8 December, 2019
The article was originally published in the December edition of The Plus.
A frenzy sets forth when the women move in snake-like movements as they slither enacting their enchantment to the pepa. Their foreheads are dotted with big vermillion dots, their hair pulled back to a tight bun. White flowers adorn their hair with a purple orchid peeping out. The chador is wrapped tightly, sensuously around the dancers’ bodies. They move their hands, shoulders, and hips to the beats of the dhol. The rhythm crescendoes and dips in various ways and each time the beat changes, the movement changes. Men and women interchange flirtatious exchanges, teasing each other. They share alternate stanzas and the verses of the lead singer are repeated by the group. Sometimes, other instruments and props may be used to add to the folk dance. The characteristic ghee and red coloured muga silk outfits lend Bihu a unique place in its aesthetic appeal.
Energetic and extremely catchy, Bihu needs no introduction. Mainly performed by both men and women during the Bihu festival, the dance form is about brisk, quick movements and synchronizing them with subtle hip movements. The origin of this dance form is hardly known but as per the legends, its first official endorsement was cited during the rule of the Ahom king Rudra Singha. Rudra Singha invited Bihu dancers to perform at the Ranghar fields around 1694 on Rongali Bihu. Since inception, Bihu has always been the one-of-its-kind and is easily recognizable by the costumes and jewelry of the dancers. The male performers are seen dressed in dhotis and gamocha. Women are dressed in Chador and Mekhela. Any Bihu performance is incomplete without live music. Musicians performing instruments like dhol, pepa, taal, toka, xutuli, gogona, and baanhi come together to form just the perfect beats for dancing. Not even one musical instrument can be ruled out of the list as they all play a pivotal role in producing the traditional tunes for the Bihu performance. One can expect a lot of vibrancy when it comes to the Bihu dance. The dance brings people together and is usually performed in the open so that everyone can chime in whenever the pick the beat!