People across Assam are celebrating Kati Bihu today and will light clay lamps in front of Tulsi trees and paddy fields praying for a good harvest and hoping that their granaries do not go empty.
Every year, on the first day of the month of Kati in the Assamese calendar, Kati Bihu is celebrated. This festival is usually held in the middle of October and this year it is celebrated today – October 18th.
Kati Bihu marks the new beginning of the harvest season in Assam and also the time of transplanting of rice saplings. It is also known as Kongali Bihu.
There is little joy among observers as the holidays are all about the month’s harsh conditions. Although it is one of the greatest sights on earth, the spirit of the holiday is not happy. Instead, the festival reflects the past year. October is the sowing season in Assam. Newly sprouting fields and empty warehouses symbolize ‘Kangal’ – which translates to ‘broken.
To celebrate the festival, people light a lamp outside the house. Tulsi tree is worshiped when people pray to Tulsi Mata for good harvest. Goddess Lakshmi is also prayed to, and welcomed into the home.
Celebrations and traditions vary from region to region and different tribes but this is one of the three major festivals of the Assamese people – the other two being Bhogali Bihu and Rongali Bihu.
Goddess Laxmi, who is worshiped as the dispenser of wealth to mortal souls, is worshiped and welcomed in homes on the day.
Outside their houses, people light clay lamps under the Tulsi tree. The tradition of burning lamps dates back to ancient festivals when lanterns in paddy fields attracted insects and served as natural repellants. To guide the ancestral home, traditional lamps, ‘saki,’ are placed on bamboo sticks.
Education is offered to each family, followed by the lighting of many clay lanterns in the courtyards, gardens, and grasslands, as well as prayers for a good harvest.
These lamps, which are paired with round bamboo sticks while reciting rowa khowa songs, are thought to ward off insects and the evil eye of the crops, resulting in rich harvests.
Kati Bihu is celebrated wholeheartedly across the region. It is one of the few festivals unique to India that transcends religion, social status, and caste, as people from all walks of life come together and observe respect for their status.
The day is the best respect for the laws of nature. From nutritious food to healing sunlight, nature provides for us all. The harvest cycle is linked to the cycles of the seasons and in Kati Bihu, we respect the autumn that allows us to create the fruits. So that, come spring, we can bring forth the fruit.