Bibah Panchami: A Celebration of Marital Devotion

In Nepal, festivals and celebrations are highlights in everyday life, with the majority of the population joining in with great enthusiasm. Visitors to this beautiful country are very often free to join in whatever festival may be taking place at the time of their visit. In December the festival of Bibah Panchami (also referred to as Bibahah Panchami) is an expression of the devotion of Hindus to Lord Rama and Princess Sita, during which the marriage of these two venerated figures is re-enacted. This much anticipated seven-day festival, which is held in Janakpur, eastern Terai, attracts Hindu pilgrims from far and wide.

The story of the marriage of Lord Rama and Princess Sita begins when the princess had many suitors, making it difficult to decide who would most be worthy to marry the daughter of King Janak. To determine which suitor would make the grade, King Janak proposed a test of strength that involved stringing the great bow of Lord Shiva. Kings, chieftains and warriors traveled from far and wide, determined to meet this challenge, but not one of them was even able to lift the bow, let alone string it. Just as it seemed that Princess Sita would never find a suitable husband, along came Lord Rama who managed to lift the bow with no effort at all. However, when he attempted to string the bow, it shattered into countless pieces, proving his immense strength. The delighted Princess Sita had at last found a man worthy of her. Lord Rama and Princess Sita were married in Janakpur.

Female Hindu devotees strive to reach the standard Princess Sita set for an ideal wife. Without a word of complaint, Princess Sita willingly followed her husband anywhere, irrespective of how uncomfortable their journey, or how inhospitable their destination may prove to be. She viewed a wife as being the shadow of her husband, demonstrating self-sacrifice at all times. Husbands may aspire to the moral perfection of Lord Rama. The celebration of Bibah Panchami is also a time for couples to pledge their love for one another and make a commitment to marriage.

Ramayana (Rama’s story) may be more than 3,000 years old, but it has not lost its appeal and is still held in great esteem by the devout Hindu community. In Nepal, Bibah Panchami is a symbol of that esteem and is looked forward to with eager anticipation and celebrated with great joy.