Saturday, January 4, 2014

22 village deities worshipped by Tharus

Tharus believe in shamanism. Wizardry, witchcraft, spirits, good souls, bad souls, devils and benevolent gods – all make up the daily vocabulary. Tharus still believe in dhami (in east) and gurwa (in west), the shamans who tame the evils and worship the good souls.

It is the sole responsibility of gurwas to keep all the gods and goddesses happy and save the whole village from catastrophes, disasters and epidemics. They organise mass worship at the maruwa than, the place of worship in each village.

In Eastern Nepal the worship place is called dihabar than and the whole village gathers and worships in Ashadh (June-July). In Western Nepal, westwards from Dang District, the gurwas hold special worship ceremonies at maruwa thans to appease the gods and goddesses.

Krishna Raj Sarbahari, in his book Tharu Shaman and Mantra Techniques, describes in detail the 22 gods and goddesses worshipped in the maruwa thans to keep the village intact from natural calamities and epidemics, and ensure that the crops cultivated yield better.

Tharus worship nature in different forms, naming them as gods and goddesses. The detailed description, translated into English from his book (pages 28-31), enforces the fact.

Daharchandi
She is regarded as the most powerful goddess. The worship commences by offering incense and oil lamp to her. Again after worshipping all the gods and goddesses, alcohol is offered to her. It is believed that Daharchandi and Draupadi are sisters. At the worship place, wooden blades buried half on the earth represent the two sisters.

Jhuthru Masan
Jhuthru Masan
protects the praganna (group of villages). However, if the villagers are not able to make him happy, he turns into ghost and troubles the whole village. He is offered vandhoop, a handful of rice mixed with honey, cow ghee (clarified butter) and blood from eight body parts (forehead, tongue, chest, thigh and little fingers of both the feet) of deshbandhya gurwa. Jhuthru Masan is also represented by a wooden blade.

Murha Masan
A log shaped wooden blade is installed in maruwa representing Murha Masan. It is believed that he controls all ghosts and evil spirits. That is why whenever anybody loses any property or is troubled by evil spirits, a nail is hammered to the deity’s head. He is offered blood, alcohol, milk and water.

Bahira Raksa
He is installed in the southern corner of the western part of maruwa. A pointed stone buried halfway represents Bahira Raksa. People worship him when someone gets lost or does not return home, or cattle are lost in jungle while grazing. It is believed that the lost ones return home or are found after performing a pooja (worship) to Bahira Raksa. A rooster or a pig is offered to him before bringing home a newly-wed bride, with a belief that she won’t elope or run away from her new home. To avoid running away of the newly bought cattle from other villages, a rooster is offered to the god.

Jagannathia
Chidi Gonga
, Patnahiya and Jagannathiya are three brothers. They are provided a space at the southern part of the maruwa. Their main job is to protect all 6 pragannas of Deukhuri Valley covering the area of 14 kosh (1 kosh = 3 km). They don’t have any symbol.

Bheranwa
Bheranwa is also considered as the central pillar (dhori khamba). He is considered as the coordinator and remains at the centre of all gods. He is worshipped to ensure that no gods and goddesses get carried away by others.

Pancho Pando
They are the five Pandavas of the epic Mahabharata. It is believed that they also protect the surrounding area. They are installed on the eastern part of the maruwa. They are offered milk, water, clove and luchui (a kind of bread) cooked in ghee.  

Purvi Bhawani
She is provided a place at the north-eastern corner and doesn’t have any representation. She is supposed to stop epidemics like cholera and other diseases entering the village from east. Like the five Pandavas, she is also not offered blood and alcohol.

Danuwa
Danuwa is situated at the west-northern corner of the maruwa. His responsibility is to play madal (a traditional drum played by beating both the ends) and make Daharchandi. He is offered a wooden madal and sandal.

BaghesworiHer responsibility is to protect cattle. It is believed that she protects the domestic animals from wild animals. She doesn’t have any specific symbol but an earthen tiger and an egg is installed at her place. She sits in between Daharchandi and Danuwa.     

Gavariya
This god remains outside maruwa, in the fields. He is worshipped by digging a hole in the maruwa. He is supposed to protect the crops from pests and calamities.

Kotiya
This god remains outside maruwa, in the southern side of the village. Like Gavariya, he is also provided a space in the maruwa by digging a hole in the western part. He is supposed to protect the villagers from the diseases entering from the south of the village.       

Karaiyakot
Karaiyakot means dense jungle in Tharu language. He is considered the god of hills. However, he is worshipped in the maruwa itself by digging a hole in the western part, instead of worshipping in the hills. It is believed that he descends to Terai from the hills to meet his friends and relatives. If someone is taken ill in the jungle, it is believed to be due to the ghost of Karaiyakot.

Badelwa
This deity takes care of fire and water. The gurwa offers oil to this god, believing that he will take care of the health of the villagers. It is believed that he doesn’t allow oil and foods affect the health of the eater. The newly-wed bride is taken to maruwa to worship him even before stepping into home, so that she does not suffer in the future.   

Kuiya Pani
This deity is present in the water sources (well and river bank) of the village. It is believed that this deity keeps the water clean and keeps the water-borne diseases at bay. The water resources are worshipped as gods. During the holi (festival of colours) festival, the villagers clean the wells.   

It is a common belief among Tharus that if the gurwas fail to worship any of the 22 deities, they trouble the villagers turning into ghosts and devils. While worshipping, 22 oil lamps are offered to all 22 deities (including two sisters Daharchandi and Draupadi, five Pandavas and three Jagannathia brothers). 

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