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Karma Festival is an agricultural festival of diverse groups of tribal people such as the Ho, Mundadri, Oraon, Santhali, and Nagpuri tribes.This festival is mainly celebrated in the regions of Jharkhand and Jhargram (West Bengal) & Bihar.

In this festival, people worship the Karam Rani, the Goddess of wealth and children in the Hindu month of Bhado (August-September) on the 11th day of a full moon (Purnima). There are many interesting Karma festival rituals associated to this rejoicing event.

Story of Karam Rani

Karma Puja, one of the most popular festivals of Jharkhand is related to the harvest and a tribute to the Karam tree. This tree symbolises fertility, prosperity and everything that is auspicious. During the festival, the branch of the Karam tree is carried by the Karma dancers accompanied by singing and dancing. Smeared with milk and rice beer, this branch is raised in the middle of the spot where the group performs dance. The festival is vibrant, interesting and a lovely sight.

A very interesting story is associated with this festival – it is the story of Karam Rani:

Long ago in a village, there lived seven brothers who worked so hard in their agricultural field that they don’t even ha time for lunch, due to which their wives used to carry their lunches everyday to the field. One day it so happened that their wives didn’t went to the field with their lunches. Working hard the whole day without food when the brothers returned home in the evening,they found their wives dancing and singing around the Karam tree forgetting about their duty towards their husbands, they roared out in anger and lost their temper and ripped the branch and threw it into the river.

After this incident, hardship fell on their whole family; their economical condition worsened day by day as the Karam deity was insulted. They called upon the village priest and took suggestions from him on how to improve their lives and as per the priest instructed; they searched for the deity and finally brought her home with utmost respect and devotion and worshipped her and sought her blessings. Slowly and gradually their economic condition was improved.

Karam Rani story is believed and religiously the message is followed by the people of Jharkhand.

History And Legends

An Overview
The Karam festival is a festival of agriculture and is very sacred to the tribal people of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Assam. Tribal groups like Baiga, Oraon, Binjhwari, Munda, Majhwar, Ho, Khortha, Korba and many more tribal communities celebrate this festival in the Hindu month of Bhadrapada. It is held on the 11th day of Purnima of Bhado that generally falls in the month of September-October.

On this auspicious day, KaramDevta is worshipped. 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. The entire festival revolves around the Karma tree which is the symbol of Karma Devta. There are many rituals which are performed on the day. History of Karma(Karam) festival is very interesting and also signifies the love and dedication to Nature.

The Legend:
There are many legends behind the initiation of Karam Puja although the real history of Karma festival is hardly known.

Legend1:
The first legend of Karma festival is about seven brothers who were farmers and worked very hard in the field. They were so busy that they hardly had time for lunch. So their wives used to carry their lunches. They used to have lunch by the field to save time. One day, so happened, that their wives did not arrive to the field with the lunch. This made the brothers very angry as they remained hungry throughout the day. When they returned home in the evening, they got very furious to see their wives singing and dancing around the Karam tree. In their fury, they uprooted the tree and threw it into the water. Moreover the younger brother left the house.

Soon after that, they had to suffer a lot as they lost everything: their house and crops and were starving virtually. The younger brother came across a priest who told him the power of KaramDevta. The youngest brother found a Karam tree floating which he worshipped. He then came back home and told everyone about the power of Karam and from the day they worshipped KaramDevta and thus restored all their lost wealth.

Legend2:
This legend of Karma festival is about a merchant who returned from a voyage with many valuable things. He waited for his wife and other relatives to welcome his vessel as a part of the tradition. He was surprised as well as angry to see no one turning up as everyone was busy celebrating the Karama festival. He in fury uprooted the Karma tree and this triggered the wrath of KaramDevta. His ship with all the valuable things sank in the sea.

He understood his mistake and launched another ship to propitiate Karma Devta as per the advice of an astrologer. He found the deity floating and the propitiated him with his devotion. This is how he got all his wealth back and from that day, the Karma Devta is worshipped every year.

Significance And Rituals

Karma Festival is an agricultural festival of diverse groups of tribal people such as the Ho, Mundadri, Oraon, Santhali, and Nagpuri tribes.This festival is mainly celebrated in the regions of Jharkhand and Jhargram (West Bengal). In this festival, people worship the Karam Rani, the Goddess of wealth and children in the Hindu month of Bhado (August-September) on the 11th day of a full moon (Purnima). There are many interesting Karma festival rituals associated to this rejoicing event. The festival has an interestingstory associated to it, which emphasises the importance of Karma festivaland it is all about paying reverence to Karam deity.

Rituals of Karma Festival:

  •     Before the festival, young villagers along with group of drummers enter the jungle and cut one or more branches of the Karam tree which is usually carried by unmarried girls who fast for the day; while carrying they singin praise of the deity.Also they collect wood, fruits and flowers that are essentially required during the puja ceremony.
  •     Then the branch is planted at the centre of the ground; plastered with cow-dung and decorated with flowers.
  •     A tribal priest approaches and offers germinated grains and liquor to please the deity who grants the devotees wealth and children. Also a fowl (bird such as chicken) is sacrificed and the blood is offered to the branch considering as deity. The priest then recites a legend to the villagers about the effectiveness of Karam puja.
  •     The branches are also garlanded and offered flowers, rice and curd.
  •     Grains offered to the Goddess are put in a red coloured basket and are placed in front of the branches as an offering.

Significance of Karma Festival:

    Tribal people believe that if unmarried girls fast for the day, the crops will be protected and they will have a good harvest throughout the year. However, they even believe that this festival and puja if done sincerely will get them good husbands as well.
    The unmarried girls fast for their family’s health and safety during this Karamfestival.
    Those who are married, fast for the day to have healthy children and happy married lives.

This Karamfestival delivers a message to the whole world and especially the Indians that we all are dependent on land, water and forest; trees that sustain the environment must be worshiped, saved and planted more and more. Mother Nature,if treated well and worshipped can take away all our sufferings and will shower us with all her blessings and resources. As we say, we belong to the Earth and not the Earth belongs to us. This festival is revered all across North Eastern India and many other communities are getting inspired by this festival.

Importance of Karma Tree

Karma festival is celebrated by mostly the tribes of Jharkhand, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and many other states of India. The name of the festival is derived from the name of the tree called “Karam” which is scientifically known as NaucleaParvifolia. This tree is the symbol of Karma Devta who is worshipped on the day of the auspicious festival. The importance of the Karma tree is well established as it is at the centre of all rituals and customs.

Rituals Attached to Karma Tree
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.

On the day of Karam festival, the women pound the rice in Dheki, to mark the beginning of the festival. The rice flour obtained is used to make local sweet and salty delicacy and is shared among the neighbours. Then the tribal people mark the festival with a customary dance where a yellow flower is tucked behind the ear of the dancers. The dancers also carry a branch of the Karam tree which is passed from one to the other while singing and dancing.

The branch of the Karam tree is then placed in the centre of the dancing arena and worshipped as a symbol of God and Nature. Before placing the branch at the middle, it is washed with milk, and Handia (rice beer). The branches are garlanded and people offer flowers, curd and rice. 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 Karma Devta/Devi.

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