Orissa's Santhal tribals celebrate spring festival

Bhubaneswar, Feb 23 : Santhal tribals of Bhubaneswar performed traditional rituals to signal the onset of the Baha Bonga spring festival.
 The festivities were hosted at the Jaher (shrine), at the foot of a Sal tree, and will go on for three to four days. Jaher is the centre of performing rituals and socio-cultural activities for the Santhal tribe.

 On the occasion, the tribal god, Maarang Buru, and goddess, Jaher Ayo, are worshipped with other deities at the Jaher.
 "We celebrate this festival at the arrival of the spring season. At this time the plants bear new leaves and flowers. These flowers have a special fragrance, so we worship our nature god. This festival is our age-old tradition and we are carrying it forward," said Laxman Hembram, a tribesman.
 The Santhals are not permitted to use any forest product of the season unless this festival is observed, and prescribed rituals take place.
 The festival starts with the local priest distributing Sal and Mahua flowers to both men and women, symbolizing that from that day onwards they are permitted to use forest products.
 The tribals then dance to traditional drumbeats and the festivities go on till the sunset..
 "Baha puja (prayer ceremony) is the festival of Holi for the Santhals. The main objective behind this ritual is that the various diseases in the body are eradicated," said Ramachandra Murmu, a resident.
 The Santhals are one of the largest tribal communities of India, inhabiting the states of Jharkhand, West Bengal, Orissa, Assam and Bihar.