Saturday, March 24, 2012

10 important Tharu festivals

The Tharus celebrate the very first day of the year (1st of Baishakh/mid April) by sprinkling water on each other. The elders put water on the forehead and head of the young ones with blessing while the young people put water on the feet of the elders to pay respect. Compatriots sprinkle water on each other’s body.

The day is marked by taking bath early in the morning, wearing clean and new clothes, celebrating Joorshital by sprinkling water on each other and visiting the yearly fairs at the places of worship during the day time. In the Eastern Terai, people visit the Semnath Dham in Saptari District and Salahesh Fulwair in the Siraha District.

Akharhi Pawain
Akharhi pawain is celebrated by offering rice pudding to the home deity. The house and surrounding is cleaned and the worshipper who offers the pudding to the deity fasts and eats only after worshipping. The festival falls on the month of June-July.

Chauthichan is celebrated by worshipping the moon. It is observed on the day when fellow Hindus celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi. Puwa (sweet cake), kheer (rice pudding) and other offerings are offered to the moon in the evening. The worshipper has to fast the whole day and eat only after the pooja (worship) in the evening.

Jitiya is one of the most important Tharu festivals celebrated by Tharu women. The Tharu women celebrate Jitiya by fasting or keeping “vrata” for the welfare of their children. The brothers visit their sisters’ home to invite them and take their sisters to their maternal home. The married women worship Lord Jitmahan and fast, not even drinking water.

Clay statues are worshipped till the 10th day of Dashami.
Ten days after Jitiya, the Dashami festival begins. During Dashami, Tharus worship their home deity and the village deity, Rajaji/Dihibar Baba. The villagers offer clay lamps “diyas” and incense sticks to the village deity at the place of village worship “Than”. On the 5th day they make “dain jogin” – the evil eyes at the entrance of each house and granary. The evil eyes are erased and replaced by red and white patches of vermilion and rice flour paste on the 7th day. Villagers worship the clay sculptures of gods and goddesses (Durga, Kali, Laxmi, Saraswati, Ganesh and Kartik) on the ninth and tenth days.

The 10 days of Dashami is thought to be auspicious to learn the trade and tricks of wizardry and witchcraft – as it is believed that all doors and windows to all 10 directions are opened during this period.

Shukrati is the Tharu version of Tihar or Deepawali, the Hindu festival of lights. On the day of Laxmi Pooja, the Tharus prepare a baton of jute sticks “santhi” and “sabai”, the wild rope grass. In the evening, they light the batons “Hunke Hukar” from the lamp offered to the home deity and play with the burning batons among their friends and relatives at an open space. They chant “Hunke Hunkar, Behan Bagiya” – meaning the day after will be celebrated by eating “bagiya”, the rice bun cooked over steam.

On the day of Govardhan Pooja, all agricultural tools like plough, spade, axe, scales, weights etc. are washed, oiled, sprinkled with rice flour paste and vermilion and worshipped. The Tharus make godaha/godahaini (of human form) from the cow dung and leave it for the night in the gahli, the cowshed. The next day, the godaha/godahaini is made into a chipri (dung cake), dried and stored in a safe place.

The cattle herders make a bale of grass called “hurra” and collect money from each household. The cattle are washed and fed mixture of rice bran, mustard cake, hay and bamboo leaves. Mustard oil, rice flour paste and vermilion is applied to their horns and the cattle are even coloured. They are fed the essential oil extracted from the wild aromatic plant “Dulfi”. Then all cattle are taken to the village grazing field and the herders organise fights between bulls, and between buffaloes. The winners get the bulk of “hurra” and the respective herders claim the prize money.

Shama Chakewa

Sisters carry baskets with statuettes on their heads and
sing songs blessing their brothers.
Shama Chakewa is celebrated in the month of Kartik (October – November). It is celebrated to honour the relationship between brothers and sisters. The sisters make clay statuettes of Shama, Chakewa, Sathbhainya, Chugala and a dog among others (characters mentioned in the story of Shama Chakewa). Every night, they put the statuettes in a nicely decorated bamboo basket, put the basket on their heads and sing songs blessing their brothers and abusing the wicked person Chugala. They gather at different houses and sing these songs till the full moon day. The next day, their brothers help build small temple like floating baskets. Then the brothers and sisters gather on the bank of a pond and put the statuettes in the floating baskets after worshipping them.

The ritual of honouring the new harvest is called Neman and is celebrated in the month of November. The chipri (dung cake) made during Shukrati and kept in a safe place is used to light fire and cook the first grain harvested from the field and offered to the home deity. Only after celebrating Neman, the Tharus consume the newly harvested grain.

Maaghi/Tila Sankarait
Maaghi is the greatest festival of the Tharus. The festival is marked by taking bath at the nearest natural water sources like rivers and ponds and eating sweets prepared from sesame seeds (tiluwa laddu), rice pudding with sesame seeds (teel khichri), sticky rice (chichri), fish and meat. In the Eastern Terai it is called Tila Sankarait, named after eating the dishes made from sesame seeds (teel). Whereas in the Western Terai it is called Maaghi, named after Magh, the month the festival falls on.

Maaghi is considered as the new year and on this day, the households and villages select their respective leaders, Badghars.

Faguwa is the festival of colours. It is celebrated with equal zest by young, old and children. The festival is marked by sprinkling colours, coloured water on each other, playing “dholak” (drum) and singing “jogira”, the obscene song. Especially, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law enjoy smearing each other with colours. A concoction of sugar and weed “bhang” is widely drunk during the festival.


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