Saturday, May 26, 2012

Jamai Shashthi, a Bengali festival

It is Jamai Shashthi tomorrow; a festival that is celebrated in Bengal.This festival is essentially for the Jamai (son-in-law). On this day Jamais get invited to a feast at their in-laws place.
No matter how bad the weather conditions; no matter how hot it is, nothing can stop the passion with which this festival is celebrated all over Bengal. Of course it is not the same as it used to be in the earlier days but it is still very popular.

As a child I used to be very amused at the amount of attention my dad used to get whenever we visited my maternal grandparents. I think it was always Jamai Shashthi for him:)

Jamai Shashthi would always happen during our summer vacations, and in our ancestral village there were elaborate ceremonies that would start with a shashthi puja. After the puja, we would all wear the yellow threads around our wrists and gorge on delicious food. Especially homemade sweets; how I loved them!

It is my husband's turn to get pampered tomorrow. I wonder why they don't celebrate bou shashthi?

High time we get pampered too!

In Kolkata, the prices of fruits, fish, and sweets shoot up during this time. For Jamai shashthi, fruits and sweets are a must. And sometimes the variety of fruits that is served can go up to 10!

My maids have taken three days off to prepare for this festival. I asked them what have they planned for their Jamais. The meals are quite elaborate and require a lot of preparation. At least ten varieties of fruits will be served, for the main course there will be hilsa fish, mutton, at least 4-5 kinds of fries, sweetened rice, chutney, cholar dal, and  postor bora or narkeler bora. For desert there would be mishti doi and rossolgollas and the fruits. It does not stop here, they have bought gifts for the Jamais too. Wow!

Like most festivals there is a legend behind celebrating Jamai Shashthi. The story is about a greedy daughter in law of a bengali family who would eat up all the food but blame it on the cat. And she would keep chasing the cat away for no fault of the cat. The cat who was the vahana of Shashthi complained to Ma Shashthi. The daughter in law had 7 sons and one daughter, and somehow all her children got stolen. This saddenend her a lot. She was so depressed that she went to the jungle to find peace. Ma Shashthi appeared before her as an old lady. On hearing her story Ma Shashthi reminded her about the bad deeds of her past. She started crying and was ashamed of her deeds; she asked for forgiveness. Ma Shashthi forgave her and asked her to follow some rituals on the sixth day of Jaistha month to get back her children.

Since then mother's pray for their children's well being on this day. It must have slowly evolved into Jamai Shashthi where elderly women pray for their married children's well being. 

On this day, the bonding between the in-laws and the Jamai is strengthened even more. Not only does the mother in law cook for the jamai, she blesses the couple and prays for them. The purpose also is to ensures that the son inlaw treats their daughter with respect. It is a happy occasion where the whole family gets together to have a meal.  What more can you ask for?

That reminds me, we should have something like this for our parents too. Right?


Somali K Chakrabarti said...

I too have always wondered why isn't there am equivalent bou shashthi. :-)

Ranjana Jha said...

Hi Somali,

Yes, I have always wondered...well I don't see any festival that focusses on acknowledging or making women feel great.Essentially, women are always doing and is the family that has to ensure that once in a while women get pampered too.

Thanks for stopping by.