Adivasis, or the unique inhabitants, comprise round eight per cent of our nation’s inhabitants. This makes India the biggest nation with most tribal inhabitants on this planet. That mentioned, barring just a few just like the Sentinelese (of Andaman and Nicobar Islands), most of those communities have tailored to the trendy way of life and built-in themselves into mainstream society. However, they’ve on the similar time held on to their roots and stored their id intact, because of the distinct customs, rituals and festivities. Much like mainstream society, festivals play an necessary position in tribal tradition too. One such competition is Karama Puja. Celebrated for the wellbeing of 1’s household, Karma Puja is among the most necessary occasions within the calendar of the tribals dwelling in Odisha. Although it’s celebrated primarily in tribal-dominated areas of Mayurbhanj, Sambalpur, Bolangir and Sundargarh in Odisha throughout August and September, it continues to be a grand affair for the tribal neighborhood in Jharkhand and West Bengal.  Sunday POST catches up with just a few members from the tribal neighborhood to know extra concerning the competition, rituals and celebrations.

Hadibandhu Bindhani from Goudarama village in Mayurbhanj is an ardent follower of Karama deity for the final 50 years. He says, “Karma Puja is one of the most popular festivals in Mayurbhanj and is linked to harvesting season. It is celebrated over a period of three days (Tuesday to Thursday) in any week of August or September as decided by the priest. The devotees go into the nearest river in new clothes on a Tuesday. After performing certain rituals, they collect some sand in a bamboo basket and return to the village. The sand is kept at a designated place and five varieties of grains – urad, moong, mustard, horse gram and flax seed – are placed on the sand. The seed germinates by Thursday, which is considered auspicious. People believe that they have been blessed by the deity. Next, they collect branches of Karama tree. We sing and dance while performing this ritual. All the rituals are conducted under the supervision of a village priest. After the separation from the tree, the branches are accorded the status of god and the priest plants the branches at the centre of an open yard. The place is plastered in advance with cow dung and decorated with flowers. The branches are offered garlands, curd, rice and flowers. People of Kudumi and Mahanta communities consider it one of the most auspicious days of the year.”

Talking about different rituals, Hadibandhu says, rice beer, fruits collected from forests and native drinks are supplied as ‘prasad’ to Karama deity. “The entire night is spent listening to the priest who narrates the generosity of the god, while devotees dance to beats of drums. The immersion ceremony takes place amidst dance and songs,” he provides.

Another devotee Shyamasundar Tudu, a instructor from Khukundaa, Mayurbhanj, says, “Karama Puja, among all other things, is a tribute to the Karama tree that symbolises fertility, prosperity and everything that is auspicious. Tribals believe that Karama tree is a living being and god’s representative. This is why they worship its seeds and branches along with sand and other local produce. Karama Devta is worshiped by the tribals who are dependent on nature for their livelihood. The day is also important for the siblings as the sisters pray for their brothers’ well being. Married couples also worship the deity for happy conjugal life.”

Lalalajpat Mohanta has been related to the rituals of the competition since childhood. He says individuals no matter age group, gender and social standing, soak in devotion whereas worshipping Karama deity. Apart from enjoyable and frolic, loads of spirituality and philosophy is concerned with the festivity. “We are completely dependent on land, water and forest for our survival. Nature and environment is our god.  If we take care of Mother Nature and worshipped her with austerity, she relieves us of our sufferings and showers blessings on us. Boys go deep into the forest and collect timber, fruits and flowers which are used during puja. We dance, sing and enjoy on all three days.  People who stay outside the district return to the village to be with their families during this time. Girls also play a crucial role in the festival. It is believed that if a maiden keeps fast on the last day, the farming community in the village will have a great harvest. It is also believed that if girls follow the rituals sincerely, they get good life partners,” mentioned Lalalajpat.

Although Karama Puja is among the most necessary festivals of the tribals in Odisha, not all communities want celebrating it.

Dhiren Bag, an writer and social employee from Kuliana, Mayurbhanj, says, “We do not celebrate Karma Puja in our community. However, it is celebrated in a big way in our village as most people here belong to the Kudumi and Mahanta communities, which observe the festival with much fanfare. Those who do not celebrate, however, do turn up to witness the rituals. I have been a part of the festival since my childhood. Though many from these communities are now part of mainstream society, they haven’t forgotten their roots. They follow the rituals with all sanctity and utmost dedication.”

Lili Mahanta, who’s doing her masters in social work in Bhubaneswar, says, “Karma Puja tops the list of important festivals celebrated by the tribals.  This year we celebrated the occasion with gaiety and had lots of fun. We kept fast on the last day of the festival. For me, the most enjoyable part of the festival was to form a human circle with hands placed on each other’s waists and dance tirelessly. Although I stay in Bhubaneswar, my heart is always at my birth place and I eagerly wait for these three days every year.”

Key highlights

Maidens accumulate Karama twigs from the forest that are planted on the centre of the venue and worshippedPeople rejoice the competition singing and dancing to the beats of drumsA home hen is sacrificed and it’s believed that it’ll please the deityThe chief priest of the village describes the importance of the competition to the villagers after completion of all rituals

Legends galore

Legend has it that very long time in the past there have been seven brothers in a farmer’s household in a tribal hamlet. They labored so onerous for the household’s sustenance that they didn’t get time to return house for lunch. So, the wives used to hold the meals to their farmland day by day. One day, the ladies didn’t flip up on the subject. So, the brothers needed to return house hungry within the night. They have been offended. The seven males grew to become livid once they noticed their wives singing and dancing across the Karama tree branches. They misplaced their cool and dumped the tree branches within the river with out occupied with the repercussion. After that incident, their cultivation suffered and the household economic system collapsed. They struggled for meals and would starve more often than not. Soon, they realised that that they had earned the wrath of Karama deity by insulting her and sought recommendation of the village priest. Following his directions, the brothers looked for the deity and managed to deliver her house with all respect. Their situation as soon as once more improved and since then Karama competition is well known among the many indigenous peoples of this area.

Another legend goes on to state service provider was returning house by water route with a great deal of valuables after doing good enterprise. He waited for his spouse and kin who have been purported to welcome him and his vessel’s crew. But to his frustration, nobody turned up. After ready for lengthy, he rushed to his house solely to find his relations celebrating Karama competition. Infuriated, he uprooted the Karama twigs and threw them away. Then he went to unload the property from his vessel. But it was to not be. The vessel had sunk within the water by the point he reached the shore. Soon, he realised his blunder and bowed earlier than the goddess looking for retrieval of wealth. The goddess listened to his prayers and the service provider obtained his wealth again. Since then, individuals from the tribal neighborhood have been celebrating the competition.