Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Maghi and the Tharus

Sesame seeds, puffed rice, jaggery, yam, ghee (clarified butter), sweet potato, fish, meat and homemade liquor constitute the cuisine of Maghi, the festival celebrated on the first day of the tenth month Magh (mid January) of the Hindu calendar. While rest of the populace call it Maghe Sankranti, Tharus call it Maghi, Khichara and Tila Sankarait, and celebrate it as their biggest festival.

Celebrated since time immemorial
Although there are no written evidences stating the origins of Maghi, the Tharu elders say that it is being celebrated since time immemorial. The festival marks the beginning of a new year and culmination of the hard work in the fields. By the end of Poush (December – January), the month preceding Magh, the farmers are done with their field work and harvesting rice. With very less work to do in the field and chilly winter on the wane, Tharus celebrate the festival with pomp.       

Beginning of the new year and election of leader
Tharus residing in Dang, Banke, Bardia, Kailali and Kanchanpur districts of western Nepal term Maghi as the beginning of the new year. In the Dang Valley, the festival is celebrated singing and dancing the whole month. In the adjacent Deukhuri Valley, people sing and celebrate the festival.

The day preceding Maghi, pigs are sacrificed. On the day of Maghi, people take dips in nearby water resources, meet and greet the elders and relatives, and eat special foods comprising dhikri (rice flour dumplings), fish, ghonghi (water snails) and homemade rice wine. On the following day they eat khichri (rice porridge) and from the third and fourth days onwards they meet to elect the leader of the community.

Washing of sins and partaking sticky rice
 In Chitwan and Nawalparasi districts, the festival is called Khichara and is celebrated for two days. The first day (the last day of the ninth month Poush) is termed Machhuwari. Tharus collect fish from the nearby water resources which has limited to buying from nearby markets these days. They also buy pork, mutton, sheep meat, chicken and ducks.

At night, fish and chichar (sticky rice/steamed Anadi variety of rice) is eaten and women make poka. To make a poka, handful of chichar is wrapped in the leaves of bhorla/manahan (wide leafed wild creeper) and tied tightly with ropes made from patuha (Saccharaum spp.).

On the second day, they take holy bath in nearby water sources.  People believe that taking dips in the Narayani River and Devghat, the river confluence, early in the morning before the sunrise will wash their sins. After the bath they eat hot poka along with the meat and fish cooked on the previous day. The poka is heated on ghaura, embers of rice husk, hay and straws. It is generally followed by drinking homemade rice wine. The day time meal consists of dal, bhat, tarkari, achar (lentils, rice, curry and pickles), meat and fish.

Gift of sesame seed sweets
In the eastern Nepal, Tharus call the festival Tila Sankarait. Early morning they take bath in the nearby rivers and spend the day eating til khichari (sesame and rice porridge), gud khichri (jaggery and rice porridge), tiluwa laddoo (sweets made of sesame seeds and boiled jaggery), laai (sweets made of puffed rice and boiled jaggery), vegetables, meat and fish.

The married daughters and sisters expect their parents and brothers to send a gift of tiluwa laddoo and laai in this festival. It holds a special place in their hearts.

A nice account of Maghi celebrations posted by Avenues Television.

With inputs from Mr Krishna Raj Sarbahari Chaudhary ( from Dang, Dr Phanindra Kumar Chaudhary ( from Chitwan and Mr Bhulai Chaudhary ( from Saptary.         

No comments:

Post a Comment