Get here the summary, questions, answers, textbook solutions, extras, and pdf of the chapter Magh Bihu or Maghar Domahi by Dr Praphulladatta Goswami of the Assam Board (AHSEC / SEBA) Class 12 English supplementary reader (Vistas) textbook. However, the given notes/solutions should only be used for references and should be modified/changed according to needs.
Summary: Festivals are a fundamental component of our culture. Festivals energise us regardless of age. It fosters appreciation and reverence for our culture and strengthens it. Bihu is the essence of Assamese culture and the defining characteristic of the Assamese people. The significance of the three Bihus—Magh Bihu, Bohag Bihu, and Kati Bihu—depends on the season in which they occur.
The springtime celebrations of Bohag Bihu or Rangali Bihu mark the beginning of the Assamese New Year. Spring is a time of happiness and merriment during which Nature bestows vegetation on all surfaces. The Assamese people celebrate the Rangali Bihu for seven days with feasts, music, and dance.
This essay, Magh Bihu or Maghar Domahi, provides a reasonably extensive overview of what Magh Bihu is and its importance. Magh Bihu or Maghar Domahi has a deep cultural and traditional significance for us. Assam is an agricultural state, where agriculture is the primary source of income. This event is celebrated by the Assamese during the harvest season since it signifies the conclusion of the harvest season. It is a holiday of feasting in which people share numerous cuisines.
Uruka signifies the start of Magh Bihu. In the evening of Uruka, people gather to celebrate with a communal feast. The Magh Bihu-significant shanties, Bhelaghars and Mejis, are constructed. These constructions are constructed from green bamboo hay with dried banana leaves.
The following morning, after bathing, people gathered in the agricultural fields where Mejis and Bhelaghars are constructed. The men and children then proceed to the Mejis and Bhelaghars, where food sacrifices are presented to Agni, the god of fire. Respecting the name of God, a community elder set fire to the structures. The elderly administer blessings and brand the foreheads with ash. Pieces of the scattered, half-burned sticks in the fields may be brought home and thrown near fruit-bearing trees. The ashes and partially burned bamboo are believed to boost the productivity of fields and gardens.
After the mejis and Bhelaghars have been burned, there follows a session of hymn singing accompanied by kettle drums and huge cymbals. On the occasion of the Magh Bihu, numerous delicacies, such as chira, pitha, and curd, hold tremendous significance. Mah-karai, – a mixture of roasted rice, black gramme, sesame, and ginger, takeli pitha – a larger version of idli, sunga pitha, sunga saul, etc., are the delicacies worthy of notice on this Bihu. Due to the significance of the delicacies, this Bihu is renowned for ‘feasting.’ On the holiday of Domahi or Samkranti, meat is disallowed for lunch. consisting of chira, curd, etc. The evening meal consists of rice, blackgram curry, fried yarn, etc.
The Kacharis observe Magh Bihu in a unique manner. They tie a string around fruit-bearing trees and feed rice to birds, fish, and animals such as pigs and dogs. On the Domahi holiday, they placed a mark of water mixed with cow dung around their grain store. On the seventh day of Magh Bihu, they observe a tradition known as magan or begging, during which they clean their dishes, sacrifice birds to Bathow, their cherished god, and go carolling. The Kacharis also construct and set fire to Bhelaghars. While lighting fire to the Bhelaghar in a village, the senior cowherd begins singing songs praising their community. Magh Bihu is also notable for its sporting events and competitions, such as wrestling, racing, leaping, buffalo fighting, egg fighting, etc.
Kati is an autumn celebration that is characterised by a sense of solemnity because the grain stores are nearly depleted. People light earthen lanterns in front of the tulsi plant on Bihu. Another part of Kati Bihu is that the ploughmen or farmers travel to their various fields to light the “Akash banti” or sky lamp atop a bamboo pole. The kacharis placed lanterns at the base of the siju cactus, a representation of their supreme deity Bathow, in the garden, the granary, and the field.
Textual questions and answers
1. The Uruka happens to be an important aspect of Magh Bihu. Give an elaborate account of the celebrations associated with Uruka.
Answer: Uruka represents feasting and enjoyment on Magh Bihu eve. The feasting and drinking begins a few days ahead of time. Fish are caught in nearby rivers and ponds, meat is collected, and fuel is purchased and stored. Women prepare pitha, laru, chira, curd, and other foods for the next day on Uruka.
The youth help the men-folk build Meji, which are temple-like structures, and Bhelaghar, which are hut-like structures made of fresh bamboo, dried banana leaves, and hay. Often, the young boys spend the night in the Bhelaghar, feasting on vegetables and other eatables stolen from neighbouring gardens for fun.
On Uruka night, families and communities gather to celebrate, spending the night singing Bihu songs.
2. People do not take the usual rice and curry on the Domahi or Sankranti day for their lunch. What are the different kinds of food items that people have for lunch on this particular day.
Answer: On Sankranti day, rice and curry are not served for lunch; instead, people eat laru, pitha, chira, curd, and other dishes prepared by the women the day before. There are some unique preparations for this occasion. The first is mah-karai, which is a dish made up of roasted rice, black gram, sesame, and ginger pieces that have been smeared with oil and served. Tekeli-pitha is the second preparation. It’s made by steaming salted rice powder over a small kettle’s mouth. The third is sunga-pitha, which is made by stuffing moist rice powder with salt or jaggery into the cavity of green bamboo and roasting it on fire. Upper Assam’s preparation of these items varies slightly. Sunga-saul is made there, consisting of sticky bora rice steamed in a bamboo tube, then cut into pieces and eaten with milk and jaggery. In Upper Assam, fried pithas are also more common.
3. Although the Kacharis, the most numerous tribe of Assam, have similar customs to the Magh Bihu, they differ in certain features. Describe the manner in which the Kacharis celebrate their festival during the time of Assamese Magh Bihu.
Answer: The Kacharis also build the Bhelaghar, which they call bilagur, on the day before Sankranti, but making them and setting fire to them the next day is the exclusive domain of the cowherd boys. The Kachari people tie cords around fruit-bearing trees the next morning after Uruka night. They make sacrifices to birds, fish, and animals such as dogs and pigs. They also make a paste of cow dung and water and use it to mark their granary. On the seventh day of Magh Bihu, they clean all their vessels and make an offering of fowls to their God, Bathou. When they go out singing chants and begging for food, they also observe Magan. The bilagurs are burned before dawn, and the main Kachari cowherd begins a prayer while doing so. He is joined by the others in praying for glory for their village, the averting of disease, a bountiful harvest, and healthy cattle. They also demand punishment for those who abused them, despite the fact that they were not at fault.
4. Describe the different kinds of sports and martial games associated with Magh Bihu. How did young people in earlier times prepare themselves for participating in the martial arts?
Answer: Many sporting events take place during the Magh Bihu festival. Wrestling, racing, jumping, egg fighting, buffalo fighting, and other sports fall into this category. Some forms of martial arts were once included in the festivities. Swordplay and javelin throwing were two popular forms of martial arts because they prepared people to fight any potential attackers. To participate in these martial arts, the young people set up camps on the dry river banks and practised for weeks.
5. Kati bihu, according to the author, cannot be called a festival as such. How is Kati Bihu celebrated in Assam?
Answer: Kati Bihu is held in the autumn and cannot be considered a festival because it has no public significance. It is observed in Assamese homes during autumn by lighting an oil lamp in front of the Tulasi plant and singing a song to it. Farmers plant a small bamboo in the fields and light an earthen lamp at its base. They chant mantras for crop protection while whirling another piece of bamboo. A lamp is sometimes hung from a tall bamboo, which is known as a sky-lamp or the akash banti. The Siju cactus plant represents their God Bathou to the Kacharis, and they place lamps near the plant, in the garden, in the field, and in the granary.
Additional/extra questions and answers/solutions
1. Which of Bohag Bihu and Magh Bihu is more prevalent in each Assam region? What other names do these festivals go by? Other than Bihu, what other term is used in Lower Assam, and what does it mean?
Answer: Bohag Bihu is more popular in Upper Assam, whereas Magh Bihu is more popular in Lower Assam. Magh Bihu is also known as Bhogali Bihu or Bihu of Enjoyment, and Bohag Bihu is also known as Rongali Bihu or Cheering Bihu.
Domahi or Damhi, which means the point where two months meet, is the more common term for Bihu in Lower Assam. As a result, Magh Bihu is also known as Maghar Domahi.
2. Why can’t Uruka be called a one-day event?
Answer: Uruka is not a one-day event because preparation must begin several days in advance. Because it is a feasting and enjoyment festival, the fuel must be gathered in advance, fish from ponds and streams must be obtained, and meat must be arranged for.
25. What is Kati Bihu’s significance?
Answer: This Bihu is observed on the first day of the Assamese month of Kati. This is the time of year when paddy grows in the fields and cultivators labour diligently and excitedly awaits a successful harvest. During this time, the granaries of the laborious cultivators are likewise empty. This is why this Bihu is also known as Kongali Bihu, where “Kongal” means “Poor.”
This Bihu is observed in the evening by lighting lamps or candles, known as Saaki, in various locations. This saaki is illuminated from home to paddy fields. The saaki is lit in front of the Tulsi plant in homes. In Hinduism, the Tulsi plant is not only believed to have medical properties but also to be extremely auspicious. The Tulsi plant is sanitised and planted on a specially constructed soil platform known as “Tulsi Bheti.” A specific sort of lamp known as ‘Akaxh Banti’ is lit up in paddy fields (Sky candle). These lamps are illuminated atop the tips of tall bamboo stalks. The farmers pray for the well-being of their crops. Scientifically speaking, these lamps were used to attract insects from the rice fields, which would then be consumed by their flames. This helps the crops remain healthy and insect-free.
26. Why is the Bihu festival the most popular celebration in Assam?
Answer: Bihu is the largest festival in Assam, one of the most beautiful states in India, noted for its tea gardens, verdant woods, and the mighty Brahmaputra river. It is a celebration to greet the seasons and is essential to the livelihood of a farmer in Assam. Although this festival maintained its authenticity, it also added urban aspects. Bihu offers the Assamese people a distinctive character, and this makes them stand out in the nation’s history. In addition to being a significant part of Assam’s identity, Bihu is also a harvest celebration. It is honoured three times at significant junctures in the agricultural calendar.
27. What are the different Bihus observed throughout the year?
Answer: The first Bihu, also known as the Bohag Bihu or Rongali Bihu, is celebrated for seven days. It commemorates the beginning of spring, and on this day, farmers prepare their fields for agriculture. Assam’s environment is characterised by a pervasive sense of celebration and revelry.
Kati Bihu is the name of the subsequent Bihu, which is a more muted celebration. This Bihu is celebrated largely to seek the blessings of the gods so that no harm will befall the crops as they prepare for harvest.
The final Bihu is referred to as Magh Bihu. Magh Bihu signifies the conclusion of the harvest season. As the granaries are now filled and farmers are no longer required to worry about their harvests, the primary focus of Magh Bihu is on feasting and celebration. Magh Bihu is celebrated with great zeal by all Assamese families residing in different parts of the world and includes a large amount of food and entertainment.
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