Jitiya is an important festival of Nepali married women of Mithilanchal and Tharu women of all castes. Jitiya vrata is performed for the well-being and long life of her sons. It is performed on Aswin Krishna Ashtami usually during Pradosh time.
Nepali women observe Nirjala fast (without water) on this day and break the fast the next day at the end of Ashtami. Sometimes, when Ashtami begins in the afternoon, women may have to fast for two days. Since nothing, even a drop of water is put in the mouth, the fast is also called Khar Jitia.
Children who escaped severe accidents are believed to have the blessings of their mother having performed this brat. It is a trend or tradition to eat fish and chapatti (roti, bread) made of millet (Marua) the previous day. On the night prior to the fast, they take a meal just before the beginning of Ashtami. This is peculiar to this fasting only. Often children are awoken and fed the preparations. This is known as Ongthan.
Jitiya fasting will be observed on 10th of October on Monday and the Paran is at 8.56 pm. This is on Ashwin 22, 2078 in the Bikram Sambat calendar accordingly.
The rituals are performed for the welfare of the son in the family during the period of Pitra Paksha every year. The mothers offer mustard oil and khilli to the female ancestors and Lord Jimutvahana. Bangles and curd are offered to the eagle and siyarin on this day by the mothers of the sons. Othgan Vidhi takes place before sunrise and after that, the mothers have to stop taking water also.
Yatraashtmi cha akshin krishnapakshe
Yatrodayan vai karute dineshah
Tada bhavet jivitputikasa
Yasyamudaya Bhanu Paran Navami Dine.
The meaning of the above-written lines is that the jivitputrika fast is observed on the day on which the sunrise takes place on Ashtami and the Paaran Puja is performed on the Navami after the sunrise. This is the tradition to observe this fast. First of all take bath in the morning and pray to Jimutvahana. The mother does not have to eat or drink anything the whole day. The ladies then have to hear Jimutvahana Katha along with Eagle-siyari Katha in the day and offer prasad to the lord. The paaran of the fast completes after the sunrise of the navami. The fast is observes with full dedication and faith for the long life of the son in the family and also for the welfare of the family members. It is believd that the family is blessed with offsprings to continue the name of the family by praying Jitmutvahana made of grass. Put this idol of grass into the water and offer bamboo leaves, chandan, flowers etc. and then pray the lord.
The mothers who are blessed with sons pray Jimutvahana on the ashtmi of krishna paksha. The married women who pray to lord Jimutvahana in the pradoshkal is blessed with son. The idol of Jimutvahan has to be worshiped with agarbatti, dhoop, rice, flowers etc. The idol of eagle and siyarin is made with sand or cow dung and red sindoor is applied on their forehead.
The mother begins the fast praying for the long life of their son and welfare of the family. They should pray lord Jimutvahana with full dedication and complete the fast by following proper rituals are blessed with sons and their long life. Followed by completing the fast the mothers should offer dakshina to brahmins as per the ritual of the fast.
Story behind Jitiya pooja
Near the sea on the bank of river Narmada, there was a city named Kanchanawati which was ruled by the king Malayketu. There was a dessert called Baluhata on the western side of the river. There was a Pakar tree on the branch of which lived a she-hawk and in the hole of the trunk lived she jackal. They were fast friends. Once they, like the womenfolk of the place, observed the fast and performed the pooja of Jimootbahan son of Shalibahan.
That day the son of the richest trader of that city died. he was cremated nearby. During the night there was terrific rain and thunderstorm. The jackal could not resist the temptation of eating the remains, but the hawk continued with her fast. Next day after the women folk broke the fast, she also broke the fast.
In the next birth, they were born as sisters in the house of a Brahmin, Bhaskar. The elder, hawk in a previous birth, was named Sheelwati and was married to Buddhisen and the younger, jackal in a previous birth, was named Karpoorawati and was married to the king, Malayketu. Due to the blessings of Jimootbahan, Sheelwati was blessed with seven handsome sons. But all the sons of Karpoorawati died just after birth. She was very sad.
When the seven sons of Sheelwati came of age, they applied for and got service with the king. When Karpoorawati saw them, she turned blue with envy. With her wicked design, she persuaded the king to get the seven youths killed and sent the heads in seven containers covered with red cloth to her elder sister. Jimootbahan knew about this and he made heads of clay, fixed them on the torso, and sprinkled “Amrit” to make them alive. The sons returned to their home. The wives had received the heads but they turned to palm fruits.
Karpoorawati, all the day, waited to hear the wails of the womenfolk of the house of Buddhisen. When nothing happened, she sent her maid to that house. The maid reported that the sons are all rejoicing in their house. The queen first suspected her husband of duping her, but he told he that there must be God’s blessing on that family.
Karpoorawati went to her sister and told her everything and enquired how her sons could not die. Sheelwati, due to her penance, remembered every detail of her previous life. She took Karpoorawati to the tree and narrated the events of her previous life. Hearing all these Karpoorawati fell unconscious and died. The king performed her last rites.
When Kali Yuga began, mothers were worried about the fate of their children. Kali Yuga, the last Yuga or Age as per Hinduism, is the age of vice, and all bad things is believed to take place before the total annihilation of creation. So mothers wanted to know what they can do to protect their children from evil and death.
To find a solution on how to save their children from the effects of Kali Yuga mothers approached the great sage Gautam.
The saint agreed to find a solution and narrated a story that happened during the Mahabharata period.
Pandavas were very unhappy after the end of the 18-day Mahabharat war as all their sons were killed. Draupadi, the mother of the children, approached a learned Brahmin named Dhaumya for a solution to alleviate their unhappiness.
The wise Dhaumya mentioned an incident that took place in the Satya Yuga.
There lived a famous king in Satya Yuga named Jimutavahan. The King was famous for his honesty and good rule. He also was ready to go to any extent to protect his citizens. Once while the King was at the home of his wife’s parents he heard the cry of an old woman. Jimutavahan soon approached the old woman and found out that she was crying as her son was killed and eaten by Garuda, the Vahana of Lord Vishnu.
Jimutavahan promised the old woman that he will get back her son.
(In some versions of the story – The old woman was a Snake and had lost her son who was a Snake (Nag). Garuda had killed and eaten the Nag.)
Soon Jimutavahan approached Garuda on a mountain. The king saw skeletons of human beings lying in a big pit. The bones were of all the people that Garuda had killed and eaten.
Garuda soon noticed Jimutavahan and wanted to know why he was there? The King demanded that he return the son of the old woman and instead he can eat him.
Garuda agreed and began to eat Jimutavahan. But soon Garuda stopped and wanted to know why he was sacrificing himself for an ordinary person.
Jimutavahan replied that no child is ordinary for a mother. I am sacrificing myself so that an old mother will get back her only child. No mother can bear the loss of her child and there is no greater grief than losing a child.
Garuda soon realized that the man before him was no ordinary person and wanted to know his identity. Jimutavahan introduced himself and said not to look at his status. Asked Garuda to kill and eat him so that the old woman will get back her son.
Soon Garuda stopped eating Jimutavahan and was pleased by the generosity and empathy displayed by the King and offered him a boon.
As a boon – the king asked for the life of all the people that Garuda had killed and had eaten.
Garuda agreed to bring all those he had killed and eaten back to life. He brought Amrit (elixir) and sprinkled it on the skeletons in the pit and all the people came back to life.
Garuda also mentioned that mothers who perform fasting and perform rituals with Kusha grass on Ashtami day during the Krishna Paksha of Ashwin month will never lose their children.
(In a few versions this boon is given to King Jimutavahan by Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, who were pleased by the dedication and selflessness of the King and his willingness to help a Mother get back her child.)
Draupadi was happy to learn about the Vrat and she performed it.
Mothers who heard about the story of Jivitputrika Vrat from Sage Gautama performed it in Kali Yuga to save their children from all the dangers. Mothers still continue to perform it for the welfare of their children.