Bihu Dance
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Bihu Dance
Bihu dance
Bihu dance.jpg
Youths perform Bihu dance in Assam
OriginAssam, India

The Bihu dance is an indigenous folk dance from the Indian state of Assam related to the Bihu festival and an important part of Assamese culture. Performed in a group, the Bihu dancers are usually young men and women, and the dancing style is characterized by brisk steps, and rapid hand movements. The traditional costume of dancers is colorful and centred round the red colour theme, signifying joy and vigour.


The origins of the dance form is unclear, however, the folk dance tradition had always been very significant in the cultures of Assam's many ethnic groups, such as Deoris, Sonowal Kacharis, Chutias, Moran and Borahis, among others. According to scholars, Bihu dances have their origins in ancient fertility cults. Traditionally, local farming communities performed the dance outdoors, in fields, groves, forests or on the banks of rivers.[1][2]

The earliest depiction of Bihu dances come from 9th century sculptures found in the Tezpur and Darrang districts of Assam. Bihu is mentioned in the inscriptions of 14th century Chutia king Lakshminaryan as well. The first official endorsement is cited to be when Ahom king Rudra Singha invited Bihu dancers to perform at the Ranghar fields around 1694 on the occasion of Rongali Bihu.[3]


The dance begins with the performers, young men and women, slowly walking into the performance space.[4] The men then start playing musical instruments, like drums (particularly the double-headed dhol), horn-pipes and flutes, while the women place their hands above their hips with the palms facing outwards, forming an inverted triangular shape.[5] The women then start to slowly move in tuner with he music by swaying, while bending slightly forward from the waist. Gradually, they open up the shoulders and place their legs slightly apart, adopting the main posture used in the Bihu dance. Meanwhile, the music played by the men picks up in temp and intensity, leading women to thrust forward their breasts and pelvis, alternatively, to the tune.[1][6]

Some variations include men and women forming lines that face one other by holding each other's neck or waist, with more advanced sequences of the dance including men and women pairing up at the center of the performance area and dancing in a manner that imitates copulation.[7]

Cultural and social importance

The Bihu dance takes its name from the Bohag Bihu festival (also called Rangali Bihu), the national festival of Assam., which celebrates the Assamese New Year. The festival takes place during mid-April and the Bihu dance is meant to celebrate and emulate the seasonal spirit, celebrating fertility and passion.[8][9]

Bihu is performed by groups of young men and women and in earlier times it served principally as a courtship dance. The Bihu dance's association with fertility refers to both human fertility, through the erotic nature of the dance, as well as to the fertility of nature, meaning the celebration of spring and the welcoming of the life-giving spring rain. The use of instruments such as drums and horn-pipes is believed to replicate the sound of rain and thunder, as a way of invoking actual precipitation.[1][10]

Historically, there is evidence that the Bihu dance has been looked down upon in Assamese society, especially during colonial times, because of the sexually-charged nature of the performance., which clashed with the Victorian views that were dominant at the time among British colonists.[1] Presently, the Bihu dance continues to play an important role and is a cultural emblem in the modern-day Assamese society, becoming a symbol of the Assamese cultural identity. While prior to independence, it has been chiefly a rural phenomenon, the dance has managed to make to remain relevant in the face of increasing urbanization, with the practice being adopted in the region's urban centers. The first time that the Bihu dance was performed on a stage was in 1962, part of a cultural event that took place in Guwahati.[1]

See also

External links


  1. ^ a b c d e Sharma, Aparna (2013). "From Springtime Erotics to Micro-nationalism: Altering Landscapes and Sentiments of the Assamese Bihu Dance in North-East India". In Blandford, Steve (ed.). Theatre & Performance in Small Nations. Briston, England and Chcago, IL: Intellect Books. pp. 185-197. ISBN 9781841507859.
  2. ^ Barua, Maan (2009-08-01). "Ecological Basis of the Bihu Festival of Assam". Folklore. 120 (2): 213-223. doi:10.1080/00155870902969400. ISSN 0015-587X.
  3. ^ "Scholar throws light on Bihu's origin". The Times of India. 5 May 2011. Retrieved 2019.
  4. ^ Chatterjee, Arpita (2013). "The Therapeutic Value of Indian Classical, Folk and Innovative Dance Forms" (PDF). Rupkatha Journal on Interdisciplinary Studies in Humanities. V (1): 80.
  5. ^ Barthakur, Dilip Ranjan (2003). The Music and Musical Instruments of North Eastern India. New Delhi: Mittal Publications. p. 93. ISBN 9788170998815.
  6. ^ Bhandari, Laveesh; Kale, Sumita (2009). Indian States At A Glance 2008-09: Performance, Facts And Figures - Assam. Delhi, Chennai, Chandigarh: Pearson Education India. p. 27. ISBN 9788131723326.
  7. ^ Desai, Chetana (2019). Sociology of Dance: a Case Study of Kathak Dance in Pune City. Solapur, India: Laxmi Book Publication. p. 55. ISBN 9780359859672.
  8. ^ Sinha, Ajay Kumar; Chakraborty, Gorky; Bhattacharya, Chandana; Datta, P. S. (2004). "Assam". In Agnihotri, V. K.; Ashokvardhan, Chandragupta (eds.). Socio-economic Profile of Rural India. Volume II: North-East India (Assam, Manipur, Tripura, Nagaland). New Delhi: Concept Publishing Company. p. 16. ISBN 9788180691454.
  9. ^ Begum, Samim Sofika; Gogoi, Rajib (July 2007). "Herbal recipe prepared during Bohag or Rongali Bihu in Assam". Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge. 6 (3): 417-422. ISSN 0972-5938.
  10. ^ Bhushan, Chandra (2005). Assam: Its Heritage and Culture. Delhi: Gyan Publishing House. p. 173. ISBN 9788178353524.

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