Guwahati: ‘Meji’, an integral part of Assam’s harvesting festival of Bhogali Bihu or Magh Bihu, has drastically transformed with time. Meji, a cone-shaped structure made of bamboo, hay, straw, thatch, and other such materials, is usually built by locals in rural Assam on the eve of the Bhogali Bihu and torch it on the day of the celebration as a mark of respect to the God before the festivities begin.
However, with changing time and rapid urbanization, setting up Mejis has now become a thing of the past for city denizens here. The lack of open space and unavailability of the items needed for Meji in the city have forced those living in the city to adapt to a new trend-‘readymade Mejis’.
On Friday, a day before the Bhogali Bihu festivities start, the city markets are seen flooded with readymade Mejis. Costing somewhere between Rs 2000- Rs 3500, these readymade Mejis are being sold in the city markets.
“I have brought the items from Nalbari and building readymade Mejis for selling in Guwahati. People are buying and we are also receiving orders,” said a trader.
Endorsing the change, a customer here said, “It’s very difficult to set up a Meji in today’s Guwahati with open space becoming a luxury and apartment culture sweeping the city. Readymade Meji is a new concept and people are accepting it as an alternative.”
As per tradition, on the first day of the Bhogali Bihu festival, known as Uruka, young men construct ‘Mejis’ in farmland or open spaces. A community feast is held on Uruka night, which includes fish delicacies.
The next day is the Makar Sankranti day, which is the Magh Bihu day, and the ‘meji’ is lit and a lavish feast is held. The ashes of the meiji are scattered on the farmlands to increase fertility. Magh Bihu is observed on the first day of the Magh month of the Assamese calendar.
Usually, on Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu day, people visit their family relatives, friends and share traditional Assamese food like pithas (sweet rice cake), chira (rice flakes), chunga pitha (rice cake in bamboo tubes), and different types of other sweets.
In many places, buffalo and cock fights are organized during Bhogali Bihu in rural Assam.
However, as time goes on, numerous Bihu practices are being updated and changed into fresh ones. The city’s growing demand for locally produced goods has inspired local business owners to set up temporary, makeshift stalls selling the pithas, laddus and other traditional food items (all readymade) to give the city denizens the flavor of the traditional Bhogali Bihu experience.