Thursday, August 11, 2022
Bihar

The People



Hinduism -
Worship of Shakti, Religion of Mithila, Vedantists, Shaivites, Vaishnavism

Worship of Shakti 

Many Hindu cults of very ancient provenance in Bihar have been devoted to the worship of Shakti (goddess of energy). These cults, collectively called the 'Shakti cult' conceive of the paramount deity as female and render devotion to all that appertains to the female sex. The worshippers of Shakti regard the tantras as their scriptures and address the god as Durga. When in distress people here offers sacrifices to the Shaktis. Brahmin priests preside over the places dedicated to the deities, Chandi, Bishahari and Sitala or Mahamaya, while the others has persons of low tribes. 

Religion of Mithila

Most of the major systems of Indian philosophy, namely Vedanta (from Janaka and Yajnavalkya), Mimansa (from Jaimini), Nyaya (from Gautama), Sankhya (from Kapila), Jainism (from Mahavira) and Buddhism (from the Buddha) owe their origin to the land of Mithila. This region has always remained the bulwark of Mimansa, during its halcyon days Buddhism could not penetrate into and become popular in the land of Mithila. It is the great centre of Shiva, Shakti and Vishnu worship and the home of Sanskritic and Shastric learning. The Buddhist influence that can be marked on the religion of the Maithils (people of Mithila) is seen in the tantric forms of beliefs and practices which found favour during the mediaeval times. Maithils are shaktas in their original religious convictions. Every Maithil family has a temple of its own where one of the forms of Shakti is enshrined for daily worship. Since Shakti is the divine spouse of Shiva, Shaktism is only another form of Shaivism. Vaishnavism is a later influence which percolated from the south. The three main figures who have inspired the Maithils are Shiva, Shakti and Vishnu. Threefold marks are worn on the forehead by the Maithils, the horizontal lines marked with ashes represent devotion to Shiva. The vertical sandal paste in red or vermilion signifies Shakti. There are some other divinities like Surya, Kartikeya, Balarama, Pradyaumna, Aniruddha and Hanumanta, all of whom were held in great reverence. Their carved presence discovered on the door frames of several houses shows the multiplicity of gods and goddesses in the Maithils worshipped.

The Vedantists

Most of the Brahmins in Bihar derive their religion from the Vedanta and are apt to speak reverently of god or Brahma in the neuter. Being a Vedantist, he concentrates his thought on the idea of pure substance and make his deities - his Vedic gods - interchangeable. They all lack individuality and flow into one another. Their pantheism is derived from the 'Upanishads'. The Vedantists hold the pantheistic Vedanta doctrine of non dualism, considering everything and matter to be identical and everything only an infinitesimal atom of the divine part of the supreme Being.

The Shaivites 

In Bihar, there is more Shaivite than Vaishnavite. The  old temple at Deoghar, the great temple at Bikatpur  in Patna district, the Matha at Gaya, the temple at Bazidpur in the Darbhanga district, the Kuseshwara  and Singheshwara temples-all testify to the popularity of Shaivism in Bihar. People worship the symbol of reproduction, the Lingam which is the symbol of Shiva. He is a god of reproduction. In 'Vedas' he is the agent of promoting fertility in cattle. The bull is regarded as the appropriate emblem of Shiva. 

The group of twenty-two temples at Deoghar is dedicated to Shiva. They form a centre of pilgrimage  for Hindus from all parts of India. The oldest of these temples called Vaidyanath Temple (1596) is said to be one of the twelve oldest Jyotilingams of Shiva in India. In the early hours of Kartik Purnima, millions of people in North Bihar prepare to bath at the confluence of the Ganga and Gandak and offer the holy Ganga water to Mahadev or the great God Shiva. During Shivaratri prayers and Puja are offered in Shiva temples to Mahadeva and his Goddess wife Parvati.

Vaishnavism 

Vaishnavism has been one of the  most important Brahmanical  cult in Bihar where even semi-literate village folks are still heard reciting the Vaishnavite creed formula 'Om namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya'. The growing prevalence of this cult seems to be due to the popularity of the 'purana'. To a considerable number of these Puranas, Vishnu is the highest God. A large number of epigraphic records of the Gupta period refer to the temples of Vishnu in his various incarnations such as Varaha, Vamana, Narasimha, Dasharathi Rama, Balarama  and Krishna. Vishnu worship had established itself in Gaya three centuries earlier as the Gadadhar temple was built in the 15th year of Nayapala's reign. One should do one's duty without expecting any reward, this is an important teaching of Vaishnavism. Vishnu's reincarnation as Rama is worshipped by a large number of Bihari Hindus as he represents Indian manhood at the noblest and his exploits in the service of justice is embodied in the epic, Ramayana.

The worship of Vishnu is supported by several festivals such as Janmashtami, Ramanavami, Vivahapanchami and thousands of shrines are scattered throughout the state.