Thursday, October 30, 2014

5 foot-tapping Tharu dances

Barka Naach
Based on the story of Mahabharat, the Barka Naach is the biggest and most difficult dance performed by the Tharus. It hovers around the song Barkimar which tells the story of Mahabharat. In Tharu language barki means big and mar is a battle.

The dance is performed during the Dashain festival and harvesting season. Tharus believe that the dance brings better harvest and cures diseases and illnesses.

Barka Naach clip uploaded by Nathuram Chaudhary.

Sakhiya Naach
Sakhiya Naach is based on the story of Lord Krishna’s life. The dance is performed during the Dashain festival. In Tharu language sakhi means a friend. As it is danced with friends, it might have got the name Sakhiya. 

Sakhiya Naach clip uploaded by Ganga Dagaura.

Sakhiya dance clip uploaded by Lovely Ramu.

Hori Naach
Hori Naach is performed during the Holi festival. It is performed by Rana and Katharia Tharus. The men and women dance throughout the month of Holi.

Hori Naach clip uploaded by Jacques Trevisan.

Maghuata Naach
Performed during the Maghi festival, Maghauta Naach starts from first of Magh and is performed till the third of Magh. It is performed by the women folks.

Dance clip uploaded by Punaram Chaudhary.

Dhumra Naach
Dhumra Naach is performed during the Shukrati/Deepawali festival. It is performed to appease the Chora Devta, a mischievous deity thought to be responsible for infant mortality.

Dhumra Naach clip uploaded by Subash Chandra Chaudhary

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Tharus and Chanarbhoga, the erstwhile winter palace of Sen kings

If you travel to Eastern Nepal, make sure to visit Semnath and Chanarbhoga shrines which lie to the south and north of the East-West Highway’s Rupani-Sambhunath section in the Saptari district.
Temple remnants at Chanarbhoga
Artefacts at Semnath
Semnath, also called Sambhunath, is worshipped as Lord Shiva by the locals. However, Bhulai Chaudhary, the Central Advisor of Tharu Kalyankarini Sabha denies it being Lord Shiva. According to him, the shrine is that of Semnath, a Tharu deity. It is like a pillar and unlike other Shiva shrines, people sacrifice goats and pigeons here to appease the lord. Nowhere in the world the devotees offer animals and birds to Lord Shiva. According to him, Semnath was later Sanskritised to Sambhunath. 

Lord Semnath
Another interesting offering made to Semnath is a pair of brinjals stuck to both ends of a long stick. People vow to offer the brinjals to Semnath in order to get rid of warts on their bodies. And interestingly many people have been able to cure the skin ailment!

The columns and idols at Semnath are similar to the ruins at Chanarbhoga, the shrine on the Chure hills to the north of East-West Highway. Locals believe that the artefacts at Semnath were brought from Chanarbhoga.

According to Bouli Chaudhary, in an article in Tharu Sanskriti, Semnath and Debnath were brothers. One day, Semnath’s maternal aunt hit him with larna, a flat ladle-like kitchen equipment used for stirring while roasting food items, he turned into a stone. He then instructed a local, in his dream, to take him away from Chanarbhoga.

Amrit Lal Chaudhary, 60 years, from nearby Khoksar village echoes a similar story. As Semnath took the form of stone and was swept away by the floods, shepherds tried sharpening their knives on it. But it bled whenever they sharpened their tools on it. Later, a man from the current Sambhunath area dreamt of Semnath instructing him to take him away from the site.   

So when the villagers came in hordes to take him to their village in a bullock cart, the stone didn’t even move an inch from the place. However, as instructed by Semnath, when they brought a small toy cart and loaded in it, the cart started rolling. It came to a halt at the place where the current temple of Semnath is situated.

Some old people whom I interviewed in the area told me that the dent on the top of the pillar worshipped as Semnath represents the hitting by larna. Likewise, the yellow colour on top of the pillar resulted as Semnath ran through the fields of mustard before he turned into a stone.   

Chanarbhoga, though visited by the surrounding villagers only once a year, has significant cultural and religious value. People vow to sacrifice goats and pigeons to Chanarbhoga to get their wishes fulfilled. Bhulai Chaudhary says that Chanarbhoga might be the Shira Than (which lies to the north of the village) of the Tharus. The Tharus worship the deity at Shira Than and sacrifice goats and pigeons so that they and their cattle are not attacked by any wild animal and evil spirit in the jungle.

Though not much has been written about Semnath and Chanarbhoga, some historians relate them to the Sen kings who once ruled the area. Hari Kant Lal Das from Rajbiraj says that the ruins in the Chure hills are remnants of Ekagarh, the winter palace of the Sen kings. According to him Chandrabhoga was their clan deity. He claims that Sambhunath (Semnath) was the erstwhile Ambarpur, the winter capital of the Sen kings.

As the area has not been excavated, not much can be said about the place. However, looking at the affinity of Tharus to the place, one can imagine the ties between Semnath, Chanarbhoga, Sen kings and the Tharus.

If you want to know more about Semnath and Chanarbhoga read my earlier blog posts and the Op-Ed published in The Kathmandu Post.