Sunday, September 8, 2013

Atwaari: When Tharu men fast in honour of Bhim, the strongest Pandava

While the Hindu ladies with their red saris are fasting and celebrating Teej, Tharu men are fasting today in honour of Bhim, the strongest of the Pandavas.

The second biggest festival
Atwaari is considered as the second biggest festival after Maghi in the Western Nepal. Tharus in Banke, Bardia, Kailali, Kanchanpur, Dang and Surkhet districts celebrate it in a big way. It is observed on the Sunday following the Kushe Aunshi (The new moon day celebrated as Father's day in Nepal). 

Ancient connection
The story of Atwaari's origin is connected to the ancient times of Mahabharata. Tharus believe that King Dangisharan and Bhim were best of friends. While the Pandavas and Draupadi were on a visit to Surkhet's Kakrebihar, King Dangisharan's enemies attacked his kingdom.

Learning of the assault, Bhim rushed to the scene, leaving behind the roti (a form of bread baked in oil) being cooked on the pan. He supported Dangisharan and the attacking force was defeated. To celebrate the victory, honour Bhim who fought on a hungry stomach and be a strong man like Bhim, Tharu men keep fast on Atwaari. As it had happened on Aitwaar (Sunday), it was named Atwaari.

( c) Facebook/Tharu Community. A man carrying agraasan
A festival of brothers and sisters
On the first day, the men wake up early in the morning at around 2-3 a.m. and eat mutton, fish, crabs, water snails (ghonghis). The men then keep the fast the whole day. In the evening, they bathe in the rivers nearby, tamp the house with clay and cow-dung and lit fire from a wood called "Ganyari". Different kinds of rotis are prepared and half of the prepared rotis are set aside for sisters. The gift set aside for the sisters is called "Agraasan" and is sent to the married sisters the next day. A little part is pinched from the remaining rotis and fruits and put in the fire to worship Bhim. Then all the family members take the supper.

On the following day, the men again wake up early in the morning and bathe in the nearby rivers, tamp the house, and cook rice and three or seven different kinds of vegetables. Like the previous day, half of each cooked vegetable and rice is set aside. Then a mouthful of each vegetable and rice is taken out and served to Bhim by putting them into the fire. After this, the family members merrily eat their shares.

In their in-laws' homes, the sisters wait for the Agraasan and their brothers. Atwaari ensures that the brothers and sisters meet at least once a year. The festival resembles the Jitiya festival celebrated by the Tharus in the eastern Nepal where the women keep fast instead of men and the brothers visit their sisters' homes to invite them to celebrate Jitiya.   

(With inputs from and Santosh Dahit's article in

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