Mother: a figure defined for sacrifice, love, devotion, and emotions. But never underestimate the fierce, warrior, trailblazer, and protector in her. This came in the context as the celebration of Jitiya, also known as Jivitputrika starts. Before I dive into the cultural significance lets start with few statements that caught my sight.
I just accidentally watched a clip and a lady said:
“Jitiya is observed by moms who have a son”.
Then also read on the comment section of so many social media about the same thing,
“Jitiya is done only for son”,
“Prasad of Jitiya should be consumed only by son” etc., etc.
And it would be a lie to say that I am reading this for the first time. Let me hint at one more thing, these men, and women both want to give us a false impression of how they are the one who talks about equality, when the discrimination is starting at home.
Let me focus on my learning and teaching which is still on. Jitiya or Jivitputrika has been observed in my family for generations. I remember my mom saying how her great grandma celebrated Jitiya although she had just a daughter!!! There she is breaking the patriarchy right then.
Jivitputrika also known as Jitiya is celebrated from the seventh to ninth day in Krishna paksha of the lunar calendar in the month of Ashwin. This is celebrated in the southern region of Nepal by Maithili, Tharu, Bhojpuri, and Awadhi-speaking people. Jitiya is the strict fast done without water by the mother for the well-being of their children with faith. This starts on the seventh lunar day or Saptami of Ashwin and concludes on the ninth day or Navami of the month by offering prayers to Jitwahan, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu (God of creator) and Bhagwati (Goddess of protection/strength/motherhood/destruction/war). The first day is nahai-khai, it includes the dishes made up of maach-maruwa (fish-and millet) followed by the strict fast on second day. Also, on this day the tribute is paid to the ancestors by offering dahi-chura-amot (yoghurt-beaten rice-dried mango pulp). On the dawn of fast, i.e., Ashtami there is rituals called “Onkhatnn/ओंगठन” (having food) that is performed by the devotee.
Also, on the day of the fast, the tori tel-mithaa-khari (mustard oil-jaggery-reminiscent of mustard) is offered to Jitwahan on the banks of different holy-river. The same oil is given to the children afterward with the wish for the longevity of the kid’s life.
There are two stories that I am aware of the Jivitputrika
- The first one is that in an ancient village there was Garud(raptor), that consumed humans every day from that village. It was a bond, so the Garud doesn’t create havoc by causing massacre. One day, an old lady was very sad and crying, when Jitwahan was caught by the sight of the lady. She explained that she is getting old, and she has only one son, that needs to be offered to Garud as per the bond. Jitwahan requested the Garud to eat him instead of her son, and Garud was so impressed by the sacrifice of the Jitwahan that he left the village.
- The second one is that the eagle and fox observed fast for Jitiya, but fox couldn’t keep the fast and ate whereas the eagle completed the fast. After their demise, they were born as humans and were sisters. The younger sister Karpurabati (who was a fox in previous life) got married to king, Malayaketu whereas the older sister, Shilavati (eagle) got married to the minister, BhuddhiSen of the cabinet. All the children of king died whereas minister had all the seven-son healthy and alive. The queen also tried to kill her nephews but failed. Getting frustrated, she went and spoke to her sister about the situation. Then Shilavati explained how she couldn’t complete the fast in their last birth and hence the repercussion follows her. She apologized and completed the fast and was blessed with children afterwards.
These are ancient stories, but the teachings are.
- A mother can go above and beyond to save her kids.
- Sacrifice for others is a rare virtue.
I have a soft corner for Sanatan-dharma and Buddhism as I was raised in the household practicing both, but then I don’t abide by all the rules. These rules are not coming from the practicing saint itself but rather from the few men in the obsolete era who never thought women as equal. I am glad those thoughts are changing gradually.
Then there are some facts, or should I say some learnings that I have done or taught while raising about customs/culture/Sanatan-dharma/life of Buddha that leave me in awe!
For example, in jitiya, the one observing the fast gives their respect to the ancestral mother figures by offering the prasad from the last 3-6 generations. And I absolutely can’t express how magnificent way of showing tribute is this, because in any celebration usually, the male figures are the priority. Some people might get upset that I am advocating fast, but I am not!! If someone is not feeling well or can’t do it, no one should force it because, at the end of the day, it’s always about choice.
Mithila/awadhi/tharu and most of southern Nepal always raise us with the sense of having five kinds of mother in your life. So, it is very well inculcated in us the importance of a mother figure in our lives. First, who gives birth, second who raises you, third who invests in you- teaches you, fourth is your mother-in-law, and fifth is your elder sibling (sister) or wife of your elder brother.
I have mothers’ figures in my life who have guided me in different points of my life apart from my mother. I have had my first prasad of Jitiya from mithu di (Mrs. Sujata Deo). Then I have Jean Miller who is someone who has taught me how teaching works, who always cheers me on to be unapologetically fierce for righteous acts. Nanumaya aunty (Mrs. Nanumaya Shrestha) whose prayers/wishes have always guided me. To me Jitiya is a celebration of these bonds, whether you observe this fast or not!
My mom observes Jitiya and let me be loud and clear that she has no son but always has been a warrior to shower courage on the three of us and shatter the glass ceiling of discrimination between son and daughter. So how can I ignore all the emotions that these women have invested in me?
Again, I am not advocating for a strict fast, but I can’t even take it out of my mind how these mothers can endure anything, even strict fast just with the faith that the almighty will safeguard her children (not only her son!), just with faith!
I am a neuroscientist; I believe in facts, but I would not dare to fight with anyone’s FAITH! This is an emotional connection, as we tend to live in the materialistic world where we want to celebrate everything with short-lived joy/alcohol/smoking/influences etc.
There is no judging but if we invest in the joy that we receive from our loved ones is far more spiritual and after all, we all thrive on good vibes.
So, I want to pay respect to all the mothers, as no one on this planet would love you more than your parents, but exceptions are always there? So, I will take a minute to wish a very happy Jivitputrika to all the moms by blood or by heart who never misses a gazillion prayers for their children in every breath she takes in. And no, you don’t have to observe fast to prove it.
Mom is just love!