When is Sarhul?
In Jharkhand, Sarhul is a public holiday. In the year 2022, it falls on 04 April, Monday.
One of the most popular tribal festivals celebrated across the Jharkhand region, Sarhul festival marks the beginning of New Year. It is celebrated by the Oraon, the Munda and the Ho tribes, of the Jharkhand region. Celebrated every year in the first month of the Hindu calendar, on the third day of the moon or the fortnight of 'Chaitra', Sarhul marks the advent of the spring season or “Phaagun” and is celebrated till the month of June or “Jeth”.
Sarhul means worship of trees. Being close to nature, these tribes start the Sarhul festival with the worship of trees and other elements of nature.
Traditions of Sarhul
In this unique and important festival, festivities revolve around the sal tree. Sarhul literally means "worship of sal".
The Sal tree (Shorea robusta) is the most important source of timber in Jharkhand and its leaves are used to make bowls in which offerings are made to deities during festivals.
At the start of spring, the tree flowers and new growth begins. In a tradition that stretches back over 2,000 years, this flowering has been the trigger for villagers to offer prayers to the village God, the protector of the tribe.
The Saal flowers are used for the worship of the deity during Sarhul. On the eve of the festival, the Pahan (village priest) fills three new clay pots with water.
After bathing early in the morning, the priest checks the water level inside the earthen pots. If the water level has dropped, that is a sign of famine or less rain. If the water is about the same level, it indicates that there will be plenty of rain during the growing season.
Sarhul is an important festival of the Oraon, the Munda and the Ho tribes. Another larger tribe of Jharkhand, the Santals also celebrate the festival as the "festival of flowers".
The Sarna tribe in Jharkhand celebrates the Sarhul festival with great enthusiasm. The men and women of the Sarna tribe clad in colourful and traditional dresses perform traditional dances on the popular folk tunes of the region. The traditional outfit worn by the men is called ''karia'' and women are called ''khanria''.
The Sarhul dance forms express the enthusiasm and festive feelings amongst the people and the melodious Sarhul songs narrate the stories related to the culture, beliefs and traditions of the tribe. The tribal music is played upon traditional musical instrument, by the tribal people themselves. The tribal dance forms are performed by the native tribes called Kunjbans. Be it any festival or event, the Kunjabhans perform across Jharkhand on all important events including change of season, advent of New Year, all religious ceremonies, birth and marriage ceremonies etc. The tribal dance forms and tribal songs of Jharkhand have gained popularity across the world. Some of the popular Sarhul dance forms include:
A popular tribal dance form of the Sarhul festival, the Santhal dance is performed by the Santhal tribe. Performed during various festivals and occasions it showcases the culture, traditions and unity of the native tribes. The dresses worn by the dancers are adorned with vibrant colours.The male members of the dance troupe wear a dhoti and a turban and their body is ornamented with colourful flowers as the tribe is very close to nature.
Paika is one of the very famous dance forms performed during the Sarhul festival to welcome the guests. The Paika dance form is a fine amalgamation of martial arts with other dance steps. A very interesting yet dangerous form of dance, the Paika dance is performed by the tribal men only. The colourful costumes worn for the Paika dance include chest plates, head wears and bells to tie around the ankles of the dancers, to prevent injuries. The dancers hold a sword and a shield in each hand. The Paika dance is performed along with the traditional Sarul music played with Narsingha, Shahnai, BheirDhak and Nagara drums.
Some of the other popular tribal dance forms include:
Importance of Sal Tree:
All therituals of the Sarhul festival are performed under the Sal tree in the sacred grove known as the ''SarnaSthal'' or ''Jaher''. The Sal treeorSakhua Tree in Sarhul festival holds a prominent place as it is considered to be the abode of the village deity, Goddess Sarna. Therefore this sacred tree and other such sacred trees are grown around the sacred grove. The Sal tree is worshipped by the people of the tribe because they believe that Goddess Sarna protects them from all natural calamities and disasters. The Oroan tribe also is a great devotee of Lord Ram and Sita. They worship Sita as Dharti Mata (Mother Nature).
The place for worship or the “SarnaSthal” is chosen by the Pahan or priest. It is important that there should be at least one Sal tree close to the place of worship else it is not considered to be sacred.
Role of Sakhua Tree in Sarhul Festival:
Sakhua is popularly called as ‘Sakhu’' and is considered to be a very auspicious gift of the Gods by the Oraon tribe. In the tribal language of the Oraon “Kurukh,” the fruit of the Sakhua tree or the Saal tree is called ‘Naur’ whereas in Sadri the language of the localsit is called ‘Sarai’. It is believed by the Oraon tribe that a good produce of the “Naur” is an indication of a good agricultural yield. Thus, the Sarai tree worship is the integral part of the Sarhul festival.
At the end of the rituals and the worship of the Sal tree, the priest gives the sacred flowers of the tree to all the villagers and sprinkles holy water in their homes blessing them with health prosperity and safety.
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