Jitiya Parba/Jitiya Pawain
जितिया पवाई बडा भारी
Jitiya Pawain Bada Bhari
Jitiya is the most valuable festival of the Tharu women.
Jitiya Parba/Parva is a very important festival for Maithili and Tharu married women of Nepal and some parts of India too. This three-day festival falls on the 7th, 8th and 9th day of the dark fortnight in Ashwin (September/October) and they are called Saptami, Ashtami and Navami respectively.
Colloquially the festival is called “Jitiya Pawain” in Southern Nepal where the Tharus and Maithilis are from, “Jiyatiya Parba” in Hindi, and “Jiwit Putrika” in Sanskrit. Jiwit: the living, Putrika: a son, so the festival is celebrated by mothers for their living sons. Married women especially mothers worship Gods Jitmahan and Sun and observe brata (fasting) for the good fortune of their children, husbands, and the whole family.
Jitiya is named after Jitmahan, a blessing son of the Sun-god bore out of wedlock to Masabashi, the hermit princess.
Another important aspect of this festival is married women go back to their Laihara/Maiti (parents’ house) for no joy can surpass the content of going back to the birth-home for a married woman in Nepal. Unlike in western countries, when married, girls are obligated to live with their husbands’ parents where a joint family is a norm. Wives are subjected to live life as dictated by in-laws and husbands, that is why the Laihara time for any married woman is a grand event. At Laihara her liberty is restored.
Jitiya is equally fun for children also for the same reason, visiting Nanihal, maternal grandparent’s house. Tradition says, brothers must come in person at their sisters’ house to invite them and children to Laihara for the Jitiya.
The Three Day Celebrations
On Saptami, the first day of Jitiya, bratalu (women observing fast) go to nearby rivers, ponds or any form of water reservoir at the crack of dawn to take bath and purify themselves. They offer water to the Sun God after bathing, put together mustard seed dreg cake and khar (Vetivar grass) on two sponge gourd leaves, let it float on water after offering it to Jitmahan and use remaining mustard seed dreg cake as shampoo wash hair.
Bratalus oil massage their children with mustard oil, pay homage to their female ancestors, and eat the food of desire after the early morning worship. There is no fasting on Saptami.
They eat Otaghan before midnight on Saptami in a preparation for 24 hours long brata on the Ashtami, the main day of Jitiya Pawain. Otaghan is a feast eaten a day before so that the bratalus don’t get hungry the next day. The ritual is similar to dar khane during Teej Festival.
Bratalus make a mixed food of yogurt, beaten rice, molasses, banana, and areca nut and offer it to Chilo and Shero, the symbolic figures of a female falcon and female fox respectively. The offerings are made separately on two sponge-gourd leaves and flowers outside a temple. This ritual of offerings to Chilo and Shero will kickstart the Otaghan feast.
Ashtami is the significant day of Jitiya Pawain when bratalus observe fast avoiding a crumb of food and a drop of water for the next 24 hours.
The day begins as early as four in the morning, where bratalus again take a holy bath in rivers or water reservoirs and scrub-clean their houses with cow dung in order to purify their habitat.
They spend their day listening or reading out Jitiya katha, the famous tales of Jitmahan, Chilo and Shero related to the festival. Sing and dance too, the dance is called Jhamata to the song called Darkatoni. The Darkotani is sung while cutting Peepal tree branches to make thaat, a makeshift place to worship Chilo and Shero. The lyrics of song requests Jitmahan to boon bratalus with a loving in-laws and ideal set of children.
Tharus usually don’t prefer concrete temples because they worship nature on this day apart from Jitmahan. They sing devotional songs to trees and rivers called Jatsari, praise of water gods.
The day is concluded with elaborated worship to Jitmahan but do not consume food or water yet.
Navami or Parwan is the last day of the festival to bring their 24 hours fasting to an end.
For this and for the last time bratalus go for ritual bathing at rivers at the crack of dawn. After bath and at home, they worship Jitmahan by offering fruits, milk, and yogurt, and break their fast, eating the food of their choice.
The birth of Jitmahan
Princes Masabashi, daughter of King Saribhana, chose a hermit life instead of getting married a rich prince that her father chose.
Every day she would bathe before sunrise and spend all day in devotion inside her closed hermitage that her father built right outside his palace. She abstained from males and the sunlight. One day she woke up very late, took bath after the sun rose to meet and ill-fate of getting pregnant out of wedlock. She later realized that she was impregnated by the Sun god. Both the King and Princess ashamed of the incident tried to abort the child but without success.
The boy with supernatural energy was born to Masabashi. He was undefeatable in any games that’s why his friends called him Jituwa, the victorious one, but also nicknamed him Anerwa, son of an estranged father.
Boys jealous of Jituwa’s unfathomable energy plotted a game to defeat him. They made a playhouse; the key to enter the house was their mother’s name and the father’s name was an exit key. All the boys could get in and out of the playhouse by telling their parents’ names except for Jituwa. Friends made fun of the trapped Jituwa and called him Anerwa. He exited the hut only after Masabashi came to his rescue and told that his father’s name was Sun.
Jituwa not convinced at his mother’s confrontation and in persistence to meet his father journeyed towards the Sun. The Sun god pleased by Jituwa’s gesture appeared before him in an anthropomorphic form to validate his existence and named him “Jitmahan”. He then asked Jitmahan to broadcast that the children of mothers who worship Jitmahan and observes fasting on the Ashtami of Ashwin will live a long, prosperous, and healthy life.
Thus the tradition of celebrating the Jitiya festival continued.
A Story Chilo (Falcon) and Shero (Fox)
Once a Chilo and Shero lived at a Winged elm tree on the western bank of River Narmada. They became good friends in the course of time and together decided to observe Jitiya fasting. Chilo continued with fasting but Shero however broke the fast in the middle when he couldn’t help herself from eating a human carcass buried under the same tree.
In their next life, the friends were born as humans and sisters Shilvati and Kapurvati. Shilvati (falcon in the past life) married to a wise man Buddhisen bore seven beautiful sons and Kapurvati (fox in the past life) married to King Malayaketu gave birth to a lifeless son.
Grief-stricken Kapurvati in jealousy executed all the seven sons of Shilvati who worked at Malayaketu’s palace and sent out the decapitated heads wrapped in red cloth to the mother. Deity Jitmahan upon learning the conspiracy, sprinkled Amrita, the immortalizing nectar, on boys and restore their lives. He then turned the red cloths wrapped decapitated heads into fruits for mother and sons to enjoy.
Shilvati then relates their past-life story to the much ashamed Kapurvati, who immediately dies after the chronicle.
Therefore, Tharus instantly thank God Jitmahan whenever their children survive any ill-fates.