Salhesh Artists and Their Relegation
~ Yasha Sandilya
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