Workers busy in preparing a stage for the upcoming Chhath festival at Guheshwari in Kathmandu on Saturday. Photo: Dinesh Gole/Republica
LAHAN, Nov 11: Bhootnath Upadhyaya, 65, of Lahan Municipality-10, has seen Chhath being celebrated in his family since his childhood. Although his family is of hill origin, they have been celebrating the festival of the Madhesi communities for a long time.
“Since an early age I have seen my parents celebrate Chhath,” he said. “We will give continuity to the tradition.”
Dambar Kumari Shrestha, 70, of Golbazaar in Siraha district gave birth to her son 55 years ago after she had observed a fast during the festival. She has been celebrating Chhath ever since.
Although she is of hill origin she celebrates the festival and her daughter-in-law Ranju now helps her with the festivities. Ranju also wants to give continuity to the tradition which was started in the family by her mother-in-law.
Dambar Kumari’s experience is one of lowering the barriers between Madhesi and Pahadi, Hindu and Muslim, Dalit and non-Dalit while celebrating the festival. According to her, the beauty of Chhath is that it brings all the communities and castes together.
While the Madhesi community celebrates by undertaking fasts, the hill communities eat non-veg food items for the celebrations.
“We do not bring the non-veg items anywhere close to the Puja materials,” Dambar Kumari said adding, “We do not bring any meat into the house after Tika.” Emphasizing the need of keeping Puja materials pure, she said her family places such materials in a separate room from any meat so that there is no ritual contamination.
Although a festival of Madhesi origin, Chhath is now celebrated together by women of the hill and Madhesi communities. Dambar Kumari believes the festival is bringing the hill and Madhesi communities together.
“At the ghat during Chhath, there is no indifference between people of Hill and Madhesi origins,” she said.
Chhath reducing social discrimination
Laljhari Mallik of Siraha Municipality-2 has been celebrating Chhath at the local public pond for several years. Women of various other castes also celebrate at the same pond.
Even though people of other castes discriminate against her all year round, they all come together while celebrating Chhath.
“We pay no attention to caste during Chhath,” she said. She added that all the women offer prayers to the same sun.
“Even though the Puja materials of people from different castes come in physical contact we pay no attention,” she said.
Social discrimination, which is now illegal, is still widespread in the Madhesi communities. But Chhath has been known to bring people from different castes together.
Dom is the most discriminated caste in the Maithili and Bhojpuri communities.
But Chhath is incomplete without them. Dhhaki, Daura, Koniya, and Daliya which are prepared by them are all needed for celebrating Chhath.
This tradition helps to recognize this caste as an important part of the community.
Assistant Professor of Maithili at the Suryanarayan Satyanarayan Marwaita Yadav Multiple Campus, Umesh Jha, claimed that the festival strengthens unity among various castes in the community.
With Chhath now just around the corner, the Dom community is filled with energy.
They are all busy preparing the materials for the celebrations. They are also filled with happiness as Chhath puts social discrimination on hold.