Mahendra K Mishra
Toki Parab is a festival observed by the Kondh-paraja tribe of Kalahandi and Koraput districts in the state of Orissa. The Kondh-paraja tribe live in the Jaipatna, Koksora and Thuamul Rampur Panchyat Samitis, especially in the eastern part of kalahandi bounded by the Nawarangpur sub-division of Koraput district. Kalahandi was formerly known as Kondhan raij. The Kandh-paraja tribe is the offshoot of Kandh and Paraja, both belonging to the Dravidian language group. The total number of Parajas in the district is about five thousands (1980, 102 and 119). For the field study two Kandh-paraja villages named Paraja-nagpheni and Ranibahal have been selected. Though it is a festival observed by the Kondh-Paraja tribe, thousands of people from other castes and communities of this locality also participate in the festival.
In the past the Kondh-paraja tribe were to sacrifice their virgin daughter before the earth Goddess. The Kandh tribe of south east India were practicing ‘Meriah’ or human sacrifice to appease their earth mother goddess. Even the Kandh priest were sacrificing their eldest son to earth mother Goddess for the shake of their community to get good harvest, good rain, to save their men and domestic animals, from the attack of wild animals and to save their community from cholera and small-pox etc.
In the last part of nineteenth century the Kandha were practicing meriah-human sacrifice and the Kandh-Paraja were used to practicing tokimara (femal-infanticide). Major Campbell, the agent of suppressing meriah sacrifice in Kandhisthan stopped this cruel tradition forcibly (1838 : 132).
The tradition of Meriah sacrifice was patronized by the Raja and Zamindars of Thuamool Rampur, Mahulpatna (present Jaipatna) and Karlapat in kalahandi Estate. They were arranging the meriah out of their own prisoners and were getting financial gain as well as their own prisoners and were getting financial gain as well as the administrative support from the furious Kandhas of their respective zamindaries. (1838 : 132).
The victims for meriah were brought by the lower castes like ‘Dom (3) and Ghasia (4) and were offered to the kandhas for sacrifice. (1984 : p. 51). Lt. Hill has rightly mentioned in his report that the practice of Meriah had taken place in the hill principality of Kalahandi, Patna, Khariar and Nawapara. (1838). In 1844. Cl. Owseley, the agent to the Governor General of South-West Frontier Agency reported that the practice of Meriah was prevalent in Sonepur, khariar, Bindra Nawagarh and Bamra. Major Campbell, and Captain Macdwell covered the hilly area of Koraput, kalahandi and Phulbani to suppress human sacrifice (1851 : 1853). After a major operation by Campbell with the local Raja the human sacrifice and female infanticide was suppressed. (1980 : 57).
Suppression of Meriah is a cultural loss for Kandha and kandh-Paraja as well. So to compensate this loss they substituted buffalo for the meriah or human sacrifice and an ewe for the female infanticide. To keep their ethnic culture and religious tradition the Kandhs
perform the Pod-puja (5) (literally meaning buffalo sacrifice) in their community once in every twelve years. The buffalo brought for sacrifice is marked as Janipod (6) which means the son of Jani-kandh priest. Similarly the ewe representing the eldest daughter of the Kandh-Paraja priest is known as Toki. ‘Toki’ means virgin unmarried girl and mara means sacrifice. Now the Kandh-Parajas are being presented with an ewe by their traditional kings and Zamindars of respective areas and name it as Jani-toki (7) the daughter of the Priest.
It is interesting to observe how the aura of a village comes for celebrating the Festival. Toki parab. This festival falls on the preceding or the following Sunday of the Pongal or Makar Samkranti on the bright fortnight of Pausa (January). The festival continues for seven days. This festival falls in Kandh-paraja village in a peculiar manner. (1996 : p. 21-32)
During the dasahara festival; the Jani of the village puts two pegs vertically parallel to each other on the worship ground and ties a bamboo rope on it. It looks like the English capital letter ‘H’ standing on the ground. When the upper ends of the pegs close up to form a shape like English letter ‘A’ on the ground, the priest proclaims that the festival will be observed in that village. After this declaration, the village invites all the Janis and Disaries (8) (Priest and Shamans) of the Panchura (9) and Pali (10) (literally meaning; the villages sharing a common Goddess worshipped by them, usually five villages constitutes Panchura and twelve villages constitutes Barapali) and declares the festival Tokiparab to be observed as he has got the auspicious omen of joining two pegs in the worship place of Dharnikhal.
Then the Jani informs it to the Raja of his respective region. The Raja, as a reverence to the ritual offers an ewe to the jani. Along with it the king provides some financial assistance to the Jani for the smooth management of the festival. The ewe offered by the king is known as Toki daughter of jani. The Toki is named as Rasmuana. Fund is collected from all the villagers to meet the expenses of the festival. As it is an agricultural festival, besides Kandha-Paraja, others also contribute funds for it. The Jani, the Disari and the two village headman of each Pali are invited to the Toki village to form a committee for the management of the festival. The invited guests from their pali are provided with lodging and fooding. These guests are the representatives of their respective village Goddesses. So they come with the Chhatra the symbol of the Goddess, accompanied by a musician group.
The festival is observed for seven days with pomp and ceremony. The festival begins on Wednesday; four days prior to the fatal day of the sacrifice of the Toki. The distribution of rituals over the seven days is as follows :
On the first day, all the men and women of the Toki village go to the nearest forest for collecting leaves and fire wood. On this day collection of all necessary required things meant for the festival is made in the village by the responsible members of the committee. On this day the priest worship the Dharamdebta—Sun God.
The second day of the festival is known as Gurupuja (12). On this day the Priest and the shaman along with other people of the village go to the nearby hill. The name of the hill is Gurudongar, where the Gurubudha or Budharaja the universal tribal God is seated. It is believed that all the hills and mountains are the Gudi; the worship place of God and Goddess.
After worshipping Gurubudha they come to the seat of Dharani mata—earth mother goddess. In a large sacrificial axe called ‘Tangi’ in local language the Jani mounts the spirit of Dharnimata and brings the axe to the village. This ritual is known as Tangi utara literally meaning the bringing down of axe from seat of the Goddess. It is the symbol of the Goddess’s spirit animated in it.
The third day of festival is known as Tokipraba—worship ritual of Toki. On this day the Toki is bathed with turmeric water by the women of every house. A procession of Jani and other people starts in along with village with music and dance. The toki is moved from door to door to get worshipped by the villagers. The community treats the Toki as the actual daughter of the Jani. In the evening the community eats, drinks and dances with their local music and make merriment.
On the fourth day the Jani and Disari of all the villages assemble in the Toki village with their respective village Goddess. They are treated as the representatives of their villages. Arrangements are made for their lodging and fooding by the Toki villagers. On this day the community cleans the road and the houses of the village. At every entrance of the village they plant two banana trees as the sign of welcome. The sadargudi (13) is designed with the festoons of mangoleaf with folk art on the wall. The Sadardudi is in the heart of the village whereas the Dharnikhal(14) or sacrificial pit of the earth Goddess is out side the village, in the middle of a grand field. The ground near Dharnikhal is meant for festival. From Sadargudi to Dharnikhal proper decorations are made but the youth of the village. In this night the priest and the Shaman of the Toki village alongwith the Priests and Shaman of other villages unite at Sadargudi. Here, right from the mid-night the ritual begins with strict discipline. The Jani moves around the Sadargudi for four times folding his hands to Dharnimata. After it, the Jani put the alive ewe on a wooden mottar and crush it on a pestle again and again to pull out the fresh liver from its wounded body. The liver is kept in an earthern ware. It is called Mutpani. (15) It is preserved for offering near Dharnimata in Dharnikhal on the next day. Then the Jani taking an arrow in a bow shoots it aiming towards the east. This ritual is called ‘Jogkand bindha’. After it a pig is sacrificed to appease all the Goddesses representing from other villages. All appease all the Goddesses representing from other villages. All these rituals of the fourth day begin at mid- night at finish before sunrise.
Day—5 : The ritual performance
Fifth day is known as Tokimara day. The Toki is offered to the earth Goddesses on this day. Villagers from all sides come to Toki village in a procession with their traditional music and warfare dance. In the procession each one has a wooden club, hand axe and big stick in his hand. They come with their symbolic village Goddess animated in a long bamboo stick designed with red clothes and peacock feathers, and also in a big nisan (a local drum) from every village such procession come to attend the festival. When the procession enters near the gate of the village the receptionists of the Toki village receive them in a peculiar manner. Unless the banana trees posted on the both sides of the gate are not cut down with one axe, the procession never enters into the village. It is a symbol of inviting them into the festival. Thus all the parties are invited from all sides of the village. The procession arrives on Sunday morning. On this day the whole locality irrespective of caste, age and sex come to the Toki village to attend the festival. This reception does not end up until all the parties of the invited villages arrive.
At the time of midnoon, the Jani and Disari make proper arrangements to take the ‘Toki’ (deadbody of the ewe) and ‘Mutpani’ from the Sadargudi of the village to the Dharnikhal. It is about two hundred meters away from Sadargudi. A virgin girl from their community is invited to invited to carry up the earthen pot taking Toki’s ‘Mutpani’. The girl is dressed with a new red saree to take part in that ritual. She takes the mutpani from Sadargudi to Dharnikhal. The Jani holds up the Toki in a Jahpi-bamboo box on his head guarded around a military array of young Kandh-Parajas.
While the Jani and the girl with their respective Jhapi and earthen pot start from Sadargudi about fifty to sixty young Kandh-paraja community with their sword, hand axe, wooden club and sticks encircle them to protect the Toki and Mutpani from the attack of others. They all intoxicated with liquor, are preoccupied with a sense of trans—. It is believed that if any outsider plunders away even if a single hair of the Toki by any means from their array, them all the holy action and virtues made by the Toki village will be invain. As a result of losing a hair or a piece of flesh of the Toki; they may face the loss of harvest and rain, also many unforeseen dangers in their village in forth coming years. They also believe that if any body snatches away a flesh or a hair of the Toki from the procession and offers it to his earth goddess will be rewarded with ample harvest in forthcoming year. So while taking the Toki with mutpani from the Sadargudi to Dharnikhal the youth of the toki village try their best to save the toki from others. In spite of all these strict cautions taken by them, the out-siders manage to take the flesh or a hair plundering from the Jani’s Jhapi out of the procession may it be by force by tricks. If some outsider succeeds to get the flesh or hair from the Jani, suddenly the protectors run after him with weapons to take his life. If the plunderer offers the stolen flesh to his own goddesses situated in their camp, then the attackers never do any harm to him. But if captured by them, the victim is wounded mercilessly. Instances of putting them victim to death are also heard. So in the festival the Government police from district Head quarters are deputed to watch over them.
Thus with great care and protection the ‘Toki’ & ‘Mutpani’ are brought to Dharnikhal. Here the Linga is taken off out of the Dharnikhal by the Jani and put in front of the worship place. The Linga represents ‘Dharam debta’ and the stone simbolizes the ‘Dharnimata’. Dharnikhal is the main worship place where one can see the symbolic images of God and Goddesses such as; a long bamboo stick designed with peacock feathers, a metal image of peacock on the metal pillar, a sacrificial axe, some arrows and a bow, a cluster of weapons like knife, spear etc. In the worship place, the Jani alongwith the other priests start the ritual. Burning a lamp before the Goddess, throwing some rice on the sacrificial pit (Dharnikhal) the Jani begins the invocation (as below) with is known as Pat puja mantar. All the God and Goddesses of
their habitats are invoked in this place and are appeased by offering habitats are invoked in this place and are appeased by offering different kinds of sacrifice to the different deities accordingly. The mantra runs as follows :
Bapude rai denda Bapude sariso Jani Bara bhai bhimasen Kitankani Sola bhauni Gangadi Kitaka Nana Dekraiti gude re Nana maninge saruti gude Godke kata gala daniroye Mundke lata gala Bapude rai denda bapude sariso.
I worship twelve Bhima bhimsen. I worship sixteen sisters Gangadei, I worship the Goddess inside the Gudi I worship all the Goddesses in the Gudi, Let no thorn touch my foot Let no creeper touch out head.
After praying all the Gods and the Goddesses of all the invited villagers the Jani takes off the mutpani from the pot. Holding it in his hands, kneeling down before the pit he recites some hymns and offers it to the earth goddess. This ritual is called Tokipara. After this, the other Goddesses of the locality are worshipped by the Jani one by one. The Jani devides the flesh of the Toki and distribute it among all the Janis of invited villages. The Janis of the respective villages consider themselves fortunate to have the auspicious toki flesh and take it with reverece. After this, the gathering disburse; the Jani and his followers remain there for further rituals. In the evening the Jani and the Disari worship the goddess. The rest flesh and bones of the ewe is burried by ‘Rapia’ belonging the ‘Dom’—a scheduled caste. The ‘rapia’ is alienated as impure and unholy for that day. Next the Jani offers a pig to the earth goddess to purify the Rapia and declares him as sacred. Then mix with his society again.
The Sixth day of the festival is known as Dhangridola. On this day the young unmarried Kandh-paraja boys and girls have the freedom to choose their life-partner with a socioreligious recongition in the festival ground. On this day the parents of the boys and girls have nothing to protest against their love marriage, as the whole community gives sanction to them. The youth, on this day wearing beads around his neck is expected to pull the hand of his beloved young girl. This system is popularly known as ‘Malichagha’, literally means wearing of beads. It symbolizes the snatching of a girl by the boy.
This is the day giving opportunity to the youth to extend love and friendship with opposite sex. The unknown boys and girls make permanent friendship ritually by addressing each other ‘Baligaja’ and ‘Sari’ or a Baligaja by tucking it on the right ear of the other. On this day many groups of girls and boys with the local music, dance and sing on the group. One group sing the love song competing to defeat the other. At this time a choir of singers with their Dungdunga and Dhap (two local musical instruments) sing the song describing Gods
and Goddesses, hills and mountains, rivers, villages and the deities of their locality, which reflects their love and involvement of nature and spirit.
In the afternoon, the young girls of this community make a lovely arrangement of receiving the guests to appease them. They invite the guests to whom they choose to be their own friend or sari. The group of girls holding the hands of the guest, take him to the place of worship. They sit the guest on a cot; carrying the cot on their shoulders on four sides they move around the worship place seven times. At the time all the girls sing the song the entertain the guests. After moving around, they keep the cot in front of the Goddess and touch the feet of the guest one by one and make ‘Juhar’ (obeisance). This ritual is called Dhangridola. Literally meaning a swinging of the young girls. They also collect some tips; money as a regard from the guests. The singing and dancing goes on till evening. Thus, the ritual of the sixth day ends.
In the seventh day the Jani along with the newly married couple of the previous day, leads a huge procession to the Gurudongar, the seat of Gurubudha. There they beg the blessings from Gorubudha. After coming from Gurudongar, they seat, drink and make merry by singing, dancing and merrymaking. At night the Jani returns the sacrificial axe to the earth goddess. After it the Jani close the festival. The next day the associates of the Toki village bring down the festoons of mango leaves. Thus the grand festival ends after the observation of seven days.
There is a myth found among this community as to why the Tokiparab is observed. The myth corresponds tot he problem of bride, price and free marriage system among the Kandh-paraja tribe. The myth is as follows : “In a kandh-paraja village the Jani had a daughter named Rasamauna. After maturity her father proposed to give her in marriage with a lad of the village name Mundradharia. The negotiation was also over. Marriage date was fixed up. A few days remained for the marriage ceremony. Meanwhile Rasmuana fell in love with Baplamada, another youngman of the same village. As to keep his beloved daughter’s interest, the Jani cancelled the previous negotiation made with Mundradharia and gave his daughter in marriage with Baplamada. Time passed on. One day Rasmuana went to the nearby forest to collect fire-wood. There she saw Mundradhar is—the groom proposed for her. She, out of passion fell in love with him in the forest and this game of love went on. Baplamada, her actual husband new this and he went to the jani—his father-in-law and told every thing. He also claimed the Jani that he would divorce his wife for her infidelity. So he demanded the Hajra(18) bride price which he had paid to his father-in-law during his marriage. He also suggested the Jani to hand over his daughter to Mundradharia according to her will.
So the Jani had to return the Harja—bride price taken from Bapalamada. Also he had to pay ‘Mandpani’ (19) fine fixed by his community for the divorce and the remarriage of his daughter. Again Jani fixed up a date for his daughter’s marriage in the month a pousa. At that time the Kandh-paraja were to observe the festival of mariah. The community reported the Jani that no victim was found out for the sacrifice and asked him to arrange the sacrifice of his own for the festival. The festival arrived. No victim was found. The Jani suddenly sacrificed his own daughter Rasamuana before the Goddess. Thus it became a tradition that the Jani would give his own daughter for the sacrifice. Now the female infenticide has
stopped, by instead of it an ewe is symbolically presented to the earth goddess as a substitution.
Now if we analyse the above myth is would be revealed that marriage with social recognition is accepted where as violation of social rules results fine and punishment by the community. The illicit love violating the social norms causes hatred and results in the punishment like elimination of the defaulter. In Kandh-paraja community, Jani, the religious head has a lot of socio-religious responsibilities. Their religious belief is that the pure character and action of the Jani could save their community from the unseen dangers. The Gods and Goddesses are appeased according to the manner of worship and action of the Jani. He propitiates them by means of his own virtue and spiritual power. He is the mediator of man and spirit. So if the purity in his personality is deviated or some social norms are violated by him, it is believed that the Jani would not be able to appease the earth Goddess, or if he does so, the result would be harmful for the whole community. So in the myth, the Jani sacrificed his own daughter, to prove himself pure and to escape from such socio-economic and psychological burden. It is a fact that, the hatred of Jani for his daughter, at the same time the need for a victim for sacrifice both the causes have doubled the problem in his mind. Individually in order to maintain his priesthood status also as a community leader to manage the welfare of his society by propitiating the earth Goddess with a sacrifice, the Jani tried to kill two birds in one arrow by offering his own daughter to the earth goddess in the festival.
By doing this the Jani mentally compensated the loss of his daughter by receiving a sanction from the community on him. He has not considered it a sin as he has got rid of two problems burying it under a religious mask. The plea by the Jani in his invocation depicts that Goddess Herself choose the victim for her sacrifice. The donor of the sacrifice bears on sin for his act. This theme has been picturized in the following invocations recited by the Jani during ‘meriah’ sacrifice.
According to the Konths the earth mother and Sun god are the universal mother and father- prakriti and Purusha or Dharnimata and Dharamdebta. The living being, plants and animals,
animate and inanimate are the offshoot of these two forces. As man and animal live on exploiting nature and plants, in turn the plants also exploit the man and animal absorbing it in the earth. In vedic and puranic literature this philosophy clearly speaks that “all dead things rotting corpse or sticking garbaga when returned to the earth are transformed into things that nourish life. Such is the alchemy of Mother Earth”. (1986 : p-29 : Rajagopalachary). It is a reciprocal process in which both the animal and plant live on dedicating each other through a natural law, exercised by the supernatural power. Thus this vedic philosophy and world view of thousand years ago has attracted the mind of this land. No doubt this heinous action of human sacrifice adopted by them in the ritual are inhuman, but the worldview of “Sarve Bhabantu Sukhina”—let all the happy in their invocation has shown their greatness of self dedication for the well being of community.
Tokimara—the symbolic representation of ‘Kumaribali’ or sacrifice of virgin girl is symbol of fertility and productivity. The earth mother Goddess Hershlf is the symbol of fertility. Meriah is substituted with buffalo sacrifice and Tokimara, with an ewe represents symbolically which compensates the cultural loss of stopping female infanticide. Virginity is the symbol of fertility and creativity. The ewe is regarded as the daughter of Jani. The process of worship and the tradition of ritual is obeyed with strict discipline. The ‘mutpani’ which symbolizes fertility means the ‘Urine water’ of the ewe. It is the symbol of female procreative power incorporated in the Toki. Alongwith the liver of the ewe, the rice, husk and water is added in the earhten pot and all those constitute mutpani which bears the meaning of getting life, corns and ample rain respectively. Thus it represents the possibilities of getting new life and food resources on the earth. Moreover the mutpani taken to the Dharnikhal from Sadargudi by a virgin Kandh-paraja girl of ten to twelve, signifies the name and the tradition of the festival.
The phallic stone, iron weapons, Nisana musical drum, phallic wooden stumps, bamboo sticks with peacock feathers are the symbolic God and Goddesses of the community. The sacrificial pit of earth Goddess is the symbol of female procreative organ. The peacock model represents the totemic symbol of Kondh tribes. (1968 : 120-121). The original spirit of the Goddess is based in some hill, outside the village. This place is said to be the origin place of the Goddess. The discoverer of the Goddess finds her by getting some omen, sign and dream and are invited her to the remains in the place of her origin. So, during some worship or festival the spirit is invited through a ritual e.g. in this festival the fitual of Tangi utara is followed by this process.
In the Dharnikhal the sacrifice is offered to earth Goddess and a stone is covered to protect it. Comparing the greater earth as a great sacrifice pit and the animal and nature inside the earth covered by the sky like the stone—the Jani recites the invocation the meaning of which bears the high naturalistic worldview. The meaning of the invocation are as follows :
O mother, as inside the earth pit covered by a big stone— The offering is secured, This Earth is a great pit, This sky, the cover and we nature and creatures are inside O mother, save us like-wise.
Social Significance :
The religious rites are meant to solve the problem of the community. (1980 : 344) This may be examined from the present festival studied, the sixth day of Tokiparab, known as dhangridola the love marriage of boys and girls with socio-reiligous recongitions and sanctions and to solves the problem of bride price. The social problem of ‘Harja’—bride price among the Kandh and the other communities of Kalahandi is still prevailing in the society (1878 :5). The bridegroom pays bride price as demanded by the bride’s father. Even if a groom is unable to pay the bride price and want to marry a girl, the father of the girl may agree to adopt the by as ‘bride service’ for a fixed period of time as to compensate the amount of bride. After the amount is collected from ‘bride service’ the couple set free. But in some places where the bride’s father refuses to accept the proposal of the boy, the marriage between the interested boys and girls fails. This failure is only due to the poor economic condition of the boy. This ritual, thus, helps the loving couple getting married, who were unable to marry due to lack of providing bride price. This ritual is known as Dhangrighicha.
Moreover, the guests and participants honoured by the young Kandh-paraja girls in the ritual of Dhangridola, irrespective of caste and creed shows the oneness in tribal culture shared by the non-tribals. The Raja, the Bramhins, the village headmen and the other gentlemen are invited for this ritual. Thus, the entertaining of the guest in this festival shows the mutual sharing of culture among the tribal and non-tribals. As this is a festival to pay reverence to the earth Goddess, also to assure more harvest in future, all the peasants of the society, irrespective of caste and creed take part in it. The non-tribals also believe the philosophy of Kondh-Paraja and want to bury some flesh of the Toki in their field to get ample harvest. So the influence of the tribal culture among the non- tribals of this locality is represented in this festival. In this world man exploit the men exploiting the nature. But the indigenous people of this land bear the naturalistic world view. They have their way of thinking, which has been symbolically represented in their rites and rituals. The equality of man and nature keeping the balance of the earth basing on reciprocal dependence is the sole philosophy of the people of this locality. Here no difference is seen in between the animal and nature as both are the creature of a supernatural power Dharnimata—the earth mother Goddess.
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