If Bengalis are gearing up to observe Poila Baisakh tomorrow,Punjabis are celebrating Baishakhi today when Adivasis have hit the street,singing and dancing to greet their annual festival-Sarhul.

Much like the Bengalis and Punjabis for whom the day marks the beginning of their year,the Adivasis begin the ploughing and sowing only after Sarhul.

These Adivasis hold that on the day of Sarhul,the earth was married to the sky and so long as this puja is not performed,the earth remains unmarried and as such she can not be ploughed for raising crops.

Anthroplogists who have studied the culture of Adivasis in Jharkhand have noted that the Sarhul puja was performed by collectivity.”As this puja is performed for the prosperity of all the inhabitants,its expenditure was shared by all”,writes Harimohan in his book-The Chero:A study of Acculturation.

The priest who was called Pahan or Baiga performs the rituals at the “Gaonhel Asthan(a common place).”A he-goat is sacrificed or a red fowl offered to the deity by the priest.In addition,flour cakes and liquor too are given to the deity by the priest.An earthen pot containing water was kept near the Asthan.On the following morning,water of the pot is seen by them.

If the water of the pot reduces,they think that the crops would not be better this year and if the water remains intact,they expect a bumper crop.After the rituals at the Stahn is over,the priest moves from one door to another with some sacred Achat and flower in a winnowing fan which is given to all.Next,the priest gives blessings to all.The Achat and sal flower are touched with the seeds to be sown which according to them ensures a good crop”,writes Harimohan in the same book.

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This time,many had seen no reduction in water.”We expect that the monsoon will be normal. We will reap a bumper crop”,giggles Sona Ram Soren,a farmer.

Though rituals vary from place to place and tribe to tribe,all Adivasis,before sowing the first crop,appease the deity at the Sthan.”Mother Earth too is appeased who is given flour cakes as offerings.Most of us sacrifice a fowl in gthe field for a good crop”,said Narendra Singh Oraon,an Adivasi farmer.

With rituals over,men,women and children,each dressed in colourful dresses,make merry by singing and dancing in groups.In the past,the festival was confined to the rural belt.Now, all towns and cities in Jharkhand were in grip of this festival.

In Ranchi,hundreds of Adivasis were seen dancing and singing in the lanes and by lanes.At the Adivasi hostel,politicians,cutting across party lines,vied with each other to greet the Adivasis.

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