Karma Puja is one of the most popular festivals of Jharkhand. The festival of Karma, being celebrated all over the Indian state of Jharkhand, has been related to the harvest and to the Karam tree. It symbolised fertility, prosperity and all that is auspicious. This festival falls in the month of August/September (11th moon of the Hindu month of Bhadrapad). It is a festival celebrated by mainly the Oraon, Baiga, Binjhwari and Majhwar tribes among others.
The name Karma is drawn from the name of a tree “Karam”. The branch of the Karam tree is carried by the Karma dancers and is passed among them with singing and dancing. This branch is washed with milk and rice beer locally known as Handia. Then it is raised in the middle of the dancing arena. All worshipers dance for whole night in the praise of the “Karam”. The ritual starts with the planting of the trees. The dancers form a circle and dance with their arms around each other dancer’s waists.
karma-puja-jharkhandOn this day people go in the forest to collect fruits and flowers, and they worship Karma Devi, a goddess who is represented with a branch of karam tree. The branches are garlanded on the next day. Offerings of flowers, rice and curd are made to them. Red colored baskets filled with grains are placed before the branches. Barley seedlings are distributed among the young people, who wear it on their heads. The branches are worshiped and their blessings sought. As per the legends of Karam Devi, she is believed to be the goddess of wealth and children.
During the dance they pass the branch of the tree, the men leap forward to a rapid roll of drums, while women dance with their feet moving in perfect rhythm to and fro.
The history of the festival is not much known. But local historians aver that it’s being celebrated since time immemorial. The legend behind the festival, according to anthropologist Harimohan (1972, as cited in JharkhandStateNews 2012).
Karma Dance is also one of the oldest dance form in India. This dance form is common to the many ethnic groups of India. Girls also pray for the safety of their brothers during the Karma Puja. Girls seeking blessings for their brothers is believed to be an extended version of the Hindu customs — “Bhai Dooj/Bhratri Dwitiya”.
Happy Karma to everyone! Long live Karma festival! At a time when cutting and uprooting of trees have become a normal daily affair in the name of business and development, Karma festival reminds us of the importance of trees and nature in our life.