I belong to Mithila region of Bihar, India. Mithila is land of Seeta mata, who is also named as Maithili. Maithili (One of three major languages spoken in Bihar, others are Bhojpuri and Magahi) is our mother tongue. I am proud of Mithila culture. Though every culture has its own beauty, but As I have seen all the festivals since childhood, I am writing this post, so that world knows about our culture, tradition and rituals.
Disclaimer: All the details are from my own perspective and for most of the festivals, I have used example of my family and my village (Some festivals may be specific to a particular caste/community within Mithila). Festivals dates are approximate and may not be exactly right and these dates changes every year as it depends on Hindi calendar (Chaitra, Baishak... Falgun month)
Let me mention that, these festivals and rituals are going on since 100s of years, though many of these are either scaled down on grandeur or people stopped celebrating them, as people have moved out of villages and have comparatively less time for so many festivals.
You will notice that most of Mithila festivals are focused on two objectives
1. Relationship and bonding between family, friends and society should increase.
2. Have delicious and variety food.
In my village, just 25 years back, there was no TV, no Phone, no news paper. There used to be Radio, that too not with every family, so the means for entertainment was nothing like today. They used to have these festivals quite frequently, and people used to celebrate these with full enthusiasm and with proper (as per documentation or as per Pandit) procedures. Today things are changed quite a bit.
Let me explain the festivals and rituals which is part of Mithila's life.
1. Makar Sankranti (15 Jan).
Later everybody will eat Dahee (Curd), Chura (Flat rice), Kela (Banana), Sweets, Achar (Pickles), Tilkut (Special sweet made out of Til), Sabji (Vegetable curry). I remember in 2002, we were in 1st year of engineering, and we (some 20 North Indians), prepared Dahee, and Alu-Gobhee sabjee. Some of our south friends were also invited for lunch.. They were not aware that Chura swells and increases in size in stomach after some time and if you ate Chura for full stomach, you will start feeling uncomfortable after some time. Some of our South-Buddies couldn't eat dinner!
There will also be several different types of Laay/Ladu (Like Til ke laay, Chra ke laay, Murhi ke laay, Chaur ke laay etc..) prepared and stocked for coming days.. Til is very healthy in Winter season. Later in evening, they prepare Khichdi for dinner
2. Narak Nivaran Chaturdashi (19 Jan)
I never did this, but its like a day's fasting kept by both Men and Women. This fast is done to not get into Narak (Hell) after death.. There are many recurring fasts (Like every Sunday some do, Every Thursday some do - they wear yellow cloth, Some do every Monday for Lord Shiva's worship), but this fast has special status.
3. Sarswati Puja (25 Jan)
On day 1, Idol will be placed with some Puja. Students keep few books beside the idol, and they do not need to study this day, even Parents and Teacher do not force to study this day ..
There will be Prasadam given (specially sweet Bundiya) to all who comes to visit the Puja stall. In that night there will be Jagaran and next day, there will be Idol immersion into nearest river or pond.
4. Maha Shivratri (17 Feb)
One interesting thing about AshtJam is that it must be continuous (Hare Rama / Hare Krishna / Hare Shiva chanting) and even one second matters, so what happens is when One group is singing (say since 2-3 hrs) and then second group (Keertan Mandali) has to start now, the second group gets in along with 1st group, and sings together for 5-10 minutes, and then 1st group leaves the Mandap. They take some rest and join back again after 2-3 Mandali's are done the rounds.
5. Holi (5-6 Mar)
As a kid we used to be spoilers (He he he .. sorry).. Like we used to put dust/cow-dung in milk vessel (for milk sellers), which used to almost get into fight most of the time .. Or used to throw mud on running train .. But essentially its to put some dust/mud to friend/relatives to make them dirty and nobody cares and get angry (As long as there is no much damage)..
Second day, we play with color (Wet color) and Abeer (Colored powder).. There will be village people marching whole village singing Holi songs..They play musical instruments like Dhol, Jhal, Majeera etc.. At every home (We call it Dwar, So most of the home in our villages, has two portions, one is Angan -Backside and one is Dwar. - Front), this group sings the song and it is host's (That Dwar's family) responsibility to arrange for some Tea/Paan/Bhang (as per their financial status) for all. Group will sing 1-2 song and the last song will always be "Sada ananda rahe ehi dware.." meaning "We pray that this home should remain happy always.". There are Sara-rara songs, songs of love, song of God/Goddess, song of patriotism..
During my childhood, we used to sing one song (Though bit offending) "Haan haan, Kutte nahin samajhte Gandhi Jayaprakash kee bhasha, Bina maar ke nahin badalti englishtaani chaal, bhagat singh jaaga hai" Meaning "These British dogs will not understand the language of peace proposed by GandhiJi and JayaPrakash, rather they will not understand without beating, because there are people like Bhagat singh emerged" .. and it was like so much passion and energy.. Probably this song was written when we were fighting for independence, but people continued to sing even after independence!
There was another song "Jhanjhar Jhanjh Jhamam Jham Jhankee, Jhahrat Jhora Jhori Guyyan, Aju khele Holi, Ajun khele Hori guyyan, Aju khele holi.."..
There were few of my villagers who used to write Holi songs quite innovatively (Based on recent political atmosphere or other societal issues).. Essentially, what Holi meant is to become at good terms with all families, know each other.. so even if two families are not at good terms, they play Abeer/Holi and go to other's Dwar for singing..
Later in the evening, every younger person takes blessing (puts Abeer on elder's feet) from all elder ones. This is a sign of respect.. and then elder person will put some abeer on younger one's fore-head.
There will be special dishes prepared. For day time, we have MalPua (Prepard from Maida, Milk, Banana, Sugar - fried in ghee) and in evening, we used to have Mutton (Goat meat).
I also remember, for few years, we (the younger ones, aged between 10-20) get music system with sound boxes, and dance in Holi, which old people did not like and shouted on us.. but we didn't listen!
Another interesting thing was Pre-Holi singing. Every night (Which starts some 15-20 days before Holi, till holi day), after dinner, villagers gather to one family's Dwar and sing holi song.. That host serves some snacks, tea and Paan (beetle leaf), and at the end, some other family (This singing group used to consist mostly Male) head will propose to have the next day holi gathering at his home.. and cycle continued..
6. Dora (7 March) - This festival happens on next day of Holi. All families will gather at one particular woman's home (This lady is considered well respected as She performs Dora for all families). Every family will bring some home made sweets, fruits etc in some kind of bowl (Made by bamboo's thin peelings
).. The old lady will say a story (And it is same story every year) about some King and queen who got some Shrap (Curse) and King became very poor and queen also became very poor and they somehow meet after 12 years of painful separation..
7. Ramnavami (28 Mar)
So If I am supposed to take over reading, I will sit beside my mother and start reading and then my mother will leave the place.). This generally starts by 7-8AM and goes on till 11 PM. There will be Ramayan Arti at last and then only we will eat something (For all those who are going to read the holy book, must remain on fast since morning)
8. Satua pawan/Jurisheetal/Sirwa/Biswa (14-15 April)
This festival has different names in different parts of Bihar, but essentially what happens is we fly the kites on these two days (and after this day no kite flying till next year Makar sankranti). People eat Tender-Mango, Sattu (Gram flour), and there will be some Puja..
9. Akshaya Tritiya (21 Apr)
There is a trend in India to buy some Jewelleary on this auspicious day, but I didn't know this until I came to South India in 2001.
In my village, there was a tradition to call entire village (I mean part of it, because, most of the villages are divided based on Caste and religion - though Sad, but that is how management is easier, and there is harmony between all caste and religion in most of the villages) to their home (This is not done by all families, but only very few designated voluntary families, reason will be obvious in a bit :)) to have Sharbat..
So you have some 50-100 people standing/sitting at one place (Dwar of one particular family), and that family prepares lot of Sharbat (Water, Sugar, Lemon and some flavors like Ruh-afza) and serve to all (Unlimited) .. because this is hot summer time, having a nice Sharbat refreshes everybody, but can you have it again after some time on same day? May be once more? Fine.. hence there were only 1-2 families which used to host this Sharbat party..
10. Ardara (10 June)
This is a festival for Sun God .. There will be some Puja done and there will be once again special food.. like Rice kheer and Mango (In our region, there is a famous mango named "Maldah", which is called King of mangoes in our side - and I had not heard the name of Alphanso mango till I came to South India.. And I still like Maldah more than Alphanso..:))
11. Guru Poornima (31 Jul)
I don't think there is special food attached to this festival..But kind of some puja happens ..
12. Nagpanchami (1 Aug)
Here I want to add two small stories around how this temple.was made .
1. One fine day (some 25 years ago), one of my Uncle, who were doing some farming work in his field, got a clay (like brick) which had snake shape made on that.. Uncle conveyed this to villagers, and some one suggested that, we should do some Puja (Called Bhagait).. so there was some Bhagat (One person, who was probably drunk, and spins his head round and round and utters some things like a crazy person), what ever he says is like word written on stone. People used to believe that during Puja, God will get into his skin and at that particular time what ever He says is the order by God. (Not now, its 25 years ago :) )
He said, there should be a temple built over here (Where Uncle found that stone/clay).. so be it .. But who is going to fund it? read second story for that
2. So now, villagers put a sign board at that place mentioning, "Site for building Vishahara temple. Please donate 2 bricks, whenever you carry bricks in tractor or donate some money" .. and we kiddos used to play cricket nearby in high school play ground.. so what used to happen, if there were some tractors carrying bricks, they used to throw 2-3 bricks on that site voluntarily, but some tractor were not and we (or if there are other villagers seeing someone not honoring) used to request (or even force) to them to throw bricks.. also there was donation box.. and with the help of many villagers, we built the temple in some 10 years) and now this is the temple, where every people come to take blessings after all important rituals like Mundan, Marriage etc..)
13. Raksha Bandhan (10 Aug)
Now a days, most of the brothers and sisters stay in different cities across the globe.. so Sister sends Rakhee by Post/Courier to brother.. Both Sister and brother keeps fast till brother ties the Rakhi (and they confirm on phone) after taking bath..
There is a famous story of Rani Karnavati sending Rakhi to Humayun (Who was a Muslim emperor, and Karnavati being Hindu-Rajput). and Humayun saved Karnavati by respecting Rakhee..). In childhood, I had seen a Hindi movie "Saajan ka ghar" in which a brother "Depak tijori" met with an accident and when Sister "Juhee chawla" comes to meet in hospital, she comes to know that Deepak's one hand is chopped off..and then Deepak says, sister, Look this hand is saved in which you had tied the Rakhee..and he says, Alas, there were customs to tie Rakhee in both the hands.. and everybody watching cries at this scene .. :) ..
14. Krisna jamastamai / Jhoolan (18 Aug)
At many places, there will be fair (Mela) organized. This was getting celebrated nicely at our nearby villages Barahara kothi and Sukhsena.. There used to be some Drama/Arkestra (Musical event) in evening.
15. Chaurchan /Ganesh chaturthee (29 Aug)
This festival is done in groups. a bunch of related families comes to one home, where in One lady does the Puja.. All other families keep their home made sweet bowl and Curd (in clay pot) near place of Pooja.. There will be some puja of Moon god.. and after this every body will take some fruit in their hand and see moon (Many a times it takes quite some time to see the moon, as it is rainy season).
There are some villages in which there is a tradition of throwing Dhela (Small stones) or Kadamb fruit, having objective to break curd pot.. This is naughty thing to do, but in my village it was not quite prevalent..
15. Ananat Puja (8 Sep)
There is something interesting.. This festival relates to Samudra manthan .. so the old lady will search something in the pile of flowers and fruits and other people will ask "Anant bhetla?" meaning "Did you get Anant?" and lady will say No..for many times and lastly She will say "Haan bhetal" i.e "Yes I got.."
16. Jitiya (16 Sep)
This need special mention. I don't think there is any similar festival anywhere in India.. This festival is to showcase the love and sacrifice by mother for their son (Sadly, this is done for Son only.. if some lady does not have Son, still they do in hope to get Son in blessings by God).
In this festival, family members (especially younger ones) eat Chura, Dahee, Cheeni, Khaja etc.. in the wee hours (around 4 AM). I remember, after this early breakfast, we used to play Gulli-Danda or Budhiya kabaddi..
Later in the morning, Mother prepares a basket full with fruits, flowers, sweets, Gram, Some leafs like bamboo leaf, Maina leaf etc.. and cover it with some cloth and tie a knot.. And then do a Nirjala fast (i.e Fast without even taking water) for around 36 hours (Depends on some Muhurtam)..
Its quite difficult.. And after the time ends, Son opens the knot tied earlier to uncover the fruit basket..
Mother does some puja after that .. and every body takes the Prasad and then only Mother eats something..
Its suggested to first drink something hot just after long water-less fast like Tea/Milk, If someone drinks cold water, there are chances to have throat problems.. Its been like 20 years I am not there at my home on Jitiya, but still my Mother (and all mothers does that) does this Fast and I call to her and inform that I have taken bath and please ask some one else (my cousins) to open the knot..
I request to all mothers out there (In my community), If you do not feel well in between, please do take some fruit juice or hot milk (And generally, Juice and milk do not break the usual fast :) )..
I have seen one incident which is not good.. but let me share that..
My neighbor Aunt in Patna used to do this Fast.. she was very weak by health and still she used to do.. and after doing fast for some 36 hours, on the morning (after few hrs she was supposed to break the fast), she was preparing Tea and she got unconscious while she was holding the Pan (having boiling water) and unfortunately their only son (Who was 5 years old, and for whom she was fasting) was holding his mom, boiling water fell on the son and he got severely injured. Immediately both Mom and son were rushed to hospital.. Luckily there was no long term impact..
17. Biswakarma Puja (17 Sep)
18. Dashahara (Kalash sthapan to Jatra) (25 Sep - 3 Oct)
There will be Durga sapta sati (a holy book consisting of 13 chapters) path (reading), i.e someone will read the book (Either read this book daily which takes 2-3 hrs or can read few chapters every day and finish it off in 9 days).
There will be large Pandals prepared at many places having large idols of Goddess Durga and few other Gods/Goddesses. and there will be Mela around that Pandal..
On Ashtami, Nawami and Dashami, there will be some special puja done.
Dashmi is also called as Jatra (Yatra or travelDay). Essentially no body travels to other places between dashahra, and its considered auspicious to travel on Dashmi after the Puja is done in morning).
Every Male has to tie the Now-Grown Jau grass (Called Jayanti, 2-3 strands) into their Tikki (or Chutia, u might have seen on the head of Chankya.. These days we don't keep chutia, hence just tie in some hair).. Do Pranam (Touch feet) to all close elders.. So even if we do not generally go to to home village in Dashahra and do not tie Jayanti, we do Pranam to all elders (Close relatives) on this day on phone at least
19. Dhanteras (21 Oct)
On this day there is a tradition of buying some useful house hold thing like utensils or some vehicle or some Jewellary etc..
20. Deewali (23 Oct)
This is again special in our Mithila culture..
On this day, We prepare (or buy) Kandeel (a box type of structure made out of bamboo sticks, and pasted with colorful papers). (Earlier we - our family, used to prepare aeroplane structured kandeel as well, but that was stopped some 15 years back, as it was quite time consuming and laborious task to maintain/repair it and cover it with colored papers).
Later on the day we prepare Ukka-Paati (This is made by tieng bunch of dried Santhi (Joot/Patua tree), which looks like a cross (Christ's Cross!), and catches fire quickly.. We throw one-each Ukka-Pati on each house (in the family) and to nearest temples. Later in the evening we lit many-many Diyas, Candles to lighten all the places, roof tops .. Hence this festival is also called Festival of light..
Then in evening we burst crackers.. and around 7-8 PM, we gather at one place to have Ukka-Paati (One person will bring the fire in one long Ukka-Paati from our Bhagwati-Ghar - which is like a small temple inside our house..; and then rest all (Male only again) will put their Ukka-Paati on that fire, so it seems like a large bon-fire, and everybody holds their Ukka-Paati .. so at times the hand feels the heat..
Earlier (some 40 years ago), there was dangerous trend to jump over this bon-fire across by young people .. this used to be considered brave and good.. But there was a incident, where in two person jumped at the same time from opposite side and the flame was so high they could not see each other, and both of them had a clash and fell in the fire (Not much harm though).. and since then this tradition is stopped..
In place of we jumping across the fire, we just cross the small fire (only my fire, not everyone's fire), then take 5 strands of burnt Santhi (Joot tree) and then everybody comes to Bhagwati ghar .. They keep these strands in temple, and do a Jayakara (Chant slogan - Bol de kaalika maharani kee jay.. and everybody says Jay) of Goddess Kaali..
And there after happens the tradition, for which most people come to their village/home from anywhere in India they might be residing in ..
I have missed 5 such occasions in my life time [during my engineering days (4 times) and once After my marriage (In that year, all my vacations were exhausted, as there are so many rituals.. it was like a month for Marriage :) ) .. Anyways, essence is everybody tries to reach home on Deewali..
All younger (Male/Female) touches the feet of all elders.
First Male group will start from Bhagwati ghar, do Pranam to many people and then start by houses in sequence..Do Pranam to all elder ladies.. and in between any elder male comes (and not yet done Pranam), then do Pranam .. What happens is this removes all the bad feelings towards others .. even if two families had fight few days ago, both family members will forget their enmity and do this ritual and mostly forget the fight (Until it happens again).. so in a way cleaning up the hunted feelings within society.. Finally everybody will reach to one common (Big famous temple in my village) Kaali mandir and there will be multiple Jayakaras..
At 12 mid night, there will be special Puja in Kaali temple..
21. Kaali Puja (24 Oct)
Next day to Deewali is Kaali Puja, in which we worship Goddess kaali by doing Bali pradaan of goat (Though not favoring the cruelty on animals, but this is long tradition, and anyway goats are getting killed for usual meat eating - and veg versus non-veg is a seperate blog post!, so I neither condemn this ritual nor support this)..
In our village there will be football match and in the evening there will be some musical events..
22. Bhai Dooj (25 Oct)
This is also called Bhardutia. This is a festival of brother and sisters.. In this festival, Brother is supposed to go to Sisters place (If married) or do the ritual at their home.. So the ritual is to put 5 beetle leaf in brother's hand, put some Pithar (Paste made of rice), Sindoor (Vermilion), 5 nut (Beetle nut), 5 one rupee coins .. then sisters put the folded hand (With beetle leaf etc..) into a large bowl of water and clean his hands.. Later who ever is younger touches elder's feet.. Sister gives some sweet to eat to brother.. Brother may give some gift/money/sweets to sister.
23. Chhath (29/30 Oct)
What happens is there will be one or more big basket (having Sweets, Fruits, Coconut, Sugarcane etc.) which needs to be carried from home to the nearest water-body (a pond or river) on head.. Here Chhath Vratees (People who does chhath fasting, and this is also quite tough fast. I skipped mention of Kharna and other related rituals) get into the water in evening time (say around 3 PM) and stay in there until sun sets.
After that, all these baskets kept on the river pond bank (Decorated with banana tree) is given in hands of Vratee, and He/She dips the portion of basket into water and then gives back.. and we take these baskets back to our home (We do not open the basket).
Later at around 3 AM, we all wake up and then take the basket back to same river/pond bed and again Vratee gets into the water. This time it will be colder (as compared to evening time), and stay there until sun rises. After the sun rises, each basket is again given in the hand of Vratee, and other family members put Milk into that basket (This process is called "Arghya dena" and is considered essential).
There are people who has this mannat (votive) to go to the water-body from their home (few 100 meters to even few kilometers) by measuring the distance by their body (Like how Hydra moves). It means a person standing, then sleeps on the road keeping a knife or stick to mark by his hand till he can reach, and then stands up and walk to the mark drawn, and again stands there, sleeps on the road and repeat the same until He/She reaches to water. In fact they get into water like this only, so there will be slope at the end, and one needs to be very careful. This ritual is not done by all, only very few people does this.
I was seeing Chhath festival at Bangalore and Hyderabad, and here also there were people doing this ritual.
24. Devuthan Ekadashi (3 Nov)
Some Puja - in this also some people do Ramayan Path..
25. Shema Chakeba (8 Nov)
In night (say around 8PM), ladies and children goes to nearby field, and they break all these clay and also burn Chugla.
26. Lawan (25 Nov)
This is a festival for new paddy crop.. (Also called Navanna meaning new grain). In this festival people worship fire (Agni) God by giving some portion of Chura (Made out of newly cut paddy), Dahee, Mulee (Radish) etc.. Also people eat Chura/dahee/Cheeni.
Some more festivals and rituals
Apart from above festivals which is generic and happens every year for everybody, there are few other Rituals/festivals which happens once in life time (Again depends on Male or Female) as mentioned below.
For newly born kid - on 6th day from birth
12th day from Kid's birth .. after this day, mother can do house hold work, till then take rest new mom !
Only for boys - Between 1 to 5 years.. Head Hair will be cut (Not shaved) - Huge celebration..
Only for male - Between 10-20 Years. Head Hair will be shaved and Gayitri Mantra will be taught. Again huge celebration
5. Tushari Puja
Only for female. Girls when get into marriageable age, they do this Puja .. hoping they will get better husbands!
So many rituals in Vivah (Marriage).. There are two important Mithila specific words for arranging the marriage. One is "Ghatak" (Bride's family who comes to discuss for marriage with Groom's family, and One would-be groom has many Ghataks and One set of Ghatak visits many would be groom!) and second one is Agua (One/Two person who knows both Groom side and Bride side, which takes the initiatives and has very important role..) Role of Agua is decreasing day by day but they were the only means to introduce Bride and Groom family back when there was no matrimonial websites :)
7. Vat Savitri
Only for married woman. For the first year after marriage, this is a big function.. Woman continue doing this festival every year, though in simple manner.
This is a one time festival, wherein, Bride's family distributes sweets to Groom's society/village.
Specially Paan and Makhaan is must.
For Married couple - After marriage, bride does not go to groom's home immediately, rather She goes after few months or may be after few years!.. and that time again there will be function.. But now-a-days, this ritual is done few days after marriage itself, as most of the family members stays at different places., and its tough to gather again and again. 30-40 years before, most of the people used to do farming or small business and used to stay in village only, hence they had plenty of time :)
Only for recently married woman (Within an year). This is 15 days festival, in which bride is not supposed to eat salt and do puja everyday. On 15th day, Groom is expected to be there to perform some puja.
After marriage, people have kids and same cycle repeats for Son/Daughter and GrandSon/GrandDaughter .. and as its Sashwat Satya (universal truth), one who is born will die one day.. So some rituals are done for the departed soul, by their relatives.
This is 13 days ritual post death, in which, 11th day, all close relatives will shave their head (or do a hair cut, if Upanayan is not done). There will be some rituals performed for peace of departed soul and there will be feast, where in 100s of people get invited.
Fom 1st death anniversary to 5th death anniversary - There will be Head shaving (Called Nakh-Baal) and there will be some puja/rituals followed by feast for villagers.
After 5th death anniversary (Barkhi), every year, till the family can do.. They invite few people for eating on that day ..
Note: As mentioned earlier, it is all my personal view and the intention is to let the world know about our culture/tradition. There may be something incorrect as well, as its been 15 years, I was not there at village for any festival except Deewali/Chhath. Please let me know if something needs to be corrected or enhanced.