Bihu: ICCL’s Cultural Evening

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By Runmee Barbara

CLEAR LAKE: On November 21, The India center of Clear Lake, ICCL, celebrated Diwali at the Bayou Theatre in University of Houston, Clear Lake Campus. The Indian community hosted the cultural gala event which started with Rangoli competition and then a colorful cultural evening followed by gourmet dinner. With exquisite Indian food, extraordinary entertainment and wonderful hosting, the cultural evening was a resounding success.

Diwali is one of the most important Hindu festivals in India. Despite living in a land away from home, Indian festivals are followed by almost every Indian household in Houston. India is unique in the sense that of language, religion, dance, music, architecture, food, and customs differ from place to place within the country. Since this was a platform for all cultures in India to unite, Probha Saikia, a member of the Indian community in Clear Lake initiated to present a Bihu dance from her state, Assam. This was for the first time that a traditional Assamese Bihu dance was being introduced and performed for Diwali celebrations in Clear Lake.

Despite the flurry of activity centered around 23 performances, nearly 600 people present in the ceremony gave their undivided attention to the performers and demonstrations on stage, which included classical dances, Dance for Gods, songs, bollywood dance numbers, bharatnatyam and many entertaining regional folk dances. It was a testament to the level of interest among the families and children who had come to explore cultures and enjoy the evening.

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Bihu dance was performed by Archana Parashar, Barnasha Barua, Plabita Barua, Runmee Barbara and Kavita Sharma who was also the choreographer. It was a unique experience for the audience as they were seeing a traditional Bihu dance of Assam for the first time. The dancers wore traditional Muga Silk Mekhela Chador (Two piece saree) with authentic Assamese jewelry and Gam Kharu (Bangles). Even though the audience could not comprehend the lyrics, they seemed to applause and enjoy the soulful music and dance moves thus justifying the saying that says “MUSIC IS THE UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE OF MANKIND”. The sound of Dhul (Drum) & Pepa (Flute) with rhythmic beats and unique dance moves captured the hearts of everyone present there. It was a moment of great pride for us to be a part of it and to promote our culture. Thanks to the board of members for giving us this opportunity. We experienced an overwhelmingly positive reaction from the audience.

The Assamese community of Houston is very active and close knit. There are nearly 40 to 50 Assamese families residing in Houston. Keeping the Assamese culture alive every year we get-together to celebrate Bohag Bihu, Magh bihu and Sri Manta Xankordev Jonmohotsav. It literally feels like home as we not only get to eat and cherish assamese culture and cuisine but also perform traditional Xotriya dance, husori and bihu. Most of the families have settled here in the late 80’s and are overwhelmed to see the growing assamese population here in Houston.

The modern world is changing and festivals are the only way to keep our culture and traditions alive. Houston is a place where diversity is respected and recognized. Indian community helps to acknowledge the various ethnic groups by organizing shows, cultural events and religious functions. Contributions from all groups are encouraged and people are given opportunity to fulfil their potential. Differences and diversities of India are celebrated in these occasions and the trend of preserving our rich cultural heritage is kept alive.