Jharkhand tribals offer prayers to Baha a day ahead of Dol Jatra

Tribal villagers of Dhatkil in Jharkhand's Gaduli bordering West Bengal usher in spring by a special ritual and prayer to their village god, Baha. The rituals are simple and interesting as we find out on our visit.

Women dance in a group in Dhatkil
An Adivasi villager drinks haria

While the people of West Bengal wake up to celebrations of another colourful Dol Jatra with traditional abir and modern colours, residents of a quaint village in Galudhi, Jharkhand usher in spring a day ahead following simple and traditional rituals. Baha puja, the tribal festival celebrated by the natives of the part of Jharkhand bordering West Bengal, is held on the eve of Dol Jatra every year. The festival is a special prayer and rituals offered to the village god at the onset of spring.

A man sticks a branch from a teak tree in his ears. Women stick the branch in their hair.

This year too, the villagers of Dhatkil woke up in the wee hours of Wednesday morning and went to the Laya’s (village priest’s) house. They accompany the Laya to the village shrine, located at the fringe of their habitation. The girls and women in the entourage, dressed in new red and green saris, danced all the way to the shrine. The village head Silhal Murmu, said flowers of the Sal tree, Mahua flowers, vermillion and rice grains are required for the rituals on this day. The village god is offered handia on this day (rice beer) and every villager, irrespective of age drinks it. “The handia that we offer to Baha on this day is not intoxicating. Even children drink it on this day,” said Silhal.  Hen and goat are sacrificed and the meat is distributed among the villagers. The villagers are treated to khichdi on that day. “Baha is our village god and so, we always try to keep him pleased. We usher in the new season by offering prayers to him,” said Silhal.