fbpx
Sunday, May 9, 2021

Rongali Bihu in Melbourne

The Assamese community gathers to mark its New Year.

Reading Time: 3 minutes 

As COVID slowly loosens its grip on Melburnians, Australian people of Assamese origin, living in and around Melbourne gathered to ring in the Assamese New Year with as much fanfare as the minor COVID restrictions still in place, would allow.

Rongali Bihu or Bohag Bihu is celebrated on 14 April.

This time last year, at the height of the pandemic, it was all about family and quiet contemplation. This year we are cautiously back to the community and to fun, festivities, and feasting.

Rongali Bihu.
Rongali Bihu. (supplied)

Assam is one of the seven picturesque sister states of north-east India. Today, hundreds of people from there call Australia home; they meet regularly to celebrate special occasions, of which Rongali Bihu is one of the biggest.

Rong in Assamese means ‘happiness’ and this joyous festival kicked off on a spectacular note this year with a cross cultural fashion show. It showcased traditional weaves of Assam and Kashmir to highlight the financial setback caused by COVID to artisan-weavers in India. This was followed by a colourful programme featuring song and dance.

Due to cross-cultural marriages and intermingling of various tribes, the community is gloriously diverse and on these special occasions everyone is welcome.

“I have been part of the Bihu celebrations in Melbourne for many years now and I look forward to it,” Dr Gurjit Dhillon told Indian Link. A Punjabi by birth, he has been married to an Assamese, Dr Deepali Choudhury Dhillon, for the past 44 years.

He noted, “It reminds me of Punjab’s Baisakhi which marks harvest time and the arrival of spring, with similar song and dance and of course, food.”

READ ALSO: Assam’s sole woman CM passes away in Australia

For Dr Richie Yumdo, who hails from Arunachal Pradesh, Bihu is not a festival but a feeling. “Celebrations in Melbourne give me an opportunity to relive my childhood days spent in my maternal grandmother’s home in Assam; dancing in the fields with the village folk till our feet bled and returning home to mouthfuls of Pitha, Laru, and Doi-Sira,” she said.

Today, Bihu has made the giant leap from the paddy fields and riverbanks to halls and auditoriums around the world with all its magic intact.

The passion for the Bihu dance though, continues unabated. This time round, Sangeeta Gogoi gave a scintillating performance of the wildly popular folk dance. A mother of two, Sangeeta is the title holder of Bihu Samragyi (Empress) – the highest honour for a Bihu dancer – at Guwahati’s Latasil Bihu Mancha. She conducts online dance classes for Bihu enthusiasts from her Melbourne home.

For Indrani Bora from Geelong, this is an opportunity to bring out the traditional outfit. “Bihu means I get to be decked up in my mekhela sador and I do not miss it for the world.” Of course, it was a sentiment echoed by all the ladies present, draped in beautiful Paat and Muga silk creations, predominantly in red – the colour of love and romance and the enduring emotion that this festival signifies.

The mantle was taken over by the second generation this year, from hosting of the show to performing; it reassured everyone that the community is in safe hands.

Dr Prashanna Gogoi, ethnomusicologist and choreographer of international repute, conducted an online Bihu dance workshop for the enthusiastic guests direct from the Bihutoli of Assam via Zoom link, in a stunning example of technology meeting tradition. He also demonstrated the use of various traditional musical instruments like Dhul (Drum), Mohor Singor Pepa (Buffalo horn pipe), Been, Gogona and Xutuli.

Sundar Sarma, a prominent member of the Assamese community and one of the main organisers of Melbourne’s Rongali Bihu celebration, told Indian Link later, “We are conscious of the fact that Covid is very much a reality in our lives. We took all possible care to keep the community safe while also enabling the celebration of the most important event in the social calendar.”

READ ALSO: Assam youth converts old TV sets to homes for stray dogs


Link up with us!

Indian Link News website: Save our website as a bookmark

Indian Link E-NewsletterSubscribe to our weekly e-newsletter

Indian Link Newspaper: Click here to read our e-paper

Indian Link app: Download our app from Apple’s App Store or Google Play and subscribe to the alerts

Facebookfacebook.com/IndianLinkAustralia

Twitter: @indian_link

Instagram: @indianlink

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/IndianLinkMediaGroup

- Advertisement -
Mridusmita Haloi
Mridusmita Haloi
Mridusmita Haloi is a Melbourne based writer and content developer with a rich experience in community engagement and social work.

Related Articles

2 COMMENTS

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

- Advertisement -

Podcasts

Ep 9: What do young Indians want from love?

0
Growing up in Indian culture, most of us know that love has never been as popular as marriage. Even in the movies, the main...

Ep 8: Indian links in Indigenous Australian poet Ali Cobby Eckermann’s...

0
To celebrate NAIDOC week 2020 (between 8-15 November) I spoke to Yakunytjatjara poet Ali Cobby Eckermann about her time in India where she taught...

Ep 7: In the case of Sushant Singh Rajput

0
  The torrid and high-octane Sushant Singh Rajput case has been fodder for Indian people and press for the last few months. The actor’s tragic...
- Advertisement -

Latest News

Things to remember this Mother’s Day

0
  This year on Mother’s Day, some of us may be able to give mum a hug in person - a gesture we will never...
fundraiser

Celebrity fundraiser aims to raise $1M for COVID relief in India

0
  A fundraiser hosted by Lara Dutta and Shayamal Vallabhjee is hoping to raise $1 million for COVID crisis relief in India. Across two hours, prominent...
may shows

6 Indian shows and movies to watch in May 2021

0
  Lava Ka Dhaava (Netflix) Were you a fan of Takeshi’s Castle? Javed Jaffrey is back with his hilarious commentary on Lava Ka Dhaava, a Hindi...

Between an oven and a hot place: My baking journey

0
  The warm smell of chocolate and vanilla wafted through our home as I sat licking the leftover cake batter. At 8 years old, I...
the disciple

Review: The Disciple (Netflix)

0
  Chaitanya Tamhane's new film The Disciple intricately weaves diverse threads. It talks of the state of Hindustani Classical music and its 'Guru-Shishya parampara'. There is...