| Phat Bihu celebrations at Dhakuakhana
Guwahati, June 22: Assam is going back in time in search of the roots of Bihu.
The state government has initiated a project to revive one of the oldest forms of the festival, Phat Bihu, which was celebrated during the days of the first Ahom king, Sukapha, at Dhakuakhana in what is now Lakhimpur district.
Assam cultural minister Gautom Bora recently met Bihu experts and residents of Dhakuakhana — who still celebrate Phat Bihu and will be part of the new venture — to discuss the project.
“The government will provide separate budgetary allocation to revive this form of Bihu. It will organise a mega Phat Bihu festival every April from next year. Experts and domestic and foreign tourists will be invited to participate in it. Phat Bihu dancers will be sponsored to travel across the state and popularise this form of Bihu,” an official of the cultural department told The Telegraph.
According to purists, Bihu lost its original flavour when it reached the urban bihutolis. Phat Bihu is said to have survived the onslaught of modernism to retain its purity.
“The element of spontaneity makes Phat Bihu different from the festival’s present form. Everyone can come and join the celebrations. No one present at the site is allowed to be aloof,” the official said.
Narrating the history of Phat Bihu, an expert said there was a market — phat or haat in Assamese — at Dhakuakhana on the banks of the Charikoria during the Ahom era. “During the month of Bohag (the first month of Assamese calendar) the market used to witness a riot of colours as people came here from all over the Ahom kingdom. This annual celebration became famous as Phat Bihu. The Ahom kings collected taxes from the traders every April,” he said.
The first Ahom king is said to have sailed down the Brahmaputra to Dhakuakhana to witness the festival.