It is said that festivals add colour to the life and the colourful mithila has its own way of celebrating these festivals. In the course of learning about various local and cultural heritage of mithila,here we will get to know about the most remarkable and spectacular aspect of the mithila's heritage,which can be seen through its bright, colourful and amazing festivals.
Mithila is also called as the land of festivities,because here every single day of the year has some special significance and can be treated as an event . On every second day ,we can find people celebrating these festivities. In fact,it is said that in mithila one can find more festivals then there are days in the year.Hardly a day passes without some festivities,ceremonial observance or pilgrimages occuring .
The celebration of festivals begins with the new year itself.Jud-shital is marked as the beginning of new-year,which starts from somewhere around mid- April,as per maithil calendar or panchang(पञ्चाङ्ग). Maithili Panchang follows the dating as per vikram era and according to that ,the new year begins with the month of Baisakh. From that day only,the year long celebration of festivities begins which goes for the whole year around.
The very great and interesting part about the festivals in India is that, it is mostly celebrated in the months which are off season for farmers and one would must be amazed after getting to know about the reasons behind this. During certain months of the year, when farmer are done with their work of ploughing and sowing their fields and are waiting for the harvesting season(that may be kharif or Rabi) ,they are left with nothing to do.Many of the festivals are celebrated during that period ,so that people may keep them engaged in preparation of festivals and do not get inactive. Same thing is followed in mithila too. We can find most of the festivals starts from the mid August and end till Dec(which is the harvesting season of kharif crop,as this region is predominantly a rice growing area). Devotthan ekadashi is marked as the ending of the season of festivities,but the celebration goes on with the advent of marriage season(lagn/लग्न) which begins from November and end till March.
While learning about various festivals of mithila we will get to know about various rituals ,traditional and cultural aspect of these festival along with their significance in modern context.
Some of the major festivals of Mithila are :
Madu-shravni(मधुश्रावणी),Janau Purnima or Rishi Tarpan,krishna Asthmi(कृष्णाष्टमी),Jitiya(जितिया), Chaurchan(चौरचन),Dasain , Deepawali and lakshmi puja(kojagara/कोजगरा),Chhath(छठ),Devotthan ekadashi(देवोत्थान एकादशी), Sama-Chakeva(सामा-चकेवा, Shiv vivah panchami, Maghe Sankranti or Tila sankranti(तिला सकरेत),Basant panchami or Saraswati Puja,Maha Shivratri,Holi or fagu-wa(फागुन), Ramnavmi(रामनवमी), Bihula(बिहुला). The list goes on in this way only but the celebrations in Mithila will never have its end.
The festival of Salhesh or the Salhesh Pooja is an invocation to King Salhesh , the main deity , the saviour and the wish granter of Dusadh community (or the depressed class).
He is believed to be born , after his mother ate 'Amar fruit' in Mesotha , Nepal. According to the legends, King Salhesh ruled over Mithila and Terai region of Nepal . King Salhesh was a celibate , despite the fact , Kusuma Malin (one of his associates , who was Brahmin by birth) was his beloved and always stood by her side in all adversities.
The Salhesh festival is celebrated every year in the auspicious month of 'Shravan' of the Hindu calendar , with great zeal and enthusiasm among the Dusadh community. The community comprises of landless agricultural labourers. The devotees (generally Paswan community) offer prayers and terracotta horse riders or warriors to reverend King Salhesh.
As per the locals (of Dusadh community) social evils like casteism and inequality have been prevalent in the ancient Indian social structure. And Dusadh community had been fallen prey to social hatred and caste oppression. Dusadhs (depressed class) , Chamaars (cobblers) , Domes (undertakers) , Mehtars (scavengers) were looked down upon by the upper and powerful communities. King Salhesh championed there causes and worked effortlessly for their upliftment by shielding them against the social evils. It is said that regiments of tigers, bears, elephants and lions would happily volunteer him due to his mesmerising personality and great deeds. Not only this , he even used to protect the hermits and sages from the demons . He provided shelters in caves and mountains to the oppressed classes
In the celebration , the Kumhaad or the potter community plays a vital role as they're responsible for fashioning the icons of the Salhesh as well as designing the terracotta horse rider offerings, essential for ritualistic purposes.
Traditionally , the Indian society was divided into four Varnas (classes), namely - Brahmin (Priest) , Kshatriya (warriors) , Vaishya ( merchants, landowners) , and Shudra) craftsmen and labours)
There was a sharp segregation from the upper castes ( first three- Brahmin , Kshatriya, Vaishya).
Even hierarchy existed within the castes. The lowest of the four (Shudras) were deemed as untouchables. They were persecuted cruelly by the upper castes. They weren't allowed to enter the temples , restricted to dine with upper classes or attend their festivals and gatherings , prohibited to use same wells used by the upper castes. In such harsh times , the Salhesh Pooja provided a sense of identity to the Dusadh community and was responsible for creating a sense of self respect among it's practitioners .
The prosperous and diverse soil of Mithilanchal has thus given birth to a number of prominent figures who have not only evoked a sense of spirituality and transcendence among people by their great deeds but also took up cudgels against all sorts of social evils in order to pave path towards enlightenment of humanity.
Bhaidooj is a festival celebrated on the 2nd day of Kartik Shukla Paksh. On this auspicious occasion of Bhaidooj(भरदुतिया in Maithili) there is a tradition of brother visiting his sister's place where she welcome him by worshipping him in a very special way .As per the tradition followed by people of Mithila ,alpana(airpana)is made in the courtyard ( aangan) of the house where sister do some rituals with his brother with areca nut(Supari), some coins ,flowers of white guard and ( kumhad phool) and betel leafs( paan ). She do tilak to his brother and chant this fakra for his brothers long life -
"गंगा नोतय छैथ यमुना के,
हम नोतय छी अपन भैया के।
जहिना जहिना गंगा-जमुना के धार बहय,
हमर भाई के ओहदा बढय।"
After doing this rituals she take blessings from his brother .
The story behind this goes as , a hindu diety Yamaraj( God of death) was quite busy with his work and never got time to visit his sisters place ,even after his sister's multiple calls. Once, after he got tired of his work and needed some break he thought ,there is no one in this world who would love him . Then he remembered his sister and got pleased by that. He became so much happy that while on the way to his sister's place he crossed the way to hell(nark) and released all the souls that were caged there.
When he reached, his sister welcomed him wholeheartedly and worshipped him. Yamraj got pleased with her sister's welcome and asked her to make any wish to him. Her sister asked him ," I want that every year on this day of ( 2nd day of Kartik Shukla Paksh) every brother should visit his sister's place, so that sisters get a chance to celebrate this day with her brother.
So,in this way every year Bhai-Dooj is celebrated on this day with great enthusiasm in different ways all over India.
Chhath : The Festival of Identity
Chhath : The Festival of Identity
Being a Maithil and Bihari ,Chhath has a greater significance in our life. Chhath is like rejuvenating our life through various traditions ,rituals and customs with our near and dear ones. The whole process and belief in the sole energy of this universe "The SUN" brings a new energy to our mind and soul and shows us the right path in our life .
During the Chhath Puja, also known as Chhath parab in some places, people thank the Sun God for supporting life and seek his blessings. People also ask Lord Surya for the longevity and prosperity of their family members and loved ones. Devotees offer their gratitude to the Sun God along with the goddess Usha, the first rays of the morning, and Pratyusha, last ray of the evening.
Apart from all the rituals that we see and do during the 4 days of Chhath (longest festival after Navratri),there are a greater significance and a legend behind the pooja of Chhath ,which we get mention in our ancient vedas and purana.The oldest Veda-Rigveda contains hymns of worshipping the Sun and some similar rituals as followed in this festival. This worshipping of the Sun solved many problems of Draupadi and later helped the Pandavas to regain their kingdom. Even In the Ramayana also,the Chhath ritual was performed by Lord Rama and Sita after their return from the exile of 14 years. It is believed that Sita Charan temple in Munger, Bihar is the place where she performed the Chhath vrat.
The scientific or yogic history of this festival dates back to the Vedic times when the scholars or rishis of yore used this technique to remain without food as they used to absorb energy from the rays of the sun. This was known as Chhath Method.
Significance of Chhath Puja
Chhath puja also has a great and amazing science attached to it .The Sun is believed to be the primary source of energy that supports life on earth. The rituals demand to pray at the river bank or standing at the river bank for long hours and there is an explanation to it. The ultraviolet rays of the sun are at their lowest during sunrise and sunset and that’s why the sun rays are most beneficial at these two times. These sun rays then help in detoxifying the mind, body, and soul by removing all negative energies.
Chhath is referred to as a post harvest festival, where people show gratitude for a good harvest in the season just ended.
This festival is dedicated to the Sun and Chhathi Maiya(known as Usha in the Vedas and she is believed to be the beloved younger wife of Surya, the sun god. In Mithilanchal region she is also worshipped under the name of “RANA MAI”). Usha is regarded as an acknowledgment for life on earth. So, there is no idol worship at all.As there is no idol worship so there is no use of plastic, color, metals, etc. in constructing an idol & later immersing those idols on nearby water bodies that leads to pollution. That’s why this festival is regarded as the most eco-friendly Hindu festival by the environmentalists.
This is the only festival of Hindu which does not require any idol worship .Perhaps this is the only festival in the whole world which pays tribute to the rising amd setting sun ( which regulates the whole life process on earth and the reason behind everything on this earth).Now a days,many muslim also do this chhath puja, as this does not require any idol worship and the reason behind this pooja is very much logical and every one can celebrate it. This festival is a way to pay tribute to the divine energy of the Sun , irrespective of caste, creed, gender, race and religion and give us a very beautiful lesson to rise like a sun above all social stigmas.
Among many festivals of Mithila,Sama Chakeva is one of the most distinctive one.It is celebrated after Diwali and Bhaidooj ,which starts from Kartik Shukla Panchami and continues till Purnima.The root of Indian festivals generally resides in certain mythologies and so has this festival . The story behind this distinguished Festival has different versions in many folk tales but for the locals Sama-Chakeva is the celebration of immense love and affection between brothers and sisters.
As per the folk tales, Sama(Shyama) was the daughter of Sri Krishna( the king of Dwarka) and was married to Rishi Charudatta. She most often visited the Rishis (in Hermitages) to serve them. One of the Mantris(ministers) of Krishna's (Shayama's father) court , Choorak ,was very cunning . He didn't appreciate Shyama's attitude towards the Rishis and slandered Krishna against her , defaming her character . After hearing about the the misleading character of his daughter through the grapevine,Krishna was furious .In grave anger he cursed his daughter Shyama, turning her into a bird . Deeply hurt by this , bird turned Shyama flew far away from his kingdom.When Rishi Charudatta was informed about the whole incident , he pleaded Krishna(his father-in-law) to turn him into a bird as well,so that he can lead a life with his beloved wife. His plea was granted and thus he became a bird. From then itself, that pair of birds came to be known as Sama(Shyama) and Chakeva(Charudatta).
Meanwhile this incident occurred,Sama's brother Sambha(who loved his sister dearly)came to know about this and vowed to set his sister free from the curse of their father at any cost. Sambha underwent penance and summoned Lord vishnu and finally discovered the way to free his sister and his brother in law(behnoi) from the curse of his father.
According to Vishnu, (who showed the path to free Shyama Chakeva), the love birds fly down from Himalayas to the Northern plain during winters. For the time being, if someone makes their idols followed by worshipping and singing songs for them and highlight the sins done by the Choorak( the wicked minister ),then the pair of birds will get back to their original human 'avataar'.
In no time ,Sambha moved to the North in search of his sister and finally in the Mithila region he found the pair of birds , Sama-Chakeva.He asked the ladies there,to help him out in the process of worshipping them and thus with the full fledged support and cooperation of the women of Mithilanchal,finally Sambha was able to free Sama-Chakeva from the unfortunate malediction .
After this event, the women of Mithila started performing those rituals done by Sambha (in order to free his sister )and worshipped Sama and Chakeva during the winters to signify the love between brothers and sisters.
In its essence, this festival cum ritual is celebrated among women as they make all the arrangements for it and thus are the main participants.
In the month of November they prepare numerous clay idols as depicted in the tale. Most of the idols are in the form of birds. There are idols of Sama, Chakeva, Sambha, Vrindavan(kingdom) and Chugla (the minister who defamed Sama) . In connotation , one who does ‘Chugli '(bad mouth others). After the idols get dried in sunlight, they are white washed in pithar (rice flour liquid) and then are colored with natural colours. On the auspicious Purnima (full-moon) night young girls and women feed Chura Dahi (curd and dried rice) to their respective brothers and play with the idols in full moon light. Folk songs are sung in the appreciation and honour of Sambha. In these songs Sambha is portrayed as the valiant heroic character for being the redeemer and saviour of his sister. Two rituals are crucial in this idol play of Sama Chakeva. Women burn the moustache of Chugla which is made of jute, signifying the destruction of evil. They also sing in chorus which is sometimes accompanied by dance.
"चुगला के मोछ में आइग लगलै"
(“The moustache of ill willed person is in flames”)
The other important ritual performed in this festival is burning the replica of the Vrindavan for a second or two, and then putting off the fire. Vrindavan , symbolises the collective Vrindavan kingdom and it is adorned with dried grass. While performing this ritual , women sing the following-
"वृन्दावन में आइग लगलै,कोई नई बुतेलकै,
हमरे भैया बुतेलकै.....
(When Vrindavan underwent disaster, nobody saved it, my brother was the saviour of the Vrindavan.)
Besides these rituals women sing folk Maithili songs, which have a pivotal importance in this festival and are basically composed in praise of brothers and chastity of Sama. Homemade sweetmeats are also distributed; This festival lasts on Purnima and brothers have a special role to perform on this day. They destroy all the idols with their knees . Ultimately they immerse the idols in the water or bury them in the fields. This last ritual of idol submerging in water indicates Vidaai (farewell) of Sama.While performing the rituals of the farewell ceremony they sing-
"सामचको-सामचको अबिह हे,
जोतले खेत मे बैसिह हे,
भैया के आशीष दिह है..."
(Hey! Sama-Chakeva please come again the next year and sit in our ploughed field and bless our brothers with all the goods and prosperity.)
A beautiful amalgamation of Nature and Culture ,Sama- Chakeva is celebrated in the winter season when the Himalayan birds migrate from Nepal terrain towards plain areas of Northern India. This festival is also a welcome ceremony for these migratory birds. Following last ritual of discarding idols in water and singing songs women request the birds to come again next year. Most of the clay idols are formed in the shape of vivid colorful birds. There exists a parallelism between the tale of Sama and arrival of these birds. The story of Sama has also tropes of bird morph, animals and forests and thus, this festival is an interesting fusion of nature and culture. This story of Sama Chakeva makes a symbolic nexus where animal kingdom meets with human beings. The cursed miracle of Sama being changed into bird is suggestive of the idea that animals too have emotions. The story and songs sung in this festival comes in tradition of folklores. It is women of society who maintains the tradition of folk literature with continuity from one generation to next generation. Sama Chakeva has hidden concern towards the species of endangered birds. By using clay and natural colours it pays homage to earth and greenery. Our folk culture had a great inherent wisdom. This festival brings man, nature and animal kingdom in a shared sense of harmony.
Today this festival is losing its base and its practice is limited to a very few places and that also within a very few number of families. The tradition, appears to have been hit hard by the onslaught of modern lifestyles, proliferation of nuclear families and outward migration from the Mithila region for employment. We used to listen to folk songs, which were sung in every nook and corner of the streets at dusk in our locality. As of now, it's not quite common.
In a nutshell, we need to pace forth to treasure our rituals, traditions and festivals to preserve the true colours of Mithila
Devotthan Ekadashi/ देवोत्थान एकादशी
Festival of devotthan ekadashi is celebrated in households on the 11th day of Shukla Paksh of Kartik month. It has a very great significance in Mithila. It marks the end of Chaturmas (A period of four months) when god Vishnu is believed to sleep.There is a story behind this holy festival .
Once godess lakshmi asked vishnu,"lord,are always awake day and night and never sleep and after that you go to sleep for lakhs of years. This create a lot of instability in whole universe,all the dwmons and bad powers rise to their extreme and create chaos in the whole world .So,lord please go to sleep on regular basis at least once a year ,so that such things do not happen and also i along with others can get some rest during that period.
Vishnu replied,yes your are saying right,from now on i will go to sleep for 4 months .On the day of Deepawali lakshmi wakes up and after that on Devotthan ekadashi vishnu wakes after taking sleep of 4 months.
As per mithilas tradition this festival is done in aangan (courtyard) near tulsi (tulsi chaura).Women draw Alpana in Angan with Pithar (Semi paste made out of grind rice and water).Here alpana is made, every single useful items or products are drawn in that alpana.for eg; बखाड़(grainery)पलंग (bed), हर-हरवाह(plough), खडाँउ(slippers), उखडि,ढेकी (a machine for grinding grains)etc.On the drawing of grainery ,grains are placed over betel leaves(पान पत्ता).
Alpana of asthjal is made in centre and on that a slab of fine polished wood(पीढ़ी) is placed and over it a kalsh is placed with idol of vishnu along with gosai( गोसाई) in it. The Kalash is worshipped as a symbol of Lakshmi and Vishnu.
On the next day there is a tradition of Tulsi Vivah .It is not so famous in mithila but now a days its done on the same day at many places in Mithila also.
So, this festival marks the waking up of gods so that the festivals and auspicious activities can start. No marriages and other auspicious activities take place during Chaturmas when god is believed to be sleeping. After Devotthan Ekadasi many minor and major festivals start.