Assam is land of fairs and festivals. Most of the festivals celebrated in Assam have their roots in the diverse faith and belief of her inhabitants. They reflect the true spirit, tradition and life style of the people of Assam. The culture of Assam is a rich tapestry woven with multiclour yarns of distinct heritage of all the races that inhabit there. The perfect fusions of heritage of her tribes and sub-tribes have made Assam the home of the most colourful festivals-passionate, compelling and mesmerizing. The major festivals celebrated in Assam are Bihu, Baishagu, Ali-Ai-Ligang, Baikho, Rongkar, Rajini, Gabra Harni Gabra, Bohaggiyo Bishu, Ambubashi Mela and Jonbill Mela and so on. However the people of Assam also celebrate Durga Puja, Diwali Idd, Muharram, Me-Dam-Me-Phi, the birth and death anniversaries of the Vaishnava saints Shrimanta Shankardev and Shri Madhabdev.
The spring season descends to rejuvenate life again. Ali-Ai-ligang, festival of the Mishing tribe, is the most colourful festival held every year on the first Wednesday of the month of ‘Ginmur Polo’ (February–March). The ceremonial sowing of paddy starts on this day. Dance performed by young boys and girls during the festival reflects the youthful passions and reproductive urge. Fish Pork and Dry fish form the menu for the feast arranged for the festival.
Ambubashi – the most important festival of Kamakhya Temple is celebrated during the month of mid–June every year. It is a ritual of austerities celebrated with ‘Tantric’ rites. It is a common belief that the reigning deity, ‘Kamakhya’, ‘The Mother Shakti’ goes through her annual cycle of menstruation during this period. During Ambubashi the doors of the temple remain closed for 4-days. Daily worship and other religious performances are suspended during the period. All agricultural works are also forbidden. The temple doors are opened on the fifth day after the Goddess is bathed and other rituals are performed. Thousands of devotees visit this temple during Ambubashi.
There is another colourful tribe in Assam, known as the Rabhas, Although the Rabha community does not have any major festival of their own, the different groups celebrate their own festival. The Baikho is celebrated during the spring season in order to propitiate the goddess of wealth ‘Baikho’.
Famous for its myriad of colour and merriment, Baishagu is generally celebrated by Boro Kacharis during mid April. It is the most colourful festival of the Boro tribe. The Boros also celebrate it as springtime festival at the advent of New Year. The supreme deity ‘Bathou’ or Lord Shiva is worshipped during these days by offering him chicken rice beer. In the Baishagu dance there is no bar of age or sex to join in their respective groups. During the days of the festival young boys and girls dance together. It is also customary that at the time of closure of the festival one has to offer community prayer at a particular place called ‘Garjasali’.
Bihu is the major Festivals of Assam. Irrespective of caste, creed and religion, the people of Assam celebrate Bihu with much pomp and gaiety. Rongali Bihu, the spring festival is celebrated during mid April. It is a festival of colour, creativity and joy. It marks the beginning of an agricultural season. The mood of spring is celebrated with Bihu dance-one of the unique art forms of India with the accompaniment of lusty wild beats of drum alongwith indigenous instruments like buffalo-horn. Young boys and girls clad in golden Muga silk and dance to the tune of seductive Bihu songs woven around the themes of love and passion. It is a rare experience in other parts of the globe.
The most fascinating spring festival of the Deoris. The Deoris are one of the four divisions of the Chutia tribe, who are believed to have been members of the great Boro race. The term, ‘Bishu’ might have originated from the Chutia word ‘Bishui’ which means extreme merriment. It is like other spring festivals observed during the month of middle April at a stretch for seven days with unrestricted joy and merrymaking. The Bishu is preceded by a ‘Than puja’. There is much socio-religious significance and arrangement is to be made before the Puja. Once in every four years a white buffalo is sacrificed, which is considered as a substitute for the traditional human sacrifice.
This spectacular fair (mela) is held every year during winter at Jonbeel of Jagiroad, a lesser known township near Guwahati which is only 32 km from Guwahati. Jagiroad is on the National highway 37. Few days before the ‘mela’ communities like Tiwa, Karbi, Khasi, Jaiantia of North-East come down from hills with their various product for this mela. On occassion of the ‘mela a big bazar’ is held here where these tribes exchange there product with local people in barter system which is very rare in a civilized modern society. Before the ‘mela’ they perform firework ship or Agni Puja for the well being of mankind. It is to be noted that during this Mela the ‘Govaraja’ or the king of the Tiwa tribe along with his countries visit this
Mela and collect taxes from his subjects. The significance of this Mela is its theme of harmony and brotherhood amongst various tribes and communities. During the ‘Mela ’ these communities perform their traditional dance and music to celebrate the mela in a befitting manner.
Rajini Gabra & Harni Gabra:
The annual festival of the colourful Dimasa tribe. It is exclusively a socio-religious festival, which is generally observed before the starting of new cultivation. Rajini Gabra is celebrated during daytime. The ‘Kunang’ or the village headmen propitiates family deity, by closing the village gate on the worship day. In the same night the function called. ‘Harni Gabra’, the presiding deity, is worshipped for the protection and welfare of the people. It is very interesting to note the during the Rajini Gabra festival if any outsider enters the village inspite of seeing the sign of closed gate the entire function is considered to be spoilt. Then the intruder has to bear the total cost for holding the festival anew.
It is most important festival of the Karbis, an indigenous tribe who live in Karbi Anglong (Assam). It is basically a festival merriment and is performed at the beginning of the New Year, i.e., April. To propitiate different Gods abd Goddesses for the well being of the entire village. The elderly male folk organise Rongker so that people could be free from diseases and natural calamities for the entire year. They pray for a good harvest too. The women are not allowed to enter the worship arena during this festival.
Celebrated with pomp and show during the month of January to February.
Map Of Assam :