The months of Bhadon
and Ashwin are marked
by many religious observances and ceremonies. This is the most critical
season of the year to the cultivator, when he must have rain. The end
of the former month, he observes the fast of Anant-brat in gratitude for
the ingathering of the bhadai harvest and in the hope of further prosperity.
Chhath puja, the main Hindu festival of Biharis is celebrated
with traditional fervor to worship the Sun god. It is celebrated on the
sixth day after Deewali, for one night and day. The people of Bihar especially
married women, flock to the banks of river Ganga or to other nearby river
ghats and ponds to make a ritual offering to Sun god for the prosperity,
happiness and peaceful life of their family members as well as the long
lives of their husbands. Offerings include cow's milk, coconut and other
fruits Some ardent male devotees crawl the entire route from their house
to the river banks bare chested, as an offering. Devotees observe total
fast since sunrise and visit the river banks in the afternoon to pay homage.
More than one lakh people congregate on the banks of Ganga where prayers
are offered in a peaceful atmosphere. People from other castes also celebrate
this festival with equal importance.
Navaratri is one of the major
festivals connected with the autumnal equinox, beginning on the first
and ending on the tenth day of Navaratri. After the idol of Durga has
been worshipped for nine preceding days, it is taken to the river and
cast into it.
Dussehra celebrates the victory of
Rama over Ravana.
Hence it is also called Vijayadashami. Huge colourful paper and wooden
effigies of Rama's enemies, Ravana,
Meghanada and Kumbhakarna
are filled with fire works and burnt during Dussehra.
Holi and Diwali are the other important
Hindu festivals celebrated in Bihar.
Hindu women worship Lord Shiva at Jeth Amavasya to ensure
the long life of their husband. At Mauni Amavasya they sit silently under
a pipal tree on the day of a new moon, provided it is a Monday.
Nag Panchami is a festival observed
on the fifth day of the bright half of Sravana. It begins with a fast.
Bathing fairs are held on the banks of rivers.
Makar Sankranti is also observed
as a festival among certain classes. On this occasion, the participants
and believers eat rice flakes, curd and sweets made of til.
Janmashtami is observed on the eight day of the second fortnight
in the month of Bhadrapada. Special meals are held and thousands of people
visit the sacred places and temples.
Maha-Shivaratri is celebrated
with great rejoicing and feasting. Other Bihari festivals are; Saraswati
puja which is celebrated in all educational institutions and images of
goddess of learning are worshipped. Raksha Bandhan, Godhan, Ramnavami,
Chitra gupta puja are celebrated mostly by the Kayasthas and Viswakarma
puja is observed only by factory workers and workmen. The chief Muslim
festivals in Bihar are the Muharram, the two Ids and shah-i-barat.
In tribal life, there is a succession of festivals throughout
the year which are connected with agricultural operations. The important
festivals among them are Sarhul, Karma and Soharai. Hindu festivals of
Holi and Durga puja are also celebrated with great enthusiasm by Hindu
Sarhul is the most popular of all tribal festivals. It is celebrated
on the last day of Baisakh
which corresponds to the month of April. It is observed at a time when
sal trees are laden with flowers. It resembles the Vasant-mahotsava of
the Hindus and may therefore be described as the spring festival of the
tribals. It is an occasion of great festivity and enjoyment for people
of all ages. All night maidens and youths sing and dance to the accompaniment
of the drum, while the old sit and enjoy the enchanting dances.
Another festival among the aboriginals is Soharai or Banda parab, which
occurs in the month of Pous, celebrated shortly after the harvest of the
rice-crop of the year. It may be called the harvest festival of tribals.
On this occasion domestic animals are worshipped, after being washed,
anointed with oil and smeared with vermilion.
This festival is observed by the tribals as well as non-tribals. On this
occasion the tribal youths spend the whole night singing and dancing.
The songs sung on this occasion narrate the legends of Karma and Dharma.