The Bwisagu or Baisagu: Bodos are celebrating on the eve of new year

Sivasagar, Prangan Duarah: Assam, the land of natural beauty and cultural heritage, has always considered as one of most culturally diverse regions of India. The tribes of Assam consist of almost 32 tribes inhabiting the Assam. They all have their own culture and tribal tradition and along with the Assamese language all speak their own tribal languages. Each tribal community of Assam has their own way of living. Bodo-kacharies, who is considered to be the introducer of rice cultivation, tea plantation, poultry farming, and silkworm rearing in the North Eastern parts of India, appear to be one of the earliest indigenous ethics of Assam. Festivals are an important part of every culture. The Bwisagu is a major festival of Bodo-kachari people.

Photo: bodo people of Assam

The word Bwaisagu is originated from the Bodo word “Baisa” and “Agu” which means year or age and start respectively. Hence, it means the starting period of the year. Through this beautiful and joyous festival, the Bodo people welcome the beautiful days of spring along with their New Year. This festival starts on Sankranti, the day before the first day of the New Year by ‘Gokha-Gokhoi Janai’ or eating bitter and sour tasted wild vegetables. After this ritual, the first day is devoted for the “Makhau” or “Mashau”, which means cattle.

A ceremonial bathing of cattle or “Masou thukhoinai” is arranged on this particular day. Paddy and horns and hooves are smeared with mustard oil are offered to the cattle before taking to the river or tank. The body of the cow is routed with black marking with a mixture prepared from black ashes and mustard oil, using the stem of the Eri tree as the marker. The cows are also garlanded with the garlands made of gourd and brinjals and the old “Pagha” or ropes are replaces by new ropes. Before taking them off the cowshed the owner pays respects to them. The second day of this festival is generally started with worshiping their god and their ancestors. This day is special for “Mansi” which means man. The third, fourth, fifth and sixth day of this festival is devoted to “Saima”, means dog, Oma, means swain, Dao, means fowl and for duck and other birds respectively. The last day of this festival is for receiving relatives and friends. Music and dance make this festival more special and energetic. The sound of “Kham”, “Serjã” and “Sifung” fill the air and create a cheerful and festive mood. Bagarumba is a major attraction of this festival. The girl dressed in colorful traditional dresses namely Dokhna, chadar and jumra perform this beautiful dance which is also known as Butterfly dance.

There is another unique ritual of playing a special tune of “Sifung”, the flute, to destroy the eggs of the snakes. This special tune is known as “Santravali”. The Bodo people believe that the snakes community is the foe of the human beings and all other creatures, and annihilation of snakes is considered an act “me” general welfare. This type of joyous festival is a colorful and vibrant part of the culture of Assam which reflects the strength, unity, and beauty of Assam’s culture and tradition.