What is Magh Bihu?

timer
1 min read
What is Magh Bihu? Blog Image

What’s in today’s article?

  • Why in news?
  • What is Magh Bihu?
  • News Summary: High Court Directs Assam Government To Halt Unauthorised Buffalo Fights
  • An age-old tradition

Why in news?

  • The Guwahati High Court directed the Assam government to stop any further buffalo fights from taking place in the state of Assam.
  • This decision came in response to PETA India's application for interim relief against traditional Buffalo fights competition which was allowed this year by Assam Government.
  • With this, the Assam government’s attempt to revive traditional practices of buffalo and bulbul (songbird) fighting during Magh Bihu has come up against a legal challenge.

What is Magh Bihu?

  • About
    • Magh Bihu, also known as Bhogali Bihu or Maghor Bihu, is a harvesting festival celebrated in Assam. 
    • The festival has its roots in the agricultural traditions of Assam and falls in the month of Magh, which falls in January. It marks the end of the harvesting season.
  • History
    • Bihu's history dates back to ancient times (3500 BC) when people offered fire sacrifices to improve their harvest. 
    • The Dimasa Kacharis tribe is known to be the festival's first-known ancestors.
  • Rituals
    • Magh Bihu is celebrated over two days. 
    • The first day is known as Uruka or Bihu eve.
    • On this day, Meiji (bonfire) is burnt with people singing Bihu songs, beating Dhol, and celebrating with their loved ones.
  • The main Magh Bihu is observed the next day. 
  • People take a bath early in the morning and play traditional Assamese games like Tekeli Bonga (pot-breaking) and buffalo fighting.
  • Significance
    • Magh Bihu holds agricultural and social significance as it is time to celebrate new yield and renew ties of friendship and brotherhood. 
    • The festival emphasises sharing meals with the community. 
    • The agricultural significance of the festival marks the end of the harvesting season, celebration of new yield, and thanking the ancestors and the Gods for a bountiful harvest.
    • The social significance is that during this time communities come together for celebrations.

News Summary: High Court Directs Assam Government To Halt Unauthorised Buffalo Fights

The Assam government’s attempt to revive traditional practices of buffalo and bulbul (songbird) fighting during Magh Bihu has come up against a legal challenge.

An age-old tradition

  • About
    • These fights are part of the folk culture associated with the Assamese winter harvest festival of Magh Bihu.
    • Buffalo fights are held in different parts of Assam during Magh Bihu, with Ahatguri in Nagaon district being the biggest centre.
    • Bulbul fights, on the other hand, are an attraction at the Hayagriv Madhab Mandir in Hajo, around 30 km from Gauhati.
  • Significance
    • While the buffalo fights are folk culture and tradition, this is tied to religion.
    • The practice is very old and was held with great pomp by the Ahom rulers.
  • Discontinued after SC ruling
    • The fights had been stopped on the heels of the Supreme Court’s 2014 judgement.
    • The judgement forbade the use of bulls as performing animals in jallikattu events and bullock-cart races in Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra or anywhere else in the country.
  • Recent SC judgement and Assam govt’s plan to revive the fight
    • The Supreme Court, in May 2023, overruled its 2014 judgement.
    • It upheld amendments made by Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Karnataka governments to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 to allow jallikattu, kambala and bullock cart racing.
    • Subsequently, in December 2023, the Assam Cabinet gave a go-ahead for the framing of SOPs for the conduct of buffalo and bulbul fights without deliberate torture or cruelty to the animals.
    • With the release of these guidelines, the activities were held again during Magh Bihu this year.
  • PETA’s challenge
    • PETA India has now filed two linked petitions before the Guwahati High Court seeking the prohibition of both activities.

Q1) What is Dimasa Kacharis tribe?

The Dimasa Kacharis are a sub-group of the Dimasa community, which is spread across Assam and Nagaland. The Dimasas are part of the Bodo group, but in Assam's history, they are mostly referred to as Kachari.

Q2) What is People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)?

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is a non-governmental organization (NGO) that works to end animal abuse in society and business. PETA also promotes the consideration of animal interests in general policies, practices, and everyday decision making.


Source: Why PETA wants to ban two age-old Assamese traditions | Hindustan Times | Live Mint | NDTV