Nepal, a small landlocked country with a total area of 147516 square kilometres, encompasses various cultures made of 125 ethnic groups. Nepalese people express their culture through music and dance, art and craft, food and drinks, language and literature, philosophy and religions, festivals and celebrations. Nepal has three geographical regions: Himalaya Region, Hilly Region and Terai Region.
Ethnic People Terai is also known as Madesh, which is made of two Sanskrit words- Madhya and Desh, which means the central country located between the Himalayas and Vindhya Mountain. It covers 33998.8 km sq. i.e. 21.1% area of total Nepal. The Madheshi people in Nepal came into the limelight in the 18th century when the Shah rulers of Nepal encouraged Indian people to settle in the eastern Terai. In the 1770s and 1780s. The people from Bihar of India came to settle in Terai as farmers following the massive flood in the Koshi River. They converted forests into agricultural lands. A few hilly people went to reside in Terai to promote the economy of the country. According to the census 2011, the total population of the people residing in Terai is 13,318,705 with 120 different ethnic groups and castes. The Madheshi culture is complex and diverse. Their culture and traditions are much more similar to the Indian one. People in Madesh consist of at least 43 different groups. They are, namely, Bania, Brahman, Dhobi, Kalwar, Kewat, Kshatriya, Kumar, Kurmi, Kushwaha, Barber, Yadav and Teli. They speak mostly eight languages like Maithili, Bhojpuri, Hindi, Awadhi, Tharu, etc. The majority of people in Madesh follow Hindu and Muslim religions. The food eating habit of Terai people is different from other parts of Nepal. The typical Terai food includes bread and butter, rice with ghee, dal, tarkari, tarua, papad, pickles, and yoghurt. And for non-vegetable items, they consume mostly fish and goat curry. The beauty of the Madhesh Region is characterized by the designation "Basket of Bread". The Maithili people have a unique way of cooking rice and dal dumplings called bagiya. The special food of Tharu people, snail and fish, comes under the specialized food. Snails are cleaned, boiled, and spiced to make ghonghi. Another collection of this region's recipes includes crabs (roasted), wheat flour bread, and fried taro (karkalo) leaf cakes. Festivals in Madhesh are unique in their own way and they are much similar to the festivals of India. Among the Madhesh festivals, I would like to point out a few unique festivals of Terai region.
Jurshital Starting from the beginning of the Nepali calendar, people celebrate Jurshital on the second day of the new year (2nd Baisakh). People worship Goddess Bhagwati on this day. People throw mud at one another in the morning for two to three hours. In the early morning, elder people in the family sprinkle water with blessings to their younger members. At night, purely vegetarian foods are prepared and offered to Goddess Bhagwati. People eat stale food including dahi, rice and curry, which is good in the summer season as it is easy to digest. They also pour water on the roots of plants and trees (especially on mango trees, the king of fruits) to give new life to plants and trees. Chaurchan The festival that falls around the Teej festival, is the festival to worship the rising moon that comes into sight. The festival is all about celebrating the moon with fruits, curd, pudding, and other items. Women remain fasting throughout the day. People celebrate it to get rid of the curse of Lord Ganesha. The worshipped food is buried in the yard and female members in the family conclude the worship in the evening by taking bath and wearing new clothes. It is absolutely true that Chaurchan festival brings good fortune, prosperity and keeps the family together.
Jitiya /Jivitputrika Jitiya festival is important to married women having sons in Terai. It is performed in order to enhance the well-being and long life of children. Women observe fasting without food and water. This festival falls on the seventh, eighth, and ninth day of the waning moon (Krishna Pakshya) in the month of Ashwin, approximately 10 days before Ghatasthapana, the first day of the Hindu festival called Navratri. As the festival is observed for 3 days, on the first day of the festival fasting women take special food consisting of beaten rice, curd, and amot (dried mango juice) after offering them to Jitamahan. The offerings are made on the leaves of the sponge guard. This day is called (Naha Kha) having food after taking bath. Women are required to fast from 4 am to 8 am the next day. Fasting women take a holy dip in the Local River. The oil which is offered to the deity is given to the offspring and they apply it on their body, including their head. On the second day, the family members eat millet flour roti, curry made of nuni greens, and fish. This day is known as Machh Maruwa. The next day, fasting women render songs by applying some food on their lips early in the morning before the cawing of a crow.
Sama Chakeva This festival is celebrated by sisters for their brothers. It is celebrated in November. It starts when birds of the Himalayan region fly down toward the Terai area. The celebration commences from the night of Chhath puja. Unmarried girls perform this for 10 days wishing long life to their brothers. They gather near the bank of the river with the basket containing small idols of sama (daughter of Krishna) and chakeya (brother of sama), candles, clay, etc at night. They sing the traditional song and perform the rituals of making kohl and exchanging the basket. This festival continues till Kartik Purnima. On the last day, girls dip into the river and the idols are sunk in the river. The beauty and glory of Madhesh carry great weight and significance in the Hilly and Himalayan region. It is glorified to make Nepal great. The concerned authorities should earmark resources on a large scale so that the country can increase its income through the visit of tourists in large numbers.