Jitiya festival is a festival observed by the Nepali married women of Tharu community, It is observed during the Ashwin from krishna Asthami as per Mithilanchal panchang and Nepali calendar. And it commences with a ritual called “Naha Kha” which means, taking food after taking the ritual bath.
On the first day, the women partake a fast that has a special food that comprises of beaten rice, curd and amot (Raisin of dried mango juice), this special food is an offering to the ancestors and the deity Jitamahan. Before having this the women serve it to the deity Jitamahan and their ancestors. Another offering made to the deity and the ancestors are made up of mustard cake, molasses and mustard oil. The ritual of fasting is observed from 4 am on the day following “Naha Kha” until 8 am of the next day.
During Jitiya festival the women are invited to there parents house to observe the festival, they normally fast for the longevity of the lives of their children and Husbands.
The women who are observing the fast take holy dips in the local rivers and ponds in morning of the first day. The seniors of the community tell the story of the “Jitamahan” to the devotees and the children. Oil is also offered to the deity and this offering is given to the children , whose parents put the oil on the children’s body. It is believed that this offered oil strengthens the children and protects them from various physical problems. There is also a practice where the member eat food comprising of Bread ( roti) which is made from millet flour, and a curry made out of “nuni” greens and fish, they eat this after performing the rituals on the first day of the festival. This special food is called “Macchh Maruwa” in their local dialect and it is considered to be a offering to the deity “Jitamahan” as well.
There’s another tradition where the fasting women have to observe what is called the “Othgan” ritual which requires the women to apply some food on their lips early in the morning before the cows start to make noise.
Women who are performing this ritual normally take curd and beaten rice. Their fast is very tough in itself. It is performed during the Ashwin Krishna Ashtami, which is the eighth day of the waning moon which falls on the month of Asoj as per the lunar Nepali calendar, which is according to Pandit Kalikant Jha.
Married people who are observing the festival observe the Jitiya Festival for the longevity of their children, to get the blessing of a happy and prosperous family, and overall peace of mind and the family. The festival carries religious, cultural and tantric importance to the believers and is celebrated with gusto and energy.
There’s a mantra for the Jitiya festival and it goes something like this:
Yatraashtmi cha akshin krishnapakshe
यत्राष्टमी च आश्विन कृष्णपक्षेYatrodayan vai karute dineshah
यत्रोदयं वै कुरुते दिनेश:Tada bhavet jivitputikasa
तदा भवेत जीवित्पुत्रिकासा।Yasyamudaya Bhanu Paran Navami Dine.
यस्यामुदये भानु: पारणं नवमी दिने।
Meaning of the above jitiya mantra is that the jiviputrika fast is observed on the day on which the sun rises on the day of the asthami and the Paran puja is performed on the Navami after the sunrise. This is the tradition of observing the jitiya festival. First off, they take a bath early in the morning, the women don’t drink or eat anything the whole day, and they go to hear the jimutvahana katha along with an Eagle siyari katha in the day and offer prasad or offerings to the lord Jimutvahana. The fast is observed with full dedication as it is believed to make the family more prosperous and healthy. The mothers of the family observe the fast for their son’s long life and prosperous lives as well. The married women but not with any offspring observe this fast with utmost dedication as well as it is believed the lord Jimutvahana blesses them with sons as there offspring, and bring happiness and the well being of the entire family. It is also believed that the family observing this fast are blessed with offsprings who continue the family lineage for years and years to come and are blessed with a good life. The family prays to the idol made of Jimutvahana from grass, they put this idol into the water and offer bamboo leaves, cahndan, flowers, etc. And then pray to the lord.
This fast is a very strict fasting and the ritual are very strict as the women who burp , cough or bite their tongue during the fast are not allowed to fast again, it is believed that when a woman does any of the above her fast is deemed as unsuccessful and is forbidden to ever take part in the fast again.
Myth/Story associated with the Jitiya festival
A myth associated with the festival is that the there was once a king called Shalivahana, and one day a demon had taken away the seven sons of a woman and it was Shalivahan who had gone and killed the demon to bring the sons of the women back, this is also why the king is also called Jitamahan. The women worship the lord Jitamahan as the saviour and believe that the Lord will save their sons from any harm or problem in their lives. The fasting has a lot of belief, but the main belief is that the fasting is done for the longevity of their children, prosperity of the family , happiness of the sons, protection of the sons, this is what the married women with children believe and the married women without children do the fast to get offspring which is believed that the Lord will bless them with sons as well, and the prosperity of the family will flourish as well as the lord blesses them with happiness and prosperity in their lives. The Jitiya festival falls on the month of Ashwin in Bikram Sambat Nepali calendar.
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