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Santhal tribals celebrate 'Baha' festival in Jharkhand
(Jharkhand): With the local priest distributing Sal and Mahua flowers to both
men and women, and tribals dancing to drum beats, the colourful festival of 'Baha'
was celebrated amid traditional gaiety in Durgapur region of Jharkhand recently.
In the three-day long festival, the first day was dedicated to purification. On
this day, tribals gather at the spot named 'Jatherthan' (holy grove) in their
village and set up an abode for the deity. Later the priest offers prayers. On
the second day, the tribals once again gather at the 'Jatherthan' singing and
dancing, and the priest after offering prayers, performs various rituals in honour
of the deity and their ancestors. The priest later visits all the houses in the
village where the women wash his feet and he gives them Sal flowers as per tradition.
Sal flowers have a special significance for the tribals. "The Sal and Mahua flowers
with which the priest offers the prayers and performs the rituals, are distributed
and we all wear them. Men tuck these behind their ears while the women adorn their
hair with these. We sing and dance to celebrate the Santhal holi. The priest goes
from house to house, where women wash his feet, he then gives them the Sal flower.
This is our tribal traditional 'Baha' festival," said Lobin Murmu, President,
Santhal Samiti, Durgapur. The third and last day is that of celebration. The tribals
also celebrate the 'Baha' Holi, the festival of colours, as part of their traditional
heritage. And throughout the festivities, the priest sleeps on a straw mat on
a floor purified with cow dung. The Santhals are one of the largest tribal communities
of India, inhabiting the states of Jharkhand, West Bengal, Orissa, Assam and Bihar.
-June 14, 2009