The Bihu Culture of Assamese People

Dr. Girish Baruah

Bihu is the most important non-religious festival of the Assamese people. It is observed by all irrespective of class and caste. It has been being observed from time immemorial. It has been adjusting itself at different ages taking into consideration the changed situation of a particular age. So it is still surviving.

Bihu is mainly a culture of the masses. A time was there when this culture was slandered very much by the upper class people. It was looked down upon and regarded as a culture of the common masses indulged in carnal activities. It was deemed as perverted culture. But now this attitude has changed and people of all categories accept it as a universal culture in respect of Assam.

We know that society changes. The socio-economic necessities compel a society to change itself. Our Assamese society has also been changing. So we cannot expect a Bihu of the bygone days to prevail at present. No culture can be preserved in its original form. It is bound to change. So we should not repent that our Bihu has changed largely. It is surviving because it is changing. Had it not changed it would have not survived.

It will be no wonder if a time comes when there will be no Bihu. When a situation will not be there to nurture Bihu it may wither away. We know that many customs of the olden days have died away. We have not been able to keep them nor will we be able to revive them in future. It is the fate of every piece of culture. But we should not be afraid because the Bihu will not die so soon. It will at least remain for a considerable period of time.

We may apprehend that if Bihu will not be there the identity of the Assamese as a nation will be lost, because Bihu is the only element on which Assamese society is differentiated from others. The Assamese as a nation is different from other nations or communities not so much as due to Sankardevite culture as due to Bihu. Because the culture as introduced by Sri Sankardeva is a piece of all-India culture with an Assamese tinge.

But even then we should not fear that the loss of Bihu will amount to the loss of the Assamese nation. It will survive even at the cost of Bihu. We know that the Bengalee as a nation has a very rigid identity even if it has not a festival like Bihu. Of course Durga Puja is the major religious festival among the Bengalees, but yet it is not the very symbol of the Bengalee nation. So even if Durga Puja is lost among the Bengalees, its nation will survive at least for a considerable period of time.

We are here not in favour of doing away with Bihu; but we are hunting a scientific fact. We cannot forego scientific truth. The world does not run on emotion, but on logic, and the logical inevitable can never be avoided.

Let us adore Bihu so long it survives among us and let us utilise it for a rigid bond among the Assamese people. Let us try to live together forgetting petty differences. Let Bihu carry us the message of mutual love an affection. Let it be instrumental to establishing a classless society where all people will be able to live with equal honour and freedom.

The author is a lecturer of DKD College, Dergaon.
April, 1997