Dance forms in India know no boundaries of caste and creed as they depict the oneness of the nation. They may have originated in different states of the country but all of them symbolize the joy and liveliness of a certain event. Bihu is a popular folk dance associated with the state of Assam in India and it is performed generally during the Bihu festival. There are primarily three Bihu festivals that are popular in Assam, namely, Rongali Bihu, Kongali Bihu and Bhogali Bihu.
The most important and colourful of the three Bihu festivals is the Spring festival “Bohag Bihu” or Rongali Bihu which is celebrated in the middle of April. Songs sung in Bihu are woven around themes of love and often carry erotic overtones.
The exact details regarding the origin of Bihu dance are unknown. But as per folklore and historic records, the first ever Bihu dance was performed in 1694 when Ahom King Rudra Singha invited dancers at Ranghar fields on the auspicious occasion of Rongali Bihu. Till date, Rongali Bihu is merriest of all Bihu seasons as it marks the beginning of the happy spring season. The term Bihu itself marks the onset of the Assamese New Year. The festival is celebrated in mid April when men and women of all creeds take part in the Bihu celebration by performing the Bihu Dance. It is the most eagerly awaited festival in the Assamese culture.
Cultural, energetic and extremely fun, Bihu’s dance style is one of a kind. Bihu dances performed by young boys and girls are characterised by brisk stepping, flinging and flipping of hands and swaying of hips representing youthful passion and ‘Joie-de-vivre’. The energetic dance steps and quick hand movements define the Bihu dance of Assam.
A lot of vibrancy can be seen in the dance attire of Bihu, that depicts the genuine spirit of this dance form. The male performers of Bihu dress up in dhotis and gamochas in bright colours with beautiful embroidery in different styles and patterns. The women on the other hand, don traditional Assamese attire for the performance. The common fabrics used for making the attire are pat silk, cotton and muga silk. Women team up their outfits with heavy jewellery and also decorate their braids with pretty flowers that perfectly match the color of the attire.
Music plays a vital role in every folk dance and the same is the case with Bihu. The instruments used during a Bihu performance are the dhol, pepa, taal, toka, xutli, gogona and baanhi. Every instrument plays an important role and can’t be ruled out as they all are pivotal in producing the traditional tunes for the dance. A Bihu performance is extremely eye catching and worth cherishing as a major art form as it showcases the happy culture and heritage of Assam.
Bihu dance isn’t just well known in Assam and India but across the globe as well. One of the major factors aiding its popularity is its authenticity. The Bihu dance still welcomes the spring season with the same enthusiasm and energy since centuries.
Bihu was performed by a professional dance group at the 2012 London Olympics. Ranjit Gogoi’s professional team of Bihu dancers have performed this traditional dance overseas on many other occasions as well and they are quite popular.
Bihu is a word that carries thousands of emotions for the people of Assam. It’s not just a folk dance for them, it is a form of art that binds the state in love and harmony.