Kati Bihu is celebrated on the first day of the ‘Kati’ month in the Assamese calendar — usually falling somewhere in mid-October. This year, it is observed on October 18. The festival marks the relocation of the rice crop and the beginning of the fresh harvest season. Kati Bihu is an observation of service, penance, and the hope for a better future. The festival is celebrated across the state of Assam — although all Assamese tribes have their own rituals and interpretations of the day. Lamps are lit outside the homes, and a pathway of bamboos is constructed as a trail for the ancestors.
History of Kati Bihu
Kati Bihu, also known as Kongali Bihu, is a unique festival observed in India’s North-Eastern state of Assam. It usually falls in the middle of October and is celebrated with a somber flavor. There is less merriment amongst the observing folks — as the festival is all about the constraining conditions of the month. Despite being one of the grandest observations of the land, the spirit of the holiday is not joyous. Rather, the festival reflects on the year bygone. The month of October is the sowing season in Assam. The freshly sprouting paddy fields and the empty granaries are symbolic of the ‘Kangal’ — which translates to ‘broke.’
Kati Bihu is one of the three most significant festivals of the Assamese people — including Bhogali Bihu and Rongali Bihu. Outside their homes, people light clay lamps, and the holy basil plant is decked with garlands and lights. The tradition of burning the lamps dates back to ancient celebrations when the lanterns on the paddy field attracted insects and served as a natural insecticide. To guide the ancestor’s home, traditional lamps, ‘saaki,’ are placed on the tops of baboon sticks.
Kati Bihu is celebrated with great sincerity by the entire state. It is one of the few unique festivals of India which surpasses religion, social status, and caste, as people from all walks of life come together and observe the solemnity of their conditions.
Kati Bihu timeline
Tai prince, Sukhapaa establishes the Ahom kingdom in the Brahmaputra Valley of India.
The Ahom Kingdom’s name changes from Mong Dun Shun Kham to Assamese — later Assam.
The Vaishnava Movement — led by Srimanta Sankardeva — builds a united culture for the state and lays the foundation for the official Assamese language.
The Government of Assam declares a state-wide public holiday on Kati Bihu.
Kati Bihu FAQs
Why Kati Bihu is called Kangali Bihu?
The third Bihu festival, the Kati Bihu is also called the Kangali Bihu — from ‘kangali,’ meaning ‘poor’ —because by this time of year the house of an ordinary family is without food grains, as the stock is usually consumed before the next harvest.
How do you wish Bihu in Assamese?
Happy Bihu! With this Assam festival, you will be starting a new year and a new adventure in life. Greetings, Bihu! May God bless success and fulfillment to everyone during this Bihu festival!
Why is it important to practice penance in Kati Bihu?
Kati Bihu is observed at a time when the stored grains of the previous harvest are nearing their end, and the only hope for the future is a prosperous new harvest. That’s why the powers of ancestors are called upon and mercy is begged from God.
How to Observe Kati Bihu
Light a lamp
The traditional Assamese lamp is made of clay. It is placed on the Tulsi plant, and prayers are offered to Goddess Tulsi for a good harvest and the wellbeing of the family. The lamp symbolizes the enduring flame of hope and the power of manifestation, and the ritual is performed throughout the month of Kati.
Learn Bihu dance
Bihu is the indigenous folk dance of the Assam and an integral part of the Assamese culture. It is a group dance that is fairly easy to learn and makes for a great workout. On Kati Bihu, live the experience to the fullest by learning a step or two from YouTube.
Say a prayer before your meal
Mark the special festival by saying grace before your meal. Express your gratitude towards the land that grows your food and the farmer who takes care of the process. Kati Bihu is based around the harvest cycle of rice. The tribes gather to offer their grace to the land and pray for a full bloom in the coming spring.
5 Beautiful Traditions And Rituals Of The Kati Bihu Festival
The meat feast
Duck meat is the preferred serving for the northern Assamese people — whereas the southern cities enjoy pigeon meat on a somber day.
The gamosa gift
Assamese families entertain several guests throughout the day, and each of them is honored by ‘gamosa’ — a locally sourced hand-made towel.
The tri-holiday celebration
Kati Bihu is a part of the three Bihu festivals celebrated in Assam, which also includes Rongali Bihu and Bhogali Bihu.
The touch of Tulsi
Earthen lamps, ‘saaki,’ are lit around the sacred Tulsi plant to illuminate its significance to the household.
The dance of persistance
Even though it is not a celebration, the day is concluded with Assam’s traditional Bihu dance as a show of unity among the communities.
Why Kati Bihu is Important
It honors the nature
Kati Bihu is the perfect homage to the laws of nature. From nourishing food to healing sunlight, nature gives us all. The harvest cycle depends on the turns of the season and with Kati Bihu, we honor the fall that allows us to sow the seeds. So that, come spring, we may bear the fruits.
It reminds us to be grateful
Stocked granaries and luscious fields leave little time to be grateful. It is in the season of empty stores and rationed grains that we realize the value of the most basic things in our life. The season of sowing is a time to express our gratitude to the offerings of nature and to be hopeful about the fruits of tomorrow.
It connects us to our roots
Kati Bihu is a solemn celebration of our roots, and how we are all dependent on the ground that bestows us with grains. Across Assam, people use the holiday as an excuse to get closer to their families and share common meals. The day also connects us to our ancestors, as we lay the way from our fields to our house to guide them home.
Kati Bihu dates