaned and worshipped asking for a smooth new year.
The folk songs associated with the Bohag Bihu are called Bihugeets or Bihu songs. The form of celebration and rites vary among different demographic groups.
Rongali Bihu is also a fertility festival, where the bihu dance with its sensuous movements using the hips, arms, etc., by the young women call out to celebrate their fertility.
In this aspect, the bihu dance can also be called a mating ritual by the young men and women.
The Hornbill Festival began in the year 2000 when the State Government embarked upon an ambitious project to promote the cultural assets of the Nagas with a festival to coincide with the celebration of Nagaland’s Statehood Day on 1st December.
With the idea to promote unity and diversity, Hornbill Festival was aptly named in collective reverence to the bird enshrined in the cultural ethos of the Nagas. Now in its 15th year, it is one of the fastest growing festivals in India.
Nagaland is a cultural mosaic of diverse multi-ethnicity made up by the several tribes that inhabit the state. Each tribal community celebrates its own festivals revolving around the agrarian calendar.
To capture each celebration’s vibrant elements and to give a glimpse of the Nagas culture, the Hornbill Festival has been aptly called the “Festival of Festivals”.
The Hornbill Festival, held every year from the 1st to 10th December, draws all the tribes and sub-tribes of Nagaland to Kisama Heritage Village. The nomenclature of KISAMA is derived from two villages- Kigwema (Ki), Phesama (Sa) and MA, which means village is established and commissioned by State Government of Nagaland.
Situated about 10km from Kohima, plays host to a medley of cultural performances, indigenous games, craft bazaar, music events, fashion, food courts and a series of competition in various activities.
Raas is a Vaishnava Festival. It is very popular among Assamese people. Raas depicts the various aspects of Lord Krishna in a “drama-dance-music” form. It is celebrated in almost all places of the state.
Among other places, Raas Festival celebrations of Nalbari and Majuli Island have special attractions where Vaishnava culture flourished.
In the third month of every Assamese year the festival of Ambubachi is held at Kamakhya Temple. It is believed to be the period of Devi’s menstruation. During these days the main temple remains closed.
Thousands of Sadhus, Sanyasis and devotees from all over India come to visit the main pitha here on the day, Ambubachi ends.
During the festival a big fair is held. Pieces of red cloth, kept in the pitha, symbolizing the clothes worn by the Devi during menstruation are accepted as blessings by the visitors with great devotion.
They believe that such a piece of cloth brings good fortune to the family. It is a tantric belief. Thus Ambubachi assimilating the Tantric cult with the primitive fertility cult is a unique festival.
The especial puja held in the Kamakhya temple is the ‘Kumari Puja’. The girls who are in the age group of six to ten and have not attained puberty are regarded as kumaries.
Worshipped since pre-historic ages, the Austric goddess Kamakhya’s form was that of the Mother Goddess. In the age of the Tantras that form changed into the form of a kumari. The Devi is ‘kamada’- she is benevolent, she fulfils the devotee’s desire.
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