Various Instruments Used In Rongali Bihu
“Rongali Bihu” or “Bohag Bihu” is the mostly celebrated festival in the north eastern state Assam among the three different Bihu in Assam. It is also called as Haat Bihu. It marks the beginning of the Assamese New Year. It usually falls in the middle of the month April, historically signifying the time of harvest. It unites the population of Assam regardless of their religions or backgrounds and promotes the celebration of diversity.
The Rongali Bihu is known as the Festival of Dance, Song and Joy. Bihu is a popular folk dance associated with the state of Assam in India and it is performed generally during the Rongali Bihu festival. The exact details regarding the birth of Bihu dance is not known although as per the records the first ever Bihu dance was performed when Ahom King Rudra Singha invited the performers to perform Bihu in the year 1694 at Ranghar fields on the merry occasion of Rongali Bihu.
The Folk Dance Bihu has an unique style. The energetic dance steps and quick hand movements define the Bihu dance of Assam. It is usually performed by the young males and females to show their joy and merriment on the arrival of spring season. The Bihu dance is incomplete without its traditional costume and instruments used in the Bihu Song.
The male dancers wear a Dhoti, which is usually made of cotton. The dhoti is worn in traditional drapes to cover the lower portion of the body. The Gamocha is used as a head band or sometimes tied in the waist to give a more vibrant and colourful look to the attire.
The female who perform Bihu usually wore traditional Assamese attire for the performance. They are dressed in Chador and Mekhela or sometimes Riha-Mekhela. The women wears a Blouse beneath the chador and the common fabrics used for making the attire are pat silk, cotton and muga silk. Women team up their outfits with heavy jewelry and they also decorate their braids with Copau flowers that perfectly match the color of the attire worn by them. The people are keep on wearing a beautiful and unique style of ornaments made of gold and silver and varieties of jewels. The jewellery are simple and decorated with Ruby or Mina. The traditional ones worn by men are called Biri, Magardana, Matamoni, Kundal and Lokaparo whereas the ones worn by the women are Keru, Karphul, Kharu, Aargathi, Nalak, Keyur and Nupur.
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Various Instruments Used In Rongali Bihu
Music is a vital part of every folk dance and the same is the case with Bihu. There are many instruments that are utilized during a Bihu performance. Various instruments used in Rongali Bihu are Dhol, Pepa, Taal, Toka, Xutuli, Gogona and Baanhi. Not even one musical instrument can be ruled out of the list as they all play a pivotal role in producing the traditional tunes for the Bihu performance.
Dhol: Considered to be the most important Musical instrument between Various instruments used in Rongali Bihu and Assamese Folk culture, Dhol is a very crucial part of any festival of almost all tribes of Assam. Assamese Bihu and Husari are incomplete without Dhol . The Dhol playing always takes the lead in Bihu and Husari. Dhol is a two-sided instrument that is played either with hands or bamboo sticks. The dhol traditionally is a wooden barrel with both the open ends covered with animal skin. The pitch of the dhol depends on how tightly the skin is fastened on both the end of the instrument. This instrument is used for maintaining the rhythm of the festival.
Pepa: Pepa is one of the most important and delightful Musical instruments of Assamese Bihu. Pepa is generally played by a young Bihuwas (A male Bihu artist) . When the Pepuwa (the Pepa player) plays, the rest accompany him by clapping hands and playing the Toka. The Dhol is played with less intensity , so that the Pepuwa get the most importance.
Taal: Taal is a percussion instrument used in a pair, is made of bell metal. Taal of different sizes and shape are used in almost all forms of folk music of the region. The tribes of Assam also used different varieties of Taal in their indigenous folk music. These varieties of Taal are known as “Jotha” among the Bodos, “Sengso” among the Karbis, “Lupi” among the Missings etc.
Toka: The primary beat of Bihu music was kept by clapping hands, which finally led to development of instruments like toka. Toka is very popular and easily available musical instrument used in Assamese folk Music. The Bodo tribe of Assam called this “Thorka“. There are three types of Toka’s used in Assamese Folk music – and each type is slightly different in construction. The different types of Tokas are : Pati Toka or Haat Toka, Bor Toka or Maati Toka and Jeng Toka or Dhutong.
Xutuli: Xutuli is the instrument which looks like the half moon. These types of instruments tries to imitate the sound of animals and birds and produce the sound of a flute. In the Assamese folk culture, people believe that the sound of Xutuli invites rain. In Bohag Bihu , Xutuli has importance of its own. Initially, the Ggorokhiya lora used Xutuli as a toy, because of ease of construction . Xutuli is played by both boy and girls in Bihu , but most importantly Xutuli is an indispensable part of Jeng Bihu and Bihuwati dances, and predominantly played by girls. Now a days every Bihuwati is desired be an accomplished Xutuli player.
Gogona: Gagana is an instrument made from bamboo and is very delicate in nature. Given its delicate nature it is usually played by women using tier hands and teeth’s. The instrument has a very shrill sound that makes the festival appear very colourful, lively and gorgeous.
Baahi: Baahi is primarily an instrument of Vaisnavite culture of Assam. It is extensively used in different forms of Assamese folk and is one of the principal instruments of Bihu. The Baahi is also known as Muruli, Benu, Baxee etc. in different parts of Assam. Almost all the tribes of Assam uses Baahi in their folk music.
Assam’s beauty and its culture and folk dance Bihu like the rest of the Seven Sisters is unique but neglected. We tend to forget that there is a little paradise in our own country waiting to be explored. Assam with its ecstatic frenzy has always enraptured its visitors and never left them disappointed.
Assamese Rongali Bihu Song
video courtesy : Times Music East
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