Excerpts from January 2013 report
Makar Sankranti is the day when the glorious Sun God begins his ascent and entry into the Northern Hemisphere. It is believed that the Sun ends its southward journey ( Dakshinayan) at the Tropic of Capricon, and starts moving northward (Uttarayaan) towards the Tropic of Cancer, in the month of Pausha on this day in mid-January. Tusu is celebrated on this day in the Panchpargana region of Jharkhand.
The weather begins to change from this day and it appears as if the festival is being celebrated to bid farewell to the departing winters. The trees begin to shed their leaves and the mango blossoms make their appearance on the mango trees.
Tusu is an important festival of Jharkhand, especially of the Panchpargana region. By mid January, cultivators wind up their agricultural chores and are all geared up to celebrate and relax. During the last round of harvesting, farmers leave a clump of rice plants in the fields. On the day of the festival, this clump is uprooted and planted in the courtyard of the residential quarters. Women of the household worship the clump. This clump is referred to as Dini Budhi or Dini Giran and is considered to be a deity. The soil around this clump is scattered in the fields before sowing new seeds.
When the month of Agahan or the ninth month in the Hindu calendar comes to an end, an idol of Tusu Mani is set up in the houses. The idol is usually made up of straw and mud. In some households, a lump of cow dung and a ball of rice flour are showcased. Three vermillion marks are drawn near the newly erected Tusu. Prayers are offered everyday with oil lamps or diya and incense sticks, marigold flowers and beaten rice by unmarried girls. Women gather every evening to sing Tusu songs.
On the dawn of Tusu festival, special offerings are made to the Goddess Tusu. Eight types of grains are roasted and offered to the Goddess. Gud Pitha is also prepared on this day. People feast and rejoice. The idol of Tusu is immersed in the flowing waters of a river. Tusu fairs are held on the banks of the confluence of two rivers. These fairs are usually held on the banks of the rivers Swarnarekha, Kanchi and Radhu.
Tusu is immersed following some rituals. Chordals are made of bamboo strips and they resemble the Tajia of Muharram festival. Chordals are decorated with flowers, colored paper and peacock feathers.
When people step out of their houses with Chordals, Tusu is placed at its centre. They sing songs throughout the journey. In the beginning, the songs are sung with gaiety. But the songs become very sad when Tusu is immersed in the river. When people retreat from the river banks, the songs become lewd and have sexual connotations. But no one takes any offense.
In some villages young men engage in dramatic battles and fights to display their strength. This festival is also called audibaudi. It is believed that if a man leaves his village on this day, chances of his getting lost are high.
Tusu is a festival of joy. With the storehouses full, farmers rejoice. Parents begin to look for a suitable match for their grown up children. Young men eagerly look around for girls as beautiful as Tusu Mani during the fairs and the festival. Girls sing and dance in the gatherings so that others get a chance to observe them and select them for their sons. Several competitions are also organized and prizes are given away. Best chordals win a prize. Sword fighting and fights between hens are also prevalent.
Young girls pray for a good husband and young men pray for good wives during this festival. On the next day of the festival, farmers plough their fields thrice.
The tusu story
A potter had a beautiful daughter named Tusu Mani. She was known for her exquisite beauty and her reputation spread far and wide in the Panchpargana area. People of this area were awestruck by her beauty. A Mughal ruler happened to see her one day and he decided to marry her. The ruler was, however, very cruel. He had made the lives of his subjects very difficult.
Tusu’s father, the potter, couldn’t dream of giving her daughter away in marriage to the cruel ruler. But the king was determined and he was even ready to kill the potter if he did not relent. The king sent messengers everyday to the potter and began to harass him too. Poor Potter was in doldrums and did not know what to do.
Potter’s distress affected Tusu Mani too. The ruler’s increasing barbarity and her father’s anguish moved her. She rushed to the Kanchi River and drowned herself in its waters. She understood that if she would die, the Mughal ruler would depart from the region and the people of Panchpargana would resume their peaceful lives. She sacrificed her life for the welfare of the people of the region. The dwellers of this region felt proud of Tusu Mani. Hence, they began to celebrate the festival of Tusu in her memory.
Report of makar sankrranti / tussu festivals
I met my collaborator on 3rd and 4th of January 2013. He provided me with two stories related to the Tussu festival. He said that the katha varies from region to region. My collaborator advised me to visit the Tamad and Bunduarea.He informed me that Tussu is celebrated with fervour in this Panchpargana region of Jharkhand.
Tussu Katha (MakarSankranti) Version -1
In a village of the Panchpargana region, there lived a potter. The potter had a beautiful daughter named Tussu Mani. One day Tussu went to the forest area to collect some leaves. The Prince of the region was also hunting in the same forest. While he was on the look out for wild animals in the dense forest, his eyes fell upon the beautiful maiden, Tussu, engrossed in plucking fresh leaves and herbs. Soon their eyes met and they fell in love. It was love at first sight for the young couple.
The Prince visited the porter’s residence and requested his daughter’s hand in marriage. The Potter, fully aware of his status in society, declined. He felt that such a match was impossible. But the Prince did not give up easily. He implored and begged. The Potter relented. Tussu Mani was married off to the Prince and they departed for their palace.
The couple was extremely happy together. Days began to fly like frightened birds. This happiness, however did not last long. One day, the prince died. Tussu was shattered. She did not know how she would spend the rest of her life without her beloved. She decked herself and jumped into the funeral pyre of her husband.
People of the kingdom were heartbroken. So far they had rejoiced and worked hard too. But now their life came to a standstill. It was hard for them to believe that they would no longer see the couple anymore. The people of the kindom erected a statue of Tussu and decorated a ( Jhanki) in her commemoration. They even began to worship her.
Tussu festival is hence celebrated in memory of beautiful Tussu Mani, Tussu who departed to her heavenly abode with her dead husband.
Tussu Katha ( MakarSankranti) Version –2
Once there lived a king. He fell in love with the beautiful daughter of a Potter named Tussu Mani. But before the king could marry her, she passed away. The king could not reconcile with the fact that Tussu was no more. He was deranged. The working of the kingdom began to be affected. There was disorder all around.
The people of the kingdom hit upon a plan. They erected a statue of Tussu Mani and brought it to the king. This statue of Statue of Tussu was placed upon a (Palki). The king gave a sigh of relief. He slowly regained his senses. People of the kingdom rejoiced. The day began to be celebrated as Tussu festival.
The image of Tussu began to be erected every year. She is worshipped solemnly and then her statue is immersed in a water body. The beauty of Tussu had its spell in the entire Panchgarna area. Her beauty is worshipped in this festival of Tussu or Makar Sankranti.
I reached Haradih temple in Tamad district of Jharkhand in the morning. People had started coming to the temple to celebrate the festival and rejoice in the Tusu fair. The devotees took a bath in the Kanchi River and then headed for the temple of Shiva to offer their prayers. The ancient temple complex in Haradih consists of Vaishnavi temple and Mahishsurmardini temple. On being asked, people could not narrate any specific story related the festival of Tusu. A visitor could only say that long ago Tusu prayed to God with a wish in her mind and her prayers were answered. The number of visitors had lessened over the years. The festival has begun to lose its original flavour. The devotees to the Kanchi River did not carry a Chordal with them.
From Haradih, I headed for the Sati ghatMela. Thankfully, I caught a glimpse of a few Chordals here. The villagers explained that earlier prizes were given away to the most beautiful Chordal. But now this was not in practice. The inflation has also led to the lessening of the number of Chordals in this festival. The atmosphere of the fair was fraught with political discussions. Many prominent politicians had turned up at the fair. Tusu fairs provide a political platform to the local politicians.
On 15th January 2013, I visited the Haradih temple complex at Tamad. The complex houses a Vaishnava temple, a temple of Goddess Shakti and a Shivalinga. This place is popular for the Tusu fair that is organized every year in its campus. Many people visited the temple and offered their prayers at the temples and the Shivalinga. They informed us that the ancient temple had collapsed and a new one had been constructed in the recent past. Visitors offered flowers on the remains of the ancient temple too. But no one seemed to know the significance of the fair or the story behind it. It appeared as if the visitors had come to offer their prayers like any other day, though they did show some keenness for the fair where they could do some shopping and even enjoy some delicacies.
We proceeded towards the Sati ghat Mela that is organized on the banks of the Kanchi River. This fair appeared to be bigger and well organized. Many people had come to participate. It is believed that Tusu Mani had jumped into the funeral pyre of her husband on the banks of the Kanchi river. Hence this bank began to be called Sati ghat Mela. Many politicians participated and they even grabbed the opportunity to lure vote banks for the upcoming elections. Some villagers visited the site with Chordals which they immersed in the Kanchi river.
The educated tribal population of Ranchi had organized a get together in Manya Palace, a banquet hall in Morabadi.The rituals were performed with fervor. Many processes about which the villagers had appeared to be ignorant of were performed here. The image of Tusu Mani was worshipped. Many colourful Chordals could be seen at this gathering. Those present knew the story behind the festival and were well versed with the process of the rituals. Tribal delicacies were served to the guests after the completion of the rituals.
Excerpts from March 2013 report
End of holi
On the next day, a group of men head for the forest for hunting. This procession is called Phagua Shikar. The women of the household bid farewell to the hunters. They do not go to hunt to the forest. They merely ramble around and observe the changes that have come up. By evening, the hunters return home empty handed. Women wash their feet with clean water and welcome them back.
Fagua or colourful holi or chutia ka fagdol jatra
People begin to celebrate on the next day. They sprinkle colours on each other and rejoice. This festival announces the arrival of spring and departure of winter. People come together and every nook and corner presents a typically colorful sight. By noon, the participants began to retreat to take a bath. After cleansing themselves, people proceed to offer their prayers to the Gods and their ancestors. Rice beer, hen, sweets and other delicacies are offered to the village deity, deity of the orchards, hills and the Sun. Then people gather for the Phagdol Yatra.Fagdol is the doli of Phagua. There are a couple of temples in the western and eastern side of Chutia. The idols of all Gods and Goddesses are placed on dolis decked with flowers and they are brought out on the main street of Chutia. The residents of Chutia and the outsiders join the procession. The gathering offers Gulal( dry colours) to the deities. And then they rejoice amongst themselves. By 10 at night, the idols of the deities are taken back to the temples. Children and young seek the blessings of the elders by touching their feet and applying gulal.
Fagua-holika dahanholika dahan
The next day was Purnima. Firewood and even dry branches of trees were heaped together into a pile near the Chota Phagua dol Chabutra in Chutia. Doughnut shaped dry lumps of cow dung was strung together with a string and was draped on the pile of wood. Before setting the pile of wood on fire, certain rituals were observed. Men and women visited the spot with a bowl of water, beads, roli, rice, perfume, flowers, raw thread, turmeric, moong daal, sweets, dry colours, coconut etc. Ripe sheaf of grain is also used. Toys made of mud and cowdung were placed near holika or the pile of wood. Holika was then worshipped. Raw yarn was wrapped around the pile in three or seven circles. Water along with other things was offered to holika.After sunset, in Pradosh kaal, the holika was set on fire. When the flames began to leap up high, some men carried burning firewood into their dwelling to burn away all negativity. The grain sheaf was roasted in the burning fire and eaten by those present. It is believed that the intake of crops roasted in this fire keeps one away from diseases. Offering grains had started as a primitive ritual, an offering to the Goddess of fire in order to appease her and beseech her to spare the fields having crops ready for harvest. The ashes of holika is also carried home and applied on the body. The elders kick the ashes in different directions with their feet to drive away all evil from the neighbourhood. Some people also perform havan on this Purnima to seek the blessings of the fire God.
2ND festival fagdol or fagua or the first day
Chutia is the ancient capital of Chotanagpur. The fifth ruler of Nagvanshi dynasty, Maharaja Pratap Rai, shifted his capital from Sutiambe to Chutia in 307 century. Various small settlements of Mundas and Sadans came up during this time and the residents of Chutia started celebrating Fagdol from then on.I went to Chutia two days before holi and headed for the place called Chota Phagua dol Chabutra. A Munda Pahan or priest arrived with a branch of Arandi or castor bean oilseed tree. He planted the branch on the platform that had been mopped with yellow mud and cow dung. He wrapped some hay around the branch and set it on fire. After that he cut the branch into two parts in a single stroke. This marked the beginning of a new year. The smoke that emanated from the branch was closely observed and the Pahan or priest made some forecasts about the coming year.As soon as the Pahan finished his job, the gathering began to rejoice. They offered rice beer (hadia) to the Arandi branch and began their dance on the beat of Mandar dhol, dhak, nagada, shahnai, conch and cymbals.