The Bodos, a branch of the Indo-Mongoloid family, are the largest Scheduled tribe in Assam. They migrated south from Tibet and Burma and were one of the first to settle in Assam. They generally celebrate Baishagu, famous for its myriad colours and merriment, in mid-April. It is the most cherished festival of the Bodo tribe and is also celebrated as a springtime festival to commemorate the advent of the new year.
On the first day the cow is worshipped and on the following day young people of each household reverentially bow down to their parents and elders. Finally they worship the supreme deity Bathou or Lord Shiva by offering chicken and zou (rice beer).
The Bagarumba dance is typically performed during this festival and it is the most attractive dance of the Bodo community.
Girls alone, dressed in dokhnas (draped skirts) chaddar (cloth used as a bodice) and jhumra (shawls), perform this dance (also known as Bardwisikhla) accompanied by men playing traditional musical instruments like the serja (a bowed instrument), sifung (flute), tharkha (a piece of split bamboo) and khum (a long drum made of wood and goatskin), as they utter “bagurumba hay bagurumba”. Although it is cheerful and creates a festive mood of much gaiety and merriment providing the girls with relief from their normal hardworking village life, it is also serious, and the lyrics that accompany it are a simple description of the world of nature.
The purpose of the dance is to appease the Bodos’ supreme god Bathow, for whom the Sizu tree is a symbol. It is also called the Butterfly Dance as the girls look like pretty, flighty butterflies as they dance with their arms outstretched, their shawls creating the impression of wings.
The Baishagu festival is closed with community prayers offered at the garja sali, a place of common worship, located outside the village in the corner of a grazing field.