Thursday, February 10, 2011

Saamaa-Chakewa Festival

(A heart touching Tharu culture)
Bhulai Chaudhary

Saamaa-Chakewa is the most important festival of the Tharu women of the middle as well as the eastern Tarai of Nepal and adjoining boarder districts of India. Old as well as young women and children participate equally heartily in the Saamaa-Chakewa festival. It is neither a Parb/Pawain/Bhaakal nor Brat/Upabaas. It is, in reality, a kind of ceremony celebrated in the sweet memory of Saamaa, Saamb and Chakrawat each year in the moon-light side (up to full moon day) of the month of Kartik. It is based on the most tragic epic (dardanaak giti kaabya) of the Tharu community. The whole epic is full of very sorrowful songs. The dialogues (in forms of songs) between sister (Saamaa) and brother (Saamb), between wife (Saamaa) and husband (Chakrawat) are all heart touching. It is the immortal story of the genuine love between sister and brother, between wife and husband. At the same time, the songs are full of teachings helpful for the welfare of human beings. It not only provides the entertainment but also teaches the community the most socially-desired behaviors. It also explains Tharu culture and its origin.

Traditionally, it is considered as the social barrier of the Tharu community. There is a common proverb prevailing in the community, "SAAMAA KE MURI DUB, BAR KE MURI UG" means when a married lady used to come to her maternal place on the eve of JITIYA PAWAIN to celebrate it, she returned to her home only after the celebration of Saamaa-Chakewa festival. No husband has the right to call his wife to come home from her maternal place before Saamaa-Chakewa festival. But after Saamaa-Chakewa, it is the turn of the husband to ask his wife to come home and participate in the harvesting of paddy.

There are many beliefs behind this festival where the Tharu community believes that in ancient times (probably 2000 years ago), in the kingdom of Garbh, there was a king named Kishan Bhusan Sen. He was famous for his good name and fame. He was very honest and dear to his people. He had a very ideal wife named Aadambati. He had a very obedient daughter named Saamaa and a son named Saamb. Saamaa and Saamb used to go to school daily. It was their daily life. Both loved each other. Saamaa used to take great care of her brother. It is the burning example of love between brother and sister.

The story further goes on like this: When Saamaa was twelve years old, she was married to a prince named Chakrawat, the first son of the seventh king, Salishuk, of Maurya dynasty of the kingdom of Magadh. In the kingdom of Garbh, there was also a courtyard named Churath. He was very sincere to the king but originally he was of ill character. When Saamaa grew into a damsel (a quite beautiful lady!), Churath started to think ill of her. He wanted to take the benefit of her youth. He wanted to marry Saamaa. Once, Churath found out a favorable moment and he proposed his naked dirty thought to her. But, Saamaa could not accept his dirty proposal. She denied his dirty proposal as she was already married and was very strong in terms of her character.

Churath could not bear with it. He took it as his insult. He was very angry with Saamaa as well as very afraid of the king. He found out a trick and cleverly convinced the king about the ill character of Saamaa. The king became very angry with Saamaa. He lost himself his patience on anger and without any further inquiry he punished his daughter to exile to Brindabon, a dense forest in the north of Garbh Desh. Saamaa found Churath very guilty in this matter. Saamaa was very obedient to her father. She courageously accepted the punishment and went to exile.

Finally, this bad news burst out in the country. Saamaa's mother, brother and her husband became patience less to know this unexpected event with Saamaa. They burst into tears. They began to swim in the sea of sorrows and grief. They found Saamaa very innocent in this regards and Churath very guilty. So, they became very angry with the king and Churath. They quarreled a lot to the king and requested him to take his word back in this regards. Churath was given hard punishment. Saamb and Chakrawat tried to their best to convince Saamaa to return home from the exile. But, Saamaa listened neither to her brother nor her husband. Finally, to make the word at any cost true of her father, she did not return home instead of mountains of sorrows and pain she found in the exile.

The whole story of Saamaa - Chakewa is nothing but it is the story of pain, sorrows, grief and pity. It is the heart touching dialogue between the queen and the king, between Saamaa and brother and between Saamaa and her husband. The king realized his mistake and finally he took this unwanted event to Saamaa as her bad luck. He asked his queen to send required things to her so as to make her life better there. The queen did the same but Saamaa did not accept anything rather she involved herself on hard penance. It is believed that on account of her hard penance she got salvation of the present birth and in the next time according to her wish she got the birth of a bird, Chakewa, so that she could fulfill the interest of her brother as well as her husband at a time.

Even today, Tharu community celebrates this event on her sweet memory each year in the month of Kartik and it is hoped that it will be continued in the future too. During the whole ceremony, every night there is a practice to every sister who wishes best of her brother. This is the immemorial story of brother and sister. The cordial relationship will be remembered as long as the world exists.

The Saamaa-Chakewa festival is celebrated each year in the moonlight of the month of Kartik. The ladies start to build the statues of Saamaa, Chakewa, Satabhainya, Chugala with long mustache, Brindabone badhani, dog, Bhamara, dance party etc. with the clay mostly from just after the Chhaith brat. They color the statues and put them in a new basket made of bamboo. They put a burning lamp on her honor in the basket. They decorate the basket with flowers and paper of different colors as much as they can. Every night they celebrate it with sweet songs. After their dinner all ladies - old, young and children with their decorated baskets with Saamaa gather at a place especially at the place of a village head. Some members carry their basket on the head and some start singing and by that way they move slowly and slowly to the road and then to a house of a festival member. They are highly welcomed there. They are provided some mats there to sit on. They put their baskets on the ground there and pass 2-3 hrs by singing sweet songs. They offer a lot of blessings to their brothers and abuse a lot to wicked. They worship their Saamaa there. After that, they again move back to the first place the same way. They end the procession there formally for that night and return to their home. It continues up to Purnima till they formally end the ceremony for this year. In the night of Purnima (full moon) when they start procession from the first place they do not go to the house of a member instead of they complete a walk to the whole community the same way. It is called DAGAR BULLON. They again return to the first place and formally end the ceremony for that evening.

Next morning is the final closing of this ceremony for this year. It takes place in a showy way. All brothers help their sisters to make a very nice looking temple made of bamboo and colored papers. They carry the temple to the pond or water source. Sisters get up early in the morning, clean their houses; organize essential materials for closing the festival. They again gather at the same place as before and start their procession with sweet songs and their Saamaa towards the pond where they want to end the festival. They reach to the pond, take a bathe and worship their Saamaa and place them to the temple. Sweets are distributed to the people who participates the procession. The brothers place the temple in the centre of the pond which remains there for some time. All people return to their homes and by this way the Saamaa - Chakewa festival ends for this year. The married sisters after the end of this ceremony start to return to their husband home and engage to their business.

Some important Saamaa songs are –
Brother Saamb:
Kathile kaanaichihi he Saamaa baihini, kathile tutalau laihara se aas,
Ghar ghuri chalahu he Saamaa baihani, banti debau aadhaa raj

Sister Saamaa:
Babaa ke sampatiya he bhaiya, bhatijawa ke ho aas
Hama para gotani he bhaiya, moteria ke ho aas

Ghara lauti chalahu he Saamaa baihani, Babaa ke debai ham gyaan
Tuhu jin ghuraba he Saamaa baihani, mohi tejab praan

Jina yehen karahu he Saamb bhaiya, babaa ke hetai bahaut badanaam
Karam ke khonta he ham bhaiya, bidhi moraa bhelai baam

Kaisan ke jibai he Saamaa baihani, kaisan ke pherab swans
Jin tuhu ghurab he Saamaa baihani, Jagat me bhaike hetai bahaut upahaas
Jin hiyaa haara he Saamb bhaiya, jin hebu niraas
Dosar janamuwame he Saamb bhaiya, pheno lebai yeke kokhi abataar.

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