The people of the district observe a number of festivals all the year round. These festivals are broadly divided into two categories viz. domestic festivals and public festivals.
This is a tribal festival of flowers.In the month of March-April sal flowers are brought to the sarna or sacred grove. The priest (pahan) propitiates all gods of the Mundas. The celebration goes on for several days.
This is celebrated in the month of October-November .The Munda cattle owners fast for the whole day. In the night, lamps are lighted. On the following morning the cattle-shed is washed and sprinkled with rice-beer. The cattle are fed in plenty.
The Karma puja is celebrated mostly by the Adivasis in Keonjhar and Champua Sub-divisions. The festival commences on a Thursday in the month of Margasira (November-December) and is celebrated for eight days. The festival culminates with offerings to the presiding deity, while the preceding seven days are spent in preparation. On the first day, two unmarried young boys collect new pulses like green gram, black gram, mustard, gingely, horse gram etc., about a handful for each household and keep the collected pulses on the bank of a stream in a bamboo basket. These two young men cook their food themselves and eat it untouched by others till the end of the festival. Every day they sprinkle water on these pulses after taking bath in the stream. On the eight day, they plant two branches of Karama tree in front of the Mandaghar (dormitory). The grains, which have by now germinated, are brought and placed beside the branches of the karama tree. The youngsters of the village then dance around the karma twigs. Next day two fowls are sacrified there and the baskets containing grains alongwith the branches are carried in a procession to a nearby river or Nala and are immersed there.
Bodam is celebrated by all communities in general, and the Advasis in particular, before the eating of new fruits of the season. On a Thursday in the bright fortnight of pousha, some new fruits and flowers are collected. The Dehuri, the village priest, prepares porridge in a new pot and offers the same alongwith curd, milk, new fruits and flowers to the goddess of the village. All the people take part in the festival, but 8 to 10 persons, besides the dehuri, fast for the whole day. Every household contributes for the festival.
CHAITRA PARAB OR UDA PARAB
It falls on the last day of chaitra and continues for 3 to 4 days. The people worship goddess Basuli. The festival is celebrated on a grand scale in Jyotipur, Asanapat and Chamakpur in Champua Sub-Division. On this occasion people perform Chhau dance.
On the morning of Makara Sankranti people take their holy dip in a river or pond and go to the nearby Siva Temple to have darshan. They worship lord Siva to have their desire fulfilled.On this day Makar Jatra or Mela is held at many places in the district. But it is observed on a grand scale in the villages Barhatipura (Ghatgaon Block), Deogaon (Ghasipura Block), Kasira, Sarei, Balibandha Bhanda,Tangarbantala , Deojhar, Mirigisinga, Govindpur and Chamakpur (Champua Block). Every year 5000 to 30,000 people gather at these places to celebrate the festival. People get an opportunity to enjoy the festival as it takes place at the end of the harvesting season. Keshari Kunda which has two holes on the bed of river Baitarni attract people to get holy dip and people offer their homage to lord Siva on its bank. During Makara Sankranti adventurous people dare to enter into one hole of river bed and come out in another hole in order to prove their righteousness.
Nuakhai means ceremonial eating of new grains. It is observed on a Thursday in the month of Bhadrab. In the morning a handful of new paddy is collected from each household. The rice prepared out of this grain is used for preparing porridge which is then offered to the Grama Devati. Goats are also sacrified before the Deity and a feast is held in the village for which each household contributes . On the following day i.e. Friday, new paddy grains are again collected from each household and the same is kept at the mandaghar.This is distributed to the villagers with pieces of gourd. The sanctified paddy is pounded and mixed with rice to be cooked for the day. In the festival all the communities take part except kolhas. The Kolhas celebrate it in a different manner.They, on this day, cook new rice in a new pot, prepare fowl curry , brew rice beer and offer it all to their Dharam Banga or Sun God on one leaf and to their ancestors on another. This is done by men alone.
Raja is an important agricultural festival. It is observed in the district for three days i.e. from the last day of the month of Jyestha called pahili Raja up to the 2nd day of the month of Asadha, known as Bhuindahan or Bhumidahan . The 1st day of the month of Asadha is called Raja Sankranti. During these days the Mother Earth is supposed to be rajaswalla or under menstruation and all the agricultural operations are hence suspended during the period. For this festival various kinds of dishes, pithas or rice cakes and sweets are prepared.The people pass the time in feasting and merry making.The boys play various kinds of indoor and outdoor games. The girls spend the time by swinging and singing melodious songs on swings fastened to the tree branches.The festival ends on the day following Bhumidahan.
The Baruni Jatra is observed on the 13th day of the dark fortnight in the month of Chaitra (March-April).On the day of Baruni many people take their holy dip in the sacred rivers and sea. In the district the jatra is held at Gonasika near Brahmeswar Mahadev Temple. Large number of people from different parts of the district as well as from outside come to this place on that day to take bath in the Brahma Kunda, just near the temple of Brahmeswar Mahadev Temple. People regard this as a sacred place as the Baitarani flows from Gonasika through this kunda. There is no easy communication to that place. The local Adivasis mostly come there to sell forest products. The Jatra is held for one day and attracts about 30,000 people.
Like the Puri Rath Jatra, the Gundicha jatra takes place on Asadha Sukla Duitiya i.e. 2nd day of the bright fortnight of the month of Asadha (June-July) . The three deities are brought from the main temple and placed in the wooden chariot ( RATHA ). After due ceremony, the chariot is dragged by thousands of devotees to the Sri Gundicha mandira where the deities stay for a week. The return car festival or Bahuda jatra is performed on Asadha Sukla Dasami i.e.the tenth day of the bright fortnight.This festival is celebrated in Keonjhar,Anandapur and Champua. More than 50 thousand people gather in Old town of Keonjhar to witness Ratha Jatra. The height of the Baladev Jew temple is 135 ft or 41.15 meters and the height of the Ratha is 60 feet.
Sivaratri festival is observed in all the Siva temples on the 14th day of the dark fortnight in the month of Phalguna ( Feb-March). The devotees remain awake throughout the night and worship Lord Siva. At night a lamp called “Mahadipa” is taken to the top of the temple and is kept burning throughout the night. The devotees break their fast after seeing the “Mahadipa”.This festival is observed with great pomp and Splendour in the Siva-Temple at Kusaleswar, Gonasika, Bodapalasa, Champua and Deojhar.
The other festivals performed in households and by the public are Ram Navami, Dasahara, Dola Jatra, Rahas Purnima, Bada Osha and Chandan Jatra etc.
FOLK DANCES OF KEONJHAR
One cannot imagine tribal life without dance and music. On festive occasions dancing is indispensable. Most tribal villages have akharas where men and women assemble together to dance to the tune of indigenous music.
CHANGU DANCE DANCE
The Changu dance derives its name from a kind of drum called Changu, which invariably accompanies the dance. This dance is common to almost all the tribes but is more popular among the Bhuyans. The peculiar feature of the dance is that the men confront the girls with music and song and then recede backwards when the girls confront them. The girls dance standing in a row generally holding each other’s hand.
It is generally performed during the Chaitra Parab festival in the month of Chaitra. It is a dance with a strong folk character; almost like a dance drama. This dance originated in Mayurbhanj district of Orissa and Sareikela district of Bihar. In this dance footwork and body movement of the dancers are most artistic and virile. Facial expressions are generally absent.
JUANG DANCE DANCE
The Juang dance is performed to the accompaniment of tambourines. Earlier they used to dance dressed in primitive leaf which is no more in practice. Men sing as the girls dance being accompanied by deep sounding tambourines. In one form the girls move around in a single file keeping the right hand on the right shoulder of the girl in front. The Juangs also have what are called the bear dance and the pigeon dance.
HO DANCE DANCE
The Hos are a purely agricultural tribe. They have dances during Magh festival which is held in the month of January when the granaries are full. The chief beverage taken during the celebrations is a kind of home brewed rice beer called Illi. During Ho celebrations all restrictions are set aside.