“A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people” -Mahatma Gandhi.
Rongali Bihu is a fervently awaited festival for Assamese all over the globe. The Assamese diaspora settled in Calgary in Canada also wait eagerly with excitement to celebrate Rangali Bihu every year. The excitement concluded with the celebration of Rongali Bihu on April 15 in the Scandinavian Community centre organised by the Assam Association of Alberta (AAA) with a great deal of pomp and show, where around 150 odd people attended the event. Unlike the usual Rongali Bihu, this year’s event was a much lavish, elaborate and dignified affair. They also had delegates and guests from the Indian High Commission of Ottawa, members of Parliament, Calgary city Mayor, members from Rotary Club, Calgary and executive committee members from the Calgary Marathi Association. Besides Assamese, the event also saw performances by participants hailing from other countries, including Peru, China, Columbia, Scotland, etc. This global way of celebrating and sharing Bihu along with other cultures, probably happened for the first time in North America.
The dignified and magnificent show began with the National Anthems of Canada and India – ‘O Canada’ and ‘Jana Gana Mana’, followed by the welcoming speech of Arup Goswami, vice-president of Assam Association of North America (AANA), followed by a speech by guest speaker Darshan Kang, Member of Parliament and a speech by BidhuSkekhar, counsellor of Indian High Commission, Ottawa. The guests were presented with a traditional Japi and a gamusa by the executive committee members from the Assam Association of Alberta.
The cultural program started with a Jhumur dance by the children of Assam Association of Alberta. The participants were AnanyaSarma, Maya Dutta Boruah, Riana Dutta, Rosewell Max Das, Rivan Dutta, Shivan Dutta, Dhruv Dadlani, Ivylene Deka, Hiya Dutta Boruah and Quartz Das. The participants ranged from 5 years old to 20 years old in the group. Next was a Highland dance, a competitive solo dance that originated in the Scottish Highland, performed by two little girls accompanied by an adult. The awesome performance definitely stole everyone’s heart. It was followed by Huaylarsh dance by a dance group from Peru, which was quite eye catching because of the rhythm and colourful costumes. They also performed an Anaconda dance, a traditional folk dance from the Amazon region of Peru, dedicated to a water serpent that thrives in the Amazon River basin. The costumes were made out of dry grass or hay. While they danced, a lady in the middle wore an artificial Anaconda on her neck just like Lord Shiva. The Assam Association of North America deserves much praise and appreciation for bringing the cultural heritage of Amazon and Brahmaputra River together in the Rongali Bihu celebrations. The audiences had an wonderful opportunity to experience and learn about various cultures on a single platform.
The Peru dance was followed by a beautiful line dance by a group of Chinese girls. The music was very soothing and the girls wore white dresses to match with the music and the rhythm while moving like a wind. It was followed by a Latin dance performed by a Columbian group. The colourful skirts flared like an umbrella that moved beautifully to the rhythm. This traditional dance, popular and well-known in Columbia, originated during the Spanish colonial period. African drums and Indian flutes dominated the sound.
Next the Lion Dance by White Brow Hap-Ging-Do Martial Arts and Lion Association was an eye catching one too. The children in the hall were very excited to see two huge lions dancing on the floor. A lion dance is a traditional Chinese dance, performed on big occasions, such as the Spring Festival or Chinese New Year for good luck. It is believed that the lion is an auspicious animal. The last but not the least was the Bihu Hussori performed by a group of men and women from the Assam Association of Alberta. The crowd looked every bit excited when the husori started. The vibrant men’s costumes and Muga silk sador mekhela of the women caught everyone’s eye. The foot tapping rhythmic beat of the dhool, pepa, gogona couldn’t hold people onto their seats for long and finally all stood up to clap hands to catch the rhythm. The whole ambience was filled with Bihu mood just like in Assam.
The main attraction of the night was a documentary on Assam called ‘Mahabahu Brahmaputra’. The documentary covered topics on Srimanta Shankardev, Jyotiprashad Agarwala, Dr. Bhupen Hazarila, Pratima Barua Pandey, Ratneshwar Pathak, Bishnu Rabha, dehbisarok geet, Jhumurgeet, tea garden, oil refinery, Kamakhya temple, Manash and Kaziranga National Parks, muga silk, Assam silk, Majuli and Satras, Rang Ghar, Kareng Ghar, religions, Bhawna, uja-pali and many more. The documentary was produced by Manashi Goswami, directed by Abhishruti Dutta Boruah and narrated by Sumana Barua. In between, there were songs performed by Saumya Barua, Prashanta Barthakur, Papori Barthakur, Aghore Bhattacharya, Asif Saikia, Malika Rahman and Geetasree Gogoi Apte. The MC Sumana Barua did a competant job. Rimlee Dutta collected the artifacts from the community to display at the venue.
The host committee was supposed to wind up when to everyone’s surprise, Naheed Nenshi, the Mayor of Calgary appeared in the hall. He was conferred the World Mayor prize in 2014 by the World Mayor Project.
Food is always the heart of Assamese people. The Assamese women always take pride to make traditional snacks during the Bihu festival. The Assamese ladies in Calgary too made scrumptious snacks like ghilapitha, narikolor laru, bogapitha, pati septa pitha, bora sawul, etc for the guests. Guests from different cultures enjoyed the Bihu snacks.