Magh/Bhogali Bihu ushers in the period of greatest enjoyment and marks the arrival of spring
The Bihu are the national cultural festival of Assam. Bihu is primarily a collection of three different festivals. Magh/Bhogali Bihu – takes place in the month of January marking the end of the harvest season. Rangali/Bohag Bihu – takes place in the month of April marking the New Year. Kangali/Kati Bihu – takes place in the month of October marking the harvest season. Each Bihu coincides with a distinctive phase in the farming calendar. Bihu celebration is complete with melodious folk Bihu Geet (songs) and their traditional dance. The tune of traditional musical instruments including Toka Xutuli, Baanhi, Dhul and Gogona. People during this time, get in their best traditional attire and perform the Bihu Naach.
Magh/Bhogali Bihu ushers in the period of greatest enjoyment and marks the arrival of spring. It is a two-day festival usually celebrated between, January 13 and 16. This year it falls on January 15 and 16.
A tent is built at the crop fields or at the courtyard of the house. On the first day, family and friends gather at the tent, raise a bonfire and feast together. The delicacies such as – Sunga Saul (stuffed rice in bamboo), Sunga Manxo (stuffed meat in bamboo) and Labra (mix vegetable) are prepared around the bonfire with merriment and folk music. During the day, men gather together to build a makeshift hut known as Bhela Ghar or Meji out of bamboo, wood, banana leaves or thatch depending on their location.
At the dawn of the second day, the Bhela Ghar or Meji is lit and everybody prays by sprinkling sesame seeds. This is the most awaited part of the festival. After this ceremony, various food such as pithas – til pitha, narikol pitha, rice cakes, narikol laadoo, tilor ladoo, poka mithoi, kesa mithoi, nimkee, khurma, ghila pitha are enjoyed by everybody together till the Meji turns into ashes.
Here is a simple recipe for Til Pitha that you may try at home.
A combination of soft chewy outer shell and the sweet sticky sesame filling.
- 2 kgs of sticky rice
- ½ kg black sesame seed
- 1 kg jaggery
Step 1 – Rice for outer shell
- Wash and soak the rice for an hour. Strain the rice and spread it in a paper and let it dry partially.
- Grind the rice into a fine powder and sieve it.
- Press the rice powder in a container to make it airtight and cover it with a damp cloth.
Step 2 – The filling
- Wash and strain black sesame seeds and let it dry. Roast the sesame seeds in a pan and coarse grind the sesame seeds.
- Melt jaggery in a pan and add the grounded sesame seeds.
Step 3 – Making of the Pitha
- Heat a pan/Tawa on a low flame – (an effective way is to hold the palm of your hand 6 inches above the pan. If your palm can feel the warmth without having to remove it immediately, your pan is ready for pitha)
- Scoop out some of the prepared rice flour on the pan and press it gently with your fingers.
- Add some filling – just enough. Roll up the pithas to your desired shape and gently push it to the edge of the pan. Let it finish cooking while you continue making the next one.
Enjoy it with some hot tea or just as is.