The Ho tribe in Jharkhand celebrates Mage Porob – a festival to uphold equality, co-existence and social harmony
Mage Porob, held between January and April, extends through several days. On the first day of Guri porob, homes are thoroughly cleaned with cow dung. This is followed by worshipping of cattle and insects, a dip in the river, feasting, bonfires and cultural performances.
Manoj Choudhary 25 Feb 2022 9:44 AM GMT
Noamundi Basti, West Singhbhum (Jharkhand)
Gudia Suren is resplendent in her green saree and jewellery as is her husband Radhe Suren who is in a white dhoti. They are heading to Desauli (worship site) where along with fellow members of the Ho tribe, they will embark on a ceremonial worship of their forefathers.
The Noamundi Basti village in West Singhbhum district, Jharkhand, is preparing to celebrate Mage Porob, to pray for social harmony and peaceful co-existence of all living beings. This annual festival of the Ho tribe pays tribute to Luku Hadam and Luku Budi (considered the father and mother of humankind).
Several tribal villages in the state celebrate this festival. And depending on the convenience, it can be held anytime between January 14 and April 14.
Gudia and Radhe join hands with other tribal youth in their traditional garb and launch into a dance, based on the philosophy of Sen ge Su sun Kaji ge Durang (Walking is dance and speaking is music).
The people of the Ho tribe, to which Gudia and Radhe belong, inhabit West Singhbhum, East Singhbhum and Seraikela-Kharsawan districts of Jharkhand. They also live in parts of Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar and Sundergarh districts of Odisha, and in Bankura district of West Bengal.
The beginning of creation
Meanwhile, the Desauli ground with its local daru or trees, is buzzing with the conversations of the old and young.
"After creating the earth the almighty made Luku Hadam. Since Luku was alone, God decided to give him a companion, and Luku Budi was created from Luku Hadam's rib and blood from prawns," Naresh Devgam, vice president of the Adivasi Ho Samaj Mahasabha, told Gaon Connection.
Stories abound around Luku Budi and Luku Hadam. A drink made of rice and 56 herbs from the forests called Illy Diyang is offered to the Gods. It is believed that God had first made this for Luku Budi when she suffered a stomach ache.
Luku Hadam and Luku Budi became the first parents of humankind and to celebrate that fact Mage Porob is celebrated with such fervour by the Ho tribe, Devgam explained. During the rituals, the priest or Diuri and his wife Diuri Era, wear unstitched fabric, he added.
An unmarried priest is not qualified to lead the worship. The woman plays a significant role in the rituals.
Social harmony and interdependence
Ho tradition believes that the villages were created by seven castes. These included Chasi Hodo (farmer), Gope (cattle herder), Kunkal (potter), Kamar (blacksmith), tanti (weaver), Tetra (metal pot maker) and dom (bamboo pot maker). Each caste has a sacred role to play in the Mage festival.
All the goods like pots, clothes, sharp iron tools and other things, used during the festival, are made by the respective caste members who also observe katap or fast, when they are making the things.
"The villagers purchase their requirements from each other, ensuring interdependency and co-existence," Damu Banra, former member of the Adivasi Ho Samaj Chhatra Mahasabha and resident of Rajabasa village at Khuntpani block in West Singhbhum, told Gaon Connection.
For Sidui Kumhar (a potter), who lives at Somasai village, in Purnapani panchayat it is a matter of great pride to participate in the traditional rituals and contribute the pots needed for the Mage Porob.
"I pay great attention to tribal customs and sentiment while making clay pots for the Ho tribe as they celebrate the Mage Porob. We love to be a part of the festival as it spreads social harmony", Kumhar said.
A joyous affair
The celebrations extend through several days. On the first day of Guri porob, homes are thoroughly cleaned with cow dung. The following day, that is Goumara, cattle are worshipped by the gope or herders as they go house to house performing the puja. On Bumba, the gope worship insects.
On Huring Porob, villagers assemble at one spot to display their unity and on the fifth day, that is Marang Porob, after they have had a holy dip in the nearest pond or river, the Diuri and Diuri Era offer Ili Diyang to Deshauli. On Basi Porob villagers enjoy feasting, along with bonfires and cultural performances.
Several rituals take place where the priests foretell the future of the village. "The priests also suggest ways to prevent inauspicious incidents occurring in the villages in the following year.
An equal society
According to Jyotsna Tirkey, a tribal women's rights activist, in West Singhbhum, there are rituals and practices of the Porob which highlight the empowered women in the Ho tribe.
"Both Diuri and Diuri Era have equal roles to play in the seven days long celebration. They observe katap (a fast) and celibacy or turup (Brahamcharya) for the duration of the festival. Often the Mage Porob becomes an occasion for match making," the activist told Gaon Connection. The girls are free to dance and talk with others at the Mage fair, and this often leads to marriage, Tirkey said.
"Kiya Kepeya (mutual understanding) for marriages ensures equality to boys and girls. Once a Ho girl selects someone and informs the family about it, Sansang Susun (marriage custom) is organised for social acceptance after the Mage celebration", 32-year-old Sikur Angaria a resident of Purnanani village under Tonto block of West Singhbhum explained to Gaon Connection.
That is exactly how Gudia met Radhe and they wed. "Equal rights to women should be practised in other communities too. It will stop honour killings and girls will enjoy a safe life with their partner," Gudia said.
"Girls are considered a blessing in the Ho community and never treated as a burden," Minakshi Suren, a resident of Noamundi Basti, told Gaon Connection. She added that she was proud to be born a girl. "Mage Porob shows how girls are equally important for the Ho tribe," Minakshi said.
"We hope that the present and coming generations continue to practise our traditions," Bimla Angaria, a 60-year-old resident of Purnapani village, told Gaon Connection. "We are proud of our customs, started by our forefathers and the new generation should know their spiritual heritage," she said.