Bandana Festival Of Kudmis Of Eastern India

Dr. Basanta Kumar Mohanta 

Sudhansu Shekher Mahato


    According to the traditional sense, the days or period for a joyful celebration is known as festival. This is basically associated with the agricultural, religious and socio-cultural activities (Mohanty 1997: 657). Most of the Parab (festival) of Kudmis are associated with their agricultural activities which falls within their agricultural cycle i.e. from the sowing to harvesting. Through festivals, they worship the different deities for the protection and increment of their agricultural production. The festivals of Kudmis are set and calculated according to the solar movement. The calendaring of Kudmi festivals begins with Akhwn Yatra, which falls on the first day of Magha (January - February) and continues up to Tusu Parab. The other major festivals celebrated includes Sarhul, Shiva Gajan, Chaitra Sankranti, Desh Sikar, Rohin baruni, Jantal/Ashari Puja, Jawa / Karam, Bandna (Sohran, Aghan Sankranti, Jitua / Jita, Jirhul, Raja Shala, Gram Puja, Nawa Khawa / Nua Khia etc.

    The fieldwork was done in three separate Kudmi inhabited (Uni-ethnic, bi-ethnic and multi-ethnic) villages of Jharkhand (Jojopiri), West Bengal (Uhupiri) and Orissa (Kulgi) respectively. Using different anthropological methods and techniques collected the data.

    The present paper analyse the details of Bandna festival of studied agriculturist community i.e. Kudmi. It is mainly celebrated on the day of Amabashya (New moon) of Kartik (Octcoer-Novemoer) to give thanks to their domestic cattles as well as the agricultural implements for their constant help in harvesting good paddy crops.


    When Lord Nirakar Shiva (Bara Pahar) created men, he had to provide food for a long time. In due course of time when they multiplied into a sizeable number, Nirakar Shiva advice them to produce their own food by cultivating Sand. But in the absence of agricultural implements and technology, they faced very difficulty and therefore requested him for suggestion. He (Nirakar Shiva) took pity on them by providing some cattle with the condition of paying due care to them. Initially the relationship was cordial but with the passage of time, it worsened and subjected to sever beating. The cattle had no alternate but to complain to Nirakar Shiva. The complain was of heavy work, long working hours, lack of proper food, unhygienic dwelling place, severe beating, no recreation and no thanks for their contribution. The complaint was listened with patience and assured them to go for inspection secretly on the night of Kartik Amabashya.

    The intelligent men with their reliable source were informed and accordingly they became alert. The people made a thorough preparation to clean their houses as well as the cowshed. On the day of Amabashya the catties were washed and smeared with oil and vermilion on their horn and forehead. They ensured of sufficient fodder and the Gohal (cowshed) is illuminated with a burning Diwa (earthen lamp) throughout the night. The bundle of grass put along with Diwa on both sides of entrance of cowshed and Sohrai grass on the Chhain (roof) are symbolic to the availability of surplus food for the catties. On the second day, he (Nirakar Shiva) found the people worshiping the deity, Garaiya with special offering including sacrifice made in their honour. On the third day he observes that the cattle in merrier-mood, dancing with the people. The song and musical sound fills the air with warm. Even on his way back, he finds the Bagals/Dhangars (contractual shepherd) playing with cattle at the Gochar (grazing land). Thus, the complaint made could not be proved.

    The cattle in the next season complain of the similar hardship and hence Nirakar Shiva was bound to make a second visit on the same day, and since then the process is continuing as a tradition in the name of Bandna Parab.


    Kudmi (Kudumi/ Kurmi) is a settled agriculturist community of the eastern India who were identified as aboriginal tribes before 1931 and enjoyed the same facilities meant for tribes by the government, but later on they were excluded from the list of Schedule Tribes (Singh 2000: 6). They are highly concentrated in Jharkhand and boardering areas of West-Bengal (Purilia, Bankura and Midnapur) and Orissa (Mayurbhanj and Keonjhar a well-defined territory bounded by the four rivers Damodar. Kanshabati, Subarnarekha and Baitarani where the Kudmis have co-existed with other tribal communities. But in due course of time, some of the Kudmis along with other tribal group have migrated to Assam, Bangladesh, and other par s of West Bengal and Orissa for seeking employment (Mahato 2000: 25-65).

    Most of the Kudmi settlements are found close to their agricultural land. In a uni-ethnic Kudmi village, they always prepare their houses on both sides of the Kulhi (village street, where as they prefer to reside in a separate hamlet in a bi-ethnic and multi-ethnic village. The Kudmis are devided into six divisions, where Paribar (family) is considered as the smallest unit. A group of Paribar possessing same Gotra (clan) and living in a common place is known as Bakhal/Bakhair (unilineage settlement). If the members of some Paribars or more then on Bakhai are settling down in a particular locality having a connecting street, is also known in the name of Kulhi. A group of Kulhi (in some cases single Kulhi also) possessing a separate geographical area, common sacred place, burial ground, agricultural field, grazing land and Akhra-than forms a Gram (village). Traditionally, a village headman known as Mahato (Mahto). He solves all the socio-political and judicial problems as well as controls each Kudmi village. The post of Mahato is hereditary in nature. After the death of Mahato, it automatically transferred to his eldest son. A cluster of twelve village form a Paragan which is headed by Paraganaif who solves all the inter village dispute under his jurisdiction. A group of Paragans (about six to ten) forms a Thapal, which is controlled by Deshmandal. As per the traditional Kudmi political system, this Deshmandal is considered as'a real protector of Kudmi ethnic group, who is always assisted by Potloi. Unlike their political system, the social structures have several divisions, which hierarchially include Paribar, Gotra. Gosthi (lineage) and Jat (ethnicity). The entire community is divided into 81 Gotras. In practice they are gotra exogamous and jat endogamous the Kudmi still maintain their tribal identity including their tote mist usages in life style and animistic world views (Mahato 2000: VI). Goraiya is one of their main deities worshipped for the protection and welfare of their catties as well as increment in their number.

    A daily routine of Kudmi gives a clear-cut idea about their economic life. The Kudmis are basically dependent on their agricultural activities. Each and every well to do family possesses minimum a pair of bull for their agricultural activities. The number of cattle and Baindh/Puda (straw rope made pocket for storing grains) and Dimni (a large bamboo flake made basket, specially prepared for storing grains) are considered as a yardstick to measure their wealth. For the purpose of agriculture, the implements used are Hal (plough), Juwaint/Juanl (yoke), Mair/Moi and Karha (Sand leveling implements) Akhani/Akham, Hansua (sickle), and Goru/Kada Gadi (buiiock/Buffalo cart) etc.


The longevity and number of ritual performed demands a thorough preparation. This begins with the collection of different kinds of clays/ mati, viz. Rugdi, Khetmati, Lal-mati (red soil), Dudhi-mati (white soil), etc. for leveling the cowshed and Angan (courtyard) as well as white washing all the houses. The outer walls are decorated with diluted Dudhi and Lal mati where as the marketing is completed in the weekly market prior to its arrival. The shopping items includes Tonki (bamboo basket), Khanchi (bamboo basket), Kharka, Dhupdani (conger), Diwa/ Deep (earthen lamp), Ghee, oil, sindoor (vermilion), Dhoti, Sharee, Earthen pot, Palam (one kind of earthen vessel), Earthen lid, Ranu, Cocks and Hens etc. Thus one has to be economically, psychologically and culturally ready to welcome the Bandna festival and celebrate it with greater enthusiasm to thank the animals that are partner in their day-to-day agricultural activities.


    The first day of Bandna festival is well known throughout the Kudmidesh (Jharkhand and boardering areas of West Bengal and Orissa) as Jagran. The children look to be in merry mood with the arrival of the day of Jaqran.

    In the morning, Bagals/Dhangals draws the cattle to the nearest pond/river or any other water points for washing. After giving a thorough bath to the animals, they are brought back to Gohal (cowshed). In the absence of Bagal, elder male members of the family perform the same. Sometimes, even the children also assist the elders. The cattle are provided with sufficient food specialty grass or paddy straw. The female members of the family besmear the courtyard with cow dung solution, before proceeding to the nearest pond or river for bathing and washing them in a new Tonki. After bathing, the women return to the house in their wet clothes. The Tonki with wet rice is put on the Chhain (roof) for draying. A few hours later they bring down the dried rice and grind with the help of Dhenki (husking lever).

    In the evening they illuminate the rice powdered made Diwa on Sal patta (leaf of shorea robusta) along with a grass bundle on the both sides of the door of all the rooms including Gohal. The other places of importance to be illuminated include main entrance, storeroom, well, Khalihan/Khola (threshing ground), Manure pits, Tanks, Tuishi manch/ Chaurah etc. The extinguished lamps and grass bundles are collected and placed on Chhain. Though the process of lightening is done by the Bagals, irrespective of age and sex the other members of the family equally participate. Later the collected Diwas are crushed into powder and the Pitha (cakes) prepared out of it are specially meant for the Bagals. The Bagals, smear oil and Sindoor on the horn and forehead of the catties. In the absence of the Bagals, elder members performed the same but for the cows and she buffalo the females are responsible.

    The female further prepares Khapra Pitha (a type of rice cake) in a Palam covered with an earthen lid, which is enjoyed by each and every members of the family. Then the actual sprinkling of rice gudi/gundi solution on every agricultural implements along with Gohal, Khalihan, Tulshi monch, Manure pits, well etc. are taken place. The main objective behind shrinking solution is to awaken the implements and hence the name Jagran which means to awaken is justified.

    In the night, after finishing the dinner Bagals/Dhangars along with other elder villagers gathers in one corner of the village or at the house of Mahto with musical instruments like Dhol, Nagra, Mandal/Madal, Jhun-Jhune etc. for Dhingwani Bhula. It is an important part of Bandna Parab in which the entire team sings and dances through out the night h front of each house with the motive of keeping the people awaken and at the same time preventing the entry of evil spirits.

    The night of Amabashya is considered to be the most suitable time for the Dayen and evil spirits to play their black magic on the people as wel as animals. Therefore, the Dhingwani team moves from one end of the village to another while attending each house. During their movement from one house to another, they sing a song, which reads as:

Khoja Khojate Jai,
Pucha Puchhtie Jai,
Kati Dhure Ahiraka Ghar,
Ahiraka Ghare Bhai,
Tulashi Ka Pindha,
Anganate Nache Dasha Bnai,
Dasha Bhai
Ke Dele Bhai,
Pani ni Padatau,
Rahi Jatao Juge Juge Naam.

    (The time crosses while searching and enquiring, "How far is the house of cattle owner?" In his house, there is a Tulshi manch/chhauraha, where the Dasha bhai (ten brothers but here entire team) sing and dance. If you contribute to the team, there would not be reduction of wealth rather your name will be commemorated from era to era).

    The arrival of the Dhingwani team is welcomed by the house owner and treated with Handia (rice beer) and Khapra pitha according to their capacities. They sing and dance while beating drums, Nagra and Mandal at the courtyard for which they are paid either in cash or kind or both. The kind includes paddy, rice, vegetables and khapra pitha etc. Sometimes the team members might snatch vegetables or fruits grown in the bari for which the owner makes no objection. While leaving the house they warn the house owner as well as cows to remain awake. The same is reflected through the song as:

Jago Ma Lachhmi,
Jago Ma Bhagawati,
Jagi Sutain Amabashya Raat,
Jago Ke Re Pratiphal,
Pow Ba Re Akhani,
Pancha Putra Dasha Dhenu Gai.

    (Oh mother Laxmi, Oh mother Bhagawati; keep awakening, the night of Amabashya. The cost of awakening will give you five sons and ten Dhenu cows).

    In this manner they move from door to door producing alarming sound. At the dawn, they Dhingwani team) gathers at the outskirt of the village under a tree or on an open place where they make a symbolic sacrifice of gourd and bum a straw made effigy. Finally, the collection is distributed among its members before they disperse.


    The second day of Bandna parab, popularly know, as Gohal Puja is the most important part. The female members of the house purify the floors. Tulshi manch and Aangan with cow dung solution in the morning. The Bagals and the male members of the family carry the Haai Juyant, Karha and Mair etc. to the nearest pond and water source to wash it properly with straw brush. The washed implements are brought back to house and are erected in a systematic manner facing the east. Then comes the turn of catties to be washed properly and bathed by the Bagals.

    The headman of family goes to take bath with a hanshua. After taking bath he cuts a bundle of paddy straw in his paddy field and returns to home. On his way buck he makes no conversation with anybody. At home he keeps the paddy bundle on a Charpai and then begin to knit merwair (a kind of knitting with paddy straw). The knitted merwair are always of odd number in totality and kept on a new basket, specially brought for Chuman (benedictory Kissing). After smearing oil and sindoor on the cattle the mewair are hanged in their necks and forehead. Further, it is also tied to the Dharma (central pole) of each house. The mewair hanged in Dharna becomes of immense importance because of its requirements in the mental ceremony.

    The palm/finger impressions of grinded area rice solution are put on either side of the doorframe and Sindoor Tika (vermilion dot) is given on it. The upper side of the doorframe is also smeared with the help of middle fingers. The small straight-line marks given are always of odd number.

    The lady of the house like the previous day goes to the ponds with arwa chawal in a tonki. It is washed properly and having taken the bath, return to the house. The wet chawal is out on chhain for drying. Then the arwa chawal is made into fine particle (Gudi) with the help of Dhenki. Chalen/ChaIni (Sieve) is used to filter to fine parts. The Gudi prepared is made into solution with water and a gum like liquid extracted either from Gamhar (Gmelina arborea) leaf or on heating the stem of ladies finger. This helps in maintaining the continuity of the chawk. (Alpana) made with the solution. The Chawk is designed and prepared by the lady who happens to be in fasting and begins from the entrance. The design may vary from one clan to another. At the entrance lie a few branches of Surgunja/Genda flower, Chitchiti or Apang, a chunk of cow dung and a stone. The cow dung symbolizes purification, the stone gives the representation of Lord Nirakar Siva, the Surgunja/Genda flower welcome the cattle whereas the Chitchiti or events the entry of evil forces. The Chawk prepared is generally criss crossed squares, connected with one another and a triangle attached to the side arms of the square. The apex of the tingle is further joined with three curved lines. The squares, triangles and the curved lines are drawn with the four fingers of the right hand dipped into solution. Vermilion dote out on each joints, gives an attractive look to it. (Figure1) But mythologically it symbolizes breeding. The Goth puja is performed out side the village, on the way through which the cattle are generally drawn in and out. The Mahato/ Majhi/Pahan performs this Goth puja by making a chicken sacrifice or breaking of an egg. He further sprinkles the Gudi solution on the cattle and they (cattle) are made to cross through it. On completion of the chawk pura all the cattle are made to pass over it.

    The lady then begins to prepare Goraiya pitha (A special kind of sweet cake made of rice) in a new Palam on the newly built chullah, in order to maintain the purity of the cake. The house owner arranges all the puja materials for Gohal puia. The worshipping materials comprises of Arwa chawal, Sindoor, Gudi, Surgunja flower, Garaiya pitha on separate Dona (leaf cup) of sal patta and Handia or Ranu, milk, Diwa, Dhupchi and Hansua are arranged in a new winnowing fan. An assistant keeps three chickens ready and both came to the Gohal for puja. The puja is performed to the Garaiya deity, made of mud having cylindrical shape, kept in the eastern side of the Gohal. Some clan members’ even use Mohua (bassia latifalia) wood for making the Garaiya. Offering is made to the Garaiya deity praying for better health of the catties and increment in the number of cattle. The Garaiya is given finger impression of Gudi solution and Sindoor tika on it. (Fioure-2) Further, the pieces of Garaiya pithas offered for three times followed by pouring of milk and handia. Then the chickens of separate colours mainly black (for Gai Gariya) and rangua (for Koda/Bhainsh Garaiya) are sacrificed. (Fjgure-3)

    Close to the Tulshi manch the puja is also offered in the name of their ancestors for the welfare of the family. The cleaned Hal are placed at the courtyard facing east and the Juant, Mair and Karha are placed over it. The fasted lady brings Arwa chawal, Sindoor, Dhup ghansh (a kind of grass), Gudi solution and Diwa for the Chuman. She gives the palm impression of Gudi solution on these agricultural implements followed by Sindoor tika over it. Then she sprinkles the arwa chawal and Dhup ghansh on it. It is interesting to note that, except this day, throughout the year, the women folk are not allowed to jump or touch these agricultural implements following to it the female members of the house make a chuman to the catties with arwa rice and Dhup ghansh (Figure-4).

    At the end of the day lies the Nimcha Nimchi ceremony, in which all the catties are drawn out to the outskirt of the village, while the lady with burning Dhupchi put on Andri/ Chitki jada patta in her left hand. She picks up mustard seeds from her Khaincha (a pocket made with anchal of her saree) and after making a round over the back of the cows, she put the burning Dhupchi inverted on the ground and crushed with her left leg. This act of performance signifies the drawing out and crushing of the evil spirits if at all residing on the cattle.

    Every member of the family enjoys the sacrificed cocks in the dinner. Even the nearest friends and clan members also share the joys. The Bagals and male members gather in the Kulhi at night with their musical instruments to sing and dance.


    The third day of Bandna parab better known as Barad Bhidka or Goru Khunta itself indicates typing of catties and force them to pay. Like the previous two days the cattle are as usually washed by the Bagals or elder members of the family and served with sufficient diet. But they take special care to decorate them in addition to smearing of Oil and vermilions. The Gudi solution is used to give a stamp mark with the held of a glass or Chilum on the whole body of the cattle. Now a day, people even use different colours as a substitute to Gucli to give them more attractive look. The headman of the family brings paddy straw in the same manner like the previous day and prepare the marwair for the cattle as well as to be hanged in the Dharna. In addition, a typical kind of knitting called 'Barhin' (a special kind of knitting with the paddy straw) is prepared, especially for Kada. The people of present generation find it even more difficult to knit the 'Barhin' as it is comparatively complicated. One can easily notice from the movement of the cattle, that they are in marrying mood.

    The Khunta (pole) erected at the center of the Kulhi or at some open place is decorated with palm impression of Gudi solution and Sindoor tika put over it. The head of the pole is tied with Surgunja flowers to give a colorful looking. The bottom of the Khunta is purified with cow dung solution. A few circles of Gudi solution are made around the Khunta.

    The bulls drawn out from the Gohal are tied to the pole one after another. The female members of the concerned family make a formal chuman before the actual barad bhidka ceremony takes place. The arwa chawl is thrown over the cattle and Diya is shown to the bull tied to the pole. The villagers first sing the Ahira geet and different types of musical instrument such as Dhol, Nagra and Madal etc. are simultaneously played. A few people with dry animal skin; old Ghang (leaf made rain coat) and colorful clothes try to tease the bull that in return try to push them back with his head. This created a very interesting scene, which fulfills the heart of every member present over there. Further the Kulkuli (a cheerful sound) produced by the spectators add fuel to the encouragement and enthusiasm of the players. This action is repeated to a number of times till the bull gets tired and is replaced by another one.

    Sometimes Handia and Pitha are distributed to people participating in the occasion. The song sang on this occasion are as follows:

"Kahe Re Borda Dhulu Na Mulu Ho,
Mudo Kan Dela Na Girai Re,
Eshano Kheilo, Barda Khelbe,
 Saitho Juwano Ghuri Jai Re"

(Jain 1987: 73)

    (Oh bull! why are you nervous? Why are you bowing? You play such a game that sixty adults will accept defeat).

"Kati Khane Re Barda Charale Bajhale?
Kati Khane Karale Sinan Re?
Kati Khane Re Barda, Bir Mati Makhale?
Ekhan To Khunta Mariyai Re.
Adha Rati Pahar Rati Charalo Bajhal,
Bhinsare Karalaen Sinan Re,
Boriya Uthoite Bhala Biro Mati Makhalon.
Ekhan To Khunta Manyai Re"

(Jain 1987: 74)

    (Oh bull! when did you graze? When did you bath? When did you besmear mud to get ready for dance? Now you have occupied the pole. I grazed at mid-night, bathed at the dawn and smeared mud with the rise of the sun and now I have occupied the pole)

    At the dusk, the Nimcha-Nimchi process is repeated in the same manner of the previous day. It was also observed that in some part of the studied area the Nimcha-Nimchi of the cattle is carried out on both the days of Gohal puja and Barad Bhidka, whereas in some places it takes place only on the day of Barad Bhidka. Similarly, in some part of the studied area the Chawk Pura is done at afternoon, just before to the Gohalpuja whereas in other part it is done at the evening to welcome their cattle. (Figure-5)


    The day after Barad Bhikda is observed as Budhi Bandna. This is of less importance as no formal rituals is performed. But the Bagals mainly erect a single Khunta at Gochar outside the village. Here only the Bagals participate and they force the cattle to play with their song and teasing nature. Moreover, the barren cow, which does not conceive, is made to play by the Bagals by tying to a special Khunta of Aandri tree.


    Man-animal relationship is a very old phenomenon, which dates back to Neolithic period when men began to tame animals. The exploitation of the cattle in their agricultural activities probably had begun during this phase of pre-historic period (Sankalia 1974: 279; Agrawal 1982: 90: 122). The aboriginal people who are considered as the son of the soil, is no exception to it. Like other agriculturist community, the tribal also depended on the cities to a very large extent. The relationship from the remote past have remained intact as one could easily notice in men's habit and regards for their (cattle) products and co-operation. Bandna Paraba thanks giving ceremony is a befitting example in this connection. The Kudmis observes Bandna Parab whole-heartedly while the other tribal groups of Chota Nagpur Plateau who celebrates the same festival in the name of Sohrai includes Santal (Mital 1986: 90); Munda (Roy 1912: 305-306) and Bedia (Shukla 1997: 76 – 77). In spite of their exclusion from the list of Scheduled Tribes, the 'Kudmis’ still maintain their traditional way of life and rituals. Both the mythology and reality of Bandna Parab in practice is a supporting evidence to it.