Karma Puja is one of the most popular festivals of Kudmi People. 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.

On 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).

In the ritual, people go to the jungle accompanied by groups of drummers and cut one or more branches of the Karam tree. The branches are usually carried by unmarried young girls who sing in praise of the deity. Then the branches are brought to the village and planted in the center of the ground which is plastered with cow-dung and decorated with flowers. A tribal priest (Jhankar or Dehuri) offers germinated grains and liquor in propitiation to the deity who grants wealth and children. A fowl is also killed and the blood is offered to the branch. The tribal priest then recites a legend to the villagers about the efficacy of Karam puja. The legend varies from tribe to tribe.