Salhesh Fulbari Fair: Myths and Realities
I was very young, perhaps only ten years old when I had heard about and then had dreamt of visiting Salhesh Fulbari Fair, the place of historical, religious and cultural significance located near the town of Lahan in the district of Siraha. But unfortunately, my father neither liked going nor allowing his children to go to fairs which perhaps gradually killed my desire to go to any in those days. Even If I liked to visit any temple or any place, my father would want me to visit it before or after the fair so that I would be away from the crowd, heat and push-pull activities or stampede likely to occur there or due to fear of being lost in the crowd. Later though there were a couple of chances my attitude increasingly got changed and hence the longing of visiting any fairs vanished from my mind completely. I began to hate crowd and love to stay alone at least whenever time allowed. The reason is there is no individuality there: you do what others do; you cannot do what your heart wishes you to do. Today my father is no more in this world, my mother who always supported my father’s decision is nowhere in this mundane world and hopefully from the heaven they must be watching me disobeying them. Forgive me please, I was tempted to visit Salhesh temple, unique garland shaped flowers and the dense forest spread in 13 bighas of land. Do not worry: nobody gave your son push and pull; nobody forced your son to do what he did not want to. After all, everyone is alone in this world. I was in this crowd but inward I was lonely and free. I was there not to see things but to watch things, to analyze them using my mind and soul both, and to draw on my own what is the reality and what merely a myth is.
|A unique garland shaped flower that is said to bloom only on the New Year Day(Bishakh 1) every year. This must have been a subject of research for world botanists.|
Of late, I have become more questioning than ever before: I ask my friends and acquaintances a lot of queries about events and things and at times I feel that I am irritating them and I stop. Most people take things for granted; accept things without questioning, specifically religious matters. I have found people blindfolded in the name of religion, in the name of God. I have found them most stupid things. Thank God if you are anywhere, on my visit to Salhesh Fair, I was not with those superstitious minded blind people but with critical minded friends: Pavan ji, Dipendra ji, Dharmendra ji, Hareram ji and others. Like me, they would also question the happenings that would sound/look unusual or unjustifiable to them. Many thanks to Dipendra ji who made the trip comfortable managing a vehicle that took us to Bhotiya Tole from Lahan. We had to walk only for some ten minutes to arrive Siraha’s most popular tourist spot that draws thousands of pilgrims every year from home and neighboring Indian state of Bihar. The hearsay about unique features of the place and even more the scheduled arrival of our President Dr. Ram Baran Yadava to grace the fair had elevated our impression but the newly made sandy road and very poorly prepared gates to welcome him, un-cleaned woods would ridicule the post of president, we discussed. We would time and again scold the politicians of this district with bad words. We would frequently analyze ourselves why the politicians, particularly of the Terai region have relatively grown more corrupted and immoral and would conclude that they never got chance to be in power in the past and when they have got they think they have every right to use and misuse it fully. The gossip was a good pastime for us while in vehicle and while on foot as well. Without any doubt, Nepalese are probably the biggest gossipers in the world, and we were not an exception. We wanted to read literature on these places of historical value but learnt that there had been hardly any.
|Women gathered in front of King Haridev Singh and praying . They have a belief that this would hopefully fill their lap with a baby next year.|
We knew that we were journeying to the Salhesh Fulbari but the curiosity had never stopped us from talking about the flower and temples and popular myths about the then King of Trihuta State, Salhesh. This continued both while going and coming back. We also listened to some songs on Salhesh sung by Dhirendra Premarshi, an anchor of Hello Mithila, the most popular Maithili program from Kantipur FM. Thank you very much Daju, I read your article on the glory of Salhesh in the Kantipur and got a lot of information about this historical place. However, I would have thanked you more, had you critically scrutinized the things that happen there: some would infuriate you, I swear. On our first trip, as we reached the spot after the dusk, we only saw the garland like structure hanging there on the trunk of a tree. We had missed the camera, so no photograph, we could take. However, when we visited the second time next morning on the first of Baishakh to verify to what others had said, we were very assured to see two garlands hanging in two neighboring trees in front of Malini Gahbar exactly as others had described(a temple for the lover of the then King Raja Salhesh). We could learn that people belonging to the caste of Dushadh and Danuwar have quarreled time and again to claim that Shalhesh belong to them. Perhaps the most stupid thing in the twenty first century! I do not think caste should identify anybody but it is his thought that should be the emblem of his/her identity. The flowers in white and pink colors had bloomed full. We had never seen such flowers ever before and I requested Dipendra ji to take some snaps of mine with the flowers in background. He is a very comfortable and friendly person as I know. He took so many from so many different angles. We could see some Indian tourists sitting under tent wearing ganjis(sleevless vests), others brushing with daitiwun(toothbrush made of tree twigs), others frying rice on a temporary chulo(stove) made of bricks, others were bathing half naked in the dirty pond at the back of the temple. We also saw a row of people sitting behind the aalis of the land with lotas. The tourist spot itself had been opened for all kinds of bath. Thank you the Management Committee of Salhesh Fair for allowing for democratic bath in free air.
I could learn that many of tourists had come long way on foot and had erected a tent and had stayed the whole night in the dense forest for the worship of Salhesh, who was a chief commander of Army during the reign of King Kulheshwor Singh in those days. Ours is a unique land a man becomes god after some time. I remember when we had King Birendera, people said he is the incarnation of God-Narayan. I also found people buying flowers, beetle (pan), nut, belpat and sweets they wanted to offer in the temples there. I questioned the worship of Salhesh and Resham, Kushma and Doni and one of my friends questioned me to answer my question: Why do we worship the king Ram? In a moment, I saw some people sharpening daggers (dabiya) to my utter surprise. When I asked “what on earth they want to do with the sharpened khukuri?”, one of my friends murmured that people sacrifice goats, pigeons etc. when their wishes get fulfilled. I was so horrified and questioned: What happens if these animals start to sacrifice the human beings when their wishes get met? What kind of religion is it, what kind of God is it? God wants the sacrifice of animals? If so, it must be the bad God, I did not dare to say but thought inside. I think it must be the power battle. I have not seen tigers and lions being sacrificed. This is only because these animals are stronger than humans but goats, pigeons-they are meek, they are innocent. I could not dare to see the killings there? I again whispered: Look, what the great creatures of your great land are doing! I went happy but came back sad contemplating over the heinous acts human beings do in the name of religion, in the name of God.
|The pond where the women take a dive with a hope to be pregnant next year.|
In the evening, while my mobile rang while I was re-reading Socrates’ Footsteps which has a lot of philosophical discourse about the existence of God. The book had rewashed my beliefs and disbeliefs about God. It was Dipendra ji calling to prepare for Patari Fair the other day, some ten km away from Zero Mile. Though reluctant, I agreed but ensured that Pavan ji is going there-I do not want to miss him. Again we all friends early in the morning got on the vehicle and set off for another fair and popular pilgrimage. On the way, Hareram ji talked about myth related to Patari. He shared that there is a big pond and women take a dive into the pond with a lot of prayers so that they become pregnant. They catch whatever is within the reach, mud, snake, insects, fish or ………..If they can catch something living, it indicates that God has blessed the woman to be pregnant soon. The next year, they would sacrifice goats, pigeons or offer sweets and fruits in return. God seems to have learned to be more commercialized these days with humans. The game of give and take everywhere. Dharmendra ji offered us the brunch at his house. We were not hungry at all but we could not turn him down on the day of festival and fair. We arrived Patari and saw so many rows of women praying in front of a temple of the then King Hari Singh Dev and Queen Mahadevi. On the way back to Lahan, we met Nauthin Singh Danuwar, a Former M. P. in the House of Representative once and a writer of a book on Loknayak Salhesh. We purchased a copy and I have used many more information from the book.
|Dipendra ji(centre), Pavan ji(right) and myself(left) standing in front of Shalhesh Temple.|
Of course these spots are historical and should be preserved and promoted but supersititions in the name of religion, I think, need to be condemned. How long can we remain behind the curtain? In Hinduism where it is believed that there are 330 million gods, the definition of God seems to have changed because kings are likely to turn Gods. We came back to Lahan and again Pavan ji took us to his house, we again ate at his some delicious dishes of Terai in Judshital or Siruwa(festival celebrated on 2nd of Baishakh)-bari, taruwa,munga, etc. Thus the time with friends went well, however left us to contemplate throughout our life about God and religion. I wish to disobey my parents again and visit the place again only if all sacrifices are gone and animals and human beings, I mean all creatures have equal freedom to live life in this existence. Hope God if anywhere anytime makes my dream come true.