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Thakurani Jatra festival being celebrated in Orissa

     Bijipur: Devotees in Bijipur District of Orissa tonsure their heads to please goddess as part of carnival procession of 'Thakurani Jatra' festival. The ritual gains even more significance as not just a way to honor the goddess, but also a protest against the dubious religious leaders and other issues concerning the villagers. "I have been doing this for the past four to five years. I also wore a garland made of vegetables. It was a way of protest against inflation and rising prices of vegetables," said Sibsankar Patra, a devotee. The day of head tonsuring is decided and followed by all villagers. The leader of the group, the 'mahant' leads the procession with a female consort. The female consort is actually a male dressed up as a girl, a comment on the dubious nature of priests and religious leaders. "The ritual is going on since 1933. Our predecessors used to follow the ritual as well. Then only 10 to 20 people used to get their heads tonsured but now it is almost 200 to 300 people. We do it to propitiate the goddess. But now we are also raising awareness. We write songs as well on various subjects and try to gain people's attention with our attires," said Brindaban Parida, the Priest. Not only are these devotees getting designs on their heads, they are also getting various themes and motifs on their backs. The people claim that they are trying to raise awareness by creating designs based on socially relevant issues.
-May 3, 2009

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