House cleaning, putting on of clean or new clothes, bathing cattle and presentation of hand – woven towels (Gamosa) are some of the features of the seven-day festivities. In modern times the festival has turned into an occasion for a cultural gathering where persons of all castes and creeds gather and participate.
Bihu dance is one of the major and attractive parts of the Bihu festival. In the Bihu dance the boys and girls wear new costumes. The boys used to wear Churia (Dhooti), Chapkan made of Muga Silk, Tangali (belt) and Phulam Gamocha on the head. The girls use to wear Muga Silk, Mekhela and Chaddar with red coloured blouses. The girls wear ornaments like Gamkharu, Bholbiri, Jonbiri, Jappi (ear rings).
The musical instruments used in Bihu dance are Dhol, Pepa, Gogona, Sutuli, Tal, and Taka.
Assam, nestled amidst nature bounty, is the land of blue rivers and given valleys with its won rich cultural heritage and its natural resources.
The Jhumur dance is one of the traditional folk dances of Assam. We all know that, Assam is mainly famous for their tea gardens. The people residing in an working in the tea gardens of Assam are called “kulis”.
The Jhumur dance is celebrated in the season of Autumn. It secular in concept and a distinct identity. It is a festival of youth and vigour, where old and young people dance together in gay abandon.
The spirited hard working people never miss an opportunity to dance the Jhumur with the beat of Madal (drum).
The female dancer wears a saree, red blouse, bangles and anklets.
Tokari Geet is a popular traditional folk song of Assam. “Tokari” is an instrument, which is played along with the songs. The instruments is made up of wood cut process fixed with reptiles skin (specially Varanus) four strings are fixes for playing performance. The strings have their different names such as:
As the name of the instruments is Tokari, the song sung with the instrument is called Tokari Geet.
This Tokari Geet or Tokari songs have their different subject matter. A few songs are based on mythological subjects, some on spiritual values, some on the knowledge about soul. But as a whole it is based on folk tradition and popularly known as traditional folk songs of am.
THE OJAH DHUL BADAN
Assam, the land of the Geet Brahmaputra, surrounded by the blue hills and valley is a land of rich cultural heritage. Every inhabitant of Assam feels and bears the blowing wind in different seasons.
The distant sound of the drum beating, the sound of which is for more enhanced in the spring with the coming of Bordoishilla, which fills the mind of every Assamese with a sense of ecstasy.
The drum rolls on and on. This drum locally called the “dhol” has been played by the Assamese since time immemorial – based on the type of performance Dhol are two types:
Bihu dhul: Played in group folk dance and songs.
Ojah dhul: Played strictly under certain formulated principles having its own tal. loi……etc.
Dhol, the traditional instruments of Assam, has its magical sounds echoing in the hearts of every Assamese. So charming is the sound of dhol and so strong a bond it has with whole environment, the trees, the birds, the animals of the forest of Assam, that it speaks in its own way of the expression and feeling of many like the sound of rolling thunder, the sound of falling rain and all its forms etc.
There are about twenty four ways by which one plays the Dhol. The best among them is when the person playing the drum imitates a bat hanging upside down in a tree and plays in the Dhol (drum).
Mahapurush Sankardev (1449 -1569 A.D.), the great religious, social and cultural Reformer of Assam of the fifteenth sixteenth century, was a reformer of versatile genius. He gave Assam its auspicious literature, drama and poetry of the highest order and organised the Assamese society divided into entitled under different kingdoms and principalities, into a oaganic while have without the test of times over the centuries the followed.
Bhortal is a big cymbal made of brass and while singing prayers, the people sometimes perform dances with the big cymbal, popularly known as “Bhortal” in their hand. It is a dance in praise of God. This Sri Narahari Burabhakat a saint of Barpeta Satra of Assam.
The Bodos, like other communities, have natured their own distinctive music and dance forms. They have contributed towards upholding the cultural traditions of Assam in large measure. Bardoisikhla, a very special folk art form of the Bodo Community, is one of the finest and most colourful rhythmic dances of the state of Assam. This dance is also closely associated with harvesting and is performed to welcome a good monsoon. The artists dance in a group wearing bright and typical sarees with the accompaniment of traditional musical instruments like Kham, Siphung, Jotha, Charinda and Cymbals. The delicate movements and the melodious music make the dance from extremely charming.
The most widely prevalent folk dance of Assam is the Bihu. The dance, which is linked to a festival of the same name, is performed by people from every strata of society.
There are three types of Bihu festivals, which come at different stages in the cultivation of paddy. Bahag Bihu, the most popular of the three, is associated with the vernal equinox. The most clourful and gay of the Bihu festivals, it takes place around mid-April and can continue over several days. Kati Bihu is associated with the autumn equinox and Magh Bihu with the winter solstice. Bahag Bihu is celebrated at the time of preparing the fields, Kati at the sage when young seedlings are transplanted and Magh when the crop is harvested. The word Bihu can be traced back to the Sanskrit word Visuvan or equinox.
The first phase of Bahag Bihu is dedicated to cattle. It is called Goru Bihu. Cattle is smeared with mustard oil and taken to the nearest pond or river for a ceremonial bath. The people too take a bath in the river. The cattle is then fed salted rice-cake amid festivity including music and dance and worshipped. The second phase Manuh or Manushya Bihu. After a ceremonial bath, people wear new clothes, exchange gifts and visit friends and relatives. During this phase, Husari (or Huchari) parties visit homes and perform Bihu dances in the open. The first part of the dance consists of Husari Kirtans, which are religious songs. One man sets the refrain, which is picked up by the rest. The dance is performed in a circle by young men only.
The other Bihu dances, both young men and women take part. The songs sung comprise couplets and are often love ditties. These are performed under trees and in fields.
Bihu dances are accompanied by a drum, or Dhol, Pati –Tal or small flat cymbals, Gagana or a Jew’s harp (a piece of bamboo with a vibrating reed) and a buffalo – hornpipe. These instruments are played by the men. Both men and women play clappers, called Taka. The dancers form circles, rows and figures of eight (representing the motif of intertwined serpents).
Kati Bihu is more austere in comparison. Earthen lamps are lit and prayers are offered for a good crop.
Magh Bihu again brings much revelery and merry – making. Firewood is piled high in a temple – like structure. There is singing and dancing and to the chanting of prayers, the structure is lit. The pieces of burnt wood are taken to fields as auspicious tokens. The dances, akin to those performed in Bahag Bihu, are more vigorous in nature. Bull – fighting and sports events like javelin – throws and sword games are organised.
The Bihu dances have several variations, depending on which community is performing them.