The Maithils – VI

An interesting aspect of the festival celebration and almost all kinds of rituals is that they may vary slightly/drastically from district to district, village to village, or even from family to family. For example on “Makar Sankranti”, at some places there is a tradition of eating dahi, mudhee/chura ke laddu (”lai” in local language) etc. for lunch and Khichdee for dinner. At other places the composition of dinner and lunch would be just the opposite. People like us choose to do whatever suits our convenience -)

Similarly, Nagapanchami is normally celebrated in the Krishna Paksha (moonless half-month) of the particular month (I am forgetting, which month), but our family celebrates it on the Panchami of Shukla Paksha. There is a story behind it, which goes something like this – Once upon a time people of our “mool” (remember we had talked about “mool” in the context of criterain of match-making – I will use the word “clan” for mool; it seems the closest one.) were overcome by pride and did not offer the milk to the Nag Devta on Nagapanchami. Then there were some problem they faced because of curse by Nag Devta. It seems the whole clan became the victim of snake-bite or something. There was only one old lady left, who had offered the milk. She prayed to Naga Devta on behalf of her clan. The curse was withdrawn on the condition that the poeple will offer the milk on the panchami of the coming Shukla Paksha. Since then, we have been celebrating Nagapanchami in Shukla Paksha.

India is not called a country of festivals without reasons. Maithil society also has a potential festival almost every day. Some other names that come to my mind are “Devotthan Ekadashi” (the day when God Vishnu wakes up from his sleep of 6 months), a festival after almost ever crop (to get people to offer something from the first produce to God) e.g. Navanna that comes after rice crop, then there is a festival called “satua” in which you eat “sattu kee pooree” (how do I translate it), another one in which you eat poori, and not roti. Of course, the normal festivals like Durga Pooja, Diwali or Holi need no mention. There is a “Chaiti Durga Pooja” in the month of Chaitra, whose navami coincides with “Ramanavami”. So on and so forth.

Now, its the time to come back to the festivals related to marriage. First let me list down all I can recall:

  • Madhu Shravani
  • Var-Savitri
  • Kojagra

I am sure there are more, but these are the ones I can recall. Madhu Shravani is the festival for new bride in the first “sawan” after her marriage. This festival is another one associated with several nice songs. This goes on for 15 days in the month of Sawan. But dare say is quite tough on the girl. Depending on the village and family tradition the food that can be take can be quite restrictive. At some places a particular type of salt called “sendha namak” (something that comes from Sindh?) is allowed, but at many other places she needs to live completely on salt-less diet for 15 days! There are some rituals for 15 days, some stories related to Goddess Parvati associated with it, songs etc. One of the things most commonly associated with Madhu Shravani is the act of collecting flowers in the morning. In villages, usually all the girls married in that year, would go together to collect flowers. I am reminded of a nice, simple song related to this, which depicts how girls are collecting flowers in group:

“sakhi phool lodhe gailon phulwariya
sang mein saheliya na

koi beli phool lodhe
koi chameli phool lodhe
koi lodhe la champa ke kaliya.
sang mein saheliya na

koi Ram var mange
koi Shyam var manhe
koi mange la bhangiya bhikhariya.
sang mein saheliya na”

(Went to the garden to pluck flowers accompanied by friends. Somebody plucks beli, somebody plucks chameli and some body plucks champa, accompanied by friends. Somebody wants Ram as husband, somebody wants Shyam as husband, somebody wants the “bhaang”-addicted begger. Accompanied by friends.)

I do not remember English for the flowers mentioned; so I have left them in Hindi. “Bhaang”-addicted begger refers to Lord Shiva. “Bhaang” should not be unknown to any Indian -)

Another aspect of Madhu Shravani is a ritual called “chudi daagna”. It seems, one of the thighs of the bride is touched with some burning substance (a rod or something). I have not attended any Madhu Shravani function, except a few in childhood – so do not remember seeing it. It seems it is more a formality and does not really do any harm. I do hope that is the case! Am reminded of two lines of a song related to this ritual:

“chalu, chalu bahina hakaar purai la
(name of the bride) dai ke baur ailen chudi dage la.”

(Come sister, we must go on this invitation. (name of the bride)’s husband has come for “chudi daagna”)

Madhu Shravani worhship is normally done at the parent’s place. Even if “dwiragaman” has taken place, the bride usually comes back for this festival. It is not a rule, but a tradition.

While Madhu-Shravani is mainly for the newly wed, Var-Savitri is for all the married women. The tradition of Var-Savitri and story of Satyavan and Savitri are well known across North India, I guess. Var-Savitri in the first 5 yeas of marriage, however, is considered special and the worship is done more eleborately.

I cannot recall any details of Kojagra, except that some presents (in terms of sweets, other edibles, clothes etc.) goes from the bride-groom’s family to bride’s family. Clothes are usually sent for the whole family, including close relatives, especially those staying with the family.

While I have been talking about “Dwiragaman” all through, I have not mentioned much about it. Well, this is when the bride comes to in-law’s house for the first time. It is done in the first, third, fifth or seventh year of marriage. In “uttar” there are elaborate rituals for four days, while in “dakkhin” it is majorly one day affair. Besides the normal serious ones, some pranks and games are played with the new “Bhabhi” in the family. The code of behaviour for the bride, I have already included in an earlier post in this series. “Munh dikhai” keeps going on for quite a few days, till anyone is left who hasn’t seen the new bride. An interesting concept in “dwiragaman” is that all the necessities of daily life are sent with the bride. Idea, it seems, was that the bride should not have any problem immediately after entering her new home, even if she has been married in a penny-less family. Whatever good it will do! I am not sure if it is a very good tradition. Even in its simplest form, it will be quite a bit of monetory burden. Fortunately “all the necessities of daily life” is not defined by today’s standards; still it includes all necessary cooking utensils, crockeries, food material (okay, included only nominally these days), mattress, pillow etc. etc. A Godrej, a dressing table and a bed are quite common accompaniments. This is besides the clothes and things of personal use for the bride. Anything extra promised in the dowry might also accompany the bride here.

Except for munh-dikhai, the tradition of Reception has not been there. But like so many other things, this custom is being adopted now in urban areas. A few days after dwiragaman, there would usually be a reception. People usually invite the intimate friends and relatives for munh-dikhai also and others only for the Reception in that case.

This post might mark the end of discussion of festivals, marriages etc. for the time being. I would try to fill up a few gaps I might have left in between.

While there is a strong tradition of folk-songs, there does not appear to be much contribution made in the field of dance by Maithil Community. I do not know what the reason is.

Another thing about the marriages is that traditionally there is no highly hyped-up Varmala function in Maithil customs. (I am tired of writing what I am going to write next) In recent time this custom has also been adopted in some cases, not yet wide-spread though.

Writing about festivals and customs of any Indian community may surpass the thickness of Mahabharata. So, I guess I will put them to an end here.

No, this is not an end of the series though -) (Are my readers bored?)


3 thoughts on “The Maithils – VI

  1. Since I am removing the Haloscan Comments, I am copy-pasting the comments I got on this post here.

    you are obsessed!!!
    Apurva | 12.13.04 – 5:02 pm | #

    He, he – Guess what? I attended a “Vidyapati Jayanti” function yesterday (in case you did not have patience to read all these posts, Vidyapati was a Maithili poet and is a legend in Mithila). And that means I have lot more to write about now 😀
    Jaya Jha | Homepage | 12.13.04 – 6:06 pm | #

    Gravatar At Katihar BSEB colony we had a maithil brahmin neighbour, with whom we were like family members. They used surname Chaudhary and currently reside in Darbhanga.My Papa used to speak in Maithili with them. As I read this series many reminiscence came forward.More than 10 years spent with them left an indelible impression.
    I still remember the day when I was leaving for journey and bhabhi brought a small bowl filled with mustard oil in front of me such that I will see it. May someone call it superstition but I thought it was her well wish for my successful journey. “Kete nik baje chan Premji” Bhauji used to tell after I used to guide Nanki bhaiya.

    Keep writing,there are readers .
    Prem Piyush | Email | Homepage | 12.14.04 – 12:56 pm | #

  2. Hi jaya,

    As you have mentioned regarding chudi daagna, it is done by Sandal wood pieces by brother not by husband.
    And brother make a small mark at one place to remind that pain will remind her love (Actually it means how much her husband loves her).

    This August I m also going to celebrate this puja as I m newly wedded.

    Nice article written above.

    Keep it up.


    Neha Jha

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