Monday, January 17, 2011

Tharus employ Maghi to promote their cause

The Tharu community on Saturday marked their biggest festival, Maghi. Falling on the first day of the Nepali month of Magh, the festival coincides with the New Year for the Terai community.

Unlike in the past, the festival has not been confined to mere enjoyment. It is also an occasion for advocating the rights of the backward ethnic community.

A two-day Maghi festival has begun at Tundikhel in Kathmandu. It features Tharu cuisines such as pigeon’s meat, rat pickle, crab pickle, fish, teel ko laddu (sesame seed ball), pork curry and a variety of bread like Bagiya, Dhikri and Jharra Roti. Typical Tharu dances like Sakhiya, Hridangwa, Ghumra, Jhumra, Maghauta, Jharra and Lathwa were performed on the occasion. The festival also saw traditional handicrafts and books of the community. Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal graced the event.

“We started the festival in 2002 with a view to advocating the rights of our community,” said Premi Lal Chaudhary, coordinator of the festival organising committee. “Tharu people were suppressed by the state in the past and have been subjected to barbarous systems like Kamaiya (bonded labourer) and Kamalari (bonded female labourer).”

The Maghi day starts with the Tharu people taking a bath in nearest water sources. After the bath, they touch raw dal, rice and salt and take blessings from their elders. A special song called “Dhamar” is sung on the day. Khichri (flavoured stewed rice called “Khicharawa” in Tharu) is eaten the next day. The government announced Maghi as a national festival in 2007.

Maghi is also an occasion for the Tharu community to choose their community leaders, analyse the previous year’s activities, give gifts (Nisrau) to daughters, commence the new fiscal year and discuss family issues. The occasion is celebrated also as the day of liberation as it was the only time for the Kamaiyas to take a break from their regular chores before they were legally emancipated on July 17, 2000.

“On this occasion, we demand that the government fulfill its promise of liberating and rehabilitating Kamaiyas and give priority to the education, employment and political development of the Tharus,” said Shailendra Kumar Chaudhary, member of the Tharu Students’ Society.


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