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Of mejis and roasted potatoes

Bihu is Assam’s main festival. And what I like best about it is that unlike most festivals, it is non-religious and associated with agriculture – observed to celebrate the harvesting season. We celebrate Bihu, three times during the year. In January, it is called Maagh Bihu, and usually held on the 14th and 15th of the month (1st and 2nd Maagh, the tenth month of Assamese calendar).

My best memories of celebrating Bihu are during my school days. We would come down to Guwahati in those days because it used to be school holidays (and much to cold to stay in Shillong!). The whole family (from my father’s side) would get together in my granny’s place.

It used to be a special time when all of us cousins would get together. It was a time of building mejis (conical structures built out of bamboo that are burnt early in the morning), late nights, kon aloos (small potatoes roasted in the fire, really yummy!), feasts (fish, chicken is a must during this festival) and of course, our various pithas (snacks made out of rice powder).

The real celebrations and fun would start after the adults (read, spoilsports!) slept off. We would stay up by the fire through the night and then burn the meji in the morning. This is now a symbolic tradition in towns, but in villages, the ashes of the meji scattered over the fields is supposed to increase the fertility of the soil (and therefore result in a better harvest).

It’s been ages since I celebrated Bihu. Here in Mumbai, it’s usually a call home to wish the family. Pithas… well I never actually got around to learning how to make them. Besides, I think they only taste good in Assam!

But today, I thought I’d take the chance to wish the few Asomiya bloggers that I know – Suruj, Pallavi and Gandalf – a very happy Maagh Bihu!


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