Sama-Chakewa festival that is considered as epitomizing love and dedication among siblings is commencing from today amidst the celebration of the Chhath festival in Mithila region of Tarai.
It is customary to initiate Sama-Chakewa festival, popularly known as ‘Sama’, on the day when the kharana rituals of Chhath festival are observed. In keeping with this tradition, lalana (daughters and sisters) in Mithila begin what is called ‘sama khel’, a ritual related to Sama-Chakewa festival. Sama-Chakewa festival concludes on the full moon day in the month of Kartik as per the lunar calendar, usually on the 11th day from the day it begins. Sisters and daughters in Mithila region sing and narrate the story related to the legendary characters called Sama and Chakewa, wishing for long life to their brothers for 10 days from today. As part of Sama-Chakewa festival, sisters, in groups, bring the soil dug by their brothers from the fields and hills near settlements and make various types of artistic idols and images of Sama and Chakewa from it.
After the earthen images of Sama and Chakewa get dried by the evening, they will be painted with different colours. Sama and Chakewa idols are kept in a red-coloured basket after painting them. These baskets are then carried along with a lit butter-lamp placed on top of the basket to the squares, cross roads, public resting places, temples and even to the place for performing Chhath rituals, on the bank of ponds and rivers.
The articles that are prepared by the women of Mithila for Sama-Chakewa ritual include images of various legendary characters such as the seven sages, Brindaban, Chugal, and Satbhaiya besides Sama and Chakewa. While singing hymns related to Sama-chakewa which also includes lauding the glory of brothers, the sisters curse the legendary character Chugala in between. Chugala is an unscrupulous character who is blamed for breaking the bond of love and respect among sisters and brothers through deceit.
This festival, which symbolises love and reverence between sisters and brothers, is believed to have originated some 5,000 years ago, during the Dwapar era. The festival is also related to a story from the Puranas which state that during the Dwapara era, a certain character called Chugala disclosed to lord Krishna that his daughter, Sama, was in love with Chakradhar (Chakewa). Lord Krishna was enraged at this and cursed both Sama and Chakewa that they would turn into birds.
The story also mentions that lord Krishna’s son, Samba, undertakes a penance dedicated to lord Shiva to free his sister Sama and her lover Chakewa who were living as birds due to his father’s curse.
Lord Shiva grants a boon to Samba that he would be able to please his father and convince him to free Sama and Chakewa from his curse. In this way, Sama and Chakewa were freed from the curse, and both were reborn and got married, later.
It is said that Sama was so grateful to her brother that she sang in his praise. Sama-Chakewa festival commemorates Samba’s goodwill and helpfulness towards his sister Sama and her lover Chakewa by which they were freed from lord Krishna’s curse.
After singing Sama-Chakewa hymns for 10 days, sisters again paint the idols of Sama and Chakewa in the morning of the eleventh day.