Gurahi-Guriya Parba. Gurahi or Guriya Parba (festival) is celebrated on the Panchami date of Shravan Shukla Paksha or on the day of Nag Panchami in various places across Nepal, including in the places where the Tharu community resides. Today, the Tharu community, also known as the folk caste of Nepal, celebrate the Guriya or Gurahi festival with joy and offers cow’s milk to their respective family deity. This festival is also known as the Children’s Festival, as it reminds us of the unbreakable love and affection between brothers and sisters and it helps to deepen it.
Gurahi is the name of a kind of Dragonfly that looks like a butterfly with thin wings. In places like Kailali, Kanchanpur, Bardiya, Banke, and Deukhuri, this insect is called Gurahi. Whereas in some places as Dang, this insect is also called Jhigaura. In the Tharu community, this insect is seen as a symbol of evil and the enemy.
On the occasion of Guriya or Gurahi Parba, today, girls or women use colorful cloth (chirkut) to make mannequins (guriya) out of it. Accompanied by Ghughari (oil-fried lentils as gram and pea, etc.), the girls make their way and gather in a crossroad or a junction outside of the village. They worship the Guria and throw them in the junction. And, the boys and men beat these Guria with sticks, whips, and girls, as well as boys, enjoy this ritual. It is hoped that the guriya thrown away in this way, while beating, will also take away the vices, and they will not be affected with disease and suffering.
On the day of this festival, it is customary to eat various dishes like khurma, barya (dishes like puri), roti, ghughari, etc. along with fish and meat. In Tharu villages, on the day before Gurahi, it is customary to kill “Jita” i.e pig, goat, chicken, etc for meat. This festival is normally celebrated by inviting the married daughters to their parents’ house. During this festival, also seen as a celebration of love for young children, all the boys and girls are dressed in their traditional attire.
In some districts and places where Tharu resides, this festival is called Gurahi festival and in some places, it is called Guriya festival. Whatever the name of the festival, Gurahi or Guriya, the Tharu leaders say that it is a tradition to celebrate the festival after the end of the paddy plantation so that insects do not infest the crop and also to stop any kind of diseases spreading in the village.
The gurahi insects eat mosquitoes and other insects infecting the paddy plants. As these insects, protects the crops from various paddy-eating insects the festival is celebrated with its name. Similarly, experts in Tharu culture say that Gurahi may have been celebrated because these insects also protect people from diseases by eating insects such as mosquitoes. Experts in Tharu culture also note that Gurahi is worshiped because the Tharu people are nature worshipers and believe in nature.
Although the Gurahi-Guriya festival is celebrated in different places from east to west of the Tarai region, where the Tharu community lives, the way of celebrating this festival seems to be different in all places. This difference may be due to the fact that the way the festival is celebrated depends on the people who lead it. In some places, it is customary for small children to swing the idol of Gurahi during the daytime. But, there is a similarity in the way girls make the Guriya / Gurahi and throw them in the street junction, and boys beat them.
In the daytime, while the girls are busy making the guriya out of colorful pieces of cloth, the boys use bamboo and jute to make whips and sticks. In some places, the beaten Gurahi-Guria are left on the roadside, while in others, they are taken to a nearby river with music and washed away. After Guriya beating, the whip or stick used for beating is kept sewn on the veranda of the house or a barn. There is a belief that doing so, will eliminate suffering and disease. And, it will also eliminate the ghosts or phantoms, bringing peace to the family members.
An Interesting Tale Regarding the Gurahi Festival:
In one city, a brother without parents used to live with his small sister. The big brother was an exclusive devotee of Lord Shiva and used to go to Shiva temple every day. There was a snake in the temple that would come out seeing this devout brother. And he used to feed that snake with milk every day. The snake used to wrap itself around the brother’s feet with love.
As he used to visit the temple for worship every day his sister also insisted that she wanted to go to the temple with him, one day. Obeying his sister’s request, the brother and sister, both reached the temple with a Dhakiya (a basket made out of bamboo or its relative) full of fried gram, pea with puffed rice, and milk as an offering.
When both of them reached the temple, the serpent reappeared and wrapped itself at the brother’s feet as usual. But, when the sister saw the snake wrapped around her brother’s leg, she thought it would bit her brother. Out of fear, she beat the snake with Dhakiya they had brought and killed it. After that incident, the brother told his sister everything about the snake. After hearing her brother’s words, the sister wept bitterly and repented of her wrongdoing. The people there also said that the snake could be the form of a serpent god.
Since the sister killed the snake only to save her brother’s life, the practice of punishing her idol or Guria every year as that sister also started. It is said that from that time onwards in the Tharu community, the Guriya festival started in order to immortalize the precious love between brothers and sisters, during the Nag Panchami.
There are different contexts and legends in the Tharu community regarding this festival like the one above. Which are often associated with girls or women. In this festival, whether as a symbol of insects or women and girls, in any way the Guriya are made out of colorful cloth. Which they throw in the square on the evening of the festival and boys beat it. In some places this is called Gurahi Parba and in someplace, it is known as Guriya Parba.
Although the Tharu community does not directly worship the serpent gods on this day, i.e. Nag Panchami, the fact that the Guriya festival may be related to the snake deity cannot be denied. And, this festival can also be seen and understood as a festival of mutual love, affection, and harmony between brothers and sisters. Whatever the context and legend, of this festival, with the involvement of both brothers and sisters, men and women, they all throw away their vices with Guriya, on this day. With the guriya, people also throw away their diseases and sufferings, beat them, and wish for happiness and peace.
The whole Tharu community living in Kathmandu is celebrating the Guriya or Gurahi festival with various fun programs at Bhrikuti Mandap today. Let us all celebrate this festival with peace and harmony, throwing away our vices, diseases, etc., and eradicate our suffering. Let us respect the festivals of each and every community. On behalf of the Gurahi-Guriya Parba, we at Nepali Patro, send our best wishes to all the Tharu community as well as to all the Nepalese out there. Gurahi-Guriya Parba