The contrasting features of Darbhanga
The Mithila region in North Bihar is very unique in its cultural, topographic, ethnic and other important aspects
The Mithila region in North Bihar is very unique in its cultural, topographic, ethnic and other important aspects. When I received the orders from the Election Commission of India as Expenditure Observer to the Darbhanga district, I was wondering where it was located and how to reach there, though I heard many times in the news about the location but never tried to locate it on the map of India. Then I got to know the nearest airport is Patna.
The scenic beauty is prevalent here though it seems to be not explored from tourism point of view. The region consists of Darbhanga, Madhubani, Samastipur , Sitamarhi districts and adjoining areas of Muzaffarpur district.
The contrasting features are: Highly fertile and huge tracts of agriculture combined with acute poverty which we see on the roadside while travelling from Patna to Darbhanga enroute Hajipur and Samastipur. It is one of the highly dense areas in India and in the world too.
Mango plantation, lychee and banana cultivation is prominent. Mithala/ Maithili region is famous for its quality of bananas of different varieties. In areas like Kusheshwar Asthan the maize is the main crop. This area is continually and consistently affected by floods year after year. Floods are an annual phenomenon. Still we can observe the stagnant flood water in some areas .
In Kusheshwar Asthan the flood waters resemble the backwaters of Kerala in Alleppey. Because of this reason only one crop ie Rabi crop is possible in this constituency. Rest of the time they are involved in fishing. There is an old natural bird sanctuary in Kusheshwar Asthan. Migratory birds like Siberian cranes used to visit this area during winters (from Nov to Feb) for brooding purposes. Gradually it disappeared due to hunting of these birds by locals.
Very strangely rice is the main staple food in this region (normally we feel in Bihar wheat is the staple food). Because of the availability of water round the year the local variety of fish rohu , Katla are plentily available and forms part of the main item of local cuisine. The local colloquium is 'chaval-machli-makhan-pan'.
The stagnated water everywhere creates algae. The lotus and the padma are seen very commonly. The poorest of the poor collect the fruits of this algae locally called Pani-Phal .They sell it on the roadside for cheaper prices.
The habit of consuming snails is also very unique to this region. For the last few years there were many instances of deaths of children due to malnutrition among the poorest of the poor. It was told that the deaths were mainly due to consumption of litchies by the children on empty stomachs. Particularly these kinds of incidents were reported in Muzaffarpur district.
The main language of people is Maithili with Devanagari script. It is mainly confined to domestic usage and for education and official purposes they use Hindi. There are many tales of Puranas famous in this region.
As per Puranas this region was the place of birth of Sita Devi and Janakpur is very nearby but located in Nepal, now. The emergence of Sita on earth took place in Sitamarhi as believed locally. Even the story behind the name of Kush ( son of Sri Ram ) is also very interesting.
Samastipur is famous for the Grain Market in the entire Bihar. The women (including young girls ) still practice the 'gungat' (covering face up to chin with cloth). The women wear jewellery, uniquely designed to this region and particularly 'nathuniya' is famous( nose ring).
Except few families in urban areas in the entire region there are only two religions: Hinduism and Islam. In many places one can notice the presence of Madrasas. The local name of Lord Shiva is Kusheshwar. There could have been some link between this Swamy and a section of the Society here called 'Kushwahas'.
To our wonder the Marwaris who are ubiquitously present everywhere in India are conspicuously absent here. The round peda is popular and sweet and Rasagulla also.
The nearest border place of Nepal is Jayapur. People normally go there on road and take flight (which is very cheap and feasible) to fly to Pokhran in Nepal. Pokhran is a nice tourist spot and world famous for paragliding.
The Darbhanga in this region is famous for high literacy rates and most of the civil servants from Bihar are from this region. This region constitutes the lowest number of migrant labourers from Bihar. Shakkar Cheeni sugar mill has been locked down for many years. Because of this reason the patterns of agriculture have been shifted from sugarcane to paddy cultivation.
People are mainly depending upon railways for their travel. Hajipur is the headquarters of East Central Railway Zone. The presence of State transport is dismal. This region is one of the highest dense networks of railways in the entire country. The Darbhanga- Forbesganj provides alternate network to Siliguri-Kolkata in case China inadvertently damages the connectivity ie the Atal bridge on River Kosi, in Supaul District, to India.
This area is drained with the rivers of Kosi, Gandak, Kamlapal , Bhagmati and Kare. They create floods every year because of excess flow of this Nepal-originated rivers. The positive aspect of flood is that it brings the very fertile alluvial soil and forms a layer on the fields. Because of this the soil is extremely fertile during the rest season and the farmers of this region never used chemical fertilisers.
The Darbhanga airport is coming up which is going to be operational sooner. Savan is a very big festival here, particularly on Mondays. The Rakhi/ Raksha bandhan festival falls on the full moon day of Savan. Cows are more than buffaloes. The Madhubani paintings and patterns of sarees are well known and world famous.
(The author is an IRS officer at present working as Observer on behalf of Election Commission of India to the Darbhanga Rural, Benipur, Ali Nagar , Kusheshwar Asthan and Gaura Bauram Legislative Assembly Constituencies of Darbhanga district in Bihar)