Guwahati(PTI): If you were in Assam, you would have virtually seen London’s Tower Bridge, the Eiffel Tower, the India Gate or the Red Fort.
There’s more. One would have even come across Iceland’s Igloos and the 9/11 twin towers in the US and recreation of the crash-landing of a plane carrying the then prime minister Morarjee Desai in a paddy field at a village in Jorhat district 40 years ago. Both Desai and the then Arunachal Pradesh chief minister P K Thungon escaped unhurt.
These are all themes of ‘bhelaghars’ for the harvest festival Bhogali or Magh Bihu in Assam.
The traditional conical makeshift huts ‘bhelaghars’ or ‘mejis’ made of bamboo, leaves and thatch for Bhogali feasts Bihu this year saw these new motifs.
Themes on burning issues concerning Assam such as saving the rhino, the river Brahmaputra, environment, recurring floods, among others, were also taken up to raise awareness, organisers across the state said.
Local news television channels have announced ‘best bhelaghar’ competitions and selfies in front of them.
With the granaries full after a good harvest people on the first day, ‘Uruka’ celebrations of Bhogali were held across the state last night.
People from all communities irrespective of caste, faith, ethnicity or language in a spirit of brotherhood gather to participate in the celebrations by building the structure to prepare the local delicacies of fish and meat for a grand feast inside the mejis in the open farm fields.
Ruhini Gogoi, an organiser of the Morarjee Desai plane crash bhelaghar, said “We took this theme to tell the new generation about the five IAF elite Communication Squadron pilots who made the supreme sacrifice in saving the life of the then prime minister Morarji Desai.”
“A tree was planted then by the villagers at the crash site to mark the area. We thought of commemorating the occasion now on its 40th year by making a life size structure of that 1970s version of Air India One plane,” Gogoi said.
One of the organisers of the Tower Bridge meji in Nalbari district said he visited London last year and wanted the people of his home town to see what it looked like and so suggested construction of its replica.
The initial budget was Rs 5 lakh but had doubled now and took nearly 15 days to construct it and decorate it with coloured light fittings, he said.
People of Basugaon in Chirang district made a replica of the Big Ben clock tower.
A replica of the two-storied Rang Ghar was built in Sivasagar where the original oldest surviving amphitheatre in Asia exists.
Rang Ghar built by Ahom kings in the 18th century had served as a royal sports-pavilion for royalty and nobles to witness games like buffalo fights and other sports at Rupahi Pathar.
India Gate and Red Fort in Delhi, ancient temples, 9/11 twin towers with the plane hitting one of the buildings along with traditional house styles of the different ethnic groups of the state have also been showcased as bhelaghars.
A full size train with an engine with compartments where people can sit was made at Boralipothar in Gohpur district to the joy of young children.
In the hill district of Karbi Anglong a ‘Save Brahmaputra’ from pollution theme was adopted at Howraghat, while locals at Demow in Sivasagar and Nagaon’s Amonisali chose ‘Save Kaziranga’ theme to create awareness about preserving its flora and fauna with models of rhinos, tigers, peacocks, etc.
A made-to-scale model of France’s Eiffel Tower was constructed at Dhupdhora in Goalpara district where another bhelaghar depicting the man-elephant conflict was made with an elephant destroying a thatch house.
In Golaghat district’s Merapani bordering Nagaland, the theme was Iceland with igloos, sledges drawn by animals, leafless tress and ice skaters, while at another place a giant sized model from the Gulliver’s Travels was the choice.
The people in Lakhimpur district, worst affected by the recurring annual floods, chose deluge as their theme to highlight their sufferings during the monsoons.
After last night’s merry-making and feasting, the bhelaghars and mejis were set ablaze to the chanting of prayers appealing to the fire god (Agni) not to cause destruction during the coming dry months.