Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The month of Baishakh and the Sambhunath temple

Sambhunath temple
If you are in the Eastern Nepal in the month of Baishakh (April-May), make sure to pay a visit to the Sambhunath temple. The temple is in the Sambhunath Village Development Committee (VDC) of the Saptary district adjacent to the East-West Highway. A month-long fair is observed at the premises of the temple to usher the New Year and pay obeisance to the Lord Shiva.

The Shiva Linga is believed to be growing.

Sambhunath is one of Lord Shiva’s many avatars. However, the Tharus call the deity Semnath and the month-long fair Semnath Dham (Refer to the comment by Mr Bhulai Chaudhary at the end of this article). On the very first day of the year (first of Baishakh), locals and pilgrims from surrounding districts and India come here to worship and offer “jal” (water) to the Shiva Linga which is continuously growing (as believed by local people). During the month-long fair, people worship Sambhunath and offer jal from the nearby pond. People with warts offer a pair of brinjals to the deity to get rid of the skin disorder. Miraculously, many people get cured of the warts. The fair at the temple premises offer you everything from edible items to entertainment like theatrical performances.

There are two ponds near the temple. Worshippers take bath and take water for offering to Shiva from the one situated at the western part of the temple. Another at the eastern part is bigger in size. It was a huge wetland in the past, however, due to encroachment has reduced to a pond. Still, the wetland attracts migratory birds and bear lotuses. It is in dire need of conservation.

Ruins of an earlier settlement

It has not been ascertained how old the Shiva Linga is. The ruins at the southern part of the temple indicate that the Lingam belongs to a very old settlement. The pieces of pillars and columns suggest there was an ancient kingdom in that area. It needs further study and research. The locals need to attract archaeologists to this site to delve into the history of the area. Meanwhile some people have been stealing away the precious pieces of ruins. It needs to stop and the area needs preservation measures from the state.

Nearby, in Kanakpatti Village, after the huge earthquake of 2050 Bikram Sambat (1993 AD), a nicely carved terracotta wall emerged from a hillock. Local people rushed to the area to collect the terracotta pieces. Later the Archaeology Department sealed the area for further research but it never saw the light of the day. This further indicates that the area was a burning hub of activities in the past.

There are many myths surrounding the Sambhunath temple and I request you to contribute to this article by posting the myths surrounding the temple.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Silver ornaments of Tharus

Tharus have a special affinity for silver ornaments. I wonder why Tharus are attracted by the white metal and not the glittering gold. In my opinion, silver is preferred as it suits the complexion of Tharu women and is cheaper. Another reason could be the easily available George V silver coins which were easily available in the past and could be molten into ornaments.

Few of the silver ornaments worn by Tharu women are housali, kanda, sikri, payal, motha, barhari, pahunchi, bank banju, churi, aunthi, chharra etc.

1. Housali is the Tharu version of the modern necklace. It is still worn by rural women. However, the size has diminished in comparison to earlier housalis. The housalis used to be thick round necklaces of around 2-3 Kgs silver.

2. Kanda is an anklet, but is heavy and is sometimes of around half kg silver each.

3. Chharras are thin round anklets which are worn in sets of three or more in each leg.

4. Barhari is the arm band which is often called katri in the Eastern Terai. It is thick and heavy.

5. Motha is an arm band which is similar to kanda worn on legs but is blunt at the ends differentiating it from kanda.

6. Aunthi is a ring which is made of both gold and silver.

7. Payal is an anklet which his lighter than kanda and chharra and is worn around the ankles.

8, 9 & 10. The bank banjus are worn around the upper arm.

Takka har
11. Takka har is worn around the neck and is made up of silver coins.

12. Sikri is also a form of necklace with thin strands of silver woven  together.

A Tharu belle in traditional attire

The ornaments of Tharus vary in form and size from place to place and they are also named differently by different Tharus. If you know more about the Tharu silver ornaments you are welcome to add to the list and post photos along with it.


A beautiful pair of ear rings

*Photos republished with the permission of Facebook group Tharu Community.