Nepal, a land of geographical contrast, incredible cultural diversity and scenic grandeur, never runs out of celebrations and festivities . Nepal has been home to diversified settlements in terms of ethnicity, religion, dialect and culture. The multi-lingual and multi -racial country Nepal has its own world, a world full of colorful vibrant festivals. One of the major festival of Nepal, Maghi Festival or Maghe Sankranti, is going to be celebrated tomorrow(January 15), on the first day of Nepali month of Magh.
Maghi Festival is celebrated by the Tharu community throughout the nation to mark the beginning of their new year. Maghi festival has been recognized as a national festival by Nepal government since the last eight years. The frostiness of the weather is diluted in the warmth of togetherness while the plains of the Tarai come alive with folk tunes and dances. Maghi Festival holds great essence to the Tharu community and they observe it for 3 days.
Typical Tharu dances like Sakhiya, Hridangwa, Ghumra, Jhumra, Maghauta, Jharra and Lathwa are the highlights of the event. Apart from all the merrymaking and celebrations, Maghi is a festival of rekindling dead ties and resolving out differences. An array of Tharu cuisines such as crab pickle, fish, teel ko laddu (sesame seed ball), pork curry and a variety of bread like Bagiya, Dhikri and Jharra Roti are served. Maghi holds special importance to married women too because the festival has a special ritual of providing them with gifts by their parents and brothers called “nisrau”, a nice package consisting of salt, rice and other grocery items.
Considered a major festivity of Nepal, Maghi comes like an air of respite in the otherwise difficult and dreary lives of the agro-pastoral Tharus. Learning from past blunders and getting ready for a fresh year ahead is a perfect mix, especially when served in the same platter of dancing, singing, fun and merriment.
Maghe Sankranti is observed on the first of Nepali Month Magh bringing an end to the ill-omened nepali month of Poush when all religious ceremonies are forbidden. On this day, the sun is believed to leave its southernmost position and begin its northward journey. Maghe Sankranti is similar to solstice festivals in other religious traditions.
Observant Hindus take ritual baths during this festival, notably at auspicious river locations. These include Sankhamul on the Bagmati near Patan; In the Gandaki/Narayani river basin at Triveni, Devghat near Chitwan Valley and Ridi on the Kaligandaki; and in the Koshi River basin at Dolalghat on the Sun Koshi. Festive foods like laddoo, ghee and sweet potatoes are distributed. Sankranti is the Sanskrit word in Eastern Astrology which refers to the transmigration of the Sun from one Rashi (sign of the zodiac) to another. Maghe Sankranti is the transition of the Sun from Dhanu rashi (Sagittarius) to Makara rashi (Capricorn).
Delicacies like Till ko laddu (Brown Sesame seed Fudge), Chakku (Molasys), Ghee (Clarified Butter), Tilauri, Spinach and Yam’s curry are served as Maghe Shankranti’s special food. A special type of Spinach called Patne Palungo specially grown in Nepal and yam (yam is Tarual in Nepali) are regarded as special dishes of Maghe Shankranti.
People of Newari community massage their body and head with Sesame oil. Maghe Sangranti is also referred to as ‘Ghyo Chaku Sanun’ by the newar community.
It is believed that massaging the body with Sesame oil and eating these food items i.e ghiu Chaku, Til ko Laddoo, Spinach and yam helps us become healthier and warmer during the cold weather.
The Kirat community celebrate this day as ‘Yele Dhung’, as their new year. This is celebrated to share the joy of the day when the Kirant king Yalambar invaded the Kathmandu valley and started his reign.