*Picture by Ratan Lal shows Oraon Women walking and carrying chikens-roosters during Jani Shikar at Kanke near Ranchi on Saturday

Wearing jeans and carrying swords and chickens and roosters,tribal women walked along the roads and highways in Jharkhand.

Photo journalists had moved around and taken their pictures from different areas of Ranchi.Their act was part of a tribal festival –Jani Shikar.It takes place every 12 years when Oraon women  leave their homes on a hunting spree.

Though there were few women who practiced this event,the Oraon women are on record having weathered an onslaught of the the Mughal military might.  

The narrative dates back to around 1610, when the Mughals, emperors of the then Bharat, had launched an attack on an Oraon settlement at Rohtasgarh around Aurangabad, now in Bihar. But, quite shockingly, the local people had put up a stiff resistance to the attack.Soon,this prompted the rulers to approach a local spy for help.

The spy, in turn, advised the Mughals to come back on the morning after Sarhul, when the menfolk would be in deep slumber after their night-long revelry.But this time too the Mughals failed to conquer the Oraon bastion.

“When the rulers hauled up the spy blaming him of misleading them, he led them to the secret of the Oraon success. The tribals women had, in fact, dressed up as men, who were all fast asleep, and put up the 'unique resistance', as Som Singh Munda of the Tribal Research Centre put it”,said a report.

Since then, every 12 years, Oraon females dress up as males and indulge in a hunting drive. While the festival was slotted for May and June this year, it has already begun in some parts of the state with tribal women being spotted in hunting gears.

In any case,this festival poses a threat to chickens and roosters of their own neighbours.However,a senior forest officer of wild life RP Singh thinks that it does not harm.So because he said,'It's more of a ritual than actual hunting. It is alright if they symbolically kill goats and hens. But they will not be allowed to hunt in the jungles,' Singh said.

However, like other social customs, Jani Shikar has also borne the stamps of time. While the womenfolk these days are often attired in trousers, shirts, caps and shades instead of the traditional dhoti and pagris, the hunt for animals has also, to a certain extent, been transformed into a more material hunt for cash and poultry.

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