Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Jitiya Pawain - the most revered festival among Tharu women

Bhulai Chaudhary


Jitiya is the most important Pawain of the Tharu women in the eastern and mid Tarai of Nepal. There is a proverb about Jitiya, most commonly used in the community, "Jitiya Pawain Bada Bhari". The proverb means to say that Jitiya is the most valuable festival of the Tharu women. Jitiya is the symbol of jit (victory). It is in the name of Jituwa, a blessing son of the Sun. He is also called God Jitamahan. God Jitamahan is the main deity of Jitiya Pawain to whom a bratalu woman (a woman who is on brata, a devotee) worshipping Jitiya festival. Jituwa or Jitamahan has been blessed by the Sun that a woman who will do this brata in the name of Jituwa honestly in the right time in right way, her son will come out victorious in every difficult moment. He can't be defeated by any one.

Women do this Pawain for the welfare of their children. It is believed that if a woman does this Jitiya Pawain for the first time in right time (kharadin) in a right way, her child becomes very safe, long living, healthy, wealthy and successful in every walk of life. If somebody is escaped, sometimes, from a deadly event, it automatically comes in the mouth of the people that your mother started Jitiya Pawain in a kharadin (very sacred moment). That is why s/he is saved; otherwise s/he had no chance to be saved.

Other importance of this festival is a woman gets a chance to see her parents, friends and to spend relaxed life at her Laihara/maternal place. Children are also impatiently waiting this festival. Because they get chance to visit maternal uncle and to have new clothes from him. They get very delicious food there in course of Jitiya. So the women and their children both become happy at a time during Jitiya.

Women from other communities rather than Tharus also celebrate this Jitiya festival in the eastern and mid Tarai of Nepal and the adjoining community of India. But, the way the Tharu women celebrate Jitiya differs from other communities. Tharu women generally celebrate this festival at their maternal place (Laihara). A lady who is married can do this Jitiya Pawain. In Tharu community young as well as old all women can do this brata. There is no restriction. But in other communities generally old women take this brata at her home. There is no tradition to celebrate it at her Laihara. But in the Tharu community all young married ladies at their Sausara are impatiently waiting their brothers who come to call their sisters from Sausara to Laihara on the auspicious occasion of this Jitiya brata.

The story behind Jitiya festival
In the days of yore, in the northern plain, there was a king named Saribahan. He was very pious. He used to devote most of his time on religious activities. He had one daughter named Masabashi. She was very dear and lovely to her father. She was as pious as her father. She also used to devote most of her time on religious activities and worshipping God. As time advanced she grew up into a quite young princess. The king started to find out a suitable prince for his lovely daughter Masbashi. Masbashi also came to know this fact and finally she told to her father that she was not in favor of any marriage. She expressed her interest that she wanted to be a saint/hermit and wanted to devote her all time in worshipping God. She expressed that she wanted to live and pass her all time in a hermitage rather than royal palace. The king was shocked to know her interest. He tried his best to convince her to forget her current ideas, but Masbashi did not hear of him. Lastly, the king asked his ministers to build a hermitage outside of the palace on the bank of the river according to the interest of his daughter/Masabashi. Masabashi started to spend a hermit life in the hermitage in the guise of a saint. Everyday in the early morning before the Sun she used to go to the river for bathing and after bathing she used to devote her full time in worshipping. She did neither use to see a male nor the sunshine. Whole day she was inside the house busy in spiritual activities. It was her daily life. Sometime passed like this way. Once ill luck would have it with her. She was late to get up in the morning. When she got up, she hurriedly went to the river for bathing but while she was returning from the river the Sun was already shining on the sky. Due to sunshine's effect Masabashi got pregnant. After sometime, Masabashi noticed this unnatural change with her. She was lost to notice it. She was quite ashamed of it. She tried her best to get ride of this unnatural event but it did not work. This news broke out rapidly in the city. The king was also lost to get this news. He was quite ashamed of it.

Instead of innumerable back-biting, Masabashi, finally gave birth to a child. Anyhow the child was growing up everyday. He was of very peculiar characteristics. He was always defeating his colleagues in all activities and coming out victorious. So, his colleagues used to call him Jituwa(a winner). But at the same time, his friends were very tired of his peculiar characteristics and were always in search of an opportunity to take revenge from him. They knew that father of Jituwa was unknown. So they put his hidden name Anerwa (a guy without father) and by this name they wanted to demoralize him.

Jituwa's friends were trying their best to prove Jituwa an Anerwa. In the long run, they designed a simple house with in and out parts in the name of a game. They made a condition that each participant would have to tell two most important and easy names which all knew. Jituwa did not notice before the tricks of his friends and thus he also participated in the game. The first condition of the game was to tell mother's name to enter into the house. All friends told their mother's name and entered into the house. Jituwa also told his mother's name and entered into the house. The second condition was to tell father's name to come out of the house. All friends did the same and came out of the house but Jituwa was not knowing his father's name and so Jituwa became unable to tell his father's name and thus he remained inside the house. Jituwas's friends were criticizing Jituwa that he was Anerwa. So he would remain inside the house. Other friends were going in and coming out of the house. Jituwa was forced to remain inside. Other friends were making a joke to Jituwa, "Why are you not coming out? Are you an Anerwa?"

Later Masabashi came to know that her son was in trap. So she came near to her son and told him his father's name- the Sun. In this way Jituwa also told his father's name and came out of the trap. Then he returned to his house with his mother.

No doubt, Jituwa came out of the game's house but Jituwa's friends were not so much convinced with Jituwa's answer. Jituwa, himself, was not so much convinced with his answer and thus he wanted to find out the true answer.

Jituwa proposed to his mother that he wanted to meet his father. Thus he requested to his mother to organize some necessary materials for him. By knowing the interest of her son, Jituwa's mother got shocked. Because she knew that no one could meet the Sun. He would be burned into ashes which she did not want. She tried as much as to convince him to forget that interest. But Jituwa did not listen to her. At last, Masabashi organized some necessary materials for Jituwa and then Jituwa departed to meet his father- the Sun.

After some days journey of Jituwa when the Sun was convinced that Jituwa could not forget his aim of meeting him then the Sun in guise of an ordinary man came to Jituwa on the way. He asked Jituwa about his aim. Jituwa told him that the Sun was his father and thus I would like to meet him. The man tried his best to convince Jituwa to give up his aim of meeting the Sun but it went in vain. Jituwa could not give up his aim. When the Sun came to know his affirmation and love towards his father then the Sun became very pleased with him and told him, "I am the Sun, your father. I am very happy with you. Now you return to your home". Jituwa politely answered, "I am happy to meet you. I am ready to return home but who will believe that I met you in reality". Then the Sun (God) said, "From now you are not Jituwa only, you are Jitmahan. You go to the earth and tell to the people that from now those married women who will take Jitiya brata in his name, their children will live long, come out victorious out of the trouble and will be healthy, wealthy and wise".

Jituwa asked him the right time and the way to take the brata. Then the Sun told, "It is Aashwin Seventh day of Krishna Pachha (dark moon) Saturday Lai, Sunday Upabas and Monday Paran".

On the first day of the brata, a married woman takes two leaves and four flowers of a spongegourd, some clay and mustard oil cake to the river. Firstly, she takes a bathe and then performs a pooja there to Jitamahan without changing her wet dressings. After the pooja she washes her head with remaining clay and mustard oil cake before her final bathing.

For pooja or offering it to God Jitamahan, she puts at the rate of two pooja of some clay and mustard oil cake on each of the two leaves of sponge-gourd, puts one flower of sponge-gourd on each pooja, pour water over it and then bow to the Lord Jitamahan.

That very day she takes a normal diet as usual without any discrimination. If possible she can eat even fish and bread of finger millet which are prohibited diets for most of the brata and ceremonies. In the last quarter of the coming night, a bratalu woman takes a powerful delicious diet called Otaghan/Dar which helps her next day and night almost 24 hrs to take brata/ Upabas (fasting) or to live without any food and water.

Before an Otaghan a bratalu woman will have to offer some curd, beaten rice, gura, banana, areca nut, four flowers of sponge-gourd on two leaves of sponge-gourd as pooja to a symbolic falcon and jackal. The symbolic falcon and jackal are offered pooja outside the temple. After Otaghan fasting starts for 24 hrs as Upabas/brata on the honor of Jitamahan. During the day a bratalu woman has to hear Jitiya Katha and has to offer pooja on his honor to God Jitamahan.

The second day a bratalu woman first collects a leaf of Bikhaman, a bow made of banana leaf, arrow of siki, banana, betel leaf, areca nut, Achhat, pea-grains, basil leaves, some bags of paddy grains made of kush leaf, some yellow and black flags or kaniya putri, a clay lamp with mustard oil, Kusadi, a glass of water, red powder, white powder made of rice and mustard oil in a basket made of bamboo, a small branch of pippal and bar (banyan) tree, and then digs out a small symbolic pond at a comfortable place and gathers to hear Jitiya katha and offer pooja to God Jitamahan at a water source under a Bar or Pippal tree.

The third day (the ninth day of dark moon) is the day of breaking of brata/Upabas. A bratalu woman breaks her fasting and starts normal diet (food and water). In the early morning she cleans her surrounding; makes everything ready for pooja and to break the brata. She takes a bathe and finishes pooja with banana leaf, Bikhaman pata, Jitiya phool (flower), curd, beaten rice, banana, gura, betel leaf, areca nut, sponge-gourd leaf and flower, achhata, pea-grains, basil leaves, a clay lamp with mustard oil, Dabahi, a glass of water, red powder and dhoop. Lastly, she uses to swallow (without chewing) five grains of each of achhata and pea and by this way her brata comes to an end.

After that, the God disappeared from there and Jituwa in the name of God Jitamahan very happily returned to the earth. He communicated the message of the Sun to the people. People became very happy to know the message. They were very eagerly waiting the time. Time came and the married women gathered at a place and decided to take this Jitiya brata. They organized every required material as instructed above. They went to take a bathe to the Naramada River and took the brata in a proper way. God Sun fulfilled the interests of the women and from that time this brata has still been in practice in the Tharuhat as well as in other adjoining Tarai communities with same spirit, essence and believe.

The Tharu and the Jitiya Festival
The Tharu women celebrate this Jitiya festival from their heart with great pomp and show. Tharu males also accompany them and equally contribute to make this festival happen magnificently. It is not so with the other communities. This festival is like a working calendar of the traditional Tharu community- when a Tharu bride and or Tharu woman comes to Sausara and then Sausara to Laihara, when to sow seeds in the fields and when to harvest the crops. It is tied with the Tharu other ceremonies. This festival makes all these things clear to the Tharus and the Tharus follow it from the very beginning. This festival clearly expresses the love between brothers and sisters. If some sisters don't have their brothers, they feel the needs of the brother at this moment. If some sisters don't have their brothers, it is commonly spoken to a sister in the Tharu community: who will go to call you for the Jitiya Pawain? Because, generally brothers are going to call their sisters for the Jitiya Pawain. At Jitiya time most of the sisters manage pigeon's meat in the honor of their brothers. Secondly, the names like Saribahan, Masabashi, Jituwa used in Jitiya katha most commonly resemble with the Tharu names. The materials to be used in Jitiya pooja like Jitiya Phoola, Dabahi grass, Siki grass, flowers and leaves of sponge-guard, peas, bikhaman are more near to the nature and simple which are rarely used in other Hindu ceremonies. Jitiya is not a new ceremony but as old culture as old the Tharu community. So, most of the Tharus believe that Saribahan should be the Tharu King.

Courtesy: www.tharus.org
The writer can be contacted at chaudharybhulai@yahoo.com
photo credit: thegreenpages via photopin cc

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