Sarhul is one of the grand festivals of tribals in Jharkhand. This festival is celebrated on Chaitra Shukla Tritiya, the third day of bright half in Chaitra month. Tribals celebrate ‘Sarhul’, a festival marking the beginning of New Year, by worshiping trees. This annual festival is celebrated during the spring season when trees and other elements of nature are worshiped. Sarhul literally means ‘Worship of Sal’. Sarhul festival is dedicated to Dharti mata — Mother Earth. The mother nature is worshiped during the festival. Sarhul is celebrated for several days during which the main traditional dance Sarhul dance is performed.
Sarhul is celebrated during spring season and the Sal (Shorea robusta) trees get new flowers on their branches. Tribals believe that they can use new crop mainly paddy, leaves of the trees, flowers and fruits of the season only after this festival is celebrated.
During the festival Sal flowers are brought to the sarna (sacred grove) and the priest propitiates all the gods of the tribes. A sarna is a cluster of trees where the adivasis would worship in various occasions. Such a grove among many others must house at least five saal (shorea robusta) trees also known as sorjum, held very sacred by the tribals. It is a worship of the village deity who is considered to be the protector of the tribes. People sing and dance a lot when the new flowers appear. The deities are worshiped with saal flowers.
After worshiping trees, the village priest locally known as Pahaan puts a few rice grains on the head of a hen. Locals believe that prosperity for the people is predicted if the hen eats the rice grains after they fall to the ground, but if the hen does not eat, disaster awaits the community. Also, pahaan predicts the rainfall in the coming season watching a pair of twigs in water. These are age-old traditions, coming down through generations since time immemorial.
Tribes all across Jharkhand celebrate this festival with great fervor and joy. Tribal men, women and children dress up in colorful and ethnic attires and perform traditional dances. They also drink a locally made beer, called Hadia, brewed out of a concoction of rice, water and some tree leaves and then dance around the tree.
Although being a tribal festival, Sarhul is not restricted to a particular section of Indian society. People from other faith and community like the Hindus, the Muslims, the Christians take part in greeting the dancing crowd. Sarhul presents a perfect example of collective celebration, where everyone is a participant.