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Maghe Sankranti and Maghi

As per the Nepalese solar calendar Bikram Sambat, Magh, the tenth month, is considered to be one of the holiest when many sacred festivals fall. Few of them include Maghe Sankranti, Maghi of Tharus in Terai and month-long Swastani Brata Katha.

Maghe Sankranti is one of the very few festivals in Nepal celebrated as per the Nepalese solar calendar. On the first day of the month, early in the morning, Hindus visit confluence of the holy rivers to take a ritual dip to purify themselves and welcome the advent of warmer days. The river banks of Barah Chhetra, in Eastern Nepal and Dev Ghat, in Chitwan, Kaligandaki in Ridhi, Sankhamul in Kathmandu; see a large congregation of observant Hindus from all over Nepal. The Sanskrit word Shankranti stands for the move of the Sun from one zodiac sign to another, known as Rashi. In this case, the sun transits from Dhanu to Makar Rashi. Thus, the festival marks the beginning of sun’s move toward northern hemisphere, similar to the winter solstice. Later in the morning priests visit every household to recite the verses from their holy book to remind the family of this celestial change.

The festivities include feasting with family. Especially married daughters and their families are invited over for the feast, which begins with the particular food, which is considered to be auspicious and vital for good health and fortune. Candies molasses, purified butter, yam, Til Laddu – a sweetened sesame seed ball. In some part of the country Khichari, food made from rice and lentil is eaten. No matter what most of the country has some-or-the-other kind of feasting goes on.

In Patan people throng around Red Macchendranth Temple to circumambulate and in Bhaktapur, Til Madhav idol people worship Til Madhav idol by massaging it with clarified butter and making offerings of sweetened sesame balls. As the legend goes, a merchant in Bhadgaon was selling his pile of the sesame seed, known as til in Nepali. But he was surprised to notice that the stock did not diminish even after he was doing a brisk business. While checking, he found a Narayan idol concealed in the til pile, which was the cause of miracle. That day onward the idol known as Til Madhav is worshipped and offered laddu on the first day of Magh.

Same day is observed by Tharu communities in Terai Region as Maghi Festival, which marks the beginning of their new year. On this day all the family members scattered all over for work return to their homes and get together to dance through the folk tunes. The feasting includes mouth-watering Tharu delicacies such as crab pickle, fish, teel ko laddu (sesame seed ball), pork curry and a variety of bread like Bagiya, Dhikri and Jharra Roti. The typical dance forms include Hridangwa, Ghumra, Sakhiya, Hridangwa, Jhumra, Ghumra, Maghauta, Jharra and Lathwa are the highlights of the event. The festival goes on for three days. It is also a festival for renewing ties with family and friends and iron out the differences. Another important ritual gifting to the married women by their parents and brothers, which consists of salt, rice and other provisions.
In 2017 the festival falls on 15th January.

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