On the occasion of annual Mansa festival here on Tuesday, the celebration of tribal life and the joy of offering obeisance in awe-inspiring ways was visible once again.
Hundreds of tribals participated in a religious procession here in Panchparagana area on Tuesday. Some of the devotees had their bodies pierced with sharp objects and carried snakes on their heads. It is done to appease the snake goddess Mansa.
People from neighbouring areas congregated in Tamar hamlet, 70 kilometers from Ranchi, the State capital to watch the rituals associated with the festival.
Body piercing has been an important part of the ritual, followed by tribals for generations here.
The body piercing is done after a customary bath in a pool. The individuals smear normal vermilion, as an 'anti-septic' on bleeding parts of the body and avoid infection.
The tribals believe that giving harsh punishment to one's body enables them to gain special affection of the goddess. She will protect them from snakebites throughout the year after being pleased with their dare-devil form of worship.
Many of the participants during the festival carry snakes on their heads, believing this will prevent them from snakebites.
"The Goddess Mansa is considered to be the snake goddess as per our customs. As we are residing in a village. Here the snake is considered to be our deity. So, all these rituals are being performed to appease the Goddess Mansa. This ritual of carrying a snake on our heads is known as 'Japan'," said Vinod, one of the devotees.
During their celebrations, the tribals chanted hymns and devotional prayers besides dancing to the beats of drums during the festival.
Even as many people on this occasion pierce their tongues, hands, nose, ear and other areas of the body in devotion, many others do not do that but express their devotion to the deity by observing day-long fast.
As per the local tradition, women observe fast and eat only at midnight after worshipping Goddess Mansa.
It all ends when the procession reaches Mansa Temple.
The Mansa Festival is observed in many parts of Jharkhand including Ranchi, East Singum. In West Bengal, festival is observed in places like Purlia, Bakura and Midnapur.
The ritual associated with the festival is a part of centuries old tribal customs. By Girija Shankar Ojha (ANI)