ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

The revival of Jhijhiya dance in Janakpur, Nepal


Mottin Monica - University of Heidelberg, HCTS, Heidelberg, Germany


47 – Recent Cultural Heritage Initiatives in Nepal and the Himalayas


 Jhijhiya is a dance performed by women and girls of the Maithil communities of India and Nepal. As part of a ritual practice, it is performed for goddess Durga by specific castes only during the festival of Dashain, to ward off evil powers. As a folk dance, it is performed at any time of the year by cultural groups and it is a much loved symbol of Maithil identity. Over the last two decades, the practice of Jhijhiya has declined. In some villages of Dhanusha district the dance was dying out. A grassroots organisation engaged women from marginalised communities, revived the dance in their village, and also provided them with a platform to perform in Janakpur and from there in other communities of the area. In fact, since 2018, a youth organisation volunteer to revive the dance by organising a public event in front of Janaki Mandir called “Jhijhjya Night”, inviting both Jhjhiya teams from the villages nearby and urban cultural groups. Such a revival has spurred interest and led to the creation of new Jhijhjiya teams.

Based on ethnographic research, this paper aims to look at how Janakpur organisations engage with communities to revive Jhijhiya dance, to understand the position of Jjhijhiya dance as a form of Maithil and Nepali heritage, and to explore how participants distinguish between “traditional” and “modern” forms of Jhijhjiya by looking at the context of performance, music and singing, dance steps, head gear and dresses.