By Janakiballav Dash: The onset of Makara-parva, the most important festival of tribals & locals in Mayurbhanj syncs with Sankranti on 14th January which upheavals the life in rural as well as in urban area.
This festival marks the change of season from winter to spring & is celebrated shortly after a bountiful annual paddy harvest is over. New clothes are a must for tribals on this occasion for which special makara-haat’s are held all over the district drawing thousands of crowds to finish the makara-buying for each tribal household.
Tribals constitutes the majority and they celebrate it with handia, a local brew made of rice bran with archery competition & cock fight allover the day. Considering the festival as one of the state festivals since royalty, the state government has declared it a local holiday starting from this year on the directives of RDC Dr. Arabinda Padhee, which came as a matter of joy for majority of tribals as they were earlier resenting Makara not being a government holiday.
Two big fares are held during this occasion – one at Meru Matha in sirsa on the river bank of Subarnarekha & another at Mahabharatian heritage site of Samibrukhya in Podadiha. Makara is also celebrated by Kurmi-Mahanta’s as ‘Tusu-parva’ which has its origin dating back to Khiliji dynasty.
Mr Cornell Dalton in his book “Ethnology of Bengal” gives a historic sketch of the famous Chittoor Queen Tusumi’, daughter of Birbal Singh whom the Khiliji emperor Allaudin Khiliji wanted to marry. Khiliji who earlier failed to marry queen Padmini desperately tried for Tusumi. Her father Birbal sensing the emperor’s evil design sought protection of Kurmi leader Sitaram Mahanta at Parasnath mountain.
Allaudin with his army attacked Kurmi area who valiantly fought with the solidiers but finally gave in. It was then finding no alternative, Tusumi died by suicide by jumping to the nearby river on this Makara Sankranti day. Since then it is observed as Tusu Parva by Kurmi-mMahanta community as a festival for seven days. Tusu, the image of a young girl is kept in a wooden tripod decorated with colourful clothes & worshiped by girls with traditional songs.
The non-tribals worship the Sun God & make rice with raw stuffs such as sweet potatoes, sugar cane, fruits of different varieties, as it symbolises rise in apetite after winter. The traditional cock fight is being held. Fighter cocks from adjacent Jharkhand, Bengal arrive here during Makara days to fight with their pairs.
It is a tradition in the areas of Chitrada, Dhardud, Manbhanj, Jharpokharia, Bangiriposi, Bahalda, Hatbadra etc. People take their cocks to open fields, cheer them up & regale themselves as they jump at each other, peck & hit the other with sharp knife tied to their foot. Such competitions are a matter of pride as the winner ultimately takes the defeated cock (dead or injured) & sometimes even prizes are added like in gambling.
Handia games are also very popular during the celebration of Makara festival. Winners of handia games often found to have guzzled 10 litres of it in one go as this provide ecstasy to their mind & raised the festive spirits.
Besides men, women, young girls of tribal community also participate in Archery competition which epitomises the regions tribal culture.
The concluding phase of Makara is known as Damodara-Jatra where tribals immerse their near & dear’s bones (asthi) in the local river confluences. They take out a procession of dead one’s bones where a sort of mela is organised & immerse the bones known as Damodar-Ganga.
During Makara, the tribals used to venture into hunting of wild animals in the Similipal jungles for which the authorities here have stepped up combing operation to prevent them. Makara gives one a local tribal feeling with display of their unique culture & the usual work all over the district comes to a halt for at least a week starting from 13th January to 20th January every year.