Sama Chakewa: Celebrating Family, Folklore and Festival

9, May 2022 |

​​​​​​​Take a peek behind the roots of Sama Chakewa  and  the familial bonds upon which it stands 

With its traditions and rituals steeped in ancient folks and myths from time immemorial, the traditions of Mithila people have been passed from generation to generation, celebrating festivals, rituals, etiquettes. With traditions and practices traced back to 30,000 to 10,000 years ago, the culture has wide and deep folklore and mythology behind it. One of the most significant festivals in society is Sama Chakewa, a festival that celebrates the familial bond and relationship between brothers and sisters like Raksha Bandhan. 


The festival’s origins go back to folklore during the Dwapara era about 5,000 years ago. Since then, the story about the festival’s origins has been documented in the text of Skanda Purana. Sama was known to be the daughter of Krishna. A certain person known as Chugala said to Krishna that Sama was rumoured to be in love with Chakradhar or Chakewa. Enraged at this, Krishna punished both of them by cursing them into birds. But Sama’s brother Samba undertook an effort to free his sister from the curse by giving penance to Lord Shiva to grant a boon to him to be able to please his father and convince them to lift the curse. Seeing the hard work and sacrifice of his brother, she celebrated this feat by singing his praise. This is believed to be the origin of Sama Chakewa. 

 Festivities begin

Starting from the seventh day of Kartik, on the night of Chhath puja young ladies and girls of all ages assemble near ghats with the red-coloured baskets all collected in one place while they sit around them in circles. In the baskets, would be earthen sculptures and images of the Sama and Chakewa and other characters of the story and sing songs and narrate the story of Sama Chakewa wishing for their brothers’ longevity for 10 days from that day. After the 10 days, the baskets are then carried along with a lit butter-lamp placed on the top of the basket to the squares, crossroads, public resting places, temples and even to the place for performing Chhath rituals, and most importantly on the bank of ponds and rivers. In addition to the celebration of Sama and Chakewa, the character Chugula is also cursed with the symbol of a moustache representing him being burnt. This celebration continues until the full moon,10 days later. 



The statues themselves are of great significance to the festival. These represent the love and admiration that the sisters have for the brothers. Mithila culture is already steeped in sculpture and mural making and sisters can make these statues for this festival at any time. But to show the familial bond on this special occasion, just one day before the festival, all the sisters in the family should make at least four statues for their brothers from the dirt and sand the brothers dug and collected for them to show their dedication towards them.



In addition to the immaculately created sculpture, sisters also celebrate this festival by creating murals and paintings. In the culture of Mithila, there are two types of art: Arapan and Khola. Khola is a type of art that is done on the wall with beautiful depictions of humans and other animals done with many animals and shapes in the painting symbolising good health and longevity while Arpan is the type of mural art that is drawn on the floor for the worship and celebration of festivals. It is aesthetically familiar  to the ‘manda’s that Newaris create during their festivals . In the festival, along with Sama, Chakewa and Samba, other characters in the story like Chugla, Dhoilya, Bhariya, Satbhaiya, Khanjanchidaiya, Vanatitar, Jhanji Kutta, Bhaiya Battakani, Malinya and Vrindavan along with others are beautifully depicted in this particular type of lifestyle. 


Bijay Dutta, an indigenous artist who has dedicated almost four decades of his life to the art form and its preservation says, “Scouring through the myths and legends of my culture, these paintings and murals are of utmost significance. And each time I find more beauty and deeper intricacies in the art form. Most of what people call ‘Mithila art’ are just paintings and murals my ancestors made for the admiration of their family and culture. I take preservation seriously and I  put my heart in it.”


Lastly, another small but very important part of the festivals that cannot be ignored is the folk songs and hymns sung during the festival all day and night. In the songs, while lauding the love of Sama and Chakewa and Samba, they also curse the characters of Chugula who is seen as an unscrupulous character who is blamed for breaking the bond of love and respect among sisters and brothers through deceit. 


 All in all, this momentous and jubilant ten days of celebration, really shows that in Mithilanchal, family life and folk faith is seen as inseparable. Most of the ‘culture’ and ‘festivals’ of Mithila are mostly stories and fables showing the bond of family and the wider community being celebrated by this society. From a long time ago to today, these rituals, etiquette, festivals and celebrations have been preserved through experience and word of mouth alone. From the people writing the first murals being preserved today to the current people of Mithila have through eternity preserved their own idiosyncratic cultures and everything that entails from it. 


Various forms of this distinct artistry can be seen all over, however, without active preservation, it may fade away with time. Bijay Dutta emphasises on this, “Young people nowadays have a rather dismissive stance on such indigenous cultures and rituals. But for me, being born and raised in such a rich culture and lifestyle, it is my life’s calling. And with my decades  of service, I have created countless works of art and also spread awareness by showcasing it in schools and training enthusiastic individuals. The essence of it, makes Mithila art.”



Text by Samyak Dhar Tuladhar

Pictures by Bidyash Dangol


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