The Thousand-headed- Maithili Novel Sahasrashirsha by Gajendra Thakur translated into English by the author himself.
No. 88 (November-December 2019) of Muse India at http://museindia.com/Home/PastIssue
displays Maithili literature in a very poor light. Moreover, it wrongly
claims to be a representative review of Maithili
Literature, whereas it was only in line with the Sahitya Akademi, Delhi; a
mere representation of the so-called "dried main-drain". It is expected that Muse India will correct itself by announcing
an issue exclusively devoted to the parallel tradition of Maithili
T.K. Oommen writes in the
"Linguistic Diversity" Chapter of "Sociology", 1988, page 291, National
Law School of India University/ Bar Council of India Trust book: "... the
Maithili region is found to be economically and culturally dominated by
Brahmins and if a separate Maithili State is formed they may easily get
entrenched as the political elite also. This may not be to the liking
and advantage of several other castes, the traditionally entrenched or
currently ascendant castes. Therefore, in all possibility the latter
groups may oppose the formation of a separate Maithili state although
they also belong to the Maithili speech community. This type of
opposition adversely affects the development of several languages."
T.K. Oomen further writes: "... even when a language is pronounced to be distinct from Hindi, it may be treated as a dialect of Hindi. For example, both Grierson who undertook the classic linguistic survey of India and S. K. Chatterjee, the national professor of linguistics, stated that Maithili is a distinct language. But yet it is treated as a dialect of Hindi". (ibid, page 293)
The Thousand-headed (Sahasrashirsha)
One thousand heads, thousand mouths, thousand types of gossip, all true and un..
The Sudras have come out of the feet and so has the earth.
Garh Narikel, a village. It is predominantly inhabited by cattle-grazer Brahmins.
Ponds and trees are all around this village. In this village one..two..three and one more, four ponds exist.
Exactly it is not so. There are three more ponds in this village. One is in the northern direction of the north pond, popularly known as the gigantic pond. People say that some monster dig thios pond in just one night. But while digging it the whole night was spent and the monster coul not install the centrak sacred wooden pole in the middle of the pond. As the monster was in a hurry so he left shoe of one leg there beside the mond and left the place. For many years that huge shoe remained there but again one year during flood that too got lost. So the only evidence that was there vanished. This pond is far away from the village, so no relation of this village could be established with the Chhatha festival. Yes, but this pond finds mention during the ceremony of sacred thread. Various types of fishes reside in this pond. There is never dearth of fishes here. No need has ever been felt for putting seeds (small fishes) of fishes into this pond. There happens an annual fish catching festival and barring the southern quarter of village, the whole village gets its daily share of fishes for at least one month.
To the southern direction of the south pond, there is a village called Buchiya (in the name of a person) pond. It is also far from the village, but there is sacred wooden pole installed in the centre of this village. When this central sacred wooden pole was being installed a big ceremony was thrown by the great great grandfather of the Zamindar, the Piyar Bachcha (meaning yellow boy). He had organized a grand great feast. This pond is far far away from the village and in all directions of this pond there are fields only. People rarely come here for taking a bath. Here too there happens an annual fish-catching ceremony, but that is only for this southern quarter of the village. There are many things attached with this pond. During Durga Pooja goddess Durga proceeds to her husband's place, actually on the last day of the festivities. On that day the idol of goddess Durga is immersed into this pond. Not the men, but yes, the women weep bitterly at the time of immersion of Durga. The idol of Durgaji is not made in this village, no question of its being constructed in the southern quarter of the village. But it is immersed in this pond. This idol of Durga is made and worshipped in the neighbouring Garh Tola (small village). The Garh Narikel people are mischievous ones. Till the sixth day of Durga festival, the idol of Durgaji remains covered. Only the artist can see her because if he does not then how the idol be constructed. Any other people, however, would become blind if they see the Durga before being unveiled. Yes, but after the ceremony of Belnoti- when eye of Durga is placed out of an invited wood-apple fruit, the idol of Durga is unveiled and then only the people can see it. And from that day the actual festival begins. If idol of Durga is made in this village many people would become blind before the sixth day of the festival. The neighbouring village is not less mischievous one, its only the degree. In the name of festival all of them become disciplined. In the name of their village the suffix is added, tola (quarter of a village) suffix. But that does not make it a quarter of a village; it is actually a full-fledged village. Garh Tola village is also inhabited by the cattle grazing Brahmins. In mischievousness there is always a competition between these two villages. If you pass through the Garh Tola village, the lads sitting in front verandas of their houses beside the road would often pass comments on you. But the naughty boys of Garh Narikel will consciously go through that village. But the disciplined ones pass through the road beside this Buchiya pond. Although the route is circuitous; but it is safe, do not mind.
There is one more pond in this village.
Towards the eastern side of the village, to control these two rivers Kamla and Balan, two dams were built. One is in north-south direction, adjacent to the village and towards the eastern direction. If you move forward towards that dam you will find the Kamla River; and then her brother the Balan River. And further towards the eastern direction you will find another dam in the north-south direction. And between these two enclosures lies the Balli pond- in the name of a zamindar. Near this pond was a large football field. Due to siltation and also due to some wrong doing by the zamindar, this pond and that field got merged in the name of chakbandi (bringing together lands of one person at one place through mutual- often forced- exchange). The government had emphasized for the chakbandi for some unknown reason, perhaps because it increases food production. The land owned by Surju brother, filled with cattle dung and therefore very fertile, got merged with Yelloy Boy (Piyar Bachcha)'s land due to this chakbandi. In between the dams there is grazing field called Bauwa Chauri, used by the herdsman to graze their cattle. The cattle grazers come here, play here, and swim in Kamla River. Sometime they let their body flow in Kamla River and sometime they swim against the stream of the river. Between the dams there is one quarter of the village, the quarters of of milkmen. Earlier it was part of the village but now their voter list has been shifted to Jhanjharpur bazaar. Long long ago, at the village school there was a voting booth. These people were not allowed to vote at that booth, now it is the other way round.
Some of the graduates of Bauwa Chauri- as they are called jocularly- work in Delhi and Mumbai and some of them work in Saudia (Saudi Arab and Middle East). Some of them are security guards and some of them have started a firm which deals in security guard services.
In village there are many mango orchards; the big orchard, the Kharhori- (near to the habitations) where new trees had been planted, the Bhorha (near the abandoned course of a river) orchard; and the orchards over the mounds of the ponds. Earlier in the Kharhori there was agriculture land only. But once a person planted trees in his own land it brought shadow to other people's land. So the other people's production of paddy diminished. For sometime he talked about the mischievousness of his neighbor but he had to plant mango trees too in his land later on.
There is also an orchard of rose apple, all the sky high trees there. The Pepper trees are all around, at village deity's place and at the school compound; you will found the root of pepper tree here and the branches of the roots all around the place.
Beside the village roads are trees of wild betel nuts, many types of shrubs used to clean teeth, the bamboo plantation, different types of flowers and thorns; and the sensitive plant, everywhere in almost all the orchards. Over the broad mango branches, the guards put their bed and sleep. But there is only one banyan tree, beside the black metal road near the quarters of Muslims.
The lands are of various types. The land between the river dams, the sandy land are now being called as the other-side-land by the people. A creeper tricosanthes dioica, the watermelon, musk melon, sweet root; the cultivation of all these are done here. If you want to buy the cheapest land then come here. But after the flood recedes, you will find the shape and size of the boundaries of your land changed. If in one year, after the flood, the shape and size of the boundary diminishes, there is no need of inciting any quarrel, as the goddess Kamla river might increase the area the very next year. The cultivation of paddy is also in existence. But that is often by chance, in some year even after sowing thrice it would be swiped away by the flood every time, but in some years the goddess Kamla river would fill so much fertile mud that whatever per katha production you are expecting, it would produce even more than that.
If you have good budget then buy the land near the habitations or near the white teak trees. Here people are buying land more for residence than for cultivation.
The land near the Dakahi pond is called Barhamottar. In old days some might have received this free land from the king. In old days, it is heard, these lands had good production, but now a day these remain always filled with water. The paddy seeds are thrown (different from the usual method of sowing the saplings) and paddy is cultivated (it, however, results in less production) in this manner in these lands.
The big plots, near the roads, near the Bhorha (beside the abandoned river course) and near the Purnaha (in the midfields) are used for cultivation. Besides some people have started cultivation on the curved land of the village enclosure near the dams. In geography books terrace cultivation is said to be practiced only on hills, here you will find terrace cultivation in plains on manmade hills. The weeping sound of people, whose milk giving buffalo just died, can be heard often. The magical obsession can also be seen. Often some mischievous lads throw flowers and unbroken rice, supposedly worshipped by a magic man or women, during night at somebody's gate. It often leads to string of abuses by the offended household, who thinks that some bad-omen is going to grip their family. But the people have come understood now that it remains the work of some naughty boys.
Agriculture-fishing-animal husbandry based cattle grazer Brahmin dominated village is surrounded by literate (although a thief quarter also exist in this literate village), not that much literate; and a subdued and calm village (subdued and calm village=where people acquiesce to pressure). However neighbourhood thiefs do not have courage to do theft in this village. If you have a social relation in this village then all the old disputes in respect of land would stand settled. Ordinary people get transformed into strong ones, with a social relation established through a marriage relationship. After the relationship the weak ones turns into ones, who are having say in society. From this village, the arms wielding trouble shooters visit far off places for settling disputes. These trouble shooters settle the disputes of relatives and forcibly capture election booths. The rate of land in this village is Rupees twenty five thousand per Katha (1/20th of a bigha) but the same type of land in neighbouring village is available at a cheaper rate, say at Rupees ten thousand per Katha. The high lands in this village are cheaper because one cannot irrigate it with rain water. But after these dams were built, the cost of land of those monkey shaped people has also increased. Earlier the mediators of marriage, even after seeing that a boy is getting his share of only ten Katha in comparison to monkey shaped people's village boy getting one bigha, preffered boy of this village for marriage. Because in the village of those monkeys shaped people, subsistence is not possible even if the boy has ten bighas of land as his share. But the key to luck has now been unfolded to them; when the flood comes their highlands get irrigated. Monkey shaped..you did not understand? The orchards of that village are inhabited by the monkeys and the people also look yellowish same like the monkeys! Monkeyish (yellow- like monkeys)! And nobody liked the job of a teacher, so all these monkey shaped village people became teachers. And now look at the salary of the teachers. All monkey shaped people, when they come out, wearing Dhoti (loin cloth) then people of this village get crazy out of envy.
However the Durga worship did not begin in this village. The submissive-village people also started it; but in this village? If we try how it is not possible? We did organise Ramlila (acts of Lord Ram performed by a theatre troope), is it a fact or not? But look, the roads started smelling with people's urine. We are lucky that Durga Pooja is not celebrated in this village. One will have to bring one's daughters during the celebration time; and the cohesion that this villagers have among themselves would break that the party-politics related with the Pooja brings.
The village is, however, predominantly of cattle grazing Brahmins.
Among the Brahmins of the village are Indrakant Mishra, Raman Kishor Jha and Arun Jha. On the day of Sukhrati festival (on the next day of Deepawali festival, festival of Hindus of Mithila) if you ever see the sport played by the buffalos of these cattle grazer Brahmins, you would lose interest in the game of polo. The pig purchased from the Dom caste of Samiya village is placed before the buffalos, drunk with cannabis drink. The cattle grazers who are sitting over the buffalo in Central portion of the animal, is an amazing scene to watch. In this village there are other castes too.
Between the dams, on the high mound is the quarter of milkmen. Even during flood this quarter of the village is never touched by flood water. The transportation during those days is through boat. The rowers of boat inside Kamla are not the people from fishing caste but those are from the milkman caste. They receive grain from the villagers for their services. Yes, but from people of other village, they charge in cash for their services.
There is one Muslim quarter in the village, they are in vegetable business, bhut they do not grow vegetables but only sell it. In that quarter lives Mohammad Shamsul, his son lives in Saudia. This quarter is near the black metal road on the outskirts of the village. The people of this quarter of the village have registered their name in the voter list of the adjacent village. Near that quarters are four families of Dom caste. The reason for enrolling themselves in the voterlist of adjacent village by these people is the same as it was for the people of milkman's quarter. But the villages are not made out of the voter list. So these two quarters are still a part of this village. The necessity of Dom caste in festivals is well known. The Dom Caste makes all types of articles from the bamboo, like the one for storage of grains and articles; and also the bamboo fans. The quarter of Muslims is also required, particularly for the meat, be it for the marriage party or for the guests. The head of the poor animal is taken by the Durga Pooja Committee after the holy-sacrifice ceremony to goddess Durga is over. In off-season the Muslims cut half the throat of the castrated he-goat. But after cutting the meat, they take the head and also the skins in lieu of their wages. When these cattle grazer Brahmins sing the devotional songs in front of the Hanumanji temple and perform twenty four hour non-stop worship at the temple, those drums which are used during the ceremony are made out of those skins.
And again there is Dhanukh-Toli. Bhagwandutt Mandal and Adhiklal Mandal are from the quarters of the Dhanukh caste. Earlier those people carried the gifts to other villages carrying a special bamboo stick having two strings on the two sides and carried on their shoulder. But now this work is undertaken by the people from Dusadh caste. Agriculture is the avocation of people from Dhanukh quarters and Dusadh quarters. Yes, earlier these people worked as workers, but now they work on co-sharing basis. In times of strife there is not a single month when you will not find ladies from these quarters of village wielding blackened earthen utensils displaying these to the cattle grazer Brahmins. These people may be said to practice animal husbandry, so far as rearing of she-goat and uncastrated he-goat is concerned, the latter used for sacrifice to the godess Durga. Some of them have begun keeping one ox and turn by turn these people do ploughing and other agriculture work by coupling their oxen together.
Even though it consists of only three houses, the small quarters of washermen has become a separate quarter of the village. The clothes of even Marwaris (business people originally from Rajasthan, settled here) of Jhanjharpur town are cleaned here. The cattle grazer Brahmins go for marriage party wearing these flashy full pants, these are not their own, actually these are costly clothes of those Marwaris and lended by the washermen. The washermen gives these clothes on rent for two days, the clothes of the Marwaris.
Korail, Budhan and Domi Safi, all of them are washerman. Domi Safi is now Domi Das, he practices sect of Saint Kabir now. The quarter of barbers also consist of just three families. Jayaram Thakur, Lakshmi Thakur and Maley Thakur, all barbers, all are talkative. With them always remains the list of annual donation that each family has to give to these families of barbers in lieu of the services that these barbers provide throughout the year. They are always on run, to claim their labour, whenever a person comes to village from town. Whoever comes during Durga Pooja from their far-off working place, they have to pay their due before their return to their workplace. Earlier in a fortnight these barbers went from one corridor to another for hair cutting. But now whoever wants a shave of his head or face will have to go to the barber's house. Yes, but if it is marriage of a son then they go to corridor of the bridegroom to shave the people who are going to attend the marriage party, but he sits at one place only. Whoever is there should remain in line. It should not be like that one is coming now and another is coming after a while. Now one from each of the family of barbers has started a saloon at Jhanjharpur. Saloon is a plastic cover placed over the bamboo pillars beside the railway track. The use of nail-pairer is almost extinct. The nail should be cut by the individuals themselves. During the period of condolence, after the death of a person belonging to the same clan, the nail of the lady would be cut by the wife of the barber, only that. And during shaving beard with sharpened razor, if blood comes out, it would be not due to wrong movement of razor but as it would be because there was some blister there on face. No dear, this razor using the topaz safety blade is for my Jhanjharpur saloon.
There is another quarters of the village, of leather tanners. Mukhdev Ram and Kapildev Ram are prominent among them. Earlier they were residing outside the boundary of the village, beyond the bamboo plantations. But now the bamboos had been cut extensively, so it has thinned. The habitation of people has extended upto these quarters of the leather tanners. The construction of new buildings and the placement of bricks here and there is a normal scene. Announcing with the drum to ward-off evil spirit or to announce something; and to play drum and pipes are the works undertaken by them. If cattle die, till it is lifted by them, people are in the grip of condolence of death; people can neither eat nor bath.
Among the carpenters the most respected in the village Garh Narikel is the family of Joginder Thakur. But when the titular head of the carpenters come from the far off village, then the intelligence of Joginder Thakur goes dim, and he utters only yes on both righteous and unrighteous utterances. Joginder has three sons, Bihari, Arjun and Shivanarayan. All are engaged in woodwork but Bihari do iron-work too; and Arjun has become cycle-mechanic, side by side. He does all the work from minor repair of rickshaws as well as bicycles and repairs the punctured tube. He has discovered the making of a cricket ball made out of the root of bamboo; he has discovered wooden circular plate to run through a crooked spike of iron-wire; and many more games. So when people say, look, if you read and write you would get job; this exception should change their views. Look at Shivnarayan, how innovative he is, he makes many things even out of the useless inappropriate wood. But the hand-skill of Bihari is nowhere to be found, different types of cut- vertical, horizontal, crooked and oblique cuts, he is master of all.
Shivnarayan discovers, however Bihari replicates those discoveries in a better way. In villages there is no copyright available to a discoverer. On hard wood the saw and other implements of Shivnarayan gets blunt, but Bihari gets out of it, not knowing how! He makes something out of a weak wood and sells those in market. For sawing a plank if big saw is not available he even saws plank using the smallest available saw. He delineates the strong wood from the weak wood meticulously and dexterously.
Jagdish Mile is looked after for the holy cloth when offering of this to the goddess is required, his wife is very skilled.
Bhola Pandit is potter, he moulds and makes earthen vessels; and he makes earthen birds and earthen animals for the children too. In the making of earthen utensils he is unparelled.
Satyanarayan Yadav, the Raut Sir, and now the nomenclature has changed from milkman to Yadav Sir. From the trade of milk to agriculture and to fill the village road with earthwork, all these are in his hands.
Basu Chaupal is from Khatbe Caste, he carries gifts to other villages, and gifts include fish. He sales fish in the fish market.
Chalittar Sahu and Laddulal Sahu, both are sweet manufacturers, they arrange for a temporary shop during the Durga Pooja festival. During jovial festivities or during the feast related with death or death anniversies he gets contract of preparation of vegetable dish.
Shivnarayan Mahto is from Suri caste, a business class.
Laxmi Das is from Tatma caste, a thread weaving caste.
Lal Kumar Roy is from Kurmi Caste.
Bhola Paswan and Mukesh Paswan are from Dusadh Caste, earlier the milk business was held by them, but not now.
Satyanarayan Kamti is from Keot caste, they were stationed at the farmhouses of the Darbhanga Raj. Ramdeo Bhandari is from the Bhandari caste, this caste is a type of Keot caste, and they managed the Kitchen of Darbhanga Raj.
Kapileshwar Raut and Ramavtar Raut are from Barai caste, they do ancestral betal-leaf business.
From the Dom caste is Bodha Malik, from the Koir caste is Dukhan Mahto, from the Bhumihar caste is Radhamohan Roy; and from the goldsmith caste is Ashok Thakur.
Among the oil business community are Ramchandra Sao, Bauku Sao and Kari Sao.
From the fisherman community is Jibachh Mukhiya. In the Dakahi pond, once in a year, is held the fish catching fair. The fisherman put the big net into the pond; a whole quarter of fisherman comes to the pond for one whole month. Earlier the fair extended for more than one month but now due to scarcity of fish, it goes hardly over twenty days. Then the head of the fisherman announces- “Now the big fishes are no more in this pond. If we fish through the big net, none could be entrapped. But if we fish through the delicate small nets, all the small fishes would get caught. And then you will have to saw fish seed into this pond”.
During those fifteen to twenty days, there remains festival like atmosphere in the village. This becomes excuse for the cleanliness of the pond. From early morning from 4 AM till the noon fishes are caught. And till the afternoon all the villagers- excepting the southern quarters of the village- are given their share. All the people, the representatives from different quarters, take their share and return to their respective quarters. All the families obtain their shares out of the share of their quarters. How many shares are there out of the quarter's share, sometimes it gives cause for strife. Till she was alive, may be one did not talk to one's widow aunt, but after her death people remember their aunt. May be that while she was alive, her desire to offer some share to her daughter might have been stalled by the nephew and may he might have obtained thumb impression of her dead aunt that becomes immaterial now. On this count strife ensues, and the wrestler whom people out of love calls wrestler uncle, receives that kind of share, nobody else. It does not matter whether this widow, of wrestler uncle's courtyard, died a long twenty years ago.
There is one more speciality of Dakahi pond. Inside this pond tortoise and fishes grow in number, on its own. Beside the pond many types of roots and lichens are found. The sweet roots are eaten by the cattle grazer boys.
Buchkan Saday is from Mushhar caste.
Near the Dakahi pond there are many small water-bodies, the swampy ground may be seen around it. From there the Mushhar caste people dig the roots and eat them. In the year 1967 when most of the ponds dried even then this big Dakahi pond did not completely dried up, although the area of the pond diminished dramatically. The Prime Minister had come here during those days, and he was shown how the Mushahar caste was surviving during those days, eating these roots.
These are the persons who are having a say in the village Garh Narikel.
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