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Indigenous communities celebrate Karam

Published : 19 Sep 2023 10:47 PM

Members of indigenous communities all over Bangladesh celebrate the annual Karam festival to pray for the welfare of their families in accordance with ancient tradition. Members of the Mahato community have been celebrating this annual festival in Tarash of Sirajganj since Monday last. 

Karam is celebrated on the ‘Shukla Ekadashi of Bhadra according to the Bengali calendar. This festival was inaugurated in Tarash on Monday last by Birendra Nath Urao, President of Tarash Upazila Indigenous Versatile Development Organisation. Naogaon Indigenous Cultural Organisation organised the programme. 

Karam festival is celebrated in Bangladesh by many indigenous communities including the Santal, Urao, Mahato, Baraik, Kurmi, Sing, Pahan and Mahali communities. The name comes from the ancient tradition of chopping the branch of a ‘Karam’ tree, planting the branch in the soil and worshipping it. In some areas, this festival is referred to as ‘Daal Pujo’ or ‘Branch Worship’. The Karam branch is planted in the yard or in an open area and decorated with various flowers, while clay lamps are placed all around. People of all ages take part in the celebration.

Prabash Mahato, President of the organising committee, said that planting and growing of the branch symbolises loving and caring for children and the festival is centred on this celebration of nature. Upon regular care, the branch grows into a two-leafed sapling of yellowish-green hue. He also said that on the last day of the festival (19 Sept), the worshippers place platters decorated with water-lilies, cucumbers, ribbons etc. around the planted branch and engage in worship with deep excitement and the spirit of tradition in their hearts. This is followed by the jubilant ‘Jhumur’ dance, accompanied by drums. 

Ujjal Mahato, researcher and author of the book titled ‘Karam’, said that Karam is usually celebrated by members of the indigenous communities with various traditions and religious activities, but the Karam tree population is currently dwindling. If this tree is not preserved properly, then the tradition of celebrating Karam festival annually will face an existential threat.

Translated and edited by Rahee Nayab.