Paag : The Pride of Maithils
Paag : The Pride of Maithils
Paag , the traditional headgear of Mithilanchal has been dated back from the pre-historic India . Earlier, it was believed to be made of plant leaves. Paag , being the cultural symbol of Mithila , features pride and dignity and is mainly worn by men on different occasions and festivals .
Pugg, Pagdi , Pheta , Safa, Turban , skull cap,all these are indistinguishable from Paag , in different regions of India
Traditionally, the Paag is found in three different colours ( dark pink, mustard,white) having its own significance. The dark pink is carried by the bridegroom and by the ones undergoing festive and wedding rituals. Paag of mustard colour is worn by those attending wedding and thread ceremony ( Janew) and last but not the least, white is carried by the elders. Apart from these three colours , customized paags and Mithila-painted paags are highly in vogue.
Colleges and universities in the Mithila region add Paag in the compulsory dress code for convocation as an initiative to revive the cultural symbols of Mithilanchal. 'Paag Bachau Abhiyan' 2016 , a regional campaign aiming to draw the attentions of regionals towards the fading colours of Maithili culture and heritage , was promoted by Dr.Birbal Jha , acclaimed author and chairman of Mithilalok Foundation.
10th February, 2017 came up to be a red lettered day as the Indian Posts released a set of 16 celebrative postage stamps on different headgears of India and Paag was one among them.
As another matter of fact , the popular Macmillan dictionary in 2019 , featured the traditional headgear of Mithilanchal.
As a matter of fact, the identity of Paag has shrunk to an ' occassional headgear ' rather than the 'traditional headgear' of Mithilanchal. It's usage has been declining with the passage of time and thus limited to special occasions like thread ceremonies and weddings , which is disheartening. Each one of us aspire to expand one's stems and grow but keeping in mind ,
the intactness of our deep healthy roots. Therefore we need to evoke the spirit of healthy regionalism in ourselves in order to strengthen our roots by reviving our culture and heritage.
~ Anjali Jha
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.
~ Anjali Jha
Salhesh Artists and Their Relegation
Salhesh Artists and Their Relegation
When we talk about the folk culture of Bihar, Raja Salhesh comes out as the most prominent and popular figure of Mithila. He is worshipped not just as a diety but as a local hero among the major mass of Mithila.
Salhesh means the king of mountains (we must not miss that a major portion of Mithila is in Nepal and the origin of Salhesh can be found there only). He emerged as the hero of Dalits and the downtrodden and is still treated as a source of pride among the Dalit community of Mithila.
There are many folklores about Salhesh describing various aspects of Salhesh and his life but the first documentation, which is available in print format, was done by British colonial official and scholar George A. Grierson in 1882. He had mentioned Salhesh Gahwars in his book and says, ‘In the villages of Mithila one can see Salhesh shrines under Pipal trees with clay figures representing the characters in the story.
His depiction can also be seen in Mithila paintings but due to the lack of focus of Dalit art and culture, it has lost its presence. His representation can be seen in many other art forms like folk painting, folk theatre, or folk songs and even through many kinds of folk dances performed during Salhesh pooja.
Today, these practices are on the decline because only a few artists are practicing Salhesh theatre and painting and the number is decreasing very rapidly. Even very few terracotta figurines of Salhesh can be seen during festive months.
There are many reasons behind the marginalization of Salhesh artists, and some of them are as follows:
Lack of interest among the general public about theatre art and drama ultimately leads to low enthusiasm and zeal to perform in the artists
Disrespect for those who perform any such dance and drama on occasions can lead to a sense of hilarity among these artists. Even sometimes this leads to abusive behavior toward them.
Due to the seasonal unemployment among people who belong to the lower strata of the varna system, these artists who perform theatres cannot afford to stick with this tradition, as this can give them income in certain festive months of years only. They have to look for some other alternate option for the rest of the times in a year.
Government is also not paying any particular attention to such artists so that they can do something for the betterment of their livelihood and can preserve this age-old tradition. They do politicize these matters sometimes while elections but later on they pay very little attention to them.
There is a huge impact of globalization and mechanization on salhesh traditional art. People are least interested in theatre art or dances and these traditions are replaced by D.J's and recorded music. Due to a lack of knowledge about modern equipment and technology these artists are not able to cope up with the ever-changing world.
Nowadays a very new culture of working on contracts has come up and it has shown its impact on this field too. Those having a strong financial and social background hire some artists on contracts and charge a fair amount for their work. But these values do not reach the real owner of the art and middlemen get a fair and well amount out of it. Here also they get a very little share of the work that they did.
All these factors lead to a decline in the status of these artists which ultimately leads to a lack of interest in artists toward their age-old tradition and low-paid artist are opting out for some other job opportunity, rather than continuing with this. Especially the young generation is moving away from this vibrant tradition. This may someday lead to the extinction of these artists and the culture that comes with Salhesh will be buried within this.
Being a part of society it's our moral and ethical value as well to preserve and promote any such tradition which is a representation of our age-old culture and depicts a clear-cut picture of revolutionary ideas. Especially those ideas that helped to stabilize the whole social structure of society.
~ Yasha Sandilya
Like any other amazing and alluring looks of Mithila the bridal look of Mithila is indispensable in its own way. The Shringaar (body adornments) that women carry in Mithila is called Psaahin. It's such an amazing part of Mithila’s culture, yet unknown to many and is extremely rare to find out.
Today in our modern world, where we are connecting with people throughout the globe and getting influenced by their way of look, food and living habits, somewhere we are losing our own form of living. There are many such rituals and traditions which have great values inherited in it . The varied colour of our own India is losing it's bliss, somewhere in this modern world.
Psaahin is one such live example of extinctive form of our tradition. When we talk about a whole bridal look we get a picturesque image of Bengali, Punjabi, Mahrastrian or other brides in our mind, but very few get a picture of Maithil bride, infact most of us aren’t aware of it or more precisely, we simply don’t know if it even exists! We do whatever we see around us or whatever is more highlighted in our T.V programmes and movies. We are so humble that we embrace every culture but when it comes to our own we lag behind. This irresponsibility can cause even the most powerful and distinctive culture to extinction.
When we look into the origin of Psaahin, we find out that this look was first carried by Lakhima Devi ( a royal princess of Mithila ) but it is only when we dive deeper we get to know that,when Sita first met Ram in Ashoka Vatika ,the beautiful look that she carried was the original look of Psaahin and it was carried further by womens of Mithila.
Psaahin k baksa( vanity box), generally made of bamboo is a very important part of Mithila wedding . Every girl is gifted with this in their Durangman( farewell for in-laws house commonly called Vidai in India). It consists of Teesi, Tikuli, Neel, Piyauri, Khadka, Chandrauta, Soorma and Sindoor. These are least requisites for this gift and a lot more is added.
Psaahin has two forms , one is for those who are married while another is for unmarried girls. It has its own jewelry, make-up , dressing and everything encompassed in it. The most important element of it is the colourful art-work on the head of brides . It is also done by unmarried girls on some occasions (specially during Tussari Puja) but the colour used by them are quite different from those used by married ones. They do not use red colour ,instead they use other colours like yellow, blue and white.
It is called teen datak psaahin(added by 3 sticks) .It is done mainly with 3 colours and each of them has its own significance and scientific value as well .
-Yellow colour is made by piyauri ( sandle wood)
-Blue by flowers of Indigo plant.
- white by paste of rice (pithaar)
It is mainly done while Tusaari pooja ( a pooja done by unmarried girl to get a good groom)
On the other hand married girls mainly use red colour which is made by sindoor( vermilion). Apart from this, they are allowed to use any other colour of their choice .
Another important element of Psaahin is a special head wear called Tikuli, made by Patua( one of the Muslim weaver community). It is also offered to Gosauin( a form of Goddess Durga).
In the dressing part the married one has to wear yellow saree with sidha aanchar (like those done by Gujrati women). There is also a concept of lehenga among Maithilis. This special type of lehenga is called kechua and ghagri. Previously when girls were married at an early age they were not able to handle the saree and in this way concept of lehenga came up. It's very rare part of Mithila's dressing and very few people know about it.
Psaahin should be done by some elder married women of house (abhibati). This whole ritual of doing Psaahin connects the unmarried girl to that married women and she can feel the charm of being married in that whole process. This a kind of blessing from elderly women to girl for her happily married life.
If we conclude the whole gist of Psaahin,we can say that it is not just a way of shringaar, rather it's a way to connect with people living in society . Each element of Psaahin has its connection with some particular community. Like for eg; Tikuli is made by patwa(Weaver's community), Aalta by Hjaamin (Barber's wife), lahthi by chudi-wali ( a special community who make bangles), Paan by bdhaii(carpenter), Suhaag by washerwoman (as she is believed to have longest life with her husband), Khadka(sticks for art) by Domin (a special community who are specialized in bamboo craft works), Ghongroo by Mlaahin (fisherwomen) and so on.
So in this way each and every community is involved in it in some or the another way. In a region like Mithila which is quite infamous for its caste system, these things are above any caste or religion barrier and have women at the center of stage of Mithila.
We can now realise the significance of Psaahin and it's role in our culture but despite having such a great symbolic aspect, this beautiful pearl is on the verge of getting lost from the necklace of Mithila.
It is believed that the responsibility of Srijan and Sanrakshan (creation and preservation) is given to women and we credit them for carrying it in a very fine and beautiful way along with the their other responsibilities. But still, we are lacking and women are the one who can take lead role in preserving these beautiful and amazing form of Maithil women . It's not possible neither important to carry such a vague look in our daily life, but at least on some special occasions, where we are following some other form or look we can depict the women of Mithila and give it a personified look with better modification as per our comfort, so that a women of Mithila could also get it's own identity through the way she look.