> Creative > Folk music  
Dr Anil saikia.
Date of Publish: 2016-01-17

Evolution of Bihu-Nach

  First stage or phase;-

Bohag  Bihu , a colorful   festival of Assam has been celebrated  in a befitting  way since time immemorial  .It  is observed  for  a period of seven days from last day of the month  of‘Choita’ to  the sixth day of the month  of ‘Bohaga’, usually from 13th  to 19 th April .

Centuries back when people found some leisure time after learning the method of cultivation, they started engaging in creative works like composing songs, stories and practicing dances etc. It has been said that after harvesting rice for the whole year, they also got time for indulging in celebrations during the months  of February ,March and first half of April. They  composed  songs and sang them on the bank of river or  by the side of a forest or in a corn-field near under a tree in the evening. The people, especially the youth learnt to dance to these  songs. This dance- practice that presumably started from the evening until midnight, and sometimes continued throughout the  night, was the first stage of Bohag Bihu.The songs  which were composed  in two lines with a message of   love, melancholy of life and merriment is termed ‘Bihu-Songs’ and dances performed  with the songs are termed as Bihu-Naach( i.e. Bihu- Dance) . In this stage it can be speculated   that the rhythmic pattern of the Dhol ( a drum like instrument made of wood whose  both sides are covered by leather) was in its nascent form. The rural folk enjoyed themselves by singing and dancing by making circles among themselves.  

Second Stage:-    It may be imagined that it took several ages  to acquire the final shape of   Bihu –nach ,bihu-songs and Dhol playing. But when the singer and dancer (male only) felt that it could be performed in front of the public, then on the 14th day of  April ( 1st  day of Bohag ) a group of dancers and singers  formed a  procession on the main street of the village by dancing and singing One can imagine that  some of the well- to-do families invited the team for  a performance in  the courtyard  of the residence. This practice was assumed to be Second Stage or phase of Bihu- nach. It has been said that in the second phase of Bihu-dance it took a finer shape and  came to be performed  in  the courtyard of household.

There  has been  another speculation that the Bihu-dance groups were  invited by the mighty King Rudra singha in 1706 (approx.) to perform in  the courtyard of   Ranghar (A famous monument of  the Ahom Kingdom built by King Rudra Singha ), where competition among  the  invited Bihu-teams  took place .After the public performance, the teams were invited by the King and his officials to perform Bihu in their residence. From that time onwards the tradition of Bihu-dance  performed in a majestic procession  came into practice  and began to be known  as Hussari (A group performance of male-folk by observing certain  methodical grammars and rules).  

Third Stage: Bihu Dance acquired its third phase  when Srimanta Sankaradeva (1449-1569) rejuvenated the Assamese culture in many ways (which one is a separate chapter of study). Srimanta Sankardeva  - who had propagated   Vaishnava religion in Assam, was a social reformer, poet, dramatist, musician ,artist and architect. He had blended  some of his classical  music with various styles of  folk music of Assam As a consequence the people also started  infusing  some   tunes of  Vaishnava music  in Bihu-songs  while reciting them  in the residence of public.

Fourth Stage:- Bihu-dance ,Bihu-songs and the rhythmic pattern of Dhol had acquired its fourth stage when  the British  came to rule  Assam in 1826. Colonial rule had changed  the entire  socio- political, economical ,educational, and cultural scenario of Assam. They brought forth newer concepts to the colonized land and its people, as a consequence of which the language and lexicon  of Bihu-nam ( Bihu –Songs )  changed to a certain extent. The most important colonial outcome  was that  the British introduced the system of public - service-sector in their administration  in Assam, such as in Schools, Colleges, Tea-gardens, Courts, Railways and others due to  which a new section of middle class people emerged in  the society. Bihu-nach  acquired a newer shape  in a refined form in this phase.

Fifth  Stage:-  Mancha- Bihu  (performance of Bihu in Stage) is the fifth stage of Bihu-nach. Bihu was  celebrated on  stage for the first time in 1934 in Golaghat district  and thereafter  in Dergaon (1935) to be followed by Sibsagar (1941).Finally  when it was celebrated in Guwahati (1952)   it drew  the attention of  the entire public of Assam. When the Bihu-nach either in form of Hussory or solo Bihu-nach or Jeng-bihu (Bihu of female folk) began to be performed on the  stage it became so gentrified and sophisticated  that it lost  some of its folk nature and flavor. From the year 1972 onwards  ,terms  like ‘Hussori-Bihu’,‘Bihu-Samragri’ ‘Bihu-Rani’etc started becoming popular in Assam.

Sixth Stage  :-   In the sixth stage – ‘Bihu-Songs’  started to be  recorded and broadcasted and it become a profession for many performers.  Most of the professional singers  recorded  Bihu-Songs ( Bihu-album : Audio in first phase ) in a commercial way  during the time of Bihu-season. In the years  between  1980 to 1999 it turned into  a vibrant  profession for many of the singers and they earned a windfall profit by producing Bihu Cassettes. In this stage, Manch-Bihu emerged as the dominating trend across  the state  spreading even in the remotest  rural area. The popular practice  of organizing  competitions of Hussories, Solo Bihu-nach, Jeng bihu etc became the   vital part of the Manch Bihu.

Seventh Stage:-  In the seventh stage ( 2001-2012) Bihu-nach and Bihu-song  began to be  audio-visualised in a C.D.(Compact disk)  format by developing a story-line or plot in the video form .But now a days it has  become almost  obsolete due to piracy of the products. In the seventh stage of the Bihu the Bihu-Committees  play a crucial role in awarding prize in terms of cash money. Some of the Bihu committees offer cash prize of  Rs. 5 Lakhs for  Hussori Competition which is of course an unprecedented  development.

Eight Stage:- When a traditional dance  turns into a profession of a performer or a group of performers, and when it draws the attention of the people of the Nation or aboard, then one can assume that it has some  systemic appeal and enduring strength to survive the  onslaught of  time.   Bihu-Dance is one of the important traditional dances of Assam which follows  most of  the basic principles of ‘Music’.  Bihu song has its own unique tune , clapping  and  rhythmic patterns which   are played in performance   of  ‘ Bihu-dance’ . It also  has  its enchanting and  enthralling playing style.   Bihu-dance has its own  hand- postures , foot-works and body gestures.

Now from 2015 onwards --  what   Bihu-Dance( either in Group-form or in solo  ) is going to become  remains a topic of research in itself !

Dr. Anil Saikia

( Dr. Anil Saikia has been engaging with folk music and culture for several decades. He is a retired Principal of Moran College.) 



















































































































































































































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