Nature is the most amazing thing among us. It has it’s own laws according to which it works and awes us. When the mankind was still under the wrap of ignorance, it thought the forces of nature as some divine things which invoked fear amidst their minds. Men feared thunderstorm and it is the sole reason why the prime God of every ancient religion/belief was the holder of the thunderbolt. Be it Indra, Zeus or Jupiter, every prime God used thunderbolt in our mythology. Another such a natural force is the sun. The sun is being worshiped since time immemorial. In Hindu religion, it is known as Suryadev and regarded highly. The period when the sun is situated towards northern hemisphere is known as Uttarayan in Hinduism and regarded holy. Today, the Sankranti of Poush and Magh, marks shifting of the sun towards north. This day is celebrated as a tribute to Sun God or Makar Sankranti. In my native, today is also the harvest festival where we celebrate our harvest and thank the almighty for the abundance.
Assamese has three main festivals. Bohag Bihu or Rongali Bihu, Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu, and Kati Bihu or Kongali Bihu. These festivals are related to our agricultural practices. During Bohag Bihu, we get ready for the cultivation season. The almost ripe harvest is worshiped by lighting earthen lamps during Kongali Bihu. The harvest is celebrated during Magh Bihu and this is actually the festival of food. The theme, the purpose is food and we cook and share our meal and mead with everyone.
Magh Bihu means to express your love and respect through food. It is the season of rice rolls called pitha, different snacks prepared from rice and other pulses. It is the season of lots fishes and meat..cooked in various greens and flavors. It is the season of various grams and pulses which are cooked in different ways.
The eve of Magh Bihu is called Uruka. Generally elaborate community feasts are organized on Uruka. Those feasts are full of various torkari, bhaji, fish curry, mutton, chicken, duck curry etc. At my birth place, Uruka has another speciality called gatar aloo bhaja. In every locality, youths organize a community bonfire. By its side a huge amount of potato is fried. The money to buy the potatoes are contributed by everyone. At night every one of the hati or community comes out and enjoys this potatoes fry/ Aloo Bhaja. Occasionally if budget permits two or three pieces of bread is supplied with the potatoes fry. The word gata comes from the bonfire.
This year, I got the chance to spend Magh Bihu at Dhemaji with my in-laws. We have to live far away from our mother in law and whenever we get a chance to spend time with her, we come. My mom in law is a star in her own way. She still manages her kitchen and our agricultural fields single-handedly. Everything in her kitchen comes from our own fields. I think the things which she doesn’t cultivate are salt, cardamom, and cloves. So, you can understand how organic her kitchen is! She cooked some awesome meals for us this Magh Bihu and we can’t be enough thankful to her.
One of the main attraction of Magh Bihu is Meji. Meji is made of wood, hay, and bamboo. It was made on the eve of Makar Sankranti and burn at the early hours of Makar Sankranti. The Meji burning signifies the upcoming of warmer days.
Dhemaji follows some unique rituals in terms of Meji burning. Sweet potatoes are roasted in Meji fire and eaten as snacks. This ritual is very different from my native place where we eat mah korai near Meji.
Here are wishing happy days ahead! Let’s cook and eat some fabulous meals!