At a time when cutting and uprooting of trees has become a lucrative enterprise,making the environmentalists debate how to end the menace,there prevails a religious practice among the Jharkhand Adivasis to propitiate the trees on the occasion of their festival-Karma.
Like every year the Karma festival is set to be celebrated throughout Jharkhand on Thursday with traditional fervor and gusto.At Ranchi,thousands of men,women and children,attired in colourful dresses,divided into groups,will venerate the karma trees and propitiate it.
On Thursday night,the festival will be observed as per the belief at Harmu.Here in every house of the Adivasi,the karam tree will be decorated for the puja to take place on Wednesday night.The puja is followed by community feast and drinking of Haria(Rice bear).The next day,the Karam tree will be sprinkled with curd and immersed in the river bed.
The history of the festival is not much known.But local historians aver it is a common festival of two dominant tribes of the state-Mundas and Oraons -who have been celebrating it in the month of September-October since time immemorial.Today,it is observed by almost all tribes and Sadans(Indegenous non tribal castes),except Bhuiyas.
In his book-Chero:A study in Acculturation-Harimohan in 1972,wrote that after the rituals are over karam story is narrated to boys and girls.The story behind the festival,according to Harimohan,an anthropologist,is this:
”Once upon a time there were seven brothers.They were busy in agriculture work.They had no time even for lunch and as such their wives used to carry lunch to the field daily.Once it so happened that their wives did not bring the lunch for them.They were hungry.In the evening they returned home without food and found that their wives were dancing and singing near a branch of the karam tree in the court yard.This made them angry and one of them lost temper.He snatched the karam branch and threw it into the river.The karam deity was thus insultated as a result of which the economic condition of their family went on deteriorating.They were starving.One day a Brahman(priest) came to them.The seven brothers narrated the whole story.On hearing it,the Brahman told them that the Karam Rani was angry and she must be appeased.If it was not done their condition would further deteriorate,the Brahman told them.The seven brothers then left the village in search of the karam Rani.They kept on moving from place to place and one day they found it.Subsequently,they worshipped it.Thereafter their economic condition started improving.”
The message is simple:since the entire economy of the Adivasis was dependent on land, water and forest,trees that sustain the environment must be worshipped.Long live Karam festival!