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

 Lord Shiva & Mansa 5 Sisters - Manjusha Art Folklore
Lord Shiva & Mansa 5 Sisters – Manjusha Art Folklore

The story goes that one day Lord Shiva was taking a bath in Sonada 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 in the other hand a snake
• Padmavathi – symbols – one hand there is a lotus
• Mynah Bisahari – symbol – the mynah bird in one hand
• Maya bishahari / Manasa bishahari – symbols – both hands are snakes.

Mansa Sisters - Bishari Devi in Manjusha Art
Mansa Sisters – Bishari Devi in Manjusha Art

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 5 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 snakes poision and were called as “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 Shivas family and everyone of his family is worshipped then they too should be wor- shipped.Lord Vasuki Nag replied that in Angpradesh Kingdom, in Champanagar there is a Lord Shiva Devotee by name ChandoSaudagar. If he accepts to worship them then everyone on earth will follow. On hearing this, the 5 sisters ask Lord Shivas permissison to approach ChandoSaudagar and head towards Champa Nagar.ChandoSaudagar was a very successful businessman. He was a very strong Lord Shiva devo- tee 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 Chandosoudagar’s re- ply 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 ChandoSaudagar even on hearing this refuses to worship them. ChandoSaudagar 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 ChandoSaudagar was travelling with his sons in the boat “Sonamukhi” which was made of gold, his wife Sonka Sahund requests ChandoSaudagar to worship the Bishaha- ris , at which he again refuses. Bishaharis become furious on his refusal and drown the entire family along with the boat.
But the Bishaharis discuss amongst themselves and realise that if they drowned Chandosau- dagar also then their wish of being worshipped would not be fulfilled.So all 5sisters prayed to Lord Hanuman, who appeared in fromt of them and He pulled out Chandosaudagar from the sea.

After this incident, Chando Saudagar still refuses to worship the Bisaharis, as time passes
by, Chandosaudagar and his wife have another son BalaLakhendra.Once the son grows up they go insearch for 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 Chandosaudagar 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 Chandosaudagar 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” BishakarmaDwara. The bisaharis though had made sure that they had intercepted this plan and had requsted 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 mongoos- es the enemies of the snakes.
The Bisaharis managed to get Lord Shivas snake”Maniyar” to enter the house and kill Bal- Lakhendra.
Bihhula distraught at her husbands death starts crying, at which the rest of the family appears.Chandisaudagr is about to order that his sons 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 husbands body and a cover /Manjusa to cover the body. She also requests an artisit 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 colours 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 ghatJokaseni 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 potli and continues on her journey.

As she is going ahead, she experiences an incident. She sees one woman with two men.she was the form of Nethula dhobin. She saw her cut her husband into “koota” and the son she cut and made into a “paat” .
She washes her clothes (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 tribualtions, Bihula manages to approach Lord Shiva in eaven and there she concelas her face by wearing her Ghoongat

She requests Lord Shiva that she wants all the wealth that her Father in Law Chandosauda- gar lost to be returned to him,and requests all the other gods and goddesses, that when she entered champnagar 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 “suhaa- gan” again,and that she is blessed with the happiness of having children.

All her boons were granted, at that point of time she removes her ghoonghat andBisahari 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 Chandosaudagar 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 of time Bihula stops them and say there is one condition that Chan- dosaudagar 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 Chan- doSaudagar to do pooja,he still refuses and says he would rather die then do this pooja, as he removes his sword to kill himself, and offer himself to Lord Shiva, Lord Shiva appears and tells him not to kill himself and Bishahri is his daughter, on hearing this ChandoSaudagar says he will offer pooja in his right hand only to Lord Shiva, so Shiva says then offer pooja to her with your left hand.

Chandosaudagar accepts this and worships Bisahari with his left hand.