Unique cultural dances of Janakpurdham

Editor’s note: This content was originally published by the Nepal Tourism Board.

JATA-JATIN

This dance is performed at night by a group of rural women in the month of Bhadra (August/September) when there is a drought. The women catch frogs and put them in small pitchers filled with a mixture of water and cow dung. The women divide themselves into two groups - one masquerading as the male, which is called ‘Jata’, and the other as the female and is called ‘Jatin’. The women then place the pitchers on their heads and go about the village, singing a song in question-answer form. At the end, they throw the pitchers into the courtyard of a person assumed to be evil-minded, and then disperse. The cultural dance is performed with the hope that there will be rain.

JHIJHIYA

This festival (on the 6th day of the bright lunar fortnight in Kartik) is the most auspicious festival of Mithilanchal. (Another dance worth watching is performed by a group of women every year in the month of Ashwin (September/October) during the Dashain festival from Ghatasthapana to Vijaya Dashami.) In the Jhijhiya dance, some women place pitchers, with a burning lamp inside, on their heads. The pitcher has a large number of holes, and should anyone be able to count the exact number, it is believed that the vessel will catch fire, and the woman carrying it will die. The singing and dancing go on for hours, with groups of women taking turns to carry the pitchers.

SAMA CHAKEBA

This is a play performed by the rural women of Mithilanchal for a fortnight, starting on Chhath in the month of Kartik (October/November) and lasting till the full moon. Through this play, women express their affection to their brothers. Every evening, women leave their homes with dolls in a bamboo basket, in the middle of which they place a burning lamp. They gather at a certain crossing and sit in a circle, singing till midnight. On the final night, they burn the moustache of ‘Chugla’, the evil doll. The dolls are then disposed off amidst the playing of such musical instruments as drums and the flute in the presence of their brothers.

JHARRI

This play is performed at the time of ‘Hanuman- Jhand’ (celebration commemorating Lord Hanuman’s flag) and ‘Daha’ or ‘Tajiya’ (Muslim rituals). About 10-15 men perform this dance with a stick that is about 18 inches long. The singing and dancing go on for hours.

LO KA SA NKIRTAN (Devotional songs)

The devotional songs teach us about morality and fraternity while creating awareness about human life. About 15 male singers sing the devotional Unique cultural dances of Janakpurdham 14 songs accompanied by such musical instruments as the harmonium, dholak (drum), gumti (onesided small drum), bastarang (musical instrument made of bamboo strips), jhals (cymbals) and other instruments.

There are four types of Loka Sankirtans:

a) General Loka Sankirtan - Sung in a group and accompanied by music.

b) Jhanki Loka Sankirtan - Devotional songs are sung to the deities that grace a platform. During the singing, offerings are made to the deities.

c) Bishaya Sankirtan - Team members follow the lead singer. The hymns could last hours.

d) Jhanki Vivah Sankirtan - It enacts the scenes of the wedding ceremony of Goddess Sita with Lord Ram. Despite the difficulties, the rural women of Mithilanchal have preserved this tradition that date from the Treta Yug. LEELAS (episodes from the lives of gods): Among such episodes staged, ‘Ram-Leela’, ‘Krishna- Leela’, ‘Ras-Leela’ and Shiva-Leela’ are very popular, but ‘Ram-Leela’ tops the list. It lasts upto a month, and during the period, the entire episodes of the Ramayan are presented on stage by group artists

FOLK DANCES AND DRAMAS

Mithilanchal has been the centre of folk dances and dramas since the 5th century. It is said that in birth, life and death, music never abandons a person in Mithilanchal. Some of the ancient dances are the Badhaiya Nach, Pamariya Nach - both of which are performed within a month of birth - Chhaukarbaji Nach and Ras Nach. Among the folk dramas, the most ancient are Salhesh, Gopichan, Bharthari (Bratihari), Saranga-Sadabriksh, Mahasti Bihula, Bideshiya, Hirani-Birani, Dulara Dayal, Naika-Banijara and Domakacha. These folk dramas have been handed down through word of mouth. Besides these dramas, there are Nautankis (light dramas) which are heroic presentations. Among them are Amar Singh Rathour, Laila-Majnu and Shiri-Farhad. These Nautankis performed on stage are accompanied by music played on one big drum, three small drums along with the harmonium and other musical instruments.

MITHILA PAINTINGS & FOLK ART

Mithila paintings are renowned the world over. There is a painting centre at Kuwa, Janakpurdham, where nearly five dozen rural women from different villages are involved in preparing paintings of Mithila folk art for export to Western countries and other markets. You will find Mithila paintings on the mud walls of rural homes, which are done by housewives. These mud wall paintings are done using local lime, ochre (locally called geru), and brown and black soot collected from the bottom of pots and pans.

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