Baripada: Damodara Mela, one of the major festivals of Santhal tribals, kick-started at the famous Triveni Ghat in Mayurbhanj district Saturday. Thousands of tribals, attired in traditional clothes from various parts of Mayurbhanj, Jharkhand and West Bengal thronged the Triveni Ghat (confluence) of Budhbalanga, Jarali and Sarali rivers.
They immersed the ashes of their ancestors at Sunamuhin Ghat amid beatings of the traditional musical instruments.
Baripada municipality has made necessary arrangements for devotees at the fair. Fire department personnel and police were deployed at the Triveni ghat while facilities like drinking water, rest houses, lighting, watch towers and first aid have been made. However, with COVID-19 pandemic in mind, the administration has scraped the arrangement of roadside makeshift shops
The fair will be celebrated for three days. The mass festival assumes importance for tribals as they immerse the ashes of dead persons in the river during the festival. Not only tribals in Mayurbhanj, but also those living in the entire north Orissa, neighbouring Jharkhand and West Bengal took part in the mass immersion of ashes.
As per tradition, tribals preserve the remains of the dead till this festival. They believe that immersion of the ashes of their forefathers at the confluence of rivers Budhabalanga, Jarali and Sarali is a holy duty. Some tribals call the ash immersion in water as ‘Jilinj Dahar.’
They believe that the souls of the dead persons rest in peace after their ashes are immersed in the holy confluence of the three rivers.
“After immersion of the ashes and rituals on the river ghat, they tonsure their heads and then take a holy dip at the confluence. Then, they make return journey to their villages. Before entering the villages, they sacrifice fowls and goats for community feasts,” said a village headman Laxmikant Hembram.
To ensure successful completion of the Damodar Yatra, a local outfit called Bhanj Disam Pargana Mahal Baruni Ghat Sunamuhin Committee has made elaborate arrangements for the people. They strongly believe that by taking part in the Damodar Yatra, tribals earn virtues.