Nature Talk

    The annual car festival of Lord Jagannath is recently concluded. Once confined to Puri in Odisha, this festival in recent times has crossed its shores and is being observed world over. The devotees with all eagerness and emotion draw the carts on which are placed the idols of trinity: Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra. That a deity, which scholars claim, not without sufficient reasons, is of tribal origin has become cynosure of people all over the world points towards the power of acculturation, which, in the context of Lord Jagannath, is Hinduization.

    The alien Hindu rulers who expanded their kingdom to include the tribal land of Odisha preferred to co-opt the deity that the tribals worshipped, and the priest who were attached to the deity, ostensibly to win the support of the local population. Such co-option, naturally, ensured the acceptability of the rulers and in the process the Hindu rituals of worshipping Gods gradually sneaked into the rituals observed by the tribals in worshipping their deity. A mix of rituals discernible to the scholars, not withstanding, the way Lord Jagannath and His companion idols are worshipped, one cannot help concluding that Hinduization of Lord Jagannath is complete.

    Lord Jagannath and His companion idols thus stand as a composite symbol of absorption of tribals into Hindu society, whereas the car festival may be construed as mass approval to such absorption On a broader perspective, it symbolizes absorption of indigenous people and their deity into an alien culture.. Further it does establish alien power with its culture invading indigenous people is not a new phenomenon. So no wonder that this is still visible, when multinational corporations, are found preying on the valuable resources that lie underneath the tribal habitation, and flaunt Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to co-opt the tribals. But such predatory corporations are facing stiff resistance from the tribals and CSR bait is failing to be effective, which do indicate opposition to the absorption by an alien culture. This contrasts our participation in the car festival, which in essence, is the celebration of such absorption.