Urlabari, May 2: Jatri used to be a festival related with love in the Dhimal community of Jhapa. Young men and women used the fair organized for the festival as an occasion to meet their future life partners and express their love by offering them Paan, betel nuts and dates.
Now, lovers no longer gift each other traditional dishes like Chichiri (Sticky Rice), Gendro (made from the soft flour of sticky rice), Bagiya (made from rice flour) and Chudur (snail). Instead, they go out to restaurants to eat Momo, Chow Mein, Pizza or cakes and sweets.
Jatri is the main festival of this community living in Jhapa, Morang and Sunsari districts. It begins every year on the second day of Baisakh after offering worship at the sacred Rajarani Maharajsthan in Letang Municipality–1. The Maharajsthan is believed to be the place the Dhimal ethnic group originated from.
Dhimals go to the Maharajsthan in groups and pray for good health, safety from wild animals and enough rain during the rainy season in a ceremony called Sirjat. They also sacrifice ducks, chickens and pigs.
During the festival, they worship seven mother goddesses known as Aamai. They are Sali Amai, Jala (Parvati) Aamai, Laxmi Aamai, Saraswoti Aamai, Tukuni Aamai, Dingding Aamai and Dhale Aamai. Additionally, they also worship four Majhi gods. They are Dhudha Thakur, Yau Majhi, Sau Majhi and Dharam Thakur. Among them, Dharam Thakur is respected as the god of gods.
Worshippers beat a distinct drum during the Jatri festival which makes a ‘Dhang’ sound. That is why some call this festival ‘Dhangdhange’. Since people pray to rivers, plants and soil, this festival is also called Gram Puja. Jatri is celebrated in all 100 Dhimal localities till the first day of the Nepali month of Asar.