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Karama Festival

Tribal Girls Celebrating the karma Festival

The ‘Karma’ or ‘Karama Festival’ is widely celebrated amongst the tribal people of Sundargarh, Mayurbhanj, Sambalpur, Bolangir, Dhenkanal and Keonjhar along with the aboriginal people of Bihar and Madaya Pradesh. As a tribal festival, Karma is celebrated with great devotion are Ho, Kisan, Kolha, Bhumij, Oram, Bhuiyan and Binjhals.

This triba festival of Orissa is observed as a mark of respect to the “Karama tree” which is worshipped by these tribal. The presiding deity of this festival is either 'Karama', a God or 'Karamasani', a Goddess who is represented with a branch of Karama tree. The celebration takes place in the bright half of the month of 'Bhadrab' during the rainy season. As a ritual, people go to the jungle accompanied by groups of drummers and cut one or more branches of Karama tree. These branches are mostly carried by unmarried young girls who sing in praise of the deity. The branches are brought to the village and planted in the centre of a ground, which is plastered with cow-dung and decorated with flowers. After performing all rituals, the tribal priest known as Jhankar or Dehuri offers germinated grams and liquor in propitiation to the deity who grants wealth and children. A fowl is also sacrificed and the blood is offered to the branch. Then, he narrates a legend to the villagers about the efficacy of Karama Puja.

Among the Bhumij, Ho and Orans the legend goes that there were seven brothers living together. The six elders used to work in the field while the youngest stayed at home. He used to celebrate life by dancing and singing around a Karam tree in the courtyard with his six sisters-in-law. One day while all of them were thus engrossed, the morning meal of the brothers couldn't be carried to the field by their respective wives. On returning home, the agitated husbands uprooted the tree and threw it away into the river. The younger brother left home in anger. Evil days then fell on the brothers and their house was damaged, their crops failed and virtually they starved. The wandering youngest brother meanwhile found the Karam tree floating in the river. He propitiated the God and had everything restored. There after he came home, called his brothers and told them that because they insulted Karam Devta they had to fall on evil days. Since then the Karam Devta is being worshipped.

The   festival of Orissa  is observed in two ways. The Karma Festival is commonly held by the villagers on the village street and the expenses on liquor etc. are commonly borne. Alternatively, it is celebrated by a man in his courtyard under his patronage to which he invites all. Even people who come uninvited listening to the sound of drums are also entertained with liquor.

 

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