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Magh Bihu or Maghar Domahi

Very Short Answer Type Questions: (1 Marks)

1. In which part of Assam does Magh Bihu have a stronger hold?
Ans: Magh Bihu has a stronger hold in Lower Assam.

2. What does the term Domahi mean?
Ans: Domahi means the junction of two months.

3. What is the Bihu eve known as?
Ans: The Bihu eve is known as Uruka.

4. What is mah-karai?
Ans: Mah-karai is a dish made of roasted rice, black gram, sesame and pieces of ginger. It is a special dish made on the occasion of Uruka.

5. What is the most numerous tribe of Assam?
Ans: The Kacharis are the most numerous tribe of Assam.

6. In which season is Kati Bihu generally held?
Ans: Kati Bihu is generally held in Autumn.

7. What is the Tulasi plant symbolic of?
Ans: The Tulasi plant is symbolic of Vrinda, one of the devotees of Krishna.

8. Who is the chief god of the Kacharis?
Ans: Bathou is the chief god of the Kacharis.

Short Answer Type Questions: (2 Marks)

1. How do the womenfolk prepare for the celebration of Uruka?
Ans: On Uruka, the eve of Bihu, which is very important, women folk remain busy with the preparations for the next day with chira, pita, laru, curd etc. They gather fuel and get fish from ponds or streams. They try to procure meat too. The tribal women prepare undistilled rice beer. During winter, it takes four to five days for the beer to mature.

2. What is the importance of the Meji and Bhelaghar built for Magh Bihu?
Ans: Meji and Bhelaghar are the structures built in the fields for Magh Bihu. Mejis are temple-like structures, and Bhelaghars are hut-like structures. They are made with green bamboo, dried banana leaves and hay. The next day, at the crack of dawn, the mejis and bhelaghars are set ablaze. The ashes and half-burnt sticks are scattered in the fields and among fruit trees to increase fertility.

3. Why does the author believe that the fire rituals associated with Magh Bihu have an Indo-European origin?
Ans: The author believes that the fire rituals associated with Magh Bihu have an Indo-European origin as the Europeans who lit Lentern and Midsummer fire too believed that ashes and embers aided fertility. Some also had the custom of tying bands of straw around tree trunks to make them bear more fruits.

4. How can we assume the influence of Vaishnavism in the celebration of Magh Bihu?
Ans: The session of hymn singing to the accompaniment of kettledrums and large cymbals shows the influence of Vaishnavism in the celebration of Magh Bihu. This is soon after the mejis and bhelaghars are set on fire. The holding of hymn singing is a noted feature of the month of Magh.

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5. Briefly describe the custom Magan or begging associated with Kacharis?
Ans: The Kacharis practise the custom of magan or begging during Magh Bihu. On the seventh day of Magh Bihu, they clean the utensils, sacrifice fowls to their god, Bathou and go out for carol singing, collecting eatables.

6. What do the cowherd boys pray for while setting fire to the Bhelaghar?
Ans: While setting fire to the Bhelaghar, the cowherd boys pray for the welfare and wellbeing of their village. They pray that that their village should healthy and free from disease, their paddy fields flourish and they have riches, their cattle be strong and that unjust persons may suffer long.

7. Give a brief account of the various sports and martial arts related to Magh Bihu?
OR: What are the different sports held on the occasion of Magh Bihu or Maghar Domahi ? [2020]
Ans: An interesting feature of Magh Bihu is the conduct of sports like wrestling, racing, jumping, buffalo fighting and egg fighting. In earlier times, it was customary to have martial games like sword play and javelin throw. Young people used to practise earnestly for the events, weeks ahead.

8. How is Kati Bihu celebrated in Assam?
Ans: Kati Bihu is celebrated in Assam in autumn. In the family yard, a light is placed in front of the Tulasi plant. Women and children sing a particular song to the Tulasi plant addressing it as ‘Mother’ and asking where Krishna has gone. Farmers also place earthen lamps in the paddy fields for the protection of the crop.

9. Why does the author consider Kati Bihu as a festival of little significance?
Ans: The author mentions that the festival has no public significance and it is a festival of little significance. The granaries of the farmers usually remain empty during this time, hence it is known as Kongali (poor) Bihu. It lacks the fervour, gaiety and large scale celebrations of Magh Bihu. Hence the author considers Kati Bihu as a festival of little significance.

10. . How is the delicacy ‘Sunga-pitha’ prepared? [2019]
Ans: Magh Bihu is the festival of feasting. People eat a variety of food, one of which is Sunga-pitha – moist rice powder put in a green bamboo tube and roasted in the fire. The ingredient mixed with the powder used to be salt, but now-a-days some people prefer a sweet variety.

11. What is the meaning of ‘Domahi’? What do people usually have for lunch on that day? [2019]
Ans: Domahi means ”Junction of two months”. During Magh Bihu people of Assam make cakes of rice with various names such as Shunga Pitha, Til Pitha etc. and some other sweets of coconut called Laru, and other delicious foods enjoyed on the day of Uruka are pithas, Jalpan, and sira-doi.”

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Long Answer Type Questions: (6 Marks)

1. Give an elaborate account of the celebrations associated with Uruka. [2020]
OR: “Uruka feasting may be a family affair or communal.” Justify the relevance of this above statement with a detailed account of the customs observed during Uruka.
Ans: Uruka is celebrated on the eve of Bihu. Women make preparations for the next day with chira, pita, laru, curd etc. There are works to be done like fuel to be gathered, fish to be caught from ponds or streams and meat to be got. The tribal women prepare undistilled rice beer, which in winter requires four to five days to mature.

Temple, like structures have to be built in the fields. These are made with green bamboo, dried banana leaves and hay. They are temple shaped and called meji. The hut-like structure is called Bhelaghar. Cowherds make use of these bhelaghars at night, warming themselves by a fire and using the vegetables stolen from villagers’ gardens, along with the eatables that are given to them. Uruka feasting may be enjoyed with family or community.

The day after the evening feast, a family member ties thin strips of bamboo, jute or hay around fruit trees at the crack of dawn. After this, they call out to the dogs and offer them rice. Women clean the house and the cooking utensils. Everybody takes a purifying bath and puts on clean clothes. Men and children go to the mejis and bhelaghars to offer eatables to Agni, the fire god.

After this, chanting the name of God, the structures are set on fire, with the flames giving warmth to the people shivering from the cold. Brahmins or elderly persons put ash marks on the forehead of people and bless them. The half-burnt bamboo sticks are scattered in the fields and pieces are also thrown near the fruit trees. It is believed that this increases the fertility of the fields and gardens. After the mejis and bhelaghars are burnt, a hymn singing session is held to the accompaniment of kettle drums and cymbals. Chira, pita and curd are consumed for lunch instead of the usual rice and curry. There are other special preparations also made for the occasion.

2. Give an account of the various food items prepared and eaten during the festival of Magh Bihu.
Ans: Magh Bihu is one of the most important community festivals in Assam. It is the harvest festival celebrated by the Assamese people in the local month of Magh during mid-January. Magh Bihu is also called as Bhogali Bihu as it is celebrated with community feasts after the annual harvest.

Chira, pita and curd are consumed for lunch instead of the usual rice and curry. Mah Karai, a dish made of roasted rice, black grams, sesame and ginger, is specially prepared. When It is chewed smeared with oil. There are other dishes like Tekeli-Pitha, a steamed preparation, made of salted rice powder and Sunga Pitha, made of moist rice powder.

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In Upper Assam, Sunga-Saul is made from sticky bora rice. Fried pithas are preferred in Upper Assam. Meat is not eaten on Domahi or Samkranti. Lunch comprises chira, curd, etc. Dinner includes rice and curry of black gram, yam etc. The next day at noon soaked leftover rice and leftover dal are eaten. This practice may be a reminder of the tribal habit of drinking rice beer.

3. Although the Kacharis, the most numerous tribe of Assam, have similar customs like the Magh Bihu, they differ in certain aspects.
OR: Describe the manner in which the Kacharis celebrate their festival during the time of Magh Bihu.

Ans: Kacharis, the major tribe in Assam have similar customs. They tie cords around fruit trees and offer rice to birds, fish, dogs and pigs. On Domahi, they put a mark of cow dung mixed with water around their granary. On the seventh day of Magh Bihu, they clean utensils, sacrifice fowls, go out carol singing collecting eatables. This is called Magan or begging. Kacharis consider the construction of Bhelaghars and setting fire to them the special prerogative of cowherds.

The leading cowherd while setting fire to the structure prays that their village stay disease-free, their fields flourish, their cattle be strong and, that those persons who had beaten them even though the cattle in their charge had eaten up the persons’ paddy may suffer long and much. An interesting feature of this Bihu is the conduct of sports like wrestling, racing, jumping, buffalo fighting and egg fighting. In earlier times, it was customary to have martial games like sword play and javelin throw. Young people used to practise these weeks ahead.

4. Food is an integral aspect of the celebration of Magh Bihu. Describe the importance of food in relation to the festivity of Magh Bihu.
Ans: Food is an integral aspect of the celebration of Magh Bihu. It is a festival of eating and feasting where a variety of delicious foods are prepared and relished. The women spend a long time preparing for the festive meal and procuring the required ingredients. Chira, pita and curd are consumed for lunch instead of the usual rice and curry. Mah Karai, a dish made of roasted rice, black grams, sesame and ginger is specially prepared.

When It is offered for chewing it is smeared with oil. There are other dishes like Tekeli-Pitha, a steamed preparation, made of salted rice powder and Sunga Pitha, made of moist rice powder. In Upper Assam, Sunga-Saul, is made from sticky bora rice. Fried pithas are preferred in Upper Assam. Meat is not eaten on Domahi or Samkranti. Lunch comprises chira, curd, etc. Dinner includes rice and curry of black gram, yam etc. The next day at noon soaked leftover rice and left over dal are eaten. This practice may be a reminder of the tribal habit of drinking rice beer.

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