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Baha Porob: the feast of the flowers

It is the feast of the flowers in honor of the principal bongas or spirits: Maran buru, Moréko-Turuiko, Jaer era, Gosae era and Manjhi haram. It is celebrated in the last quarter of the moon of the month of phagun (February-March). It can be however postponed in some cases. In the 1976 I was present to the feast on April 6.

The Santals say: « Baha do dosar maran porobtale »: the feast of the flowers is our second great feast. But according to the tradition it was the first one to be established. It is a feast of new year. Implicitly it is observed for promoting the prosperity of the family, especially as far as it concerns the offspring. It is necessary to know that at the origin of this feast it is a completely destroyed family. It is important to propitiate the spirits,to avoid that this doesn't repeat, the same spirits that were already the souls of the members of the destroyed family. After all the Santals are convinced that the children are given by Thakur jiu, the Creator, but they are also convinced that the spirits can oppose to the birth of the children or have them died.

Origin of the Baha

This way an oral tradition narrates: a head village named Phudan had five children and a daughter. Being very rich and possessing a lot of livestock,he had taken in the house as cowboy a Hindu of the Goalas (Hindu of low caste). According to someone the boy was a bramino that, stolen and naked of everything during a brigands raid, escaped in the house of a rich santal. The boy was called Sudhir Condro.

The daughter of Phudan, Lupsi, grew beautiful and prosperous, and it was by now arrived for her the time to get married, but no young fellow presented to ask her in bride. A day the five brothers: Etwar, Somae, Mangru, Budrae and Lukhiram went to hunting in the forest of Uruni. Sudhir Condro and Lupsi took advantage of that occasion to escape. When in the evening the brothers, returning happy of their preys, learned from the father, raging and sorry, that two had escaped, they remained dismayed, but following the suggestion of the father they decided to track down the fugitives. The old man said them to bring them home in any case. And he declared himself ready to humble in front of the guruji mahali, a descendant of Kapi Karam Bedea, and to pay any price for the guilt done by the daughter escaping with the Hindu boy. The morning after the five brothers, taken some toasted cereals prepared by their mother Kapra departed, armed with ax, arc and arrows in search of the fugitives. They looked for them for a long time in the forest without finding them. Etwar, the greatest, was furious and declared that, he would have cut their heads or he would have pierced through with the arrows. The young Lukhiram tried to calm the brother withou success. The fugitives were found sat under a tree in a pleasant place, luxuriant of bushes in flower, the typical rakhak (protected place), that is that part of the forest where it isforbidden to cut the plants. Etwar, without hesitating, mortally pierced through the Hindu boy. The sister, petrified, asked to be saved but she was also killed. Then, Etwar said to the brothers: We now go back our father, to the guruji and to the people of the village so they decide the best.

Hidden between the leafy branches of a tree, a birhor had assisted full of terror to the whole scene. The five brothers set out homeward, but they stopped on the banks of a pond, said Chapar, to refresh. Lukhiram, returned on his footsteps crying hopelessly for the dead sister and, on the place of the crime, removed the rope from the arc and hunged himself to a tree. The other brothers, almost fearing on what had happened, considering that the youngest didn't return, also come back to the rakhak and, desperate to the sight of the brother and the dead sister, they also hung themselves.

Meanwhile the birhor, petrified by the fright , was still in his place of observation. At home the two old men waitad with anxiety for the return of the sons. The morning after, exhorted by the wife, the old Phudan was going in search of the children. Following their traces, he arrived to the place of the tragedy easily and saw all his sons dead. He returned home with the death in his heart to give the terrible news to the wife. But in front of her he lost any courage and preferred to lie saying to not have found the children. The woman wanted to go to find her sons, reached the rakhak' and, at the sight of the dead children, got an heartbreak and died on the same place. Phudan, after having waited for the wife for a long time, understood that the tragedy was not finished and that also the wife was dead. He found no other choice that killing himself breaking the head with the stone that used to grind the spices (gurgu dhiri).

The people of the village didn't delay to discover the body of the manjhi covered by blood and wondered on what had happened. While they were discussing, arrived the birhor that, howling and gesticulating, made them understand to follow him. That day the terrible tragedy became clear for everybody. The old mother, the children and the Hindu boy were buried in the rakhak', then they dug the pit for the old Phudan in the free space in front of his house, along the road. Finished the sad duty of the burial, they had the problem of whom would take care of the funeral duties as the whole family had been destroyed. They addressed to the guruji mahali, that advised them to postpone the matter for five days, during which they would have prepared beer of rice. The guruji was introduced in village punctually a fifth day, it had a pumpkin filled of beer and nine cups prepared, invited then everyone to approach to the graves in the rakhak. In that place he poured on every grave a cup of beer as a libation, then he drank together with the present ones.

There were the days of the full moon of the month of phagun and the trees of the forest were all in flower. It asked for the barks of thorny bamboo, uniting them with some thorns, did a tray that filled of flowers: flowers of sal (Shorea robusta), flowers of kod (Eugenia jambolana), and other ones. He filled the pumpkin with water of pond (chapar) and said to the people to precede him to the village. He would have followed them with a boy and bringing with himself the corpses. Once arrived to the village, people would have owed to wash the feet to him and to the boy, and it would have been the same that to wash the feet of the corpses.

After people had gone, the guruji delivered the pumpkin with the water to the boy, and burdened of flowers. Arrived to the village, they began the visit of the houses. To every woman that washed them the legs and made the dobo, that is the usual regard, the guruji put in the suit a handful of flowers, saying to hang them to the doors so, entering and going out, they could see and remember them.

Finished the ceremony, everyone approached on the grave of the manjhi, above which the stone with which Phudan killed himself had been put, and plunged the baton of the old Kapra. For this still today on the manjhi than it is set a stone and a baton is plunged. After that the guruji had poured on the grave a cup of beer in libation, everybody they drank together; then he said: Remember what I have done, so you can repeat it. Don't sadden for what has happened. Today in fact the corpses have been made splendid like an ankle bracelet. We have set them to the shade of our house. We will remember every year forever: we will remember them making the feast of the flowers, eating and drinking, because after that our mind was full of sadness, it must become pure like a flower, and you must be full of joy and of serenity. The five brothers are now the Morékos, the gosae (the Hindu boy) has become Turuiko, the sister Gosae era, the old Jaher era and the old Manjhi haram. So it finishes the history on the origin of the Baha porob.

It is said that subsequently the guruji established that it should be chosen, next to the village, a place remembering the rakhak, where the trees can not be cut, and it gave the name of jaher or jaher than, the sacred grove to the spirits. And it is there, under three plants of sal, in line, that are installed Jaher era, Moréko and Maran buru, which, as head of the spirits,must always be present. A little far is installed the spirit Gosae era it was, and in any place the spirit of the Pargana. While the spirit of the head village, Manjhi haram, takes stable abode in the manjhi than , in front of the house of the village leader.

What said could bring to a long reflection on the santal soul mind santal, but I will make some brief observations.

To us it can seem at least strange to change a tragedy in feast. Yet it is a very effective way to win the fear and to bring peace in the troubled mind. After all the Santal is convinced that winning the fear is the surest way to take off a possible misfortune, as the presence between the members of the own family of a " excommunicated" to have violated the most rigid of the santal laws: cohabiting with an individual of other jat (caste, tribe, people). Also a violent death (excluded that in fight) of a member of the family it is a serious misfortune. And it is really for these two reasons that the family of the old Phudan disappeared from the face of earth, and its members became potentially malefic spirits. The Santals consider malefic all the spirits, but particularly the souls of the corpses of bad death. They are touchy spirits, envious, always ready to harm to the men, to subtract them that happiness that they do not and never will have. Here someone could observe that the mother Kapra didn't die of violent death. But Pitor Marndi told me another version, in which it is said that the old Kapra killed herself with the stone while Phudan killed himself with the cowboy baton. Habing still some doubt on the version of the facts, on the manjhi at times a baton is plunged and two stones are set, not one only. Some Authors, between which Monfrini, believe that baton and stones are a phallic symbol, but no Santal mentions to think in this way.

Back on the issue, I am able to say that transforming a tragedy in feast is conforming to the snatal mind. They bring the troubled mind on the only beautiful thing that was in that tragedy: the forest in flower; and at the same time they gather the occasion to propitiate the spirits and they dissuade, feeding them, from harming to the families with children.

Archer narrates, on the origin of the Baha, three different versions.

A tradition narrates that in the ancient times the Tudus were blacksmiths and they went every day in the forest to make coal, but in the big trees of the forest they lived the spirits. Once two brothers Tudu, while they were preparing coal, they saw to come some spirits; they ran away frightened and they were hidden in an ample hollow of a tree of atnak (Terminalia tomentosa). The spirits were dancing really in front of the tree, and the two brothers thought that, having seen them, there was not more escape, therefore they decided that before dying they would at least be enjoyed dancing with them. They took some flowers and, offering them, advanced toward the spirits that were completely naked. The girls-spirit, feeling shame because of their nudity, took to dance bended. The two young people enjoyed for a long time with them and they were educated on everything concerns the dance and the way to honor them. Finally the spirits manifested to them the proper name: Jaher era, Maran buru, Moréko-turuiko, Gosae era, Pargana bonga, Marijhi haram; and the girls-spirit: Hisi, Dumni, Chita Kapra. This way the two boys became guru or teachers of dance, of song and of ceremonies, giving beginning to the feast of the Baha that for that day all the Santals have observed.

As we can see, this story doesn't have anything in common with that previously reported. Besides it makes two spirits of one: Jaher era - Kapra. I make also notice that it is contrary to the santal mentality to call with proper names the spirits.

A second tradition would say that two brothers Tudu, also blacksmiths, a day they were lingered in the forest up to night. In that forest, called Urmi, there were the spirits and the two brothers, coming back, saw in front of oneself three girls-spirit dancing in front of the Moréko-turuikos, which played rudimentary instruments. The two young people sheltered in the trunk of a fig tree, but the spirits came to dance around the tree. Convinced of dying, they decided that was worth to enjoy themselves with the spirits. They danced up to the morning, but they didn't die; rather the girls-spirit invited them to establish a feast in their honor to be called feast of the flowers, having danced with the hair ornated of flowers. Returned to the village, they talked to the others of it, but nobody wanted to believe them. At evening, in the house of the naeke, a horn of buffalo took to play and a drum to boom, without nobody touching them. A man was possessed from the spirits of the Baha and run in the forest, where he cleaned the ground to the feet of some trees. The priest followed him with a vase of water and there they created the first jaher than. The morning after they deposed the stones for the Moréko-turuikos. The girls also came and they danced bended, as had done with the two brothers the girls-spirit. This way they made every year for five consecutive years. Then a man was possessed by the spirits of the Baha, which made to know to want in honor of the Moréko-turuikos a black calf in sacrifice, every five years. Besides they ordered for the feast of the Baha a new suit, a new broom, a new basket, some bells, a new jar, arc and arrows, an ax, an iron chain: all objects to bring to the sacred grove. It is made currently still in this way.

In this story reappears the name of the forest in which the five children of Phudan went to hunting: the forest Urmi. Tthe tools used currently in the puja are also specified. The spirits are named, in generic way, Baha bonga. The quinquennial sacrifice to the Moréko-turuikos is also taken in consideration. In both the stories the spirits were already existing.

The third story, narrated to Archer from Sangram Hembrom, says that at the time of the first ancestors five brothers lived in a forest with their mother. They hunted and the mother cooked the same number of portions as the arcs that the children introduced in the evening returning from hunting. A day they met a beautiful girl kamar and the youngest fell in love with her. He asked suggestion the brothers, an he brought her home. That evening the greatest brother delivered six arcs to the mother instead of five. The old mother asked a reason for it, and the youth spoke to her of the girl kamar. The mother didn't want to receive someone of another jat and the brothers that evening gave to her part of their food. The day after they built to her a hut not distant from that of the mother, and they were going to live with her, leaving alone the old mother. According to this history, the mother is Jaher era, the brothers are the Mòréko-turuiko and the girl kamar Gosàe era, who, not having been received by the mother, is also set aside in the sacred grove.

Except this last explanation, the story says not too much. It is not said why these persons became spirits. It speaks of five brothers called Mòréko-turuikos, that is the you Five-six. It is not clear what connection exists with the feast of the Baha except the name of the spirits, that are also those of the Sohrae.

The tradition reported by me, that is commonly known between the Santals of the district of Dinajpur and Rangpur, it seems to me the most complete and the most connected to the feast of the Baha. In addition to the clear description of the origin of the spirits, to which initially the feast was devoted, it shows also the first ritual elements, with exception of the victims that, were introduced much later only for initiative, probably, of the priests. There is indication of the arc and the arrows; the ax that is a simple object of presence used never during the puja; the pumpkin full of water, replaced today by the jar; the tray or basket, done with bamboo barks united with the thorns of the same bamboo, replaced today by the bamboo basket, as we will say speaking of the origin of the Sohrae; the abundance of beer and flowers, that characterizes still today the feast of the Baha, the flowers of sal and matkom . No naeke or priest is mentioned, who however will be created in substitution of the guruji mahali, when the group of the gurus mahalis were leaving to the Santals the complete celebration of the feast, after having teached them the ceremonies of the rites to perform.

Description of the Baha Porob

The old Koelan says: The Baha is our second great feast. It happens at the end of the full moon of the month of phagun. It is the feast of the return of the year. The sarjom tree (sal) in that period it blooms, the white flower of the jungle also blooms (icak, Woodfordia fructuosa) and the flame of the forest (murup, Butea superba). Before the Baha they don't suck neither the flower of the jungle neither the flame of the forest; they don't decorate with the flower of the sarjom and they don't eat the flower of the matkom. If someone sucks or eats such flowers before the feast, he won't have the visit of the priest and no drink and no food will be given to him before the end of the feast. The Baha unlike the Sohrae that it contains religious and sensual elements is an eminently religious feast. When the established day arrives, the boys go to prepare two roofings in the sacred grove, one for Jaher era, the Morekos and the Maran buru, another for Gosae era. The priest smears of bovine dung the single places reserved to the spirits, then everybody are going together to take the bath. After they go to the house of the priest that gives beer of rice and a meal of curry and rice to them. After that they go to hunting in the forest of the village (today in the jungle or in the proximities of the village). While young people and men get ready to go to hunting, in the village there are heard the old ones and the women to sing:

Or husband, a pup of dog we have raised,

we have put him in the breast of Ghurci rici.

We go to hunting, we pursue the prey.

In which forest we will hunt? in which forest we will pursue the prey?

In which forest, vigilant, will we hunt?

In the forest of the Sin we will hunt, we will pursue the prey.

In the forest of the Sin, vigilant we will hunt.

Here we could wonder because the men go to hunting at the beginning of the feast. The tradition says that this follows the teaching of the guriji mahali, who, remembering the five brothers that had returned from hunting with a fawn, hares and other preys, had not been able to eat them, he invited them to go to hunting and he taught them the above song.

While the men are to hunting, the priest prepares everything needed for the puja: the bamboo sieve, that must be new, an ample basket also of new bamboo, arc and arrow, a broom, the bracelets of the spirits, a chain, the bells and the trumpet of buffalo horn. He washes all these objects with water and anoints them with oil in which are mixed perfumed spices; the same does with a jar and a skein of thread. Toward evening the men return from hunting and they sing:

The prey in what forest you pursued,

where, o husband, hunting you did?

In which forest, vigilant, you looked for?

Of the Sin wood the prey I have looked for,

in the free forest I have hunted,

in the wood or wife, vigilant I have looked for.

Where is it of the hare the meat o husband?

Of the partridge where, husband, the wing?

Of hare oh woman, the meat I have brought,

oh woman, the wing of partridge I have brought.

Of hare oh man, the meat we cut,

the wing oh husband, break of partridge.

Of hare oh woman, the meat I have cut,

and the wing oh woman, of partridge I have broken.

Cook oh woman, the meat of hare,

have the wing of partridge cooked in water.

I have cooked the meat of hare,

the wing of partridge in water I have boiled.

Bring me oh woman, the meat of hare,

bring me oh woman, of the partridge the wing.

Of the hare the meat has burnt,

the wing of partridge in water is consumed.

You are, oh woman, bad cook,

you don't know how to mind, oh woman, to the kitchen.

Therefore life in Piriri oh husband,

in Piriri life I will pass.

In the meantime the godet hands to the priest three hens that are said hens of the priest. Immediately before evening, to the house of the priest they beat the or drum semispheric and they play the horn. Heard the sound, the rumok'kos, occasional sciamans, go to the house with all the people of the village. The priest hands out the material for the sciamans that are habitually three: one will be possessed by Jaher era, another from the Mòrékos and third from the Maran buru. Jaher era, acting like in trance will insert the bracelets and the chain, will put in the head the basket and at last will grab the broom; the Mòrékos take arc and arrows and the Maran buru puts on the shoulders the ax. They are gone to the jaher than with movements as being excited and possessed, followed by all the people of the village. There, Jaher era brooms the place reserved to the spirits, while the other ones only look. After that, everyone returns to the village and the priest requires the tools delivered before to the sciamanis, they return them to Him. They sit then on of a mat and he gives them a fist of rice sign of welcome; they begin to pray like when the spirits are installed in a new village. After having asked varied news to them, the priest asks back the rice and iput it on a sieve, then he asks vague questions to which they give vague answers. In some cases he asks them to hold every evil far, and they answer that no bad event will come. Finally the priest washes the legs first to Jaher era, then to the Morékos and last to the Maran buru; pours on them the water left and they utter a very high cry. Now it is Jaher era that washes the legs to the Mòrékos, to the Maran buru, to the priest and his wife, to the head village and to the paranik, finally to the players of drum and horn, and pours water on their heads. The priest has the vase returned and everyone seat as before. To have the sciamans returned to normalcy, he speak to them, while the drums roll and the horn plays. Returned in themself, they receive a cup of beer and rice; so also all the presents. After having eaten and drunk, they give beginning to the songs.

On the top of the poplar

it sings, oh Gosa'e, the wren;

of the fig tree on the pendants branches

it calls, oh Gosae, the woodpecker.

it is to the end the year:

it sings, oh Gosae, the wren.

it is back the year:

it calls, oh Gosae, the woodpecker.

Turning turns the year:

it sings, oh Gosae, the wren.

Returning returns the year:

it calls, oh Gosae, the woodpecker.

According to the use oh mother,

I have set to the finger the ring.

According to the use oh mother,

the ankle bell to the foot I brought.

Where is it, sister, to your finger the ring?

Where is it, sister, the ankle bell to the foot?

In the spring has fallen me

the ring that I brought to the finger,

in the pond has sunk

of the foot my ankle bell.

My friend took

the ring that I brought to the finger,

my lover has found

of the foot my ankle bell.

To return me tell him the ring

what to the finger I brought,

to return me tell him

of the foot my ankle bell.

Your friend doesn't have

the ring that you brought to the finger,

your lover doesn't have

of the foot your ankle bell.

They dance the whole night up to the dawn and they sing appropriate songs without nothing lascivious. The priest and his wife, sleep on the earth according to the established use. At dawn the woman, prepares the flour after having made the bath. The godet goes house by house to pick up a hen, rice put aside for the necessity (curuc caole), salt and turmeric. The priest assembles the whole necessary material for the offer to the spirits, a new basket in which he puts back the rice dried to the sun (adwa caole), then he puts with care the oil, the perfumed vermilion; in the sieve he puts the flour and the ax. In the basket he puts the chain, the bracelets, the brooms. A not married youth is burdened of the arc and of the arrows, of the trumpet of buffalo's horn and a new vase for water. This vase is said vase of the good wish (sagun thili). The boys and the girls follow the priest singing:

On the smooth and tall porch,

on the mat stretched,

only the priest has slept,

spread out on the ground in continence.

it is the song that recalls the ritual use according to which the priest must stay continent the night before the puja. Then they continue:

From village to village

the generations bud,

they grow from field to field

mustard and lentils.

Who the generations has established?

Who takes mustard and lentils?

Five the generations have established;

Jaher era takes mustard and lentils.

Along the journey from the village to the jaher than still follow other songs, one of which is a call to the happy foundation of the village, still today prosperous.

In the woody region

happy premonitions we had,

turning and turning

the village we founded.

There are now

black cows and calves;

There are now

new gray broodings.

Comes to the sacred grove, once more the priest smears of diluted bovine dung the place of the spirits. The sciamans return to be possessed, and each of them takes his tools, then they advance between the trees, while the young people follow them very near. Seen a plant of sarjom rich in flowers, the Mòrekos throw an arrow and the Maran buru climbs on the plant, detaches the flowers and leaves them to fall. Jaher era picks up them setting them in the big basket. After that the Maran buru has also picked up flowers of matkom, they bring all to the jaher.

The priest receives from their hands the flowers and the tools with big attitude of humility, that is with a gamcha wound around the neck (the gamcha is a piece of cloth that in India and in Bagladesh the men use to bring around the sides). The presents seat on a mat under the roofing, and the sacrifices to the spirits can start. The prayer that he says to them is the same one that it applies in all the sacrifices, but he uses the formula baha nutumte, that is that of the feast of the flowers or making the feast of the flowers... I give an example of prayer that, being typical, is not also unique:I Greet you, Jaher was, Gosàe was, Moréko-turuiko! For the feast of the flowers we make for you our offers: "receive her with full hands, gladly, and be happy. We have come all, near and distant, near you... (they name all the relatives). That no evil strikes us to the feet and the hands, to the head and the abdomen; that we don't faint in the road. We can enjoy good health instead. Drinking and eating to our wish and picking bones clean doesn't take there ache of belly or headache. Don't come to dispute and that nobody discloses our mutual escapades, that doesn't make any scuffle. We can serenely enjoy us dancing and playing. Health to you, or revered and beloved spirits."

I had occasion to feel more sublime prayers in which he invoked the grace of the Creator, peace and the help of the sky but the ending, not to the spirits neither to Cando baba, on the contrary it made me very perplexed: You remember and you understand well: "all these things are for the body and not for the soul."

Finished the sacrifices and the prayer, the priest deposes on the place of every spirit a cluster of flowers of sarjom and a flower of matkom. People start over singing:

Five are five brothers,

six they are six brothers.

The violent rain roars with the wind,

and water clear goes down.

Will they smear with what?

With what they will polish?

With milk they will smear,

with ricotta they will polish

Oil please accept, and vermilion,

with the sandal appreciate the black smoke.

Receive with the oil the vermilion,

Receive sandal and black smoke.

The priest addresses to the sciamans then and he says them: look, take, and it utters the sigh of offer (sahak'), and they drink the blood of the victims. The priest washes them once more the legs, reciprocated by Jaher era, then they thrown water each other. And finally the priest makes them return from possession. The girls that danced ask flowers the priest, singing:

We ask, or sister,

we ask to the Five

the flowers of sal.

Boys and girls one by one receive the flowers, and they start over singing while they dance:

The wild heifers, the wild heifers

they race going out, they race entering,

very beautiful they are the wild heifers.

The wild bufalos, the wild bufalos

they race going out, they race entering,

very beautiful they are the wild bufalos.

Together they do return the village and they sing:

The blind buffalo

has sunk

of the bel in the lake.

Of the bel the lake,

oh my girls,

it is a big lake.

These words, that the young people of two sexes are saying, are of an evident sexual symbolism: the bel or sinjo are the round and firm fruits of the Aegel marmelos and they symbolize the breasts; the lake or pond the female organ. The blind buffalo is the youth blind for the passion.

While the priest has, with rice and water, cooked the hen sacrificed from the brown feathers , then he will eat together with the wife, some men of the village they make cook apart, always with rice, the other hens that will consume with the other men. Then, left alone priest in the grove, they return to their houses to sacrifice pigs and hens to the spirits to eat with the members of the own family and the guests.

Around three p.m., some goes toward the jaher than beating the drums and playing the horns to announce that the priest is going back to the village. They pass the voice and all they go toward him; he, prepared the flowers in the basket, delivers them to the assistant that accompanies him. He puts some blooming branches and the sieve under the arm, takes the metal vase of water, holding it with the fingers, but puts the water jar, said of good wish, on the shoulders of the assistant. All the other objects, used for the puja, can be brought away from any person.

The girls meanwhile on the chatka, the free space in front of the house, that is never the courtyard when the house is surrounded by boundaries, have prepared the whole material to receive the priest and his assistant: the vase of water, the small stool and the pot of the oil. When he arrives to the first house, a girl meets him, she washes him the feet, first the left one then the right one; he delivers a handful of flowers to her, putting them in the suit. The girl turns gives wishes to him and mutually they spill water on the head or on the body; this way the girl does with the assistant that, if is younger than her, will be bowed before her deeply. In this way they continue house by house, including their own. The priest before entering in his house pours on the roof the water contained in the metallic vase (lota). Enter with him also those that had accompanied him and he offers them two cups of beer. On the roads of the village, meanwhile, boys and girls make din, throwing water eachother; the same they make men and women that are not prevented by the obligation of the parental avoidance. They continue the dance in the courtyard of the priest and they sing:

In the courtyard of whom, oh girl,

the splendid horse?

In the road of whom, oh girl,

the splendid green mare?

In the priest's courtyard oh girl,

it is the splendid white horse.

In the priest's road oh girl

it is the splendid green mare.

It swings before and back, oh girl

the splendid white horse,

it skips about slightly, oh girl

the splendid green mare.

Put the jhumka

the splendid white horse.

Put the urmal

the splendid green mare.

Here it is also evident that the horse is a boy and the mare a girl. The jhumka and the urmal are two bell ornaments that, according to some old santals of Pargaun, would be symbols of sexes; the last strophe therefore would be an invitation to the sexual union.

They dance and they drink beer of rice; they sing the songs of the Baha in the courtyard of the priest up to the sunset, when they go in front of the house of the village leader and they dance the lagre. When they are tired to dance, each one go back home.

The lagre is one of the most common santal dances, and also one of the most exciting for the movements of the body wantedly sensual. They are only three the boys that play in front of the united girls in semicircle with the drums; naturally they make shifts. And in the breaks boys and girls go away for loving games.

As we see, also the feast of the Baha, although not comparable to the Sohrae, despite the protest of sobriety of the old Koelan and of some missionaries, it is a good occasion for the young santals to show the ardor of their senses, as they say: kuri kora netar matao akante lagreko eneca manjhi chatkare (today-day boys and girls, being wildly in love they dance the lagre in front of the house of the head village). The affirmation in the mouth of the old santals is without doubt exaggerated, and it reveals the usual tendency to praise the old times as good ones. Yet it is not even the case to close the eyes to the reality. I confirm however that the santal people is one of the healthiest of all the aborigines, not only of Bangladesh, but of the whole India.

The day after the kudam naeke or second priest, together with the godet it is approached in the jungle according to priest, makes to himself some wounds with some thorns in the thighs or on the breast and he offers rice, wet of his blood, to the spirit of the Pargana, and so ago to all the small spirits, said bahre bonga, and finally to all the other spirits. In this way it is concluded the Baha porob.

As I have seen the Baha Porob

When on April 6th 1976 I approached to Subra, a small village along the road that goes from Dinajpur to Thakurgaon, around three miles from the city it was already passed the normal time of the feast of the flowers. In the forest the sarjom already had lost its perfumed flowerings. But to this neither the inhabitants of Subra thought, because since long time in the proximities of the village no plants of sarjom were present; another motive had recommended, perhaps, to delay the feast: the priest Baburam Baske was sickened. I went in company of Suku Hasdak and, as soon as arrived under the shady mango that surround the houses, I was invited to go to the sacred grove, three hundred meters out of the village. No forest existed in that place: only some bamboo stains, jungle bushes and some tree. And really near to some trees the than for the puja had been prepared. On the place some men and boys were present, one of them would have be the assistant. I noticed immediately at east a hut, only in miniature, built with some bamboo pieces and sauri (Heteropogon contortus) to the feet of an ome (Miliusia velutina), place reserved to the Morékos and to the Maran buru. To west, next to three jungle plants were installed the Turuiko and the spirit of the Pargana. For the Turuikos I have remained a little bit amazed; I waited r them in fact united to the Morékos; and I did not think that they would also have sacrificed to them, as I was many times told that to them only offers, not sacrifices are done. At north there was the than for Jaher era and Gosae era; nothig was at south and I took this position to observe the carrying out of the puja.At north of the khond for Jaher era and Gosàe era they planted two thin bamboos reeds, that replaced the arrows tied up with three turns of white thread. Near they put some bananas, and above a sieve there was the whole material to prepare the prosad, the oil and the vermilion.

Being sickened, the priest Baburam Baske was replaced by a great brother that was also village leader. He prepared the single khònds for the spirits and, sat, gave beginning to the sacrifices. He marked the victims with the vermilion only on the head. He sacrificed a little dove to Gosae era and a little hen for each of the other spirits. He offered also two little hen to Gosàe era and to Jaher without killing them; he gave them instead to the assistant, who brought them in the village to sacrifice on the manjhi than, and brought back only the heads that it threw next to the khònd of the Pargana and the Turuikos. This sacrifice, they said me, should have be done from the priest. During the sacrifices, from time to time, the manjhi-priest set some incense on a little fire of dry dung of ox in front of the khònds of Jaher era and Gosàe era.

Finished the sacrifices, he prepared the prosad: he pulped some bananas, added some murkhis (small sweets), some batasa (kind of blown sugar); offered only to Gosàe era and to Jahaer era, then it distributed it to all the boys, girls and to some young people.

Not far from the place of the puja they plucked and slightly toasted to the fire the victims, cut them in small pieces, to prepare the sure daka, that is a soup of rice and meat, in a pot done with bamboo reeds, at the east of the than of the Maran huru and of the Morékos. In the meantime I approached to the village where men and women had begun the danceand to sing at the sound of the drums. Anticipating them, I arrived to the Jaher than where they reached me a little afterwards playing and dancing frantically. As musical instruments they had only two dhols and a tamak (the first one are long and oval drums, the second is a semispheric drum), some bells and a horn. Women and men were dressed for the feast: the first ones wore garish sari and flowers in hair; the men new dhutis and white or coloured shirt, enough unusual thing for the poor Santals. When men and women, after having danced and played for a long time next to the jaher than, they did return the village accompanied by a crowd of children and always dancing I followed them while the priest and some men were cooking the sure daka.

If we exclude the preparation of the jaher than, the feast was done in one day only. They said me that this happened, as for the sohrae because of famine. I could not assist to the lavender of the feet and the offer of the flowers, done by the priest, because it was too late. I knew subsequently that everything followed normally with a lavish meal, abundant drink of beer, songs and dances. From this I think that, despite the famine, the Santals don't give up their traditional feasts. But a thing yet is certain, that between the Santals of Bangladesh, as between the other aborigines, the feasts have lost a lot of their charm. This is not only true for those that are next to the cities, but also for all the others. This is due to new environmental conditions of these last thirty years. The disappearance of the forest, for instance, has influenced a lot, together with the demografic explosion of the Moslems, to the reshaping of the feasts. The Muslims have forced the Santals to retire in more and more narrow environments, and have not hesitated to destroy the few plants still growing in the proximities of the santal villages.

In the feast of the Baha, for instance, hunting is omitted or it is been reduced to a small raid between the fields near to the village, to hunt at the best a hare or a partridge. In many places hardly they are able to get some flowers to adorn and to complete the final ceremony and not from the trees of the sacred grove. In the Jaher than of Subra it doesn't exist a single plant of sal, neither a tree of matkom. When I went, a few flowers were budding on the plant of ome. Those that the women brought in their hair had been perhaps gathered by some sapling of the village, and they were mailnly flowers of bushes that grow in the gardens. The garish suits were not offsetting the shortage of flowers. I remember the comment of the village leader when I mentioned the lack of the trees of sal: Who can even think to the flowers of sal where everything has been destroyed? Nowadays we must satisfy us on what we have. This means to give up big part of the ceremonies during the feast, to reduce it to a minimum, without leaving it to disappear it, because the Santal feels the need of the feasts, to win with joy the fear of the spirits.

In Subra the sciamans didn't even appear, as their presence, for the lack of blooming trees would have been reduced to pure appearance. What is still in these feasts, over the sacrifices to the spirits are the song and the dance, the beer that every family santal is also gotten even if they have to sacrifice the meals. A lot of times I have seen persons reducing their already frugal daily meal to put some rice aside with which to make the beer needed during the feasts. The musical tools also seem in diminution; only the drums of varied form and greatness, the flute, rare string instruments, harmonium with bellows to hand, the dishes are still present.



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