Tribal Areas of Sundargarh, Mayurbhanj, Sambalpur, Bolangir, Dhenkanal & Keonjhar, Orissa
Celebrated By :
Ho, Kisan, Kol, Bhumij, Oraon, Bhuiyan & Binjhals Tribes.
God Karama or Goddess Karamasani
Month of Bhadrab (August - September)
The karma is a famous autumn festival which starts from the eleventh day of the bright fortnight of the month of
Bhadrab and continues for some days in the month of Ashwina. The festival is celebrated in most of
Orissa's villages in Sambalpur and Phulabani districts.
The story behind this celebration goes: six sons of a rich merchant set sail in a ship for trade, leaving the youngest brother at home. When they returned they saw to their amazement that their wives danced in the 'Karma' festival, while the youngest brother was playing on the drum. Being enraged, they drove away their wives. At this, 'Karma' (the god of fortune) got angry and all their wealth vanished. They repented for their folly of driving out the goddess of wealth along with their wives.
With the counsel of their wives they went in search of the God of fortune and met a milkman on the way. The latter requested them to ascertain from the God why the number of his cows was fast decreasing. After some time they saw a strange man bearing on his head a piece of broken earthen pot with fire burning in it, and another man carrying a husking peddle on the shoulder. The next man they met was shivering in the suffering of these persons from the God and the means of getting free from them. The God after due worship was kind to them and on return they found that their house was filled with gold and jewels.
Time for the Festivity
In this festival the presiding deity is either 'Karama', a God or 'Karamasani', a Goddess who is represented with a branch of Karama tree. Its celebration takes place in the bright half of the month of 'Bhadrab' or 'Bhadra' during the rainy season. Mostly it is held on the eleventh day of the bright fortnight.
In the ritual, people go the jungle accompanied by groups of drummers and cut one or more branches of Karama tree. The branches are mostly carried by unmarried young girls who sing in praise of the deity. Then the branches are brought to the village and planted in the centre of a ground, which is plastered with cow-dung and decorated with flowers.
Then the tribal-priest known as 'Jhankar' or 'Dehuri' offers germinated grams 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. Then, he narrates a legend to the villagers about the efficacy of "Karama
The Various Tribal Legends
The legends vary from tribe to tribe. Among the Bhumij, Ho and Orans the legend prevalent is that there were seven brothers living together. The six elders used to work in the field and the youngest was staying at home. He was indulging in dance and songs round a Karama tree in the courtyard with his six sisters-in-law.
One day they were so engrossed that the morning meal of the brothers could not be carried to the field by their respective wives. When they arrived home, they got agitated and threw away the Karama tree to a river. The youngest brother left home in anger. Then evil days fell on the brothers. Their house was damaged, the crops failed and virtually they starved.
While wandering, the youngest brother found the Karama tree floating in the river. Then he propitiated the godling who restored everything. Thereafter he came home, called his brothers and told them that because they insulted "Karama Devta" they had to fall on evil days. Since then the Karama Devta is being worshipped.
After narration of the legend all men and women drink liquor and spend the whole night singing and dancing, which are essential parts of the festival.
As it was the day of Karama festival and all the women were engrossed with dancing and the men playing the drums, none went to receive him. The merchant became furious with them. He uprooted the Karama tree and threw it away. Then the wrath of Karama Devta fell on him. His vessel immediately sank in the sea. Then he consulted astrologers who told him to propitiate Karama Devta.
Again in another vessel he set out in search of the deity and found him floating in the sea, He propitiated him with great devotion and was restored with all wealth. From that day on the annual festival of Karama Puja is being held. After spending the whole night with dance and songs, the people uproot the branches and carry them to nearby rivers or rivulets for immersion.
The Two Way Celebration
The festival is experiential in two ways. Firstly, it is commonly held by the villagers on the village street and the expenses on liquor etc. are commonly borne. Alternatively, it is celebrated by a man in his courtyard under his patronage, to which he invites all. Even people who come uninvited listening to the sound of drums are also entertained with liquor.