Festivals and Culture
The festivals of Purulia are characterized by joyous ceremonies and enthusiasm, and embody the robust and composite cultural heritage of the nation, coupled with the hardships of living in tough geographical terrain. Various folk performances are held during the festive period. Forgoing their poverty and hardships, the tribes and communities of Purulia entertain themselves through their fairs and festivals.
Shiber Gajan is a very popular festival in Purulia, organized in various villages of the district between March and May. Gajan songs are sung in praise of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Dances include Natua, Bhagta, Theatre, Nanchi and Chau accompanied by Jhumur songs, and various folk songs and dances are organized. The dancers sometimes dress up as Hara Parvati and move around the village, dancing to the accompaniment of instruments like Dhol, Kanshi and Flute. Whole night programs are held from village to village during Gajan and continue for days.
This festival is also locally called Disum Sendra or Shikar Parab. Every year during the months of April and May during full moon, a hunting festival is held at the Ayodhya Hills. The local tribals believe that that young boys attain adulthood during this fair. The local brew (Mahul juice) is drunk and the beat of drums plays as groups of young men set out on their hunting adventure.
Dharma Thakurer Puja
Dharma Thakurer Puja is held every year from 15th April to 15th May. Dharmathakur is a Hindu God worshipped by villagers in the traditional Rarh region as one of their special village Gods. Dharmathakur is worshipped mainly by castes including Bauri, Bagdi, Hari and Dom. He is represented by a shapeless stone daubed with vermillion and is normally placed under a tree or in the open, or sometimes enshrined in a temple.
This festival in Purulia is celebrated by cultivators. During the last week of May every year, the cultivators sow seeds and celebrate this festival. Other local names of similar type of festivals are Erohk Sim or Batauli.
Sun Festival (Poush Parbon)
Popularly known as Poush Sankranti named after the Bengali month in which it falls, is celebrated as a harvest festival Poush Parbon and always falls on 14 January. Varieties of traditional Bengali sweets are made with rice flour, coconut and milk. All sections of society participate in a three-day begins on the day before Sankranti and ends on the day after. Traditionally, people were required to take a bath before sunrise and then the Sun God is worshipped by the people. The food that is consumed consists primarily of sweet potatoes and various yams.
Once the harvesting season comes to an end, people get busy with preparation of Manasa Puja (Goddess of Snakes) on 15th or 16th of August (last day of Shraban in the Bengali calendar). The worship ends with offerings of ducks, goats and lambs sacrificed to the Goddess. In some areas the worship continues until the beginning of Durga Puja. Jaant, Jhapan and other folk songs and dance are organized during this festival.
Chhata Parab is celebrated mid September (last day of the Bengali month of Bhadra according to Bengali calendar). Thousands of Santhals from Purulia as well as from surrounding districts attend this fair, which starts with the raising of a white umbrella on a long pole by a representative of the Panchakot Royal family. Songs and several types of dance including Naachni and Pata are performed throughout the night.
Bhadu Puja is held from mid August to mid September. It is a very common festival of the villagers of Purulia. People believe that worshipping Bhadu Devi enables childless women to bear children and for this belief the women sing Bhadu songs and worship.
Karam Parab is celebrated with Jaowa (a bamboo basket full of the saplings of different crops) from mid August to mid September. This festival marks the beginning of performances of Bhaduria Jhumur accompanied by Pata Dance. During this festival the Jaowa is prepared by sowing the seeds of crops in the basket and when the saplings emerge, turmeric water is poured on them. During day time the baskets are kept in a dark room so that the saplings do not turn green. In the evening the baskets are brought out into the open and young girls sing and dance entwining arms around them.
Another folk festival of Purulia, the word Bandhna comes from the word ‘Bandana’ (worship). It is celebrated in autumn during the Kali Puja (usually held in October). Bandna Parab welcomes ‘Shashya Devi' (Goddess of grains) by worshipping her through various rituals.
Tushu is a very colorful festival of the tribes, showcasing the primitive lifestyle and musical rituals. It is held mid December and includes fairs on the river banks. Women exchange garlands and fry eight varieties of pulses which are given as an offering to the goddess Tusu.
Palash Parban is a festival held every year during Holi (in the month of March) on the bank of Kansai river at Deulghata, Purulia. It’s a three day festival organized by villagers. Various artists and dancers perform during this festival. In 2013 the festival was organized by the Edge of India Purulia Co-operative.
Other festivals include Durga Puja (October), Kali Puja (November), Saraswati Puja (February), Raas Mela (last week of November), Viswakarma Puja (September), Basanti Puja (last week of March).
Song and Dance
The rare masked dances of eastern India are quite unique. Chau is performed during the Sun festival, which falls in the month of March-April. However, it is not limited to the festival and the dance is also performed on other occasions. It is internationally renowned for its beauty and perfection. The dance is themed on the epic stories of Ramayana and Mahabharata. The dancers usually perform on flat ground, with people sitting around them. The dance is accompanied by loud beats by drums and marui. It starts with the beat of the drum followed by an invocation to Lord Ganesha, the Hindu God of Wisdom. The dancers wear heavy colourful masks and perform their steps with vigor. During the Chau season, Chorida, a small village in Purulia, provides some of the best masks; every house and every member of the household gets involved in making masks or assembling decorations for the headgear. The eyes of the masks are wide open, with a narrow air passage for the nostrils. Knitted eyebrows and thick hair on the face (formed from jute fibers) give the masks a demonic character.
The premier folk music of Purulia district. The novelty of this folk song is that Jhumur does not follow any definite form. Jhumur songs are popular among the artisan communities of Kurmi, Kumhaar, Rajwar, Ghatoal, Hari, Muchi and Dom, and the tribes of Santhal, Munda, Oraon, Kharia and Birharh. Jhumur is known for its lyrical and literary significance because of the use of ancient language. Different Jhumur songs are sung at different times of the year. For example, Chaitali is sung in the months of March and April, while Bhaduria is sung in the months of August and September. The singers usually relate their songs to the socio-economic and geographical conditions of his or her locality and the people of their region.
Madal, a typical beating drum, and flute are played with Jhumur and it is always accompanied by dances. The essence of Jhumur is its authenticity, which remains intact even in the face of challenge from modern pop and other music. Jhumur expresses sorrows and joys of common people, their lifestyle, their hopes and frustrations, dreams and disappointments. The striking characteristic of Jhumur is its love and compassion for life.
Different types of Jhumur are performed according to the characteristicof particular dances and festivals. The dance is an elaborate dance, choreographed and performed by professional female dancers, while the males play the Dhol and Madol. Heavy make-up and ornate jewelery form part of the costume of the Jhumur dancers.
Natua, an ancient dance form, features in the Shiv Puranas and is performed during the Shiber Gajan (between March and May) and occasionally at weddings. The word Natua is derived from the name of Lord Nataraj. It is believed that Nandi and Vringi, the associates of Lord Shiva were the first to perform this dance during Shiva’s marriage to Durga. This highly acrobatic dance form involves many tricks with fire and is usually accompanied by the beats of a Jai Dhak, the instrument which is said to have been created by Lord Shiva.
This is a Santhal folk dance form performed during Durga Puja in autumn. It is poignant piece of dance in which the dancers use bhuyung – a percussion instrument with a very distinctive sound. One of the less upbeat performances, the dancers play the bhuyung whle wailing and chanting about suffering and loss, depicting the sadness of the Santhals (local tribe).