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Adivasis of Purulia who did not celebrate Durga Puja

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When almost the whole of India was busy celebrating Durga Puja, there was one corner of Purulia that was not in a celebratory mood. For the Kherowal tribe of Purulia, autumn is a time for grief and sorrow. As the air reverberates with the joyous sound of drums beating and conch-shells blaring and the priests chanting hymns celebrating the victory of Goddess Durga over the cunning demon Mahishasur, the despondent Kherowal tribe observes Dasai, to recollect how their great, fearless leader/God Mahishasur was cunningly trapped and murdered in an asymmetric warfare where no warfare rules were followed.

The Kherowal tribe mourn their great leader’s death and do not light their homes. They get busy organizing the event to formally pay respect to HudurDurga. HudurDurga is neither Mahishasur-Mardnini nor Goddess Durga. Hudurin Kherowal language means a brave and mighty man. According to local folklore, Hudur-Durga was cunningly trapped and then killed. Since 2011, the Adivasis of Bhalagara village in Purulia district of Bengal have been worshipping HudurDurga publicly.

The folk songs of the Kherowals often retrace their origin to the ancient land Chain-champa or Champa where they lived in peace and amid bounty. However, dark clouds came looming over their tranquil land when Aryans began to make inroads. The Asuras under the leadership of HudurDurga fought valiantly against the invaders. So, the Aryans sought other immoral ways to defeat the brave leader of the local tribes. Mahishasur was opposed to take up arms against any woman so the Aryans tricked him to marry Durga who later killed him.

After the defeat and death of HudurDurga, there was no able chieftain to lead the tribes. These dejected and defeated men approached their religious gurus for suggestion and the latter advised them to take to their heels and move away farther east. Accordingly, the warriors bathed in the Saraswati river and then went eastward, dressed as female dancers. This dance form is known as Dasai. The month of Ashwin is also referred to as Dasaiin Kherowal language which means ‘helpless.’ It was a time when the men had been rendered leaderless, helpless and dejected by the invaders. This sense of utter gloom and despair runs like a leitmotif in Dasaisongs. The songs relate how Durga tricked the great warrior into conceding defeat and death and then pays homage to their illustrious ancestor and assert their bloodline.

In traditional Hindu scriptures including the Puranas, the word Asura is synonymous with the demon. But among various tribes spread in different regions of the country, the Asura tribe does exist and they believe they are direct descendants of Mahishasura. In the Puranas, the war between the Devatas and the Asura tribe resembles the myth of the HudurDurga’s war with the Aryans though there are no concrete evidences to prove this.