Celebrating Bihar

I being an unadulterated Bihari have often faced comments, at my work place, amongst my friends circle or for that matter in school and college as well, that, to them I don’t seem to be an absolute Bihari. The cause of this is simple, my refined Hindi or English speaking and add on to that my appearance. Thanks to my father’s transferrable job, that me & my family have explored several parts of India and majorly spent my childhood and teenage in Gujarat.

Being a cosmopolitan wherein I can easily understand and speak a little Gujarati, can do the steps of garba (folk dance of Gujarat) with ease and talk about my love for thepla, undhio & khakhra (Gujarati delicacies), people gauge me as a non litti chokha & bhojpuri songs type Bihari.

That’s not true mate. Bihar is not only about litti chokha, rustic tracks of Manoj Tiwari and bhojpori language. I hail from one of the historical and deep rooted part of Bihar – MITHILA (Madhubani), the land of King Janaka, the birth place of Goddess Sita and we speak there a completely different language from Bhojpuri which most of the people except Biharis are unknown of , Maithili language.

Maithili is an Indo – Aryan Language, which is written in Devanagari Script. This script was used to transcribe other neighbouring language of Bihar – Bhojpuri, Magadhi & Awadhi. In 2002, Maithili was included in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution, which allows it to be used in education, government, and other official contexts, it is recognized as one of the largest languages in India, as sourced from wikipedia. And my personal admiration for this language is the amount of sweetness it has when my grandparents and my people back home in Darbhanga and Madhubani converse with me or in general.

Any culture, tradition and history of a place can be interpreted majorly by four things:

  1. Dialect
  2. Food
  3. Festivals
  4. Heritage monuments

There is a 100% possibility that the top three things can be passed on from generation to generation, with the possibility of some mixing and reinventing as per the convenience.

India being one of open Economy now has started to welcome and develop taste and respect for different kinds of delicacies. Food in ancient India or even in ancient age was the result of what cultivation one was able to find in that part of land and special recipes originated from the festivals people in those days used to celebrate. Like, malpua and dahivada is for Holi, Gujia and mathri is for Diwali, thekua for Chhat puja, recipes of kuttu flour in navratris in North India majorly, likewise.

As I said earlier the history, culture and tradition of a place is deeply influenced by festivals. Like, KarwaChauth is Punjabi festival, playing garba and dandiyaraas in Navratri is a Gujarati  tradition, HariyaliTeej in the monsoons is a Rajasthani festival, GanpatiUtsav is one of the biggest festivity of Maharashtra, etc. Most of us know now a lot about Bihari Cuisine, Bihari Dialect. Now let’s know about some of the major Festivals of Bihar (Specifically in Mithilanchal and parts of Patna) and its significance. Here the lines by writer Siddharth Katragadda blinks in my head –“The greatness of a culture can be found in its festivals.”

 

From my childhood days I can recall one festival which was like a family decorum to celebrate – Chhath Puja. Every year we used to travel from Gujarat to our hometown in Bihar to celebrate this festival. It is one of biggest festivity, celebrated in Bihar and some parts of Uttar Pradesh.

CHHATH PUJA is an ancient Hindu festival and the only Vedic festival dedicated to Hindu Sun God and his wife (as per the vedic text) Goddess Usha or ChhathiMaiya. Its yogic/scientific history dates back to the Vedic times. The rishis or sages of yore used this method to remain without any external intake of food as they were able to obtain energy directly from the Sun’s rays. This was done through the Chhath method.

chhath offering to lord sun

The Sun, considered as the god of energy and of the life-force, is worshiped during the Chhath festival to promote well-being, prosperity and progress. In Hinduism, Sun worship is believed to help cure a variety of diseases, including leprosy, and helps ensure the longevity and prosperity of family members, friends, and elders.

Another history which was also narrated and has been passed on to generations is, behind celebrating the Chhath puja is the story of Lord Rama. It is considered that Lord Rama and Mata Sita had kept fast and offer puja to the Lord Sun in the month of Kartik in ShuklaPaksh during their coronation after returning to the Ayodhya after 14 years of exile. From that time, chhath puja became the significant and traditional festival in the Hindu religion and started celebrating every year at the same date. Diwali was celebrated on the arrival of Lord Rama & Goddess Sita in Ayodhya and after a week or so it is followed be Chhath Puja.
The rituals of the festival are rigorous and are observed over a period of four days. They include holy bathing, fasting and abstaining from drinking water , standing in water for long periods of time, and offering prashad (prayer offerings) and arghya to the setting and rising sun.

 

The suup of chhath puja

 

SAMA CHAKEVA is a salient festival of Bihar especially amongst Mithilanchal or Mithila. Immediately, after completion of Chhath Puja this festival is celebrated. The celebration dates falls specifically at the time of the birds migrating from Himalayas towards the Indian plains. This festival is dedicated to the bonding and sacrifices of brother and sister relationship.

Sama who was the daughter of Lord Krishna was falsely accused for wrong doing and was punished by her father, who turned her into a bird. But the love and scarifies of her brother Chakeva , eventually allowed to regain her human form.

sama chakewa puja

 

VAT SAVITRI PUJA is another significant fesitival’s of Bihar. I have grown up seeing the women of my family doing it from generations and today I too follow the same path. The legend behind this puja is, the puja has been named after Savitri, the daughter ofKing Aswapathi of Madra Desa. She choses to marry Satyavana, a prince in exile, staying in the forest with his blind parents who were the ex King and Queen. She leaves all the luxuries of her father’s palace to dedicate her life to Satyavan and his parents knowing that Satyavan has a very short span of life, which was predicted by Maharishi Narad Muni to Savitri before marriage. As a devoted wife and daughter-in-law, she went to great lengths to take care of them. One day while cutting wood in the jungle, Satyavan’s head reeled and he fell down from a tree. Then Yamraj, the death God, appeared to take away Satyavan’s soul. Deeply hurt, Savitri pleaded to Yamraj not to be separated from her husband. If anything, he would take away the soul of her husband and she would also follow. Yamraj, moved by the devotion of Savitri, returned the life of her husband under the Banyan tree.

Vat Savitri Puja

Just like Savitri dedicated her life for Satyavan knowing his short span of life,and she brought back life in the lifeless body of her husband lying under the shades of Banayan tree, from Yamraj, all married women on this day prays for the same strength, dedication and courage towards their marriage.

HARTALIKA TEEJPUJA is another most elaborated festival celebrated in Bihar. According to Hindu mythology this puja or fasting by Goddess Parvati resulted her marriage with one of the most sought Hindu God, Lord Shiva. Goddess Parvati performed severe austerities on the Himalayas for several years to get the attention of Lord Shiva. She survived on grass and fruits during this penance  and finally was able to win the heart of Lord Shiva and convince him for marrying her.

Women observe Hartalika Teej Vrat in remembrance of Parvati’s deep determination to win over her love. Married women on the day of Puja dress up almost just like their wedding day, put hena (mehendi) or red colored water (alta) in their palms and feets, make delicacies like gujai or pidakia, thekua. They bestow the sweet delicacy , fruits and flowers infront of idol of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Keep Nirjala Vrat (without water & food fasting) for entire 24 hours. In villages, group of woman gather and do singing and dancing as well infront of the idol of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.

Hartalika Teej Puja

I read in a journal that in the Indian culture, there was a time when there used to be a festival every day of the year – 365 festivals in a year – because a festival is a tool to bring life to a state of exuberance and enthusiasm. That was the significance and importance of festivals. The whole culture was in a state of celebration. If today was ploughing day, it was a kind of celebration. Tomorrow was planting day, another kind of celebration. Day after tomorrow was weeding, that was a celebration. Harvesting, of course, is still a celebration. Marriages, birth of child, a girl entering into womanhood, was a celebration.This ofcourse has message that, Celebrate Life…don’t just celebrate festivals and every day is a celebration… Life is a celebration

Here’s the trivial but significant part of my culture….here’s  the one influencing part of my origin….happy, joyful and positive….Blissful Bihar….we speak the same language of celebration as other fesitivies in other parts of the country…..!!

Life is what you celebrate….All of it….Even its End.(Quote by: Joanne Harris)

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