Saturday, May 29, 2010

Friday, May 21, 2010

Master at Work

State Award Winner Sri Purna Chandra Dutta is in work.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Shitalpati of Coochbihar

For last few days we are at the fringe of Coochbihar city. I will write later Just enjoy some of the photos of shirtalpati of Ghughumari.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010



The Origin Of Paan
The betel leaf is popularly known as paan India. It is a medicinal plant whose leaves are taken as a spice. Paan is evergreen and available all round the year. The leaves are glossy and heart shaped. It grows to about 1 metre in height. Paan belongs to the division of magnoliophyta in the plant kingdom. This slender aromatic creeper with long stalks class is magnolipsida, order is piperales, family is piperaceae, genus is piper and the species is P.betle.
It is grown extensively in India. Malaysia is said to be country of origin. At one time it covered the Far East, India and went on to Madagascar and East Africa. There are many varieties of betel leaves and the best one is called magahi from the region of Magadh, which is in Bihar,India. In Tamil it is named vetrilai.
From the leaves of paan betel oil is obtained which belong to allylbenzene group of compounds – chavibetol, chavicol, estragole, eugenol methyl eugenol and also hydroxycatechol. Also present are two monoterpenes and two monoterpenoids, together with eucalyptol as well as carvacrol. In addition two sesquiterpenes are also present.
Warm humid climate is ideal for the cultivation of paan, which is a fast growing creeper. It can tolerate some amount of drought but is too sensitive to grow in regions outside the tropical belt. The flowers are white and become greenish brown upon maturing. Root division like cuttings is used for propagation. This is done in spring and summer. The soil has to be rich and there must be sufficient shade. It requires regular caring with plenty of nourishment and water. It will thrive in winter if shifted to a warm cozy niche.
The paan leaves are generally chewed either by itself or in combination with slaked lime, betel nuts (areca variety) and other exotic stuff like aniseed and sometimes tobacco etc. Preparation of paan is an art and the secret technique is passed down from generation to generation. An entire caste is engaged in this. Chewingthe leaves and nuts promotes red colored stimulating salivation. This has been in practice for thousands of years. It was a craze among aristocrats. There are several ways a paan can be folded. This it is a special branch of the paan culture. Asian history is incomplete without the paan.
Paan is a vital part of Hindu life. Money is placed on it while payments are made to priests. In Bengali weddings the bride enters the marriage podium covering her face with two palm leaves. She will remove them at the auspicious time of exchange of first glances with the groom. All through the ceremony she will keep two whole betel nuts tucked in her cheeks. A tray full of well-decorated paan is an essential part of the wedding trousseau. The fish too has an important role in the wedding. The fish is dressed as a bride with vermilion and a nose ring together with a folded paan in its mouth. Bengali grooms go to the house of bride carrying a betel nut cracker. These used to be made of silver, gold or brass and were exquisitely carved making them a collector’s delight today. As a gesture of hospitality, all overIndia , paan is offered and is considered to be very holy. At one time paan served the purpose of lipstick. The pouting red lips of young women have been the theme of many folk songs as well as classical literature.
Medinipur and 24 Paraganas districts are the main producing centres of Paan. The famous Benarasi pan are the leaf from Bengal. 
The paan is also a part of Vietnamese culture. There is a saying that the betel leaf starts off the conversation. It kicks off formal gatherings and sort of breaks the ice. In South East Asia the groom, as a token of exchange, traditionally offers the parents of the bride paan. The phrase ‘matters of betel and areca’ are synonymous with marriage in Vietnam.
Paan is an antiseptic that freshens the breath and is also an ayurvedic aphrodisiac medicine. Myriad are the uses of paan. It cures headaches, joint pain and arthritis as well as toothaches. In some places it serves the purpose of an antibiotic and a digestive medicine. It cures constipation, congestion and helps in lactation. It even helps in ridding the body of worms. Unani stream of medicine claims that paan is a sweet smelling stimulant that prevents flatulency. It stops bleeding. Applying heated paan as a foment, especially in the case of children cures stomach troubles. Drinking betel leaves boiled with black pepper can cure indigestion. An application of ground paan leaves on the temples, or few drops of its juice on the nostrils, gives relief from headaches. In cases of acute constipation a well-greased stalk can be inserted in the rectum can give instant relief to children. Paan leaves placed on an open wound works wonders within a day or two. Greased with oils and placed on the breasts of nursing mothers, paan promotes lactation. Eating paan is good for colds and coughs. In acute cases heat the leaf and rub it with oil on the chest. Coriander and mint kept tucked in paan retain their freshness. It may be taken as a concoction of tea for good health. This eliminates body odour emanating from sweat and menstruation. Gums and teeth are kept healthy by chewing it. Betel leaves relieves nerve disorders, exhaustion and pain and in many cases a concoction with diluted sweetened milk eases urination. Mixed with honey it is a good tonic. It helps in respiratory trouble that affects the lungs of young and old. Sore throat, inflammation is cured with the local application of paan paste. Boils can be treated with paan.
Scientists in Calcutta (Indian Institute of Chemical Biology) claim that in paan lies a potential cure for leukemia. A molecule from it has destroyed cancer cell without harmful side effects. This discovery has led to the experiment being carried out in other parts of the West and Japan. In all cases leukemia cells are totally destroyed. The same effect showed on experiments with mice. Clinical trials with humans have yet to be started. If successful, cancer treatment will become cheap and affordable. The journal of the Hematological Society of America has accepted this study for publication in its journal. There is a growing fear about the connection between paan and oral cancer but this has not been conclusively established
Paan is often used for cooking. Meat is cooked wrapped in paan leaves and cooked. Other fillings like shrimps, shallots and peanuts are often used inSouth East Asia. Platters are decorated with paan leaves.
Reference to the use of betel leaf goes back more than two thousand years, in an ancient Pli book of Srilanka, ‘Mahawamsa’. In the Vedas too there is reference to paan being the first offering to the guru. Bulath Pdhaya is a special dance mentioned in the Kohomba Kankariya of Srilanka. According to legend a king was troubled by divodasa – a recurring nightmare that made him ill. But a dance carrying paan leaves performed before the king cured him. Here the sacred and practical are entwined in poetic beauty excellence. The West too has taken up the paan culture with gusto.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Malangi Revolt of Medinipur (1793-1804)

The East India Company,that took over the rule of Bengal in 1772, monopolized the profitable salt-business in 1781.The Salt Department was created and,towards the end of the century,Contai or Kanthi became its headquarter.From Nimak Mahal (Salt Factory)built on a sand – mound at Contai in 1788,the business of the coastal area was conducted. The salt of East Cost used to exported to the outside wold for thousands of Years by the marchants.

Situation before the Company
Till the Mughal period traders used to purchase the salts from the Malangis. They were not in a mood to control the production process. The production was controlled by the rural peasantry.

Later when Company invade to rule Bengal, the industrial revolution was started in the Western hemisphere and salt became one of the important ingredient of any heavy industry over the world. So the British traders trying to control not only the trading process, but poke their nose in to mode of production of salt to control the salt trade and maximize the profit.

The historical papers suggests that the control of the companies was so cruel that they did forced the salt grower farmers to render more and more tax on the salt which was practically unbearable.

Production of Salt & the Malangis:
Salt was produced from the saline earth of the low-land areas often flooded by the sea.It was a strenuous job to produce salt from saline earth and water by means of evaporation and filtration process.Only poor people would agree to engage themselves in this job and very often workers were forced to do it. The workers who produced salt were called the Malangis.

Their Grievances
The exploitation was stretched to the extreme point .Wages were very low.Workers were sometimes forced to work gratis.They would have give presents to the company personnel. The work was so unpaying, so laboursome and loathsome to some that they tried to flee.

The Malangis, to redress their grievances, formed a crisis committee in 1793. the leaders were Ram Dinda, Bhawagan Maity, Haru Mandal, Haru Patra, Jaydev Sahu and Baisnav Bhunia. On 29th April, 1800, Malangis from Birkul, Digha, & Mirgoda came in procession to Kanthi. The Malangi leader of Birkul, Balai Kundu, lead the procession. They made the salt-agents and handed a petition to him but to no effect.

Premananda or Paramananda
In Tamluk – Hijli – Kanthi region, 60 thousand Malangis were engaged in salt – producing job. Agitation spread all over the area. In 1804, Paramananda (alias, Premamanda) Sarkar united the Malangis of all salt producing centers of the area. They laid seige to the salt agency headquarter at Kanthi.When the leader Mr. Sarkar was arrested, the Malangis were greately agitated and the situation went out of control. Only when all the demands of the Malangis were conceded, the movement come to an end.

About Midnapore district the British Govt. remarked, “It is a land of Revolt”. The Government that had to confront so many revolts and uprisings here that it was natural for it to make the remark. And regarding the participation of people in these uprisings, irrespective of sex, age, social rank or class, the coastal area of the district including Contai Sub-Division claims special mentioning. The history of the Sub-Division from 1905 to 1942 will easily substantiate this claim.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Hul - The Santal Rebelion

Santal Hul was one of the fiercest battles in the history of Indian freedom struggles causing greatest number of loss of lives in any battles during that time. The number of causalities of Santal Hul was 20,000 according to Hunter who wrote it in annals of Rural Bengal.  The Santal Hul of 1855-57 was master minded by four brothers Sidhu, Kahnu, Chand and Bhairav; a heroic episode in India's prolonged struggle for freedom. It was, in all probability, the fiercest liberation movement in India next to Great Sepoy Mutiny in 1857.
With the capture of political power of India by the East India Company, the natural habitats of the Adivasi (indigenous) people including the Santals began to shatter by the intruders like moneylenders. Traders and revenue farmers, who descended upon them in large numbers under the patronage of the Company.
Believe it or not, the rate of interest on loan to the poor and illiterate Santals varied from 50% to 500%. These intruders were, needless to mention the crucial links in the chain of ruthless exploitation under colonial rule. They were the instruments through which the indigenous groups and tribes were brought within the influence and control of the colonial economy.
Discontent had been simmering in the Santal Paraganas( presently in Jharkhand ) from the early decades of the nineteenth century owing to most naked exploitation of the indigenous Santals by both the British authorities and their collaborators, native immigrants.
Sido Murmu and Kanhu Murmu, hailing from the village Bhognadih in Sahibganj district, had long been brooding over the injustices perpetrated by the oppressors like hundreds and hundreds of their tribe's men. The situation finally reached a flash point and, not surprisingly, a small episode that took place in July 1855 triggered one of the fiercest uprisings that the British administration ever faced in India.
The emergence of Sido and Kanhu, youthful, dynamic and charismatic, provided a rallying point for the Santals to revolt against the oppressors .On 30th June 1855, a large number of Santals assembled in a field in Bhagnadihi village of Santal Paragana, They declared themselves as free and took oath under the leadership of Sido Murmu and Kanhu Murmu to fight unto the last against the British rulers as well as their agents.
Militant mood of the Santals frightened the authority. A Police agent confronted them on the 7th July and tried to place the Murmu brothers under arrest. The angry crowd reacted violently and killed the Police agent and his companions. The event sparked off a series of confrontations with the Company's Army and subsequently reached the scale of a full-fledged war.
At the outset, Santal rebels, led by Sido and Kanhu, made tremendous gains and captured control over a large tract of the country extending from Rajmahal hills in Bhagalpur district to Sainthia in Birbhum district. For the time being, British rule in this vast area became completely paralyzed.
Many moneylenders and native agents of the Company were killed. Local British administrators took shelter in the Pakur Fort to save their life. However, they rebel could not hold on to their gains due to the superior fire power of the East India Company came down heavily on them.
The courage, chivalry and sacrifice of the Santals were countered by the rulers with veritable butchery. Out of 50,000 Santal rebels, 15,000 20,000 were killed by the British Indian Army. The Company was finally able to suppress the rebellion in 1856, though some outbreaks continued till 1857.
The Santals showed great bravery and incredible courage in the struggle against the military. As long as their national drums continued beating, the whole party would stand and allow themselves to be shot down. There was no sign of yielding. Once forty Santals refused to surrender and took shelter inside a mud house. The troops surrounded the mud house and fired at them but Santals replied with their arrows. Then Soldiers made big hole through muddy wall, and the Captain ordered them surrender but they again shot a volley of arrows through the hole and Captain again asked them to surrender but they continued shooting arrows. Some of the soldiers were wounded. At last when the discharge of arrows from the door slackened, the Captain went inside the room with soldiers. He found only one  old man grievously wounded, standing erect among the dead bodies. The soldier asked him to throw away arms, but instead he rushed on him and killed him with his battle axe.
It is believed that Sido was captured by the British forces through treachery and Kanhu through an encounter at Uparbanda. And was subsequently killed in captivity. The Santal Hul, however, did not come to an end in vain. It had a long-lasting impact. Santal Parganas Tenancy Act was the outcome of this struggle, which dished out some sort of protection to the indigenous people from the ruthless colonial exploitation. The understanding the mistake, tired to appease the Santals by removing the genuine grievances. Santal territory was born. The regular police was abolished and the duty of keeping peace and order and arresting criminals was vested in the hands of parganait and village headman.

Sunday, May 9, 2010


GamchhaGamchha is a traditional Indian towel made up of thin coarse cotton fabric. Although it is normally used for drying one's body after bathing, gamcha serves other purposes also. It forms an important item of men's clothing, especially of those belonging to the lower sections of the Indian society. For instance, one often sees physical laborers, like coolies, construction workers and farmers, carrying a gamcha on their shoulders.

Gamcha is more popular among people from states like Bengal, Assam, Orissa, and so on. The term 'Gamchha' originates from the Bangla language and it means 'Wiping the Body'. You may also hear it being pronounced as gamchi by people of the Bihari community. The gamocha is used by the wearer in many ways. For instance, the coolies make a bun out of the traditional gamcha, which they keep on their head to carry the railway passenger's luggage.

Farmers keep the gamchha on their shoulders to wipe away the sweat while toiling in the scorching sun, the whole day long. Sometimes, they also spread it out on the ground like a mat and take a nap on it. In ancient India, travelers used the gamocha to carry food in it while journeying. It also forms one of the essential items offered to Indian deities during religious ceremonies. Perhaps, the best thing about a gamchha is that being thin, it does not take long to dry and thus can be used many times during a day.

A mix of checks and stripes in red, orange and green is the most common print of the Indian gamcha, though a white gamchha is also not uncommon. Plain white gamchhas with colored, embroidered or printed borders are very popular in the states of Orissa and Assam. Here, they are made by the local weavers on the handlooms. Despite the availability of branded fancy towels in the market, the gamcha still remains a very popular item of a man's personal use. 
Kalaboti Mudra is trying to create a different usage of this products. It is producing various articles using gamcha and other folk objects. 

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Tusu Dance

Tusu DanceWest Bengal is a land of rich culture and lots of festivity. Almost every region in the state has a specific folk dance and music attached to it. These folk traditions are basically related to some specific season of festival. The Tusu Dance of Birbhum district is one of them. It is basically performed in the month of Pausa, during the Gregorian months of December and January. The dance is basically related to the Tusu Parab (Tusu Festival), which is celebrated on the day of Makar Sankranti.

Tusu dance is basically the celebration of the arrival of an auspicious and pleasant season. Groups of girls from the district go to the riverside every evening, in the Pausa month, to sing and perform. On the day of Makar Sankranti, they gather together at the riverside, to worship the clay and cowdung idol of Goddess Tusu. They sing and perform dances in front of the deity, asking for a good groom. The dance is very elegant and graceful and creates a wonderful atmosphere, when accompanied by a melodious song from the rich collection of Tusu music.

The entire Tusu dance has traditional-folk essence attached to it. The dance is performed by men as well, when it is known as ' Bhaduriya Saila'. In Tusu dance man move in clockwise direction and the women in anti-clockwise direction. It is basically performed by unmarried girls and boys and at some places, it is mandatory to be performed by a virgin girl. It is customary for the dancers to take a ceremonial bath in the river before this performance. The dance is performed in groups and is simple in nature, without any accompanying musical instrument.



West Bengal is well known for its pottery. It is an indigenous handiwork in the state from an ancient time. Tulsimancha is mainly found in the district of Midnapore. It is made from clay or it is generally built of bricks. This kind of structure is usually like an earthen tub. It is used for religious purposes.

Pottery of West Bengal in India is generally a profession where the women of the village are actively involved. The art of pottery is still prevalent in the districts of Murshidabad, Bankura and Midnapore. Tulsimancha is one type of decorative pottery that is very much popular in Midnapore than any other districts of West Bengal.

The Tulsimancha is a built in the manner of a pedestal raised for about three to four feet from the ground. The diameter of this structure is generally about one and half to only two feet. The borders of it are curved on all sides. The shape of Tulsimancha can vary from a rectangular, octagonal or hexagonal structure. The motifs that are made on every sides of the Tulsimancha, are usually of Hindu gods and goddesses. Especially the images of Krishna and Radha are drawn on the Tulsimancha.

The Tulsimancha is erected on the ground and it gradually widens at the base. After filling this brick-built structure with earth, a Tulsi or Basil plant is planted. The Tulsi plant is considered to be very holy and pure to the diligent Hindus. Tulsi plant is worshiped by the women in the Hindu households for the well being of the family.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


by Wing Commander Mir Ali Akhtar (Retired) and David Courtney
The history of the vaoaiya folk song, like the history of most folk arts, is not always clear.  It is believed that the vaoaiya originated in the Rangpur Districts and the Koch Behar.  Many believe that it is traceable back to the 14th and 15th century.
The first scholarly approach to the subject of vaoaiya appears to be the work of Sir Abraham Grierson (1851-1941).  He was a former British Deputy Collector of the Rangpur district.  He collected two vaoaiya lyrics 1898 and used them as an example of the local dialect.  It is published in his book Linguistic Survey of India (1903), Vol-V, Part-I.
The term "vaoaiya" is of uncertain origin.  Due to varying pronunciations, it is also often transliterated as "Bhawaia".  When one looks at the history of the usage of word, as well as the history of the folk-song, many inconsistencies are seen.
Several different etymologies have been proposed.  It has been suggested by late Shibendro Narayan Mondol of Goripur Assam, that the term vaoaiya is derived from the term "bhava"vaoaiya" originated from the term "vabaiya" means "that which inspires contemplation". which means emotion.  This is consistent with the themes of love which are the predominant emotion of this folk-song.  However a somewhat different view was put forward by the Late Dormonarayan Voktishashtree of Kaligonj, Lalmonirhat, Rangpur.  He suggests that term "
These two etymologies may not be as conflicting as they might on the surface appear.  It is certainly possible that there is a linguistic link between the Sanskrit "bhava" and the vernacular "vabaiya".  If so then, both etymologies may be considered to be somewhat related.
The usage of the term "vaoaiya " is not universally accepted.  If one goes to very isolated areas, people may sing the vaoaiya folk-song, but are unaware of the term. (1999/Boidder bazaar; 2003, Roumari).  Even as late as 1903 in Sir Abraham Grierson in his Linguistic Survey of India, he uses some well known vaoaiya lyrics to illustrate dialects of the area, but does not use the term vaoaiya.
In all probability the songs have been in the region for a very long time, but the term seems to have arisen relatively recently.  It appears that these songs were originally referred and named by its subject or main hero of the lyrics.  Therefore a vaoaiya lyric about trapped crane (boga)bogar-gaan (song about he crane), another vaoaiya about (bull-cart driver) would be called gaariaal vai.  A song about the chilmari river port, would be called chilmarir-gaan. such designations are still used by folk musicians today.  However sometime between 1887 and 1903 the term "vaoaiya" came into usage. was famous as
The geographical distribution of the vaoaiya folk song covers much of the Rangpuri (dialect of Bengali) speaking areas of northern Bangladesh.  Precisely vaoaiya is the mainstream folk-song of the Dhorla, Dhudhkumar, Tista, Brahmaputtra river basin area.  The vaoaiya is also found in the Koch Behar, Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling (Torai), and Goalpara area of Assam where the Rangpuri/Rajbangshi dialect is also spoken.
This folk-song is sung in a rustic dialect of Bengali (a.k.a.  Bangla or Banga Bhasha).  The various dialects of Bengali are part of the Eastern group of Indo-European family of languages.  The particular, dialect in which most vaoaiya folk-songs are found is Rangpuri, otherwise known as "Rajbongshi".  Word "Rajbongshi" is the name of a very powerful race of this once Non-Aryan land.  Rajbongshi dialect was frequently called Rangpuri and derives its name from one of the Districts in which it is spoken.
In 1903 -1878 the following numbers of people used to speak in Rangpuri or Rajbongshi dialect areawise:
  • Rangpur: 2,037,460
  • Cooch Behar: 562,500
  • Jalpaiguri: 568,976
  • Darjiling (Tarai) : 47,435
  • Goalpara : 292,000
The performance of the vaoaiya uses a very stylised and exaggerated use of aspirations.  These aspirations are much more pronounced than the aspirations normally found in the day-to-day dialects of Bengali.  This produces a very characteristic performance style that is much appreciated by the connoisseurs of this rustic art-form.  However, since the use of these exaggerated aspirations carries no linguistic consideration, it is better to consider this to be a musical ornamentation rather than a linguistic characteristic.  As such, we will return to the topic later.
The vaoaiya folk-song must be seen in the context of its rural social environment.  We will look at the social aspects of the vaoaiya from four standpoints.  We will look at the connection with the agricultural work; the performance within the folk theatres, the instruction and propagation of the art form, and gender associations.
The most common situation in which this folk-song will be performed is within the context of agricultural labour.  These songs are commonly sung while farmers are at work, during breaks, and to relieve the monotony and loneliness at night when they are off in the fields, or otherwise away from home.  These working class villagers are always on the move due to the nature of their jobs, therefore, it is a form of entertainment that is well suited to their lifestyle.
The connection between folk-song and agricultural labour, is very strong.  For instance some types of songs have completely disappeared as the particular form of labour disappeared.  For instance the dolabarir-gaan (songs of low-land cultivation), vuinira-gaan (weed-picking songs), gatar-gaan (songs of communal cultivation), have completely disappeared as these particular jobs disappeared.
This folk song may be closely associated with labour, however in the not too distant past, the vaoaiya broke out of its traditional agricultural setting and found a new home in the folk theatre.  It became very important for three types of theatre.  These were the kushan, dotora-gaan and poddopuran.  Of these three dotora-gaan is no longer extant.
There is a new setting which is beginning to emerge.  Due to a renaissance in Bengali culture, urban dwellers are now beginning to attend concerts and performances of folk music.  Today the vaoaiya and other Bengali folk music may be seen and heard on stages and in theatres in the cities. 
There are a number of positive aspects of this new form of consumption of the art.  There has been the positive effect of giving traditional folk musicians additional sources of income.  It serves to preserve forms of folk-song that might disappear due to changing social, agricultural, and economic conditions in the villages.  It also raises the awareness of folk art-forms in areas outside of the districts where they have traditionally been performed.  However we must also remember that taking the folk music outside of its traditional environment begins to alter its fundamental nature.  For the same reason that zoos are not a substitute for preservation of natural wildlife, in the same way, the rise in popularity of folk theatre in non-traditional; urban settings is not a panacea for the loss of rural cultures.
For any art-form to thrive, there must also be a vibrant system for its instruction and propagation.  The instruction for the vaoaiya folk-song is typical of instruction of folk music throughout South Asia.  It is strictly an oral tradition.  However unlike the formalised systems of training which are typical of the classical traditions, (e.g. Hindustani Sangeet), this oral tradition is significantly less formalised.  As such, you occasionally find material transmitted from teacher to student within the confines of a moderately structured theatre group, but it is more likely that the folk-songs are simply absorbed organically in the same way that other aspects of culture (e.g., food, languages, religious beliefs) are transmitted. 
There are strong gender associations in the vaoaiya.  Although the themes of the songs often were those of the feelings of women, the vaoaiya were usually composed and performed by men.  It is interesting to look at this fact from the standpoint of women's rights.  Where the urban Bengali male only became vocal concerning women's rights after mid 20th century, the performers and composers of this folk-song were showing these same concerns at least a century or two earlier.  In someway those folks may be considered to be pioneers in this movement.  Can this be considered to be a proto-feminist movement?
It must be noted that simply being concerned about the condition of women is not the same as the empowerment of women.  The fact that women originally did not sing the vaoaiya, does raise questions about it feminist credentials.  However in recent years, there has been a rise in of feminist school of thought which actively embrace the concept of essentialism.  The non-participation of women in the performance of the vaoaiya may be merely a rural acknowledgement of this basic essentialism, specifically in regards to the division of labour.  With the ever widening definitions and scope of feminism, it is arguable that the traditional vaoaiya may have elements of essentialist feminist thought.
Ultimately these discussions of whether vaoaiya may be considered to represent a form of essentialist based feminism is of absolutely no importance for several reasons.  First, I believe that most people would praise the efforts and sentiments of the pro-women stance, but would balk at its inclusion into the relatively narrow definitions of feminism.  Secondly it is a mere academic exercise attempting to force an element of Bengali folk culture into a largely irrelevant Western intellectual cubby-hole.  Finally, the conditions have totally changed since the 1950's.  From that time on, women have been singing and performing the vaoaiya; therefore the non-participation of women has been a non-issue for half a century.
The social settings are certainly important for the production and consumption of this artform, but this naturally leads us to some other topics.  We have already alluded to the fact that these settings are reflected in the subject matter of the songs.  It is therefore appropriate for us to take a much closer look at the themes and subject matter of these songs.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Monday, May 3, 2010

Rituals And Festivals Of The Ho Tribe

(Last Part)
In some cases it is also observed that some of the educated/retired (from service) Hos, who are living in their native village, worship their traditional Bongas like, Singhbonga, Marangbonga and Dessauli etc. during their festive occasions and simultaneously they also worship the Hindu deities both in their family and village levels. Example may be cited of Mr. Satrughan Bari (M/42) of village Sunamara of Jamda block of Mayurbhanj district, who is a retired army person believes and worships his traditional deities at his village but when he purchased a bajaj kawasaki motorcycle in 1999 he bought it to his nearest Hindu temple to take blessings of deity. Besides, before he starts his motorcycle he utters the name of a deity, who is from Hindu religion. Similarly, lord Ganesh and Devi Saraswati are being worshipped each year regularly in their village school officiated by a Hindu priest. Another example may be cited here, that of Miss Subasini Singh (F/37), who is working as a nurse at village Kulgi, is highly qualified and she is living with the adherents of wider Hindu pantheon. She speaks and writes Oriya for communication and worships Hindu deities like lord Ganash, devi Saraswati and devi Laxmi etc. each day in her house. Her villagers celebrate Saraswati puja in their village. They also perform Soni-mela in their houses. Once she was also worshipping Sontoshimata continuously for fourteen Fridays for fulfilling some of her desires. We may also summarize that women folk in simple tribal societies are more prone to adoption of multifarious religious traditions seeking fulfillment of their desires. Duary has studied the Hos of Chaibasa area where also we noticed element of synthesis of dual religious beliefs. He has obversed that " many Ho people go to the local temple twice or thrice a week to make offerings of fruit, flower and incense like their Hindu brethren. Like wise whenever they purchase a new vehicle they visit a Hindu temple preferably the Kali temple to seek her blessings" (2000: 187).
Tusu vasani is the main attraction of the Makar Sakranti or Makar parab which is celebrated, basically by the Hindu caste people, in almost all part of south Jharkhand and north Orissa in the month of January. This festival is also popularly known as Tusu parab. During this festival the villagers prepare an image of Tusu devi and worship her. On the fixed date the villagers from all neighbouring villages gather their Tusus in a common place nearer to any water source, where they sing Tusu songs and dance. Finally they immerse their images. The Hos of Mayurbhanj district in general and the Hos of Bahalda, Tiring, Jharadihi, Jamda, Gorumahisani, Rairangpur and Badampahar area in particular also participate in this Tusu parab directly or indirectly. They go to their nearer Tusu vasani centres like Ranibandh, Satikudar (Rairangpur), Ghumal, Gambharia, Kulgi, Bahalda, Basingi, Mahulpani and Paharpur etc. on different fixed date and enjoy the festival with great joy.
The use of different types of colour papers, ribbons, flags, plastic flowers, colour powders is also evident during their different puja and festivals. "In some cases the Ho people also use the mango leaves, tulsi sakam (basil leaves) and da (water). It is probably borrowed from the neighboring Hindu society" (Duary 2000:187).
According to Majumdar most of the malevolent Bongas of the Hos are not their own and seems to have come from some Hindu equivalent deities found among the neighbouring Oriyas. As per him the Gara Satamai of Ho is not other than the Devi Nai Bhagawati of the Oriya, which is perhaps a name for that spirit that presides over the tanks and ponds. Satamai is the impure word of Sat-ma, the stepmother, and the actual mother being Nage- bonga or the river goddess. At the time of analysing the Kar-bongako like, Suni kar, Rahu kar, Dinda kar and Chuhar kar he argued that "Kar is not a Ho word, it is the same word as Kal, the destroyer, and is associated with ‘time’. The word Kali that signifies the goddess of that name in popular Hinduism is derived from the same word Kal. Suni kar, Rahu kar are none other than the planets Sani (saturn) and Rahu, known to the Hindus as Kal…….The word Chandi (Another name for Kali) is taken from the Hindus, particularly from the Oriyas. For example, Bisai Chandi (poisonous), Ranga Chandi (blood thirty or red), Chinta Dain and Kaltud (a corruption of Kalketu), Jugini-bonga is none other than Jugini, who with her counter part Dakini is said to accompany Kali or Chandi" (Majumdar 1950 :255-256). From this statement of Majumdar it is clear that most of the deities worshipped by the Hos during the different festivals are not of their own, but are borrowed from their neighbouring Hindus. We see here a long process of adoption of several deities from the dominant Hindu neighbours and moulding the original names to tribal pattern of vocabulary.
The popularity of Manasa Devi (A Hindu goddess, believed as a daughter of Lord Shiva who presides over snakes) is not only limited among the Hindus it is equally popular among the tribes (particularly of the Hos) of the region. The entire Kolhan area as well as its neighbouring areas are covered with hills and forests and the people of the region are very much dependent on their local ecology. Everyday they move in and around the dense jungle in search of games and other forest products. As different types of poisonous snakes are abundant in this forest ecology, there is much possibility of snakebites. Therefore, the Hindus of the region worship Devi Manasa for protection. In the earlier days, the Hos were trying to cure the victims of such accident by their own traditional methods. However, sometimes they were unable to protect the lives of the victims. Because of the insufficiency in their own method it encouraged a number of Hos to force to worship this Hindu goddess. Therefore, the Hos of the region adopted this alien goddess and started worshipping, which gradually got assimilated in their culture. According to Chatterjee and Das (1927:59) the people of Purti khili (of Ho tribe) of village Nohadi, which is situated near to the town of Saraikella, worship goddess Manasa to whom they offer sweets and flowers and before whom they sacrifice fowls and goats.
The religious syncretism is again noticed in the Ho, which is adopted. There are many Akharas (training centres) functioning in different parts of the region where a number of tribal and non-tribal people are learning incantations (mantras) from their Gurus or teachers. According to Majumdar "a number of young men have learnt the spells and prayers to this goddess as a protection against snake-bite, and as a method of driving the poison from the system. The Guru or teacher is usually an Oriya Ojha, who teaches spectacular methods of invoking the goddess. Mantras which are nothing but names of Hindu gods and goddess with their modes of worship, the details of the offerings of which they are fond, and stories of the assistance they have rendered to this or that individual in times of calamity. They are muttered and sung in such a sing-song tune that very few could understand them. They were mostly in Bengali spoken in Oriya style"(1950: 360-361). According to Majumdar in every fortnight, two days before the Amabashya or the new moon the Guru set in meditation under a tamarind tree. He decorates his forerhead with vermilion and place plates of Arua rice and banana cut into small pieces on his either side. Besides these offerings he (Guru) also keeps a few leaf cups of illi (rice bear). If we analyse these offerings it will be evident that though the tribals adopted their alien deities, they worship them in their own methods which includes both the Hinduised methods of worship along with their tribal method of worship.
All the tribal communities of the studied region have a very strong belief in witchcraft. Continuation of any kind of disease for a long time is regarded as the action of Dian (witch) or evil Bongas. These Dians are generally elderly women members of their society. Though some of the aged women are generally treated as Dian, irrespective of all age group they can learn the Dian bidya (the technique of witch craft). In the night of Amabashya the Dians go to their nearby Smashan (burial place) where they change their cloths and wear broom sticks at their waist and dance around the tree. Some times they supposed to have intercourse with the malevolent Bongas or spirits so as to acquire power to bring any type of natural calamity in their region or to harm their enemies or to kill. Ojha or Deonwa is the traditional medicine man among the tribes who tries to find out the causes of disease of the people and their solutions.
According to Das Gupta, the belief in Dian among the Ho is due to culture contact of Hindu where they belief in their Bongas (both benevolent and malevolent) as well as sacrifice to them their indigenous procedure through Dehuri to get rid of the problems. He further stated that the Deonwas cult is not originally of the Ho and is borrowed from the neighbouring ‘low’ Hindu caste people. Most of these Deonwas belong to Gouda (milkman) caste of Hindu. The Guru of these Deonwas is again from the Hindu community, who trains the Deonwas in their Akhara. As mentioned above the Mantras are nothing but the names of different Hindu god and goddess, and which are rearranged with some Hindi words. It shows a clear-cut influence of Hindu cultural elements in the Ho community (1978:86-90).
Whenever a Ho suffers from the severe disease they, usually, take the help of a Deonwa, who tries to detect the causes, whether it is happened due to some evil Bongas or Dian or some other causes. Some times, he first gives some herbal medicines and if he was unsuccessful, he tries to detect its actual cause. He usually follows two types of methods for identifying the causes. First of all, he checks the pulse rate at the hand where high pulse rate signifies about the influence of unnatural causes. Secondly, he grinds some Arua rice along with sindur either in a sarjom sakam or on a hata. Failure in traditional methods of treatment forced them to bring the patient to their nearby hospital. However, some times it is also noticed that they yet continue their traditional method of treatment simultaneously with the modern medicines.
Most of the rituals and festivals of the present studied tribe are associated with their agricultural activities, which is celebrated during their different stages of agricultural session. Due to the regular contact with the wider Hindu pantheon, spread of education, popularity of printed and electronic medias, availability of easy communication facility they gradually have started to adopt some rituals and festivals of their neighboring people. They celebrate their traditional rituals and festivals at their village and house levels side by side participate in various religious activities of their neighbors. Finally, it may conclude that though some aspects of rituals and festivals of the Ho are highly influenced by the Hindu religion and practices their traditional rituals and festivals are still not much changed. Source:

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Rituals And Festivals Of The Ho Tribe

(Part II)
Concept of Saran
The Ho, the nature worshippers believe in Saran religion. The word Saran is derived from the word Sir (arrow). The place of worship of the Ho is known as Seneschal or Jarhead which is nothing but a sacred grove, where a set of old Sarcoma (Sal) trees exist. This Seneschal is usually present at a little distance of the village. In his first monumental work "Munda and their Country", Ray Abrader S.C.Roy (1912) has mentioned that "Although the greater portion of the primeval forest, in clearings of which the Munda villages were originally established, have since disappeared under the axe or under the jar-fire. Many a Munda village still retain a portion or portions of the original forest to serve as Saunas or sacred groves. In some Mandarin villages, only a small clump of ancient trees now represent the original forest and serves as the village-Saran. These saunas are the only temples the Munds know. Here the village- gods reside, and are periodically worshipped and propitiated with sacrifices"(1995:242). To describe Saran religion, Dalton (1872:56-57) and Dehorn (1906:124) have mentioned that it is composite in nature but as per Roy (1918:1) it is an organized system of spirits set on a background of vague animism, which institutionally recognizes the deities and ancestral spirits.
Concept of Bongo
The Ho believe in a number of gods and goddesses as well as some benevolent and maleficent spirits who reside in and around the hills, forests, agricultural lands and their village premises. They also worship their Buras Bury (ancestral spirits) inside their aiding (kitchen). The Ho call all their deities and spirits as Bongo and according to them these Bongos are non-anthropomorphic. Thus, Bongo is the generic term, which is used to signify power and spirit. The same term (Bongo) is also used by the Sandals and Munds of the region. According to Bodding (1942) "All the spirits worshipped by the Santhals are called Bongo". Similarly, Mital (1986:69) has mentioned that "The Bongos among the Santhals are not bound by temporal bodies. The Bongo world of the Santhals includes the benevolent ancestral Bongos as well as the malevolent demons which are worshipped and appeased out of deviation and fear. The major element of Santhal religion is the belief that they are totally of Bongos surrounded by Bongos. These Bongos reside in the house, village, forest and even on the mountain". Similarly, Roy (1918) has mentioned that Munds worship two types– one Manita-bongas and other spirit. While describing about the Bongos of Ho, Majumdar (1950:264-267) has mentioned that "the word Bongo is a generic name, and is applied indiscriminately to refer to gods and spirits. The real meaning of Bongo is a power, a force, and the religion of the Ho may be called Bongaism. This power is so distinctly conceived by the Ho, that the belief in particular spirits may be destroyed without affecting their belief in Bongaism. The power, which we have called Bongo, is possessed by every individual, every animal, every plant, and every stream, rivulet, tank, rock, tree, forest field and mountain. It is possessed in greater or lesser degree by man, which gives him power over or makes him submit to others. When a man possesses a personality and weilds authority over others, he is a Bongaleka, i.e. a man like a Bongo. Bongo does not have any shape. It can take any form. Although the Ho believe in the beneficence of their Bongos, they also know that these Bongos can, and do punish or chastise them. Earthly failures, bodily afflictions, and materials losses are accounted for by the fact that they often disregarded the traditional rules of conduct, and fail to follow the mode of life, which alone can ensure a peaceful and happy existence on earth. Whenever they fall victims to a disease or an epidemic, when their crop fail, or their dexterity in hunting and fishing are of no avail, they first blame themselves and not to the Bongos". From this discussion, it is evident that the Ho believe both in benevolent and malevolent spirits. Some of the important Bongos of the Ho are Marangbonga, Singhbonga, and Dessauli .
The religious head of the Ho is known as Dehuri/Deuri, who is a mediator between Hor (man) and Bongos. He works as a priest and officiates in all the village or community level worships. The sources of diseases, illness, drought and any other calamity etc. appear to him through dream. He is not able to know about the role of a Bongo directly in his day-today life, but he gets to know about them only through dream.
The Ho worship these Bongos during different festivals as well as at the each mode of their life cycle rituals. As per the hierarchy or position of the Bongo they offer them flowers, arua rice, bel sakam, tulsi sakam and illi or diang and sacrifice sim (chicken) of different colour, boda/merom (unsterilised he-goat) etc. Serious illness is thought to be an influence of Bongo. The Ho worship them and sacrifice different types of birds/animals to get relief from it. According to Prasad (1961:107-108) and Duary (2000:184) the size/type or grade of sacrifice varies as per the quality of diseases. Initially they sacrifice a sim, if it does not give a good result then a merom is sacrificed. If this sacrifice of merom fails to produce relief then the sacrifice is increased one after another like a sheep or even a calf, cow or buffalo are then sacrificed.
Traditional Festivals
As a settled agricultural community, most of the festivals of the Ho are associated to their agricultural activities. Their festivals may be divided into two types namely, traditional and adopted. Apart from their domestic traditional rituals, they also worship different bongos communally either in their clan or village levels in different festivals. The traditional Ho festivals are communal in nature where the socio-religious as well as the recreational activities are performed simultaneously.
Some traditional festivals of the Ho, where their Bongos are worshipped in both family and village/community levels are described below.
(a) Mage Para
It is the principal festival of the Ho tribe. It is celebrated in the month of Mage (January-February), when the granaries are full of paddy. For welfare of the villagers, the Ho worship the Singhbonga and Dessauli along with some other Bongos of lesser importance during this festival. Different villagers celebrate this festival on different dates, but at one place it is celebrated for six days. The village Dehuri, with the help of other village headmen, fixes the date for festival and later it is declared in different public places and weekly market centers. Sometimes, they also send special messengers to different villages to invite their relatives. During the fixation of the date, they always take care about the date of the same festival of their neighboring/relatives' villages. They always try to give an opportunity to the people of their neighboring villages and relatives to come and attend their village festival and vice versa. During this festival, the Ho take illi or diang, sing Mage songs, and dance. "Songs with high dose of sex themes were sung by boys and girls from the Marring pare day onwards" (Das Gupta 1978:80). The youth of both sexes visit village to village and participate in their Mage festival which also provides them a scope to get acquainted with one another, which ultimately helps them to select their life partner. " In spite of this folk belief, the festival is otherwise thought to be recreational and smoothens the process of selecting life partners" (Mishra 1987:60).
According to the nature of celebration each day of the festival is named separately like, (1) Gawamara or Gawal, (2) Ote Illi or Ate Illi (3) Loyo or Sange Illi, (4) Marring Para or Marring Musing, (5) Basi Para or Mage Basi or Basi Musing and (6) Hanr Magea or Hanr Bongo or Har Bagia which are briefly described below.
(1) Gawamara or Gawal
The first day of Mage parab is known as the Gawamara or Gawal. On this day, the Ho worship their ancestral Bongos in their house for the betterment of their cattle. Besides this, no such communal worship is made. In the morning they gather at the house of Dehuri with grass saim ba, pulses, illi and busumhasa (soil from white ant mound) and places all these items on a spot besmeared with cow dung solution. A cow-boy, who imitates or symbolically represents a cow, moves around the spot for seven rounds after uttering some incarnations and take a little amount of illi from the spot. Following to it, the villagers take some grass from the spot and keep it at their cattle shed.
(2) Ote Illi (or) Ate Illi
On this particular day, the Ho offer illi to their Bongos. For this offering one member, preferably the head man, from each family carry a pot full of illi to Demur's house, where Dehuri and his wife sit on the Michaela/gander, each holding a push (sale leaf cup). The villagers give their illi to Josie (assistant of Dehuri). Then Josie pours a little illi in the push of Dehuri. Dehuri utters prayers in mind and offers it to different Bongos like Singbonga, Dessauli and Maghebonga. There after the Dehuri and his wife take a little illi from the push followed by the other villagers present there. Following to it dancing and singing continue until the late night.
(3) Loyo (or) Sange Illi
It is the day of purification when the Ho clean their courtyard, houses and granaries and plaster them with the cow dung solution. They also sprinkle this cow dung solution over all their utensils, agricultural implements as well as on the other daily use artifacts. The Josie cleans the jahera (the sacred grove generally located on the out- skirt of the village which is believed to be the place of their village bonga-Dessauli) along with the courtyard of Dehuri. Besides this, the Ho donor perform any kind of work in this day. They spend their time on dinning, drinking , singing and dancing.
(4) Marring parab (or) Musing-musing
This is the day of the main festival, when the Ho sacrifice some sims (chickens) to their Bongos and perform other rituals. In this day, Dehuri observes fast. Besides, he is not allowed to make any sexual relation with his wife in the night before. The village youth decorate the place of worship in the morning and in the mid day the Dehuri goes to their nearest water source for having purificatory bath. The Jomsim and the other villagers accompany him along with different musical instruments. After bath, they all come to their worship place with procession. They bring with them some dried rice, sim, puh, illi, da (water) and a weapon to sacrifice sims. Dehuri scatters some sun dried rice on the ground for the sims. It is believed as auspicious if these sims swallow these rice freely. Then Dehuri sacrifices these sims before different Bongas. The white sim is offered to Singbonga, red is to Dessauli and black is to Nagebonga. The first two sims are sacrificed, where the last one i.e. black sim is not killed and is let free. The villagers then stone it to death. At the time of worship both Jomsim and villagers assist the Dehuri in different aspects where the female members look it from a little distance. Then the villagers cook these sacrificed sims at Dehuri’s house and take along with illi. Dancing and singing with obscene song narrating the different organs of both sexes or inviting each other for sexual relation is followed by it and continues till the late hour of the night.
(5) Basi parab (or) Basi musing (or) Maghe basi
It is the day when the Ho gives good-bye to their all invited Bongas. They offer the cooked food and illi to their ancestral Bongas at their aading. In this day Deonwa (the diviner or medicine man) worships the Bongas at his courtyard and sacrifice sim.
(6) Hanr Maghe (or) Hanr Bonga (or) Har Bagia
It is the typical day of this festival when the malevolent Bongas are driven out from the village. In the mid-day the village boys come in groups and hit the roof and wall of houses with sticks with the belief that it expels all types of diseases and miseries from the village. They collect some rice, vegetables and sims from villagers and finally all gather at the out-skirt of the village, where they sacrifice sims and make a feast. Likewise, they finish their Maghe parab.
(b) Baha (or) Baha parab
In the Ho language, "Ba" means flower and from the name of the festival it is clear that this festival is related to the flowers, particularly with the indigenous flowers like Sarjom ba or Sal flower. This festival is also known as Phulbhanguni and is celebrated in the month of Chaitra (February-March) in honour of the village deity Dessauli. It continues for four days and each day has a separate name of importance. The first day is known as He sakam diang, second day is as Marang musing, third day is as Basi musing and the last day is as Bala badni.
The Ho collect Sarjom sakam (Sal leaf), Sarjom ba, Tila ba and Icha ba etc. from their nearby jungle on the first day of the festival, where as on the second day the Dehuri worships the Dessauli, Gram siri and Singhbonga as well as sacrifices sims and boda/merom (unsteralised he-goat) to these Bongas. He offers some ba to the Bongas and distributes other to the villagers. On the third day the Ho worship their ancestral Bongas at their aading, while the last day is meant for the expulsion of their invited Bongas. Eating, drinking of illi, singing and dancing are the other major parts of this festival. Irrespective of age and sex every Hos enjoy this festival. In brief, it is a traditional, flower festival when the nature is worshipped in village level to invoke good flowering.
(c) Rajasala (or) Raja parab
It is a regional festival of enjoyment, which falls during the Yethe chandu/Yoisthya (May-June). The Ho celebrate it in family level for two days. In this festival neither any sacrifice is made nor any worship is done. It is the time of rest and during this festive period any kind of agricultural work is strictly prohibited. Group dancing, singing and taking of illi is the major features of this festival.
(d) Hero parab
It is essentially related to the agricultural activities which is celebrated for three days during the hero chandu/ashar (June-July) for sufficient rains and bumper crops. On the first day of the festival, the Ho collect, Sarjom sakam from jungle and clean their houses and courtyards. On the second day Dehuri worships Dessauli Bonga either at their paddy field or at the Kolom or threshing ground or at their courtyard. He offers arua rice and bel sakam (wood apple leaves) and sacrifices a sim or a boda/merom to her. After that the other villagers follow the method of worship of the Dehuri and even who does not have any landed property worship the Bonga in the same manner. In the evening, they offer the cooked food and illi to their ancestral Bongas at their aading and then the recreational part of the festival starts. On the last day Dehuri worships their Bongas and initiates sowing seeds on the land which is followed by the villagers.
(e) Bahtauli parab
This festival is also connected with the activities, which falls during the Bahare chandu or Sarvana (July-August). In this festival Dehuri, worships the Dessauli Bonga at Jahera for protecting their paddy fields from the insects and pests as well as for yielding bumper crops. There is no particular date for this festival. Before its celebration the Dehuri worships the Dessauli Bonga at Jahera and fixes a date, which is accepted by all the villagers. On the day of festival the Hos offer a tiril sakam (Kendu leaf) and sacrifice a sim at Jahera. On the preceding day each family erect a twig of tiril tree in their own paddy fields.
(f) Jamnawa parab
It is a harvesting festival. During this festival, the Ho communally offer the newly harvested paddy to their Bongas. On this day the Ho consume their new rice first, even if they have harvested it much before. This festival is equivalent to the Nua Khai or Nua Khia parab of the Oriyas, which is celebrated in the month of Aswina (September-October) of each year. Like some of the other festivals it has also no fixed date. The Dehuri, the Munda and other headman of the village as per their convenience fix the date. Even some times it is also evident that the Ho from the same village celebrate it in different days.
On the fixed day the Dehuri worships the Dessauli Bonga along with some other Bongas and sacrifices sim for them. Sometimes, some other headmen of the village can also perform this worship. The villagers worship their ancestral Bongas at their aading and offer them flattened rice prepared from new paddy crop along with illi. The time of the rest part of the festival is spent through eating, drinking, singing and dancing, which continue till the late night.
(g) Kakamontanri (or) Kalam parab
It is also an agricultural based festival, which is celebrated prior to threshing of their paddy, during the Kalam chandu (December-January) of each year. It is a family level festival where worship is made to Dessauli Bonga, Singhbonga and Marangbonga. In this festival, the Ho worship the above said Bongas at their threshing ground for the purification of paddy straw. During this worship the Ho place all of their agricultural related implements like, Siu (plough), Moi (long wooden field leveling implement) and sickle etc. at their threshing place and spray turmeric mixed water on these as well as on the paddy with the help of tulsi (basil) sakam and mango twigs for purification. At last they sacrifice three red sims, one white sim and a black sim to their Bongas.
Adopted Rituals and Festivals
Though traditionally the Ho believe in Sarna religion, now-a-days syncretism is noticed in their religious activities, where they follow their main religion along with the religion of wider pantheon i.e. Hinduism. The 1981 census in Bihar (including present Jharkhand) returns 81.65% of the Ho under ‘other religion’ shows a majority of their population as followers of a tribal religion. In the same census the religious status of the Ho is, 16.52% are Hindus, 1.43% are Christians and rest are the Muslims, Sikhs and others whereas in Orissa returns 81.49% of the Ho as followers of Hinduism, 0.87% as Christians and 3.70% to others. Similarly in West Bengal 97.69% as followers of Hinduism, 0.87 % as Christians, 0.22% as Muslims and 1.22% as those who profess ‘other religions’. From the comparisons of 1961 and 1981 census data it is evident in Bihar (including present Jharkhand) that the traditional tribal religion are increased from 73.30% to 81.65 %. The Ho who professes Hinduism decreased from 26.15 % to 16.52%, which is reverse in case of Christians, which increases from 0.55 percentages to 1.43%. Similarly in Orissa, 13.94% tribal have returned as ‘other religions’. From the comparison of the above census data it is also evident that the population of Hindus is on the decrease from 99.97% (1961) to 81.49% (1981). As per 1971 census 12.79% of the Ho has been returned under ‘other religions. This also includes their traditional religion of tribe. Here we noticed a slow resurgence of tribal faith (Singh 1994: 406-408).
After coming in regular contact with the wider Hindu pantheon, some of the Ho adopted several festivals, but they do not neglect their traditional ones. Though the process of syncretism in the ritual sphere of religion is noticed among the Ho, the level of syncretism varies in different areas depending on their different socio-cultural contact and ecological environment. The Ho of Kolhan area (West Singhbhum district of Jharkhand) are more traditional as compared to the Ho of Orissa. Further, the Ho of bordering area of Kolhan area are not much exposed like the Ho of other part of Orissa and because of this, the level of syncretism varies as per their exposure. For example, the level of syncretism is less among the Ho of Jharkhand as compared to the Ho of Orissa. Similarly, it is less among the Ho of Bamanghaty and Panchpir sub-divisions of Mayurbhanj district and Champua sub-division of Keonjhar district of Orissa, which are located at the immediate neighborhood of Kolhan area, as compared to the Ho of other parts of Orissa. Because of this, the Ho of the above said areas of Mayurbhanj and Keonjhar districts of Orissa celebrate very limited Hindu festivals like Durga puja, Biswakarma puja, Ganesh puja, Swaraswati puja and Ratha yatra (Car festival) etc, where as the Ho of other parts of Orissa are more Hinduised who directly or indirectly participate in most of the Hindu festivals. Some times they give less importance to their traditional festivals. Similarly, some of the Ho, particularly those who work in different town areas with different people of wider pantheon, celebrate the Hindu festivals at their working place and also participate in traditional festivals in the village.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Rituals And Festivals Of The Ho Tribe

by Basanta Kumar Mohanta
Some of the eastern Indian states like, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal possess a large number of tribal population. These three states being contiguous have many tribal communities such as Santal, Munda and Ho, spread over these three states. This paper deals with the rituals and festivals of the Ho tribe spread in two contiguous locations of Saraikella-Kharsuan (erstwhile West Singhbhum) district of Jharkhand and Mayurbhanj district of Orissa. Of the two core villages from where the data are mainly collected, Rabankocha, is an uni-ethnic Ho village situated in Jharkhand and the Badhatnabeda, a multi-ethnic village, located in Orissa . While the Orissa village is exposed to urban and mining environment, the Jharkhand village is comparatively interior and less exposed to the urban influences. The Hoes of these two villages have much commonality in terms of cultural and religious beliefs and practices.
The People
The Ho is one of the major tribes of Jharkhand and Orissa. The Calhan area of Jharkhand is the original place of their inhabitant. In due course of time they spread towards its neighboring areas of Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal and even a few to Assam. These Hoes belong to the Proto-Astrologic group. They are of short stature, dark complex with broad and flat nose. In the Ho language the word 'Ho' means a man and accordingly any human being can be designated as a Ho. From the field situation it is clear that the term 'Ho' is only used by this community to identify them, whereas the other neighboring communities address them by the term 'Kola'. The Ho belong to the Munda branch of Austro-Asiatic languages and allied to Sandal and Mandarin dialects in certain respect. In Jharkhand (as it belonged to erstwhile Hindi state of Bihar till recently) the Hindi language based on Denair script is used for inter-community communication where as among themselves they speak Ho dialect. The Ho of Orissa use both Hindi and Oriya languages and Oriya script. They have a strong belief in religion, spirit and super natural powers. They worship different Gods and Goddesses residing in nearby jungles and hills. The Singhbonga or the Sun God is the supreme deity worshipped by them, who is mainly responsible for the rain, crop, life, and other necessities related to life. Besides Singhbonga, the Ho also worship a number of other deities like Marangburu, Goodie era, Japer era etc. The worship of both benevolent and malevolent spirits is also practiced among the Ho. They celebrate both traditional and adopted festivals. Their traditional festivals are mostly associated to their agricultural activities. The Ho traditionally being a part of an elaborate political system, have a strong traditional base with corresponding political offices to maintain social control. Thus, the Ho of Jharkhand at the lowest level were places under Piers, which were under a Mankind (a divisional headman). Each Ho village has their own headman called Munda. Birth is considered as an important landmark in Ho life cycle. Though a father plays the main role in procreation of a child, it is believed that a child is a gift of Singhbonga. The Hoes practice tribe endogamy and clan exogamy. Marriage within the clan is strictly prohibited and the offenders are treated outcaste from their society. Traditionally, the Ho believe that person dies not because of its old age or disease but because of the evil spirit and black magic. The Ho both bury and cremate their dead. Each clan has their separate burial place, located close to their house.
The Studied Villages
The first studied village Rabankocha is a traditional village situated under the jurisdiction of Gobindpur (Ranger) block of Saraikella-Kharsuan . This studied village lies in between 22035’ to 220 37’ NL and 86002’ to 86003’ EL The total village area is surrounded with different hills and hillocks. This village itself is located on the foothill of Hatboro. Across the Hatboro the village Gadded is situated at the northern side of the village. The Denature and Baridunuri hills stand on the eastern part of the village. Badkadal, Chard and Human are three multi-ethnic villages situated at the other side of the Jonesboro. The Hatboro covers the entire southwestern part of the village. Another hilly village named Kalajharana is situated on the north-western part of the Hatboro. The hills located at southern side serves as a state boundary of Jharkhand and Orissa states.
The second studied village Badhatnabeda is situated near the mining town of Badampahar in the Bamanghati subdivision of Mayurbhanj district of Orissa. It is a multi-ethnic village lies in between 22003’ to 22006’ NL and 86000’ to 860 02’ EL. The village falls under the jurisdiction of Kashmir (Badampahar) block and Badampahar police station. It comes within the area of Rairangpur tahasildar and Kathabharia branch post office. The village is well connected by an all season metal road with the Rairangpur-Jashipur branch of state highway near to the Jhaldunguri chaw from where the villagers go to their local town Badampahar through a connecting road.

Jadu Patua

Painter, story teller and magician
Like the Patuas, the Jadu Patuas are painters and story tellers and go from village to village carrying their painted scrolls made of paper sheets sewn together with a bamboo stick on each extremity.

Jadu means "Magician". The themes they represent on the scrolls are much more limited than the Patuas. There is about a dozen themes. However, there is different interpretation for each theme. A Jadu Patua can, looking at one scroll, say different stories depending if his audience is Hindu, Muslim or Santal. This last ethnic group is the most important audience for the Jadu Patuas.

The Patuas live with the money that the villagers give them after listening to their stories. The fact that they are magicians give a special effect to their intervention because the villagers fear them.

One of the most revealing images of the Jadu Patuas' role (in the Santal community) is the "Mritu pat" or "image of the deaths". When somebody dies in a village near the Jadu Patua's one, the "artist magician" visits the family of the dead with a small and simple image (about 3 x 2 inches) which is supposed to represent the dead in a simple way. Only the late person's pupil is missing. Showing this image to the family, the Jadu Patua tells the story evoking the suffering of the dead whose soul is still trapped in hell. The family then gives an offering to the Jadu Patua in order for him to intervene. The ritual for the Magician painter consists then to paint the dead's pupil in order to free his soul. The principles developed by the Jadu Patuas are : the Baha's feast (a strange mixture of Hindu and Santal myths showing a lot of festivities where tribal dances, sacrifices and drinking sessions scenes are mixed); the creation of the world (where we can see the first human couple being born from the coupling of a goose and a gander); the painting of Kali (composed with 3 or 4 paper sheets only, showing Kali in her most terrifying aspects) and a lot of scrolls about Yama, the god of hell (showing all the ill treatments, sometimes sexual, given by Yama and his servants to the dead who behaved badly during their lifetime). It seems that the scarier the Jadu Patuas'style gets, the more highly he is regarded. Ja