Nepal | May 26, 2020

Jitiya of the Tharus

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Rina Chaudhary
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Tharus are considered as a dominant ethnic group in Nepal. They are the indigenous inhabitants of Terai,  the narrow strip of flat and fertile land that lies south of the mountains close to the border with India.  Their physical features indicate a Tibeto-Burman ancestry; but because of the proximity of the Indian plane their language is similar to Bhojpuri and Hindi, (types of Indian language). The Tharus have unique rituals, festivals, and music, while their clothes and ornaments are similar to some ethnic groups of India. Tharus celebrate their own rituals and festivals. Each ritual and festival carries Tharu identities.

Jitiya is one of the most important ritual celebrated for three days. It is especially celebrated by Tharu women in Chitwan and Nawalparasi. Jitiya is a symbol of jit (victory). Jitiya falls in the month of Ashwin. It is celebrated for three days on Saptami (the seventh day of dark fortnight), Astami (the eighth day of dark fortnight) and Nawomi (the ninth day of dark fortnight). They take Barta  (fasting) for the good of their family and children. They do not only pray for their children and family but also  pray for collective welfare.  During this period, women worship  God Bishnu, Shiva and the Sun. However, Jitbahan is the main deity of jitiya. The main part of the ritual is that women worship nature. Women take Barta and do not eat anything for a whole day. Women celebrate Jitiya by singing songs and dancing. Different ethnic groups of people gather to hear songs and see the  dance (jhamata). The celebration of Jitiya makes good relationship possible between different ethnic groups and creates harmony in society. It creates social solidarity as well which helps society function properly.

The Tharu people do not make any concrete temple for place to worship, rather they worship nature, most often trees and river. In Brahmathan women sing a song that is called Jatsari (song especially for the water god).  They then cut a branch of peepal and Pakadi to make a nest of eagles (Chilo). At the time of cutting the branch of the peepal, Tharu women sing a song called Darkatoni. This song is especially about asking God to give them the best daughter, son, father-in-law and mother-in-law in their marital life. The branch of peepal and plants of paddy are brought to the center of the village to make a Thaat of Chilo and Shero. The place of the Thaat is scrubbed by cow dung to make it pure and holy.


A version of this article appears in print on October 06, 2015 of The Himalayan Times.


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