Friday, November 18, 2016

Shama Chakeva – celebrating the brother-sister relationship in the southern plains of Nepal

With the changing times, the festival celebrations are changing throughout the world. And so is the state of ancient festivals that are on the verge of vanishing. But thanks to few enthusiasts, they are keeping the tradition live!

I am talking about Shama Chakeva, an important festival reminding the dedicated brother-sister relationship that was celebrated widely in the southern plains of Nepal both by the Tharus and the Maithils.

Though the grandeur of the festival is on a decline, few groups have been promoting it in different districts of terai.

This year, however, I was lucky to observe the little girls celebrating this festival.

Here’s how the Shama Chakeva festival is celebrated.

The sisters make clay statuettes of Shama, Chakeva, Sathbhainya, Chugla and a dog among others (characters mentioned in the story of Shama Chakeva).

Clay statuettes of Shama, Chakeva, Satbhainya among others.

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 Chugla. They gather at different houses and sing these songs till the full moon day.

Girls carrying their clay statuettes in bamboo baskets and women singing songs of Shama Chakeva.
Taking the Shama Chakeva to nearby pond.

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 and offering ‘prasad’ to them.

Displaying the clay idols on the bank of pond before offering prasad to them.

Displaying the clay idols on the bank of pond before offering prasad to them.
A little girl doing her final pooja before immersing the idols into water.

The statuettes are finally immersed into water. The children burn the moustache of Chugla and break the idol into pieces so as to punish the wicked Chugla.

Immersing the clay idols into water.

Here’s a short story on how the festival started.
Was lucky to observe the Shama Chakeva festival celebrated by sisters for their brothers. This little girl is feeding 'prasad' -- an offering to her clay idols before submerging them into water. The sisters make clay idols representing different colourful birds, Shama, Chakeva, Satbhainya, Chugla, and Brindavan -- the important characters of the story -- take them through the village alleys while women sing songs about Shama Chakeva, and finally immerse the idols into water. The story goes like this -- Shama was Lord Krishna's daughter married to sage Charudatta. Chugla made false stories about her making Krishna furious and thus turning her into a bird by his curse. When Charudatta gets to know about it, he worships Lord Shiva and also gets turned into a bird and both live happily as Chakeva and Chakevi. But Chugla lights fire to the forest to kill them. However, with God's grace it rains and both are saved. When Shamba, Shama's brother gets to learn about this after returning from Gurukul -- the school of earlier days, he worships Krishna and is able to make him happy and gets the blessing 'your sister will return on Kartik purnima -- the November full moon day'. From that time this festival is thought to have started. --------------------- #shamachakeva #terai #Nepal #festival #Tharus #maithils
A photo posted by Sanjib Chaudhary (@sankuchy) on

Interestingly, the migratory birds start descending from Siberia and far-off places to the terai from November. And among them are the ruddy shelduck called chakheva!

Can you relate this with the Shama Chakeva being celebrated in November and Shama and Charudatta turning into birds?

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The dying tradition of painting evil eyes on the door entrance in Dashami

As Tharus embrace modernisation, many of their traditions are vanishing. And if not preserved on time, the young Tharus won’t even get to know about them!

Here’s one of the traditions of painting ‘Dain Jogin’ – an evil eye on the first day of Dashami in Eastern Nepal.

The evil eyes are replaced by these red and white patches on the seventh day of Dashami.

In the seventh day of Dashain, called Saptami, the evil eyes are replaced with these red and white patches of rice flour and vermilion. If you watch carefully, there are seven rows and seven columns of these patterns -- denoting the seventh day. These patterns are made by a wild plant's pods that I'll be posting later. These patterns are erased after the festival ends. There's an interesting connection to painting these patterns. Sangita Tharuni says, "The evil eyes are erased and replaced with these colourful patterns since the Goddess Durga gets her nayan (eyes) on this day." All the clay idols made during Dashain get irises in their eyes on this day. After this the idols are complete and are demonstrated for public viewing and worshipping. ------------------- #Dashain #tradition #terai #culture #tharus #easternnepal #graffiti #Nepal #beliefs
A photo posted by Sanjib Kumar Chaudhary (@sankuchy) on

The pod of the plant that is used to create the red and white pattern is called ‘sakhari bakhari’ in local Tharu language. Thanks for identifying it @shankarian!