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
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.
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
The Taste of Mithila
THE TASTE OF MITHILA
In the course of learning about the culture of Mithila we have reached to its most important part which is about the food of MITHILA .
Mithilanchal has its rich culture of food which is full of delight and taste. Many of them are known to lots of people but still there are some which are less known and has some very specific nutritional values which adds an extra edge to ones diet and food habit.It cater the need of huge population so it has a variety of dishes. So, one have lots of option to choose those which suits to their food consumption habit.
The people of Mithila ,predominantly belong to Brahmin clan but despite of being Brahmin they are both vegetarian and non-vegetarian as well.Because food habits have lot to do with the geography of that particular area and as we know lots of rivers are flowing through the region of Mithila making it a dampy and marshy plain .So, there is a huge availability of water bodies in a form of river and ponds which is a ready source of fishes. In this way fish is one of the main ingredient of the diet of Mithilas people .But instead of being non-vegetarian ,they did not prefer to take onions, garlic and poultry products.
There is a custom of eating Boiled Rice based lunch and Roti based dinner and breakfast..The staple food is bhat (boiled rice), dal, roti, tarkari and achar.
Unlike others Maithili enjoy both the quality and quantity of the food and this is the characteristics that differentiate the cuisine and people from others.The best manifestation of this can be seen in BHOJ (feast) and weddings .
There is a famous saying about MITHILA'S BHOJ;
"केला के पत्ता पर,
भात,दाइल,घी,भाटा अदौरी, डलना,ओलक चोखा,
सजमैनक भुजिया,तरल परौर,तिलकोर,पापड़ और आचार।
इ भेल मिथलाक सचार।"
Here it mentions,the various dishes through which guests are welcomed in Mithila and any holy ocassion these dishes must be prepared in every home in Mithila.
The another favourite dish among Maithil is Machh-Bhat (fish curry and steamed rice). Maachhak Jhor is all day famous except in few religious festivals. No any function is considered complete without this.
The introduction about Mithila Cuisine would remain incomplete without a reference on Paan (betel leaves). According to an old saying Paan , Maach and Makhan ( betel leaves, fish and lotus seed) is not found even in the paradise, so one should enjoy these things on earth only so not to regret later. It is generally taken after completion of the meal in order to make it complete.
One must get confused that even after eating so much of food and that also having spicy flavour how one can go for healthy diet. But here in mithila the cure of each problem is there in the food itself. With each diet you may encounter something which can help you to digest that food it may be in a form of some spices,lefs of some desert dish. So,even after eating a lot its very rare that one may go through some serious health issues.
In this way Mithila's legecy of knowledge and philosophy's can also
be seen through its food and in the way its consumed and enjoyed by the people.
~ Yasha Sandilya