About Karam festival
Karam festival is an agricultural festival celebrated by diverse groups of people, including: the Korba, Sadan, Sambalpuri, Oraon, Munda, Kharia and Santal. Groups of young villagers go to the jungle and collect wood, fruits, and flowers. These are required during the puja of the Karam God. KaramDevta is considered to be the God of youth and power. The festival also marks the celebration of nature and fertility. The tribes or adivasis celebrate this festival by offering their prayers to the Karma tree. During this period, people sing and dance together in groups. There are many interesting Karma festival rituals associated to this rejoicing event.
When it is celebrated
It is celebrated in the Hindu month of Bhadrapad. Karam festival is celebrated in the months of September-October not only by these tribes but also by other adivasis and indigenous non-tribal groups called sadans.
Where it is celebrated
It’s a sacred festival, celebrated by the tribal people of Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Bihar, Assam and Odisha. Tribal population of these states comprising of Baiga, Majhwar, Oraon, Munda and Binjhwari adivasis celebrate the festival.
Karma Puja is a spiritual and religious festival and it really calls for a celebration as the tribal community believes that due to Karam Devta they have a good harvest. This festival is associated with harvest, which is symbolised through a Karam tree. It is very auspicious and is a symbol of fertility and prosperity.
This festival derives its name from the Karam tree which is worshipped on the day as a symbol of Karam Devta. The villagers go into the jungle in search of the Karam tree and cut three branches of the tree and are brought back to the village. The branches are then placed on a ground called ‘akhara’ which is meant for ceremonial dance.
On this day people pray to Karam Devta to get the blessings. Karma Devta, the symbol of Nature, is worshipped as the entire tribal community is mostly dependent on nature for their livelihood. This day is also important for the brothers and sisters as the sisters pray for the well being of their brothers. Even the couples pray to deity for a happy conjugal life.
People fast on this day and seek the blessings of Karam Devta as the entire economy of the tribes is highly dependent on the nature and karma tree symbolise the nature.
The preparation of the celebration begins at least ten to twelve days before the day of the occasion. Young folk of the villages goes out to the jungle to collect the wood of the Karam tree along with fruits and flowers on this day and is generally carried by the young girls.
The morning of the Karam festival begins with women pounding rice in the dheki, a wooden implement, to obtain rice flour. This rice flour is used to make a local tribal delicacy which can be sweet as well as salty. This delicacy is cooked in the morning of the Karam festival for consumption, and shared throughout the neighbourhood. To mark the importance of the Karam tree, grains which are filled in the red coloured basket are also offered. People worship the branches and seek the blessings of the Karam Devta.
The young devotees wear barley seedlings on their head which are distributed among them. The dancers dance throughout the night forming a circle with their hands around each other’s waists. They pass the branch to each other while dancing. This is the famous Karma dance which is typical to the tribal festival of Jharkhand. The story behind the festival is narrated by the elders. The next day, the Karam tree is sprinkled with curd of the seas and immersed in the river bed.
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