Monday, February 15, 2010

Bhelaghar....In A Small Assamese Village

This is the concluding part of my series on Bhogali bihu(a winter harvesting festival) of Assam.On the eve of Sankranti(URUKA) a special temporary makeshift cottage or a small house like structure called Bhelaghar is made .This structure is mainly built by the men folk using Bamboo,hay,wood -pieces .After preparing and enjoying a feast inside the bhelaghar,men spend the night there and in the early hours of the next morning lit the bhelaghar down.Its ashes are then spread to the fields and the trees to bring luck for a better harvesting in future .Usually it is a small hut like structure but for the last two years youths of MISAKHOLAHAAT a village 5-6 kms away from our village have started a trend of making it in a grand way.The picture above was clicked from the area where our car was parked.
Last year they made a bhelaghar nearly 40 ft high consisting five floors and because of its uniqueness instead of burning it down the next morning it was retained for a week as the village saw many visitors from the nearby villages and town.This year encouraged by the enthusiasm of the spectators last year the makers of this bhelaghar added another floor which made it approx 44ft high .And if it was not enough they made another small bhelaghar right behind this and attached both the ghars by a bamboo bridge.On asking the villagers told us that for the vertical post they used Tamul tree(betelnut tree) and for the horizontal post i.e. the floor they used Bamboo.The post were tied together by the Tongal(a rope made with the thin shreds of bamboo) and plastic strings too were used to make the structure stronger.The total expenditure was nearly 5000Rs. and it took them more than two weeks to make it.
All my family members climbed the structure except for me and my son .It was fun as i could hear the kids giggle and laugh a lot.As the people climbed i could see the structure shake.My son was very upset with me for not allowing him to accompany his sister,cousins and dad.See the picture below.
The crying went on for quite sometime until one of our neighbour gifted him this small kid(a baby goat)....and it made me wonder how am i going to take care of this one along with two kids of my own and a Labrador .God heard me at that son heard the mother goat looking for him and that really concerned him,he picked the baby goat and kept it near the mom goat and said must stay back with your mom ,otherwise she is going to cry....well.....

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Meji ....Bhogali Bihu

Magh Bihu is celebrated in the month of mark the end of harvesting season.As the granaries are full,this harvesting festival is observed all over Assam.The word BHOGALI comes from the word Bhog which means eating and enjoying. the day of Uruka i.e. the eve of sankranti ,Bhellaghar and Mejis are made particularly by the menfolk,with bamboo sticks,hay and wood pieces.A community feast is held on the uruka nite inside the Bhellaghar(a makeshift cottage).Next day both the Bhellaghar and Mejis are burnt.As I mentioned in my previous post that I am going to tell you about burning of the Meji on the day of bihu.On the day of Sankranti or Bihu we gather at our fields at very early hrs in the morning.Meji burning is a ritual where we worship fire(Agni).Here you can see  Meji prepared by the people of our village,earlier years it used to be very huge but as most of the youth have left the village for higher education and for jobs...very few people are left behind to help in this.

It was a very cold morning.As soon as we reached near the Meji we kept our offerings on the ground at the base of the meji.Very carefully we lighted earthen lamps(diyas or sakis) .After all the offerings were placed one of the elders of the community did the honor of lighting up the meji.I was standing at a far distance to capture a full view of the happenings at that time but could still feel the heat of the meji.A thick cloud of smoke soon covered the area.
As the fire burned we heard crackling sound of burning and bursting bamboos -the sound is very similar to firecrackers.Kids love the sound and eagerly waited for more to come.While the meji was burning we took the opportunity to greet and invite each other to our home for eating pithas and jolpan(snacks).As we are a guest there we end up accepting many invites ....some invite with a warning attached...hummm,last year you missed our house so don't dare to repeat the mistake !
Once the meji is completely burnt....ladies start distributing all the offerings as prasad to the people present there .
The ashes are collected and put on our foreheads as you can see in this picture.Now we go back to our home and after a heavy breakfast without wasting a single minute we visit all the people who are our relatives(many) and our good neighbours(many ).In other words we spent most of our day eating and having a good time with the family and friends.