Sama Chakeva: Mithila’s festival of folk tales and songs

Bihar is home to numerous folk tales and songs, Sama Chakeva is one of such festivals that celebrates it all. In Bihar, it is mostly celebrated in the ancient Mithila region which comprises Darbhanga, Saharsa, Madhubani and a few other districts. Mythologically, in Skanda Purana and Padma Purana, we get the reference to the story of Sama Chakeva. This festive tradition is said to be as strong as Rakhi.

The story behind this festivity is interpreted as a celebration of brother and sister love; and to welcome the migratory birds coming towards the plain in the winter season, mostly November, from Himalayan terrain. According to popular legend, the celebration of Sama-Chakeva originates from the tragic tale of Sama, the daughter of Krishna as described in Puranas. The story is that a wicked character hatched an evil design and made a false allegation that Sama had illicit connections with an ascetic. Krishna got furious and cursed her to become a bird. However, when Sama’s brother, Chakeva, got to know about the episode, he observed self penance. Sama was finally brought to human form following her brother’s affection and sacrifice for her, making this festival cherish the pure bond of a brother-sister.

Sama-Chakeva is also associated with the folk song tradition and represents the creations of poets and artisans working together to rejuvenate the local spirit of family bonding and festivity. The celebration starts on the night of Chhath puja. This is the 7th day of the month of Kartik. Young, mostly unmarried girls assemble near the ghats of chhath with a basket containing small idols of sama and chakeva, candles, kohl, clay made daily use appliances etc. at night. They sing traditional Mithila songs and perform some rituals, like making kohl, exchanging baskets.

These nine days of festivity continue till Kartik Purnima. On the auspicious occasion of Kartik Purnima, girls take a dip in the river and the idols of sama and chakeva are immersed in the river. Earlier, womenfolk in Mithila used to make clay idols of different birds and decorated them in traditional ways. Nowadays, ready-made clay idols of Sama-Chakeva are available in the market. Songs like ‘vrindavan me aag lagle, koi na bujhaile, Humre bhaiya bujaile’ and ‘chugla ke mochh me aag lgle’. Many singers including Padma Bhushan Sharda Sinha have sung multiple renditions of the folk songs that belong to Sama-chakeva traditions.