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Santhals prepare handia to keep cool in sultry summer

Baripada, May 19: Most among us drink a chilled, fizzy drink to beat the heat, but the Santhals have their own unique 'Chipa Handia' to cool themselves.

The Santhal tribals of Orissa would never step into a cold drink parlour to sip a soft drink. They would rather make this Handia, which is better known as 'Badaej Handia' in Santhali terminology, at home, says Parvati Murmu of Bholagadia village under Khunta block of Mayurbhanj district.

Parvati, an ex-Chairman of the Khunta Panchayat Samitee has the expertise to prepare the special Handia that keep the people of her community cool.

Not only the Santhals, but a few other tribes also enjoy the 'Handia' as a chilling drink. The traditional home-made ''Handia'' is also considered as an indispensable offering to the Gods and spirits. It is customary to offer pots of Handia on social occasions in marriage feasts.

The term ''Handia'' probably owes its origin to the 'handi', a big earthen pot in which the rice-beer is fermented. The process of preparing the rice-beer is rather easy.

At first, dried rice grounded, boiled and then spread out to dry.

A herbal root called ''Ranu'' (Mulika in Santhali dialect) is then powdered and the whole mass is shaped into little balls.

The 'ranu' balls are then powdered and mixed thoroughly with rice.The next stage requires the mixture thus obtained to be kept in large earthen pots covered with Sal leaves and preserved for three to four days during which the rice is fermented.

Finally, the fluid of the fermented rice and ranu are allowed to trickle down a bamboo sieve called Chala.The drink with which the tribals can beat the heat is ready, added Parvati.

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