Noren Hazarika sings his heart out standing in the bright green paddy, days before it will turn golden. The 70-year-old is accompanied by Jiten Hazarika, 82, on the dhul and Robin Hazarika, 60, on the taal . The three are marginal farmers in Balijan village of Titabar subdivision. They were once expert Bihuwas (Bihu artists) in their youth.

“You can continue speaking, but the tales of rongali [spring festival] Bihu are endless!”

Watch a song on rongali Bihu: Dikhour kopi loga dolong

As the harvest season (November-December) approaches and the paddy turns to gold, local granaries will once again be abundant with bora , joha and aijung (varieties of local rice). The immense sense of fulfilment of the Chutia community with the harvest is heard in the Bihu naam (songs), passed on by generations here in Jorhat district of Assam. The Chutia are an indigenous tribe, largely agrarian and they reside mainly in upper Assam.

The Assamese term thuk which means a bunch of areca, coconut and banana palms, is used to describe abundance. The phrases in the songs, ‘ moromor thuk ’ and ‘ morom ’ mean love – an outcrop of love. For the agrarian community, this abundance of love is also very valuable, and the musicians voices rise above the fields.

“Forgive me if my singing falters”

They are keen that younger people also pick up this musical tradition and it does not die.

“O xunmoina,

The sun is all set to continue its journey…”

Watch the song O! Xunmoina (youthful maiden)

Watch Joubondoi, a Bihu song on the paddy harvest

Himanshu Chutia Saikia

Himanshu Chutia Saikia is an independent documentary filmmaker, music producer, photographer and student activist based in Jorhat, Assam. He is a 2021 PARI Fellow.

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