Bihula-Bisahari: Folklore of Anga Region

Manjusha painting by Manoj Pandit, '80s © Folkartopedia library
Manjusha painting by Manoj Pandit, '80s © Folkartopedia library

Manjusha Art is based on a folklore Bihaula-Bisahari. Bihula who saved her husband from the deity’s wrath and a snake-bite and also of Bishahari or Mansa, the snake goddess. Earlier this folklore was used to be sung in the oral tradition, Now-a-days though the oral songs are not as popular, an effort is being made to revive them. Manjusha Art is the first narrative folk art below is the story on which Manjusha Art is based and is illustrated.

The story goes that one day Lord Shiva was taking a bath in Sonadah lake, at which time 5 hairs from his plait broke and fell into the water. These 5 hairs become 5 lotuses at the bank of the river. As Shiva continues with his bath, he hears a sound coming from the lotuses, all 5 of the lotuses request Lord Shiva to accept them as his daughters. Shiva replies that without seeing their true form, he cannot accept them. All 5 lotuses convert into their true forms of 5 women. They are 5 sisters their names are;

Jaya Bishahari – symbols – bow & arrow + Amrith Kalash
Dhothila Bhavani – symbols – one hand the rising sun and on the other hand a snake
Padmavathi – symbols – one hand there is a lotus
Mynah Bisahari – symbol – the mynah bird in one hand
Manasa Bishahari – symbols – both hands are snakes.

Lord Shiva accepts these 5 women as his “Manasaputri” which means he accepts them as his daughters in the human form. They are also known as “Datta Putri” daughters who have been adopted. As he accepts them in their human form, they are also known as “Manasa”.

The five sisters go to Goddess Parvati and ask her to accept them as her daughters, to which she refuses. The sisters get agitated and they turn themselves into their snake form and hide in the flowers. When Goddess Parvati goes to pick the flowers the snake bites her and she becomes unconscious, at that time Lord Shiva comes and requests them to revive her and that she will accept them. Jaya Bishahari feeds Goddess Parvati amrith from her amrith kalash and revives Goddess Parvati. Parvati grants them a boon saying that they can get rid of the snake’s poison and were called “Bishahari”.

One day all the 5 sisters were playing together in their snake form a game called “Jhingri”. At that time Lord Vasuki Nag approaches them. The sisters tell him that now that they are of Lord Shiva’s family and every one of his family is worshipped then they too should be worshipped. Lord Vasuki Nag replied that in the Angpradesh Kingdom, in Champanagar there is a Lord Shiva Devotee by name Chando Saudagar. If he accepts to worship them then everyone on earth will follow. On hearing this, the 5 sisters ask Lord Shiva’s permission to approach Chando Saudagar and head towards Champa Nagar.

Chando Saudagar was a very successful businessman. He was a very strong Lord Shiva devotee and did business all over the country and beyond. He had 6 sons. When the Bishaharis approached him and asked him to worship them, and they said if he did so, then they would grant him boons of wealth & power. At which Chando Soudagar’s reply was that he did not know who they were and he will not worship them. On hearing this Mynah Bisahhari gets really angry and curses him “if he does not worship them then they will ruin his business and kill his family.” But Chando Saudagar even on hearing this refuses to worship them. Chando Saudagar was also known as a very stubborn man and once he made up his mind about something, it was very difficult to get him to change it. Once when Chando Saudagar was traveling with his sons in the boat “Sonamukhi” which was made of gold, his wife Sonka Sahund requests Chando Saudagar to worship the Bishaharis, at which he again refuses.

Bishaharis become furious about his refusal and drown the entire family along with the boat. But the Bishaharis discuss amongst themselves and realize that if they drowned Chando Saudagar also then their wish of being worshipped would not be fulfilled. So all 5 sisters prayed to Lord Hanuman, who appeared in front of them and he pulled out Chando Saudagar from the sea. After this incident, Chando Saudagar still refuses to worship the Bisaharis. As time passes by, Chando Saudagar and his wife have another son Bala Lakhendra. Once the son grows up they go in search of a suitable bride for him. His marriage is fixed with a girl by name Bihula from the nearby village of Ujjaini. This proposal was accepted by Chando Saudagar after much deliberation, as he was very much aware of the Bisaharis curse and wanted to make sure the girl whom his son marries would be able to stand up against the Bisaharis.

There are many other small stories here, which claim that Bihula had been cursed by an old woman that she would become a widow on her wedding night. It is said Chando Saudagar tests Bihula’s intelligence by asking her to prove herself through some tasks he set her. After he was satisfied, the proposal was accepted and with a lot of pomp and celebrations the wedding took place. Always aware of the threat of the Bisaharis, an iron house had been constructed for the couples wedding night. This house had been constructed by no other than the “Daivashilpi” Bishakarma. The Bisaharis though had made sure that they had intercepted this plan and had requested him to leave a small hole as fine as a hair in the wall of the room.

The night of the marriage the house was surrounded by a lot of people guarding it and also mongooses the enemies of the snakes. The Bisaharis managed to get Lord Shivas snake ”Maniyar” to enter the house and kill Bala Lakhendra. Bihhula distraught at her husband’s death starts crying, at which the rest of the family appears. Chando Saudagr is about to order that his son’s body is to be immersed in the river when Bihula stops him and says she will travel with his body and approach “Nethula Devin” to revive him. Bihula orders the same Bishakarma who had constructed the house to construct a boat for her, in which she can take her husband’s body and a Manjusa to cover the body. She also requests an artist to draw the story of her tribulations on the Manjusa in which all her family members were depicted. She also requested him to portray all the flora and fauna of the Ang Pradesh. The colors were used such that sacrifice, determination and happiness were portrayed.

As Bihula takes her husband in the Manjusha they go through Sonapur ghat, Godha ghat, Jwari ghat, Jokaseni ghat, Sahushanka Ghat, Bhojaseni ghat. Then they finally reach Galantri ghat, where the water is such that it is like acid and there the flesh of Bala gets dissolved and only the skeleton remains. (Even today the water there is not used, it is said to cause deaths for animals, it is on the way to Katihar). She puts the skeleton into a potali and continues on her journey. As she is going ahead, she experiences an incident. She sees one woman with two men. She was Nethula dhobin. She saw her cut her husband into “koota” and the son she cut and made into a “paat”. She washes her clothes (the story goes that she used to wash the clothes on all the gods and goddesses) and once she is done with certain mantras she brings back her husband and son alive and then they continue on with their work.

Bihula witnesses this and realizes that she can help her in making her husband alive. Bihula approaches her and requests her help in reviving her husband. After a lot of trials and tribulations, Bihula manages to approach Lord Shiva in heaven and there she conceals her face by wearing her Ghoongat. She requests Lord Shiva that she wants all the wealth that her Father-in-Law Chando Saudagar lost to be returned to him, and requests all the other Gods and Goddesses, that when she entered Champanagar all the happiness had gone, so she requests them to give them back their happiness. She also asks that her 6 sis-in-laws who are widows should become “suhaagan” again and that she is blessed with the happiness of having children. All her boons were granted, at that point in time, she removes her ghoonghat and Bisahari recognizes her as Bihula. At that point, Bishahari tells her that all your boons will come true only on one condition that you will make sure that Chando Saudagar will worship her and her sisters. Bihula agrees and assures her that she will get this pooja done.

Bisahari brings Bala back to life. The entire family with the sonamukhi boat and their wealth head back to Champanagar. Once they go the entire family starts greeting one another with a lot of celebrations and festivities. At that point in time, Bihula stops them and says there is one condition that Chando Saudagar has to do pooja for Bisahahri. He refuses, the moment he refuses Bisahari asks Bihula with her power to create a sense of darkness ”aandhi”. Bihula does so, and the 7 brothers again fall into the lake where they are getting drowned, the family requests Chando Saudagar to do pooja, he still refuses and says he would rather die than do this pooja.

As he picks up his sword to kill himself and offers himself to Lord Shiva, Lord Shiva appears and tells him not to kill himself and Bishahri is his daughter. On hearing this Chando Saudagar says he will offer pooja in his right hand only to Lord Shiva. Shiva says then offer pooja to her with your left hand. Chando Saudagar accepts this and worships Bisahari with his left hand.

Source: UMSAS, Patna. Texts partially edited.

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