The Tharu community of western Nepal has been busy celebrating Maghi. The festival is celebrated in a grand manner from the last week of the month of Paush to 3 Magh every year.
The Tharus celebrate this festival with the belief that the season changes and summer begins. During the festival, Bhalmansa (judge giving justice), Guruwa (a person responsible for treating people) and Chiragi (guard) is selected. Bhalmansa is also called Mahato, Mahakama and Badghar. The name of Bhalmansa is named differently in different places. Since a new individual is selected for handing over the responsibility of the village, this tradition is called Khojini and Bojhini.
The Tharu of western Nepal residing in Kailali, Kanchanpur, Banke, Bardiya and Dang districts celebrate Maghi as the New Year. Ganesh Chaudhari, a Tharu journalist, said that as the festival is celebrated as the New Year, plans for the entire year are made during Maghi. The responsibility of each member of the family is also assigned. Moreover, while carrying out responsibilities, if any member of the family makes a mistake, the case is discussed during this festival. But discussions on such mistakes cannot take place before the festival. Even if they are not satisfied with the performance of the individual, he/she has to carry out the duties for one year.
In the past, the decisions on keeping, releasing or sending Kamaiyas to others’ houses was also made during the Maghi. Though the custom of keeping Kamaiyas had been abolished by the government nine years ago, small children still are kept in many houses secretly as Kamlaris to carry out the chores, Pashupati Chaudhari, central president of the Freed-Kamaiyas Society, said.
According to FNC, a non-government organisation, about 5000 Kamalaris had been freed from five districts in the west. But about 4000 are yet to be freed. Moreover, about 2000 children of freed Kamaiyas of Kailali alone are Kamlaris. Most of the Kamlaris are found to be girls.
The Tharus have already purchased pigs, boars, ducks and hens to celebrate Maghi. They make liquor at home for this occasion.
The well-to-do families of the Tharu community kill pigs and boars at their homes. The ones with weak economic conditions celebrate this together by contributing jointly. Various traditional cultural shows are also held and presented in Maghi.
Bahadur Chaudhari of the Bani Freed Kamaiya Shelter in Kanchanpur informed that the freed Kamaiyas had also purchased pigs and boars to celebrate the festival in a communal manner. He said that though many families of the freed Kamaiyas had not received land they were taking loans to celebrate Maghi.