Essay on Jitiya Festival

Jitiya is an important festival of Nepali married women of Mithilanchal and Tharu women of all castes. This festival is named after Masabashi’s son Jimutavahana, a blessing son of the sun. Masabashi was an unmarried princess who spent her life as hermit living in a hermitage.

Jitiya falls in the month of Ashwin (September-October). It is celebrated for three days on Saptami (the seventh day), Astami (the eighth day) and Navami (the ninth day). The fasting day, Astami, is called Jitiya. The married women take nrata (fast) for the good fortune of their children, husband and the family. In this festival, the brothers invites their married sisters to their homes, and the married women go to their maiti(maternal home).

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On the first day of Jitiya, women take a bath in a river or a pond early in the morning and formally start their brata. Before taking a bath. Before taking a bath, they put khari (oil-seed-cake), special soli, on a leaf of sponge gourd and worship Jimutavahana, and let it flow on the river. They take the remaining oil back home and massage their children with it. This khari is effused for legendary figure Chilo (eagle) and Shero  (fox) wishing them to take brata (fasting) of Jitiya. The married women remember their female ancestors too.

On this day, Women scrub their house with cow’s dung to make their house sacred. At mid night, they prepare ongthan or datkhat (special food), and eat it before the cockcrow. They also eat fish and millet bread. They have curd, beaten rice and fruits as dar. Before eating datkhat, they offer some food to the legendary figures Chilo and Shero.

Upas is the second day. On this day, the married women fast the whole day. They go to river, pond and well and make an idol. The devotees get together and the ones who know about Jimutavahana, narrate his story. They neither drink ca drop of water nor do they have some fruits during Astami. During fasting hours, they sing and dance too. Darkatoni is their song. Everyone, married or unmarried, can participate in singing and dancing.

Parwan is the third or last day. The women wake up early in the morning and go to the river to take a bath. Then they return home and perform puja. After puja, they offer some fruit, milk and curd to Jimutavahana, a legendary deity, before they eat. Then only they take food and drink water. Afterwards the women complete their brata, then they sing and dance the whole day.

Why do the women remember Jimutavahana, the eagle and the jackal during this festival? There is a popular story behind this. Jimutavahana had saved the life of a baby eagle. By fasting, the eagle ensured her offspring had a long life, whereas the jackal’s offspring had a short life because the jackal did not fast. While the jackal’s women devotees makes idols of the jackal and eagle with sand or cow dung, and red crimson is applied on their forehead. As the main part of the ritual, women worship nature. The celebration of Jitiya strengthens good relationships between different ethnic groups and creates harmony in society. It creates social solidarity and helps the society function.