Students perform traditional Bodo dance ahead of 'Bhogali' Bihu festival, in Tezpur, Jan.12, 2021. (Representational)(PTI)
Students perform traditional Bodo dance ahead of 'Bhogali' Bihu festival, in Tezpur, Jan.12, 2021. (Representational)(PTI)

Magh Bihu 2021: Of Pithas and Meji, festive feels at home

Magh Bihu celebrations will be different this year with Assamese communities in Delhi-NCR sticking to smaller gatherings and relishing traditional feast at home.
PUBLISHED ON JAN 14, 2021 06:00 PM IST

Mouth-watering dishes as part of the authentic feast, old videos of traditional Bihu dance, and a gathering of only the close knit will mark this year’s celebrations of the harvest festival, Magh Bihu, for most Assamese in Delhi-NCR. The pandemic might have turned the bonhomie intimate, but the spirit of the festival stays intact since plans to prepare delicacies at home is full on!

Pithas to brace the pandemic

“Magh Bihu is a time when we all come together to celebrate the harvest. For me, the whole idea of the festival is to eat,” says Shaaistah Borah, a 14-year-old student from Gurugram. He shares that the good old celebrations at large scale community gatherings will be missed. “It won’t be the same this year without the party and traditional games and music, but it would certainly be something memorable with my family. This time we’ll have our own little celebration at home. Our breakfast will start with doi-sira-gur (curd-rice flakes-jaggery) and we’ll cook the same traditional dishes as earlier, such as narikol pitha (coconut rice cake) and laru (coconut laddu).”

For Ritvik Saikia, another Gurugram resident, the Magh Bihu celebrations will be sans usual cheerfulness. He recalls, “We all used to sit around a bonfire in the chilly Delhi evening... Although the gathering will be small this year, we’ll still make the most of it and spend time with our family, savour some delectable dishes made out of mutton, pork and fish, and of course the delicious pithas!”

Sourced from Assam, savoured in Delhi

The Assam Association Delhi has put on hold the annual event that is organised to celebrate Magh Bihu, due to restrictions imposed during Covid-19. Dibyojit Dutta, general secretary of the association, says, “We were hoping that the government provides some relaxations so that we could arrange the annual event, but that’s not happening for now as it’s important to follow Covid-19 guidelines for the health of everyone. I’ve recently come back from Assam, and have brought lots of foods that I’ll be enjoying with my north east friends here in the Capital!”

Meji lighting: To bid goodbye to cold

“This year we will celebrate Uruka with my family. On the day of Makar Sankranti, we welcome Sun into the northern hemisphere,” says Jayantimala Devi, a retired government official,adding, “In the morning we will light the traditional Meji (a structure made of wood and tree leaves) in the society ground to prayer, and symbolically offer the produce from the harvest to the fire god, Agni, to bid farewell to the biting cold.”

But the Meji will also be created at a smaller scale this year. Hironlal Dutta, a retired government employee, says Magh Bihu is going to be a “tamed affair” and “instead of big Mezi bonfire, this time we’ll have a mini Mezi, for which we have already procured a small angethi, online.”

Dutta too feels sad that the huge social gathering and large scale community feast will be missed this time around. “The lovely occasion will be celebrated within the four walls of our homes. I live in a group housing society where majority of the residents are Assamese, and we used to celebrate both Magh Bihu and Bohag Bihu in a grand manner. But this time such big social gatherings are prohibited. My family will of course have a small Bhoj on Uruka night. Our Bihu motto this time is: Enjoy from home!”

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