Oraons: The SARHUL Festival (Part-I)

The Oraon consider Sarhul festival to be one of the important festivals of their tribe. 

The word SARHUL holds special significance for the tribe. It is celebrated in the month of March-April and Oraon tribe primarily being practicing agriculturist, the Sarhul marks the beginning of the agriculture season.

SARHUL = SAR + HUL = Year + Set to commence
The small cluster of Sakhua (Sarai) Tree is called Sarna. In Kurukh language, the Sakhua fruit or Shaal fruit is known as ‘Naur’ and in the local Sadri dialect; they are known as ‘Sarai’. Similarly, Sakhua is popularly called as ‘Sakhu’ and the Oraons consider it to be a god’s gift and extremely auspicious.
The Oraons believe that the good yield of Shaal-fruit signifies the bumper agriculture harvest for them. From the special chirping of birds, they could figure out the likely advent of the monsoon season and the expected amount of the rainfall in their region; even the snakes’ sound gives them clue about the likely heaviness of rainfall.
In the Sarhul Festival, the Oraon Tribe celebrate the holy matrimony of the Earth and the Nature; depicting the masculine race and the feminine race among the numerous living organism in our planet. On this day they remember ‘the Great Lord Dharmesh– the Supreme Being’ and thank him for the blessings showered on all the living things. The Sarhul festivity is held in the spring season signifying the birth of ‘new-borns’ all around the planet among many living species.
When the Shaal-tree is bustling with the Shaal-flowers, the Pahan (Village Priest) and the Pahanin (Wife of Head Priest) are symbolically married in the presence of the whole village. Praying for the good monsoon, the bucket full of water is poured on to the Pahan’s head. The Shaal-flowers are distributed as a prasad (offerings) among the villagers.
The Sarhul festival is celebrated across two days. The first day is called ‘upaas’ and the second day is called ‘chengna-kati’.   
On the day of ‘uppas’, not a single agriculture work is performed in the village. The village-pahan performs fasting. The ‘dadhi-katna’ (the source of drinking water) is properly cleaned in each and every Oraon village. Then the young Oraon boys catch fishes and the crabs; the fish-water is sprinkled in the goshala (cattle-pens) and the fishes are cooked with bari (made from cereals). In the night, the Pahan and his companion Pujari fetch the clean water from the dadhi in the two earthen pots and keep them under the Shaal-tree; it is known as shakun-panni. The water vessels are guarded throughout the night.
On the day of ‘chengna-kati’, the women folks of the Oraon village do the fasting. The Pahan carry out the age-old Oraon tribe rituals, perform the puja (formal prayers) and seek blessings for the entire village. After the completion of the formal worship, the shakun-panni (water in the vessel) is checked. In case the water level is still good, then the good monsoon season is anticipated and vice-versa. In case the environment is full of humidity then the water levels rises and in case it is very hot the water dry out.
The Pahan and his associates go around the every home in the village and distribute Shakun-Pani (Shakun-water) and Sarna-Phool (Sarna-flower) there. Finally on the night of the Chengan-Katti the community dance and feast program starts. This night is called Khaddi

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