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Chhatha: Greatest Festival Of Madhesh

Chhatha: Greatest Festival Of Madhesh

– By Ram Dayal Rakesh
Chhatha is a colourful festival of Madhesh celebrated with pomp and show in the autumn season. This folk festival has taken the shape of a national festival, celebrated as it is from Mechi to Mahakali of Nepal. Whether it is in neighbouring Bihar and Uttar Pradesh of India or Nepal, all roads lead to the Ganges River on this auspicious occasion.

Chhatha is celebrated in Janakpur, the holy city, and the business city of Birgunj. This festival is celebrated on the banks of the pious ponds of Dhanush sagar and Ganga sagar. Likewise, it is celebrated in a grand manner on the banks of the Ghariharwa pond of Birgunj, where an idol of the sun god has been constructed permanently for this purpose. There is either a pond or river in almost all the villages, where the devotees congregate to celebrate Chhatha.

This festival is directly related to water as it gives life. Devotees stand knee-deep in water to offer water and other offerings to the sun god. The Aryans during the Vedic period revered the rivers, as is understood from the famous Nandistuti (river hymns) of the Rig Veda. The sun is a visible god, and is also called Grahraj (King of the planets). This festival, solemnised in honour of the sun god, is also known as Suryashasthi because it is chiefly celebrated on the sixth day of the bright half of Kartik, corresponding to late October and mid-November. This year, devotees celebrated Chhatha on November 16 (Kartik 30).

Chhatha was first celebrated by Anusuya, wife of the famous sage Atri, according to the Surya Puran, for happiness, good health and a safe and sound conjugal life. After that, during the Dwapar period, it was celebrated by Draupadi, wife of the Pandavs, as per the Mahabharat. There is mention of this festival in the Rig Veda, the most ancient scriptures of South Asia, also.

According to the Agni Purana, devotees who perform this festival in the month of Kartik (October-November) and pay homage to the sun god receive a big boon. In the Rig Veda, Surya has been described as one of the three greatest gods. Life is impossible without the sun. Thus, Hindu scriptures present the sun as the most potent, potential and powerful god. The worship of the sun god means the worship of all the Puranic gods and goddesses. The sun’s rays have the amazing power to heal several diseases. Scriptures mention that Samba, son of Lord Krishna, got cured of leprosy after worshipping the sun god.

This festival is observed for four full days. Day 1 is observed by taking a bath in a river or pool to purify the body and mind. This way, all sins committed in the past are also washed away. This ritual is called Naha Khau in the local language, which means eat only after taking a bath. Bathing is the first prerequisite for this festival because Maithili culture is chiefly riverine. Some of the rivers are considered masculine, forceful and turbulent and are known to be troublemakers.

People of this region especially worship the Koshi River as they also do the Kamala, which is considered very sacred. They sing and dance while worshipping this river, which is considered a water goddess. Most of the rivers of the Mithila region are feminine, and on their banks, the Chhatha, the folk festival of fraternity and friendship, is solemnised annually with great fanfare.
This festival is one of fasting and also of feasting. Collective participation is clearly seen during this cultural festival.

Day 2 is celebrated by fasting the whole day. Devotees of Chhatha break their fast late in the evening. Before breaking the fast, they worship their kuldevta (clan-deity). This way they prepare mentally and physically for this religious festival. This is called kharna in the local language.

They prepare rice puddings laced with molasses. They are not supposed to take salt, garlic or onion. The diet is purely vegetarian. Cleanliness and purity are strictly maintained.

Day 3 is marked by taking a bath early in the morning and worshipping their local deity. They spend the whole day preparing offerings at home. They themselves make cakes out of pure ghee and wheat flour which is called thekuwa. Another preparation is the kasar (ladoos made of ghee, sugar and rice flour). These two types of sweets are considered the purest of offerings for the sun god. Besides, seasonal fruits like sugarcane, banana, orange, guava, green coconut along with blossoming seasonal fresh flowers fill baskets, which are carried on the heads by the male to the riverside or nearby pond. However, women are the major actors in the festival.

Male members carry the baskets to the ponds or pools or nearby rivers because the women have been observing a fast for a long period. Local drummers, and nowadays musical bands, also accompany them. Devotees sing Chhatha folk songs, which are mainly and mostly religious in nature.

They gather on the banks of rivers to pay homage to the setting sun. They take in rays of the red sun, which is beneficial for health. Thus, new energy, strength, spirit and courage are gained. As night falls, the devotees along with their family members, friends and relatives return home. At home, another colourful celebration takes place. They worship the fire-god and eat nothing the whole night.

On day 4, or the final day of the festival, the devotees early in the morning with their friends and family members go to the river bank to make offerings. They offer morning prayers to the rising sun.
People generally adore the rising sun, but the Madheshi people adore the setting sun as well. The fast is broken, and offerings are distributed to the people around.

There is a local legend associated with the Chhatha. In ancient time, there was a king, Priyabrat. He was very worried because all his babies were born still. Finally, he decided to end his life out of frustration. But a goddess, Chattha Mai, appeared before him, who promised a live son to the king. So women also worship Chhathi Mai during this festival so that they can beget a child.

As in other traditions, the Maithil people greatly revere the sun god. This has become the living tradition of the Maithil people, in general, and Madheshi people, in particular. The festival is still observed in great faith, which should bring good fortune to the worshippers.



November 11, 2010 at 2:51 pm Leave a comment

Madheshi Women’s Future: What now?

Madheshi Women’s Future: What now?

– Kanchan Jha

Albert Einstein once rightly said, “The only reason for time is so that everything does not happen at once,” and that is why maybe with the whirligig of time, the political facade of Madhesi women is also changing in the world’s newest republic-Nepal. The reclusive and introverted Madheshi women donned in tradition are steadily but ever so readily, walking out of the closet to gradually overcome significant odds, social and political, and to play an active role in the political life of the constitution-making process. All thanks to the historic CA elections that has augmented the presence of Madhesi, Madheshi-Dalit and the backward community women in the national decision-making course.

Changing Times

Like never before, the increasing role of these marginalized women in the governance is marking its earnings in the places in the annals of the republican history of Nepal. As a sign of changing times, several women of Madhesi background have secured a meaningful representation and recognition creating a ‘new-fangled niche’ in the political arena of Kathmandu. Many of these women CA members in the past have witnessed vast differences almost on every account and yet, they have dared to dream out-of-the-box and have sacrificed their all not only for the cause of Madhesi women, but also for the cause of women in the entire nation. The majority of the representatives are widows whose husbands were killed either in the Peoples’ Revolution or the Madhesh Andolan and also during the Maoist’s decade long violent ‘people’s war’.

An Avoidable Misery?

However, this long and arduous journey to come to the forefront of Kathmandu politics is, of course, not yet over-especially not in the Terai. Perceptions may have differed but disagreements are still there perhaps on every social, political and economic issue. Throughout history, women in the Terai have often been relegated to backrooms or bedrooms. Meanwhile, they have been told since times immemorial that a woman’s role is restricted to giving birth and feeding the family. Sadly, this volatile epidemic of gender prejudice in the plains has no bounds and it clearly shows that while Madhesi women have been able to gain a petite freedom in the political sphere, they have been unable to assert their involvement and influence on professional, social and personal front.

The young women of the mass en villages in Terai, whose aspirations in science or technology or politics or adventure are hampered by traditions, religion, and society cannot dare to live and love their dreams. Alas, the infamous custom of dowry that women essentially have to carry to their groom’s place is more than a clot that flows smoothly into the veins of millions of Madhesis.

The Questions ahead

Be it the issues of sexism, regionalism or even the trivial injustice faced everyday, these women leaders will now have to fight to voice their opinions like never before and then lead from the front to focus hard on the future of the aam (common) Madhesi women. They ought to have power over an indomitable spirit along with the missionary zeal that will encourage the aam women to resist injustice in every sphere of the social order. The questions, therefore are, how will these docile-by tradition, yet power seeking leaders from our plains now wage their battle against the injustice that prevails in the patriarchal society of Madhesh? And at a time when Terai remains embroiled in violence and conflict, what roles can these Madhesi women leaders aspire to play in re-structuring a greater and unified Madhes under the republic umbrella?

View Point

We asked a few of the Madheshi women CA members from the major political parties regarding the current state of women in Madhes and the state of Terai as a whole. This is what they had to say:

Kiran Yadav, CA member (Mahottari), Nepali Congress (NC)

Kiran Yadav

Kiran Yadav

I believe that in modern democracy it is the opposition bloc that possesses a powerful stature to check and balance the morality of the incumbent government. Madhesi women leadership, however, should be about the future, about hope and change. At first, the leaders in the government must elevate the sense of peace and security in Terai and provide a framework for structuring an effective dialogue with the armed groups who are fighting for the liberation of Madhes. The restructuring of Terai will not be an easy business and as an opposition we will try to emphasize all dimensions of the federal division and inclusive structure, in equal measure, but most importantly a progressive and open debate in the CA will be the need of the hour.

Karima Begum, CA member (Parsa), MJF

Karina Begum

Karina Begum

As the daughter of a conservative Imam (Muslim preacher), I was always ordered to wear the burkha and stay indoors all the time. At the age of 14, I was forcefully married and a year later I became a mother. This male dominated society has to come to an end and men should revere a woman for her Shakti (power) and wisdom, and understand that denying her a rightful place in the society will be a big loss to Nepal. I am going to raise my voice not just for Muslim women or Madhesi women but for all the backward, deprived communities. The biggest challenge will be to prove our worth and competence in the development and structuring of a new state. It is high time to stop paying lip service to these issues and take some concrete and conclusive actions.

Lalita Shah, CA member (Sunsari), MJF

Lalita Shah

Lalita Shah

The evil of Dahej (dowry) has led to the torment and murder of many women across Terai. I will raise my voice within my party as well as in the CA to formulate stringent laws that will enact to avert the malaise. There is no doubt that this practice is callous and we have to unite so that we can carry a crusade against the custom of dowry in general.  I hope the new constitution will sanctify women rights and provide no escape routes for the perpetrators of this dowry crime. It is frightening that women themselves -from mothers to other relatives-have been accomplices to dowry demands from potential brides. For them, dowry becomes a powerful social prestige and recognition. Clearly, the political or judicial interventions to correct this ill can only be successful if society accepts to change. Whilst, therefore, whatever can be done to abate the evil must be done, it is clear that this evil, and many others which can be named, can only be tackled if there is education which can act in response to the rapidly changing conditions of the state.

Ram Kumari Yadav, CA member (Dhanusha), CPN (Maoist)

Ram Kumari Yadav

Ram Kumari Yadav

The JTMM (Jwala and Goit), Cobra and the other like-wise clusters together have created a crisis in Terai. To resolve it, an all-party panel will not be enough. Nepal, India and the people of undivided Madhes will have to talk for a final settlement. The general mood for this has to get better. Cross-border crime is a serious issue and if not intervened in time can attain a mass scale. We know that the genesis is political but people on both sides of the border are getting fatigued. But fatigue should not be allowed to degenerate to desperation. At the moment it will be a monumental political blunder if we deliver a lazy utopia and a flawed sense of justice in Terai. The issue of Madhes and her future is a key area in which Nepal can not afford to fail its acid test.

As the leading party in the government CPN (M), we believe that the need for transformational change in Terai is primarily about improving the quality of life of its people, especially women and providing them a secure future. It is critical that we (the people of Madhes) unite and engage as ‘one’ in the fight for  a new Madhes and find exclusive means and policy initiatives that support greater participation of women in the social and economic front.

Urmila Mahto Koire, CA member (Sarlahi), TMLP

Urmila Mahto Koire

Urmila Mahto Koire

The women in Terai have to come out of closed doors to help men and take an equal share of the burden of life. It cannot be denied that there are several instances occurring on a daily basis where the women are still blamed and neglected in their families and maltreated by men. There is a great public apathy about such matters. But it is not the public alone that is to be blamed. They must have before them illustrations of gender prejudice. Stealing cannot be dealt with unless cases of thieving are published and followed up, likewise, it is also impossible to deal with cases of women discrimination behavior if they are suppressed. Crime and vice generally require darkness for prowling. They disappear when light plays upon them.

Education is a key to an effective response of gender prejudice. Today, many families in the Terai are more likely to spend meager resources on educating a boy. They do not understand the benefits of educating girls, whose role is often narrowly viewed as being prepared for marriage, motherhood and domestic responsibilities.

This report was first published in Today’s Youth Asia, Special Issue Oct-Nov 2008 (Madhesh)

November 26, 2008 at 3:13 am 1 comment

Jhutti – The Rice Stalk Artistry

Jhutti – The Rice Stalk Artistry

– By sankuchy
The month of November bears a special significance for Terai dwellers in Nepal. Usually regarded as the month of harvest it brings with it loads of joy to all. The fields, villages and streets are all filled with the aroma of freshly cut paddy. The granaries are generally full with newly harvested rice and the aroma of new rice wafts away from every kitchen in the villages.
The children await the harvest with much eagerness. After school hours or taking turns to herd the cattle and goats they glean rice from fields. Scouring the fields they search the rice stalks missed by the reapers. The collected rice is bartered with the petty sellers offering local delicacies (jilebi, kachari, and sweets). The rice is often sold in shops and the sum is saved to spend in the melas (village fetes) and haats (make-shift markets).
Meanwhile the farmers prepare jhuttis – artistic form of rice stalk sheaf weaving. Especially, the Tharus prepare jhuttis for each variety of rice they harvest. The jhuttis are hung high on the meh (the bamboo pole to which the oxen are tethered while threshing rice).
Art inspired by nature, for love of nature
Jhuttis are of different shapes and sizes. They are inspired by the nature and the things around like, kauwa tholi – the crow’s beak, patiya – the mat, kakahi – the comb, jhunjhuna – the baby’s toy, bena – the fan, bakhari – the granary, maur – the turban a bridegroom wears in Terai.
The belief is that – after the rice is harvested, there remains nothing for the birds to peck at. Hence, the tradition started, with keeping a jhutti of each species of rice harvested. The jhuttis thus, hung provided food for the birds. It shows the love for nature and conservation among the Tharus.
“Our ancestors loved and worshipped the nature,” says Chandra Kishore Kalyan, President of Tharu Welfare Society, Siraha. “They weaved jhuttis so that the birds didn’t die of hunger after harvest.”
Reviving the age-old culture
With the introduction of machines, the farmers are leaving behind the tradition. Even the traditional rice threshing is becoming obsolete. Now the farmers resort to using machines for the purpose. The joy and celebration of rice threshing using oxen, hanging jhuttis on the bamboo pole is becoming rarer.
To revive the age-old tradition, Barchhawar Community Development Forum organized a ‘Jhutti Competition’ last year. The competition attracted interest from local people with one hundred and fifty entries and brought out the Tharu culture in the national media. The organizers opine that the competition has not only informed the young generation about their culture but also reawakened their love towards the dying tradition. The forum will give continuity to it in the days to come.
Traditional healing
The Tharus believe that the jhutti rice is a cure for nausea. Nathar Tharu of Sishwani village, Siraha in east Nepal has a collection of 20-25 years old rice. He provides the rice for free to the people suffering from nausea.
Month of creativity

The month of November is special to Tharu women. It’s the time to show their creativity. They weave the jhuttis in their leisure time and the young girls learn the trick while herding the goats and cattle. Playing with the rice sheaf they come up with the beautiful shapes and size.


November 21, 2008 at 2:42 am Leave a comment

CHERISHING THE SUN:Chaith festival

CHERISHING THE SUN:Chaith festival

There is hardly any family in any village in the Terai region of Nepal and the adjacent Indian state of Bihar which does not observe the Chaith festival in honor of the setting Sun. Extending over four days, the festival is an occasion to express gratitude to the Sun for bestowing the bounties of life on Earth, and also for fulfilling individual’s wishes. The word chaith means “six,” as the festival begins on the sixth day (shasthi) of the lunar month of Kartik, October/November, shortly after Deepavali, the Festival of Lights.
In Terai, Chaith is celebrated with great enthusiasm at Janakpur, Birgunj, Rajbiraj and Biratnagar. It is also celebrated in Kathmandu along the banks of the Bagmati and Manahara rivers. But among all these places in Nepal, it is in Janakpur, the capital city of the ancient Mithila State, where Chaith is observed most fervently. In India, especially at Patna, the capital city of Bihar, tens of thousands turn out each year to make offerings along the banks of the Ganga.
Janakpur, located about 400 kilometers southeast of Kathmandu, is the birthplace of Sita, wife of Lord Rama. Dr. Jha reports, “As I hail from the Terai region of Nepal and especially from Janakpur, I have had occasions to see this festival ever since my childhood. The Hindus, irrespective of castes and creeds, celebrate the Chaith festival. Each family, from brahmins to Doms (“untouchables”), observes this function. As an exception, this festival is not celebrated in my family. I do not know why, but there is a custom here that if something inauspicious happens to a family on a particular festival day, thenceforth the family does not observe that day. Even so, I never missed watching this festival when I lived at Janakpur. Last year, 2001, after living in Kathmandu for thirty years, I went to Janakpur for the express purpose of attending the festival, for the first time since I left.
“At Janakpur, with its small lakes, Chaith festival is celebrated in the most magnificent way. My wife, Usha, and I agreed to pay homage to the Sun God in the evening. But we chose different routes to cover these ponds. Since my ancestral house is close to Rukminisar, I first went there. The scene was most delightful. I met many of my neighbors celebrating the festival. Then, I moved to Birrahi. And from there I moved onwards to Argaja and Dhanushsagar. At the end, I visited Gangasagar where the festival decorations were most colorful. Having reached Gangasagar, I made circumambulation to the pond and prayed to the Sun God for my prosperity.”
Dr. Jha asked one devotee, Rupkala, why she celebrates the Chaith festival. She said she did it for curing the disease of her husband who has paralysis. Another devotee, Sita, said she attended the festival desiring to get a son. A third devotee, Bhagirathi, replied that she worships the Sun God so her sons can pass their examinations. A fourth, Kalabati, said, “I pray to the Sun God to cure my skin disease.”
“At the time I was interviewing the above devotees,” Dr. Jha reminisced, “I remembered how I was once made to go for begging in some families during my childhood before the Chaith. Alms collected by me were offered to Chaith Parmeshwori, the Shakti, or power, of the Sun God. The reason I was made to beg was that my parents prayed to the Sun God before my birth that they would offer Him the alms collected by me if they had a son. So after I was born as eleventh child of my parents, I was made to fulfill the promise. Likewise, my eldest sister offers blessed food to the Sun God each year, as she pledged to do so if she had a brother.”
Devotees believe that the setting Sun symbolizes the outgoing forces, while the rising Sun is the harbinger of incoming ones. The festival is quite ancient, with references found to it in the Rig Veda. It is mentioned in the Surya Purana that Anusuya, the wife of Atri, performed the Chaith festival on the sixth day of the lunar calendar in Katrik. The festival possibly figures in the Mahabharata when Kunti, the mother of the Pandavas, was blessed with her first son, Karna, after worshiping the Sun God. The Agni Purana states that the Pandavas observed Chaith when they returned from their fourteen-year exile. The Ramayana recounts the festival’s observance by Queen Kaushalya, mother of Lord Rama.
In the Chaith festival, devotees take extra precaution to see that all items used in the worship of the Sun God are pure. Every effort is made to keep the food, utensils and other objects used in the worship pure and sacred. It is believed that any leniency might invite misfortune.
Chaith is special for women. Those who wish to make the offering to the Sun God on the evening of the sixth day of Kartik and morning of the seventh prepare themselves with rigorous penance. They begin two days earlier by going to the river, lake or well to take a holy bath. They eat only pure, sattvic, food. The next day, called kharna, the women fast during the day and in the evening have some rice pudding which has been offered to the Sun God. This sanctified dish is also distributed among the family members, particularly to those who do not follow this festival. On the sixth day, the women devotees observe total fast during the day and night. They don’t even take water, let alone fruits or any other item. They engage themselves in preparing naivedyam, food offerings, for the Sun God comprised of ripe banana, sugarcane, bhuswa (a preparation of rice flour and ghee), and thakuwa/khajuri (a fried sweet made of wheat flour). Also offered to the Sun God are coconut, radish, ginger and cereal grains, including gram. Devotees of means prepare lavish offerings, while the poor may even go to the extent of begging to collect funds to perform the festival in a proper style.
All these items prepared for the Sun God are taken to the riverside or the lake before sunset on the sixth day on new bamboo trays. The sites where the offerings are made are cleaned before the family members go to worship. Women sing devotional songs on this special occasion in praise of the Sun God. Devotees who make the offerings enter the water in new clothes and then present the naivedyam to the setting Sun first. After the offerings are made, most families take all the offerings back to their homes for safekeeping, others stay and guard them on the river bank or lakeside. Following the final offering to the Sun God in the morning, the naivedyam is distributed among as many people as possible.
The festival is much the same in Bihar, reports Gitanjali Chak, “The popular belief is that all the desires of the devotees are fulfilled during Chaith. There is also a strong belief that any misdeed performed during Chaith will be severely punished. Thus peace generally prevails during this time, as even the criminals prefer to abstain from evil doings. Every year loud devotional music heralds the festival’s arrival. These special songs for the festival are an integral part of the celebrations and have attracted study by classical scholars of India and abroad. Even in the pre-Independence era, European linguists and literary critics praised these songs. The literary works of Sir George Grierson, William Crooke, Huge Fraiser, Ram Naresh Tripathi and Krishna Deo Upadyay all refer to Chaith songs.”
The first days of observance in Bihar are much the same as in Nepal, with the second day’s fast being broken late evening after performing worship at home. The offerings, araghya, typically rice, thekua (deep-fried puffs of wheat flour), grapefruit, bananas, coconuts and grains of lentils, are distributed among family and visiting friends and relatives. These items are contained in small, semi-circular pans woven out of bamboo strips, called dalas. The third day of the festival (that is, the sixth day of Kartik) is spent preparing the offerings at home during the day. In the evening the devotees move to the bank of the Ganga in large milling crowds. All streets leading to the holy river are decorated with colorful festoons and banners.”
“Once there,” she continues, “the offerings are made to the setting Sun. At nightfall, the devotees, along with family and friends, return home where another colorful celebration is held. Clay elephants containing earthen lamps and containers full of offerings are placed under a canopy of sugar cane stalks, after which Agni, the Fire God, is worshiped. On the final day of the festivities, devotees move to the riverbank where offerings are made to the rising Sun this time. As this ritual draws to a close, there is joyous celebration, with merry-making all around. The devotees then break their fast and the rich offerings are given out to all the people around.” Though there are a total of seventeen Sun temples in Bihar, Deo in Aurangabad and Baragaon near Nalanda are the ones that are most active during Chaith.
“In Nepal,” concludes Dr. Jha, “the Chaith festival is important to maintain social harmony. People from all walks of life and of all ages flock together to celebrate this festival. The haves celebrate the festival with great pomp and show; but it is not so difficult even for the have-nots to celebrate. During my tour to Janakpur last year I saw a lot of change in the manner people celebrated from my childhood. One difference is the population pressure. Earlier, comparatively few families celebrated the festival, and there was no rush on this occasion. Increased decorations and the use of firecrackers is much in evidence. It was my feeling that the people’s devotion to the Sun God has increased.”


November 13, 2008 at 11:18 pm Leave a comment

Kosi River: Life and death for people of mithila

Kosi River: Life and death for people of mithila

– Nihar Ranjan
Known as “Sorrow of Bihar”, the river Kosi brings both life and death to the people of mithila. However, when I say life, I mean just a mean of making both ends meet. When I say death, I mean the worst ever devilish form of any river.

Life in Mithila: Once you enter in the Mithila region of Bihar(or any part of Bihar in general) you will see the pall of gloom desceded till where your eyesight might go. Poor people, malnourished children moving vagarantly around railway stations either begging or selling “Chana (fried Gram)”. One more thing that you will notice while enetring the mithila region is sudden upsurge if Peda( a milk product) sellers. From train window you can see the broken muddy roads and overcrowded buses plying on them. There is no industry. Literacy too very bad. All you will see is dicthes and large waterlogged areas . Some green paddy fields and maizes as well. People feeding themselves “Khaini (tobacco)” for kick and ready to work. Loudspeakers airing marriage songs from distant places. People feeding cattles in front of huts. Groups of people gossiping about what government is doing or their local politicians are doing or simply whats going on in the village. Yes this is real mithila. My motherland. My dear motherland, I always love it, despite all odds.

Scourge of Kosi: Kosi river has total control of the people of mithila. Floods every year were part of life for its people until early 50’s where embankment was built on Kosi. However even after 50 years from then, nothing has changed much. People are still poor. Roads are still bad. and same old everything. People still die of waterborne diseases. Every year pear die of diarrhea, kala-zar due to the lack of health care. Because of poverty, people heavily rely on stomach filling but nutritionally null diet. May poor families just eat steamed rice (Bhaat) and some salt and mustard oil and few jalepenos (Mirchis) to keep their throat watery enough to keep those morsels of Bhaat getting stuck in their throat. Those who live in villages close to the river fish very often and their is plenty of fish thanks to the Kosi river. So fish is part of their food there. Thats only for the villages which is really close to the embankment. These areas are far from the modern world. Though some villages in these remote viallges have some televison sets radios and now mobiles phone too, but that doen’t mean development. The healthcare is very poor. People have to come about 20-30 kilometers to get checked for a deisease in a good Hospital of their area. Every year roads are broken by waterlogging and heavy rains. Once they get broken , it takes years to repair them, forget about rebuilding them.

Why Kosi is life of Mithila: Since there is no industry in the region, people either farm or fish as a means for their living. A small percecntage of people rely of odd goverment jobs. Farmers in the areas of river shore get highly fertile land by the river and usually prouduce good enough grain ( Rice, maize) and Moong for thier uses provided their is no flood. Besides , fishing from the river gives them cash. Aprt from that people grow “makhana” and thats gets them money too. But all of this is just enough to feed themselves and buy some clothes. If they need some expensive operation, they just cant afford it and mostly people still die of diseases that can be easily cured if you have some money. They can’t even make their houses of bricks because they don’t have money. They keep waiting for schemes like Jawahar Aawas Yojna and similar ones to get some financial aid.

Why Kosi is death to them: I don’t need to answer. See the current flood and you will how the whole area has been swept way in Kosi’s womb. Whatever the river gave to these poor has been taken back.


September 9, 2008 at 2:10 am 1 comment

An Older Article on Flood Politics

An Older Article on Flood Politics (Adopted)
– Dr Dinesh Kumar Mishra

History is repeating itself after a long gap. It will be more entertaining now because different coalitions are ruling at Patna and Delhi. In 1965, it was Congress at both the places.

The proposed dams in Nepal are in news again and the discussions over the issue is stale. Jagadanand, then Water Resource Minister of Bihar, asserted in Bihar Vidhan Sabha (22nd July 2002), ‘…Sir, the last point, no discharge control-no flood control. Unless the discharge is controlled, the scientists all over the world are convinced that the floods cannot be controlled…Embankments do not control the discharge, they can, at best, prevent water from spreading. Weak embankments cannot hold uncontrolled discharge and the flood will continue to bother us as a natural calamity. If we want to control floods in this state, we will have to control discharge in the upper riparian states and the neighboring countries. We have had negotiations with them and have unanimously agreed that to proceed jointly.’

In reply to a call attention motion of Ram Vilas Paswan regarding floods in Bihar, Arjun Charan Sethi, Minister of Water Resources at the Center told the Lok Sabha, on the 22nd August 2003, ‘…So far as Bihar is concerned, we are having constant interaction with the Government of Nepal because we all know these rivers originate from Nepal. Unless we have any kind of agreement with Nepal, this problem cannot be solved. The proposal for setting up of the Joint Project Office in Nepal for taking up field investigations and preparation of Detailed Project Report has since been approved. 100 officials from Nepal, and 42 officials from India are to carry out field investigations and studies. The project will inter alia have 269 meters high dam with an installed capacity of 3,300 MW and irrigation benefits accruing both to India and Nepal. In addition to Kosi Multipurpose Project, it will include Sun Kosi Diversion scheme as well.’

Similar statement was made by Priya Ranjan Das Munshi, Central Minister of Water Resources, made a statement in Kishanganj on the 5th June in 2004.

Jay Prakash Narayan Yadav, State Minister of Water Resources at the Center on the 24th June 2004, while talking to the press in New Delhi said that a sum of Rs. 29 Crores has been sanctioned for the construction of the Kosi High Dam (He must have meant that it was for the preparation of the DPR).

As far as Barahkshetra Dam is concerned, the politicians in India are sticking to the same statement that dialogue with Nepal is on and on this is since 1947. Jay Prakash Narayan Yadav reiterated his statement again in 2005. The joint team is working in Nepal for the preparation of the DPR but its personnel are tight lipped over what they are going to propose and when.

The ghost of the Barahkshetra Dam haunts the planners, engineers and the politicians ever since the embanking plans of the Kosi was rejected in favor of a large dam by the Central Government in 1946 and the statements like the one given by Jagadanand, Arjun Charan Sethi, Das Munshi or Jay Prakash Narayan Yadav are a matter of routine in the flood season.

The annual report of Water Resources Department of Bihar (2006-07) has already completed the formality of suggesting that the solution to the flood problems of Bihar lies in building dams in Nepal and wants the Center to expedite the negotiations. These negotiations are, however, going on for the past 60 years.

The factual position about these dams is that they are no way linked to flood control and the flood victims of North Bihar have been systematically fooled over years and they will suffer indefinitely at the hands of the politicians, engineers and the vested interests that are dangling carrots of these dams for decades. Here is the reason, why.

There are three dams that often come as proposal to solve north Bihar problems. These are the Chisapani on the Kamla, the Nunthore dam on the Bagmati and the Barahkshetra on the Kosi. The Report of the Second Irrigation Commission of Bihar (1994) spells very clearly that there is no flood cushion provided in the proposed Chisapani Reservoir on the Kamla.

(Vol. V, Part -1, p-511). A Report of the Expert Committee to study impact of interlinking of river on Bihar (April 2005, Chapter III, p-16) says, ‘…But the proposed Sapta Kosi Dam too has not been provided with any flood cushion which should be provided for flood moderation…’ Regarding the proposed Nunthore Dam on the Bagmati, the Second Bihar Irrigation Commission Report says, ‘…it appears clearly that even after the construction of dam at Nunthore, there would be no appreciable flood moderation in the middle and lower reaches of the Bagmati and obviously further supplementary floods managements measures would be needed’ (Vol. V Part-1, p-414). A recent report of WRD of GoB (May 2006) observes that ‘…but none of these schemes could come up as yet, and in near future also there is little hope of execution of these schemes (Chapter-V, p-1).’ Thus, there is neither any flood cushion provided in the design of the proposed dams nor there is any likelihood of the dams being built in near future.

Inaugurating a seminar organized by the Water Resource Development Centre of Patna University on the 2nd March 2002, the Water Resource Secretary of the GoB said that, given the resources available with the Government, there was no possibility of a dam being built on the Kosi at Barahkshetra in the coming 50-60 years. This seminar was discussing the flood problem of the state and was attended by all the ‘Who is who’ of the technical fraternity of the state that included the many Chief Engineers of the Water Resources Department of Bihar. If that be so, the question is whether there is any interim plan to face the floods if the construction of the proposed dams in Nepal is not likely to be started in coming 50-60 years and even if it does, it will take another 15-20 years to complete the same so that the benefits of flood control could be tapped. The answer is-no.

Dr Dinesh Kumar Mishra is a graduate of IIT Kharagpur and University of South Gujarat. He has written several books and papers on Rivers and Floods, particularly of North Bihar. He is the convenor of an informal group of flood activists called Barh Mukti Abhiyan.


August 21, 2008 at 2:00 pm 1 comment

Anatomy of Hindi

Anatomy of Hindi

By Prakash A Raj

The first ever elections of president and vice-president of Nepal took place on July 21. Dr Ram Baran Yadav of the Nepali Congress and Paramanand Jha of Madhesi People’s Rights Forum were elected president and vice-president respectively. Both Madhesis from eastern tarai and both speak Maithili as their mother tongue, which is also spoken across the border in the Indian state of Bihar. While taking oath of their posts few days later, Dr Yadav used Nepali, dressed in daura suruwal and bhadgaunle topi whereas Jha took his oath in Hindi, one of the national languages of India and was dressed in dhoti. There were demonstrations in several places and Jha’s effigy was burnt because he used Hindi instead of Nepali to take his oath. A writ petition was filed in the Supreme Court to invalidate his oath-taking as it was done in Hindi whereas the interim constitution requires that the language of government would be Nepali in devanagari script. On the other hand, the interim constitution also permits the use of “mother tongues”, presumably meaning languages other than Nepali to be used in local government offices.

More than sixty legislators elected in Constituent Assembly (CA) took their oath and speak regularly in Hindi in meetings. They belong to MPRF and other regional parties from the tarai.

Is Hindi spoken in Nepal? According to interim constitution, all “mother tongues” spoken in Nepal are its national languages (Rashtriya Bhasha) as it is a multi-lingual country. Nepali in Devanagari script and derived from Sanskrit is similar to Hindi, also written in the same script. Actually, it is very easy to translate from Hindi to Nepali and vice-versa as it was witnessed during the oath-taking ceremony.

According to 2001 census, Hindi was spoken as a mother tongue by 105,000 people in Nepal which was 0.47 percent of its population. On the other hand, such languages as Maithili, Bhojpuri and Awadhi spoken in the tarai are considered dialects of Hindi in India although India recognized Maithili as a separate language few years ago. Maithili spoken in northern Bihar is spoken as mother tongue by a larger number of people in India than in Nepal.

On the other hand, Hindi instead of Maithili is taught in schools and is used as a language of administration in Maithili speaking areas of Bihar. It is Hindi and not Maithili which is used in local government offices in Darbhanga and Muzaffarpur and in Bihar Legislative Assembly.

Similarly, Bhojpuri spoken in central tarai of Nepal and in western Bihar and eastern UP is not used for official purposes in India. Although the language spoken in Varanasi is Bhojpuri, it is neither taught in schools nor is used in municipality there or in either UP or Bihar legislative assembly. Awadhi language spoken in Lumbini tarai is similar to the language spoken in central UP including Lucknow, Basti and Barabanki.

However, it is not taught in the schools or is used for local governments in Indian cities where it is spoken. It is considered a dialect of Hindi for all practical purposes. The percentage of speakers in Maithili, Bhojpuri and Awadhi in Nepal is 12.3, 7.53 and 2.47 respectively which adds up to 23 percent of the population.

It is estimated that 5.83 percent of population in Nepal speaks Tharu which is considered to be a separate language. On the other hand, many people in the eastern tarai, including Tharus and non-Tharus speak essentially the same language. If this criterion is used then the percentage of Hindi speakers in Nepal would be at least a quarter of the population making it the language second only to Nepali.

Actually, India is a democratic country where the people speaking Maithili, Bhojpuri and Awadhi have chosen to adopt Hindi as their language. If the speakers of Maithili, Bhojpuri and Awadhi in Nepal want to adopt Hindi as their link language, there should be no reason for others to object. As a link language, it is also understood by a very large number of people in Nepal, next only to Nepali. In a federal Nepal, Hindi could be adopted as a link language in eastern tarai.

It is the CPN (Maoist) which made the “autonomous, federal states with right of self-determination” part of its agenda. Can it evade responsibility for secessionist movement in the tarai and elsewhere in the country? The national daily Gorkhapatra which is under Ministry of Communications headed by a Maoist minister has been publishing two pages in different languages spoken in the country daily in its pages.

It has published pages in such languages as Sherpa and Sunuwar whose speakers are less than 25,000 and also Urdu which has 174,000 speakers in the country. This could be a commendable step in view of inclusivity. Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara was seen on Nepal television as saying that nobody spoke Hindi as mother tongue in Nepal. Gorkhapatra has not published anything in Hindi. Is this because of anti-Hindi bias of Maoist leaders? Actually, Nepali as link language developed in Nepal during 240 years rule by the Shah dynasty when it was unified.

King Mahendra popularized its use in the tarai and many migrants from the hills changed the demographic composition there making Nepali as the link language in such districts as Jhapa, Morang and Sunsari on the one hand and in west of Kapilbastu.

However, Maithili, Bhojpuri and Awadhi continue to be spoken in parts of tarai west of Kosi and east of Birganj and in Lumbini. Should those who are not native speakers of those language decide for speakers of Maithili, Bhojpuri and Awadhi whether they should or should not study or use Hindi? Actually, Hindi or Khari Boli similar to that used in written form is used only in western UP around Meerut and Delhi in India.

However, it is now considered language of several states including Himanchal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Haryana, UP, Bihar, Chhatisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. This is in spite of several dialects and languages spoken in these states. German is spoken not only in Germany but also in Austria and Switzerland.

Similarly, French is spoken in France, Switzerland, Belgium and Canada. More than twenty Latin American countries speak Spanish. What is wrong in admitting that Hindi is also spoken and is one of its major languages in Nepal in addition to India? Whereas the writ petition at the Supreme Court might be entertained and he may be required to take oath in Nepali language, Hindi being the language spoken by a large number of people of Nepal has to be accepted. If someone can take oath in one of many languages of Nepal such as Magar, Tamang or Newari, why not in Hindi?


August 13, 2008 at 5:51 am 2 comments

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Past Posts


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