It’s a Puja with a difference which is organised solely by the tribal women at a village in Bankura from the last 14 years where they set up the deity of Devi Durga but chant mantras in the name of their own tribal God Marangburu in Santhali style. In Bankura’s tribal-dominated Domohani village, where 60 tribal families reside ~ about 50 km away from the district headquarters ~ holding a Durga Puja is no easy game as the tribal communities worship their own God Marangburu and never allow ‘infiltration of outside culture’ into their ‘sacred’ custom and lifestyle.

The community heads had at one point even sought police intervention to to put a stop to plans by some sections of the community, particularly women, to perform Durga puja. The women who had prepared to hold a Durga Puja in 2005 with a wish to worship Goddess Durga ~ ‘the icon of women power’, had to face stiff resistance by the village heads as the tribal Gurus made a horizontal discrimination against them labelling ‘Durga’ as a Hindu Goddess and the women preparing for the Devi’s puja were identified as ‘evil offenders’ by a kangaroo court at Domohani village. Sandhya Hembram – a housewife claims: “One day I woke up at midnight with an excitement as I felt the Devi herself had given me an order to organised her puja.”

Sandhya told her family and others in the community but most of them rejected this out and out on the ground that Marangburu would be annoyed and Durga Puja was a Hindu custom.” As she remained adamant to organise the puja, the village’s community head organised a kangaroo court in the village where some women like Saraswati Hansda, Jhumki Murmu, Laxmi Hembram took Sandhya’s side but the male members refused to follow suit. Matilal Hansda, a youth who once had been a hardjawed challenger to this Durga Puja, said: “We were against this puja as the Durga idol shows killing of a black muscular male with a sharp weapon and the deity is holding many arms in its hands.”

So, he added: “Someone complained to police that the organisers will hold a human sacrifice during the pujas and a police team came sharp.” But, he added: “After inspection, the police gave a clean chit and asked our community members not to disturb the women any more.” Since then, Matilal and other youths like Chhidam Murmu joined hands with the women. The next year, Sandhya, Saraswati put up a Durga idol on their own. “Each year, we prepare the deity,” Saraswati said. But no Hindu priest visits our puja place. We even do not know the mantras for the Durga Puja. So, we chant the mantras meant for worshipping our own God, Marangburu, and this is how we hold our Durga Puja every year.”