KATHMANDU — The Jitiya festival has commenced in the Mithila region, including in Mahottari, with the observance of the ‘naha kha’ ritual today. Naha kha means to take food after taking the ritualistic bath.
On the first day of the festival today, women observing a fast on the occasion partake special food comprised of beaten rice, curd and ‘amot’ (food prepared using mango juice), after making offerings to the deity Jitamahan and the ancestors.
The offering to the deity and ancestors is made from mustard cake, molasses, and mustard oil. The fasting is observed from 4 am on the next day of ‘naha kha’ until 8 am the following day.
Women in their hundreds observing the fast took holy dips in the local rivers as Bighi, Rato Jangaha, and Ankushi, and ponds as Laxmi Sagar and Bhargava Sar, among others in the morning today. They also listen to the story of the Jitamahan. The seniors tell the story while the junior members of the community listen to it.
The oil offered to the deity is given to the offspring who then apply it to their head and body.
There is a practice of the family members eating food comprising roti made from millet flour, the curry made out of ‘nuni’ greens and fish, after performing the rituals on the first day of the festival today. This special food goes by the name ‘machh maruwa’ in local dialect.
The fasting women have to also observe what is called the ‘othgan’ ritual which requires them to apply some food on their lips early in the morning before the cawing of the crows.
Women performing the othgan ritual usually take curd and beaten rice. Then after, their fast begins which are a very tough itself. It is performed on Aswin Krishna Ashtami, the eighth day of the waning moon in the month of Asoj as per the lunar calendar, according to Pundit Kalikant Jha.
The Mithilanchal’s married people observe this Jitiya fast wishing for the long life of children, to be blessed with son and happiness and peace in the family.
The festival carries religious, cultural and tantric importance, as per the faithful.
Sanskrit Bidhyapeeth Matihani’s teacher Dhruba Raya says the festival highlights the cultural role and importance of the Mithila women. The festival that is observed in the Pitri Paksha (special period dedicated to the ancestors) offer Pinda (ball of cooked rice or barley flour) to the departed souls.
A myth associated with this festival is that once there was a king called Shalivahan. One day, a demon took away seven sons of a woman and it was the king who brought back her sons from the captivity of the demon.
Since then, the very woman in gratitude to the king started observing the festival, renaming the king as Jitamahan.
Jitiya fast is taken as the scared ritual. There remains strict cultural belief that if woman observing the fast burps, or releases a cough or mistakenly bites the tongue, her fast is believed to be unsuccessful and she is disqualified for observing this fast forever in her life.