Indian state of Assam celebrates harvest festival


Anupam Nath

GAMERIMURA, INDIA (AP) — Residents of the northeastern Indian state of Assam began celebrations of a spring festival last Saturday, meant to bring an auspicious harvest season filled with bountiful harvests and good health.

Residents of Gamerimura village gathered to mark the usually colorful celebrations, an ancient tradition known as the Baikho festival which is mainly observed by the Rabha tribes every June, although people from other communities have joined to celebrations in recent years.

The festival is celebrated annually across the state.

During the festival, a series of rituals are performed to ward off evil spirits, trigger heavy rains, and bring goodwill to the community. In the afternoon, locals dressed in traditional clothes gather to dance to the rhythm of the drums. In the evening, a large structure made of bamboo bundles is set on fire and once the sun has set, the priests offer prayers to the harvest deity, who they believe will bring a bountiful harvest season.

Once the prayers are over, the priests run over the hot coals left to simmer by the fire, an act intended to honor the divinity of the harvest. The women then wash the feet of the priests before serving them food.

Rahini Rabha, 59, who came from Dairang village in Assam for the celebrations, said he had been the festival priest for 17 years.

“It celebrates the Rabha tribal people for agriculture, good health, wealth and education,” he said.

ABOVE AND BELOW: Members of the Indian Rabha tribe in traditional dress dance at the village of Gamerimura, along the border of Assam Meghalaya, west of Gauhati, India; and Hindu priests from India’s Rabha tribe head for rituals before burning wood during the Baikho festival. PHOTOS: AP

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