Santhal tribals were seen flocking to Baruni Ghat in the Damodar River to immers the bones of their ancestors as part of the annual ritual called ‘Jilling Dahar’ . The marching tribals chanted Hirla Marangburu Hirla Marangburu(We are under you) to appease their deity and ancestors.

About 20,000 Santhals from remote Mayurbhanj villages and far beyond from the neighbouring Singhbhum district in Jharkhand and from West Bengal gathered for the first day of the ritual today. The district police had made security arrangements at Balasore Golei, Madhuban, Station Bazaar and Baruni Ghat and a few junctions of Baripada town and the adjoining places of River Budha Balanga, Jarali and Sarali to maintain order.

Especially the Santhal communities here observed the ritual a day after Makar Sankranti, gathering at Baruni Ghat or Triveni Ghat at the union of rivers Budhabalanga, Sarali and Jarali in the town. “For us, the confluence of Budhabalanga, Sarali and Jarali at Baruni Ghat is considered the Holi Damodar where we perform Jilling Dahar,” said Gurva Soren, a social activist and secretary of the Society for Research and Development of Tribal Cultures (SRDTC).

“The Ghat gained prominence during the rule of Pratap Chandra Bhanj Deo, the last king of the Bhanja dynasty in the erstwhile princely state of Mayurbhanj,” Soren added. Before that, the Santhals used to trek all the way to Thakurbadi, a place near Gopiballavpur in West Bengal for the ritual, the SRDTC secretary said.

The people treat the bones with something called handia rasi, and wrap them with a piece of yellow cloth. Janbaha (immersion of bones) over, they set about performing what is akin to pindo daan, a ritual which Hindus perform to feed their forefathers. The offerings placed on three Saal leaves include mud, toothpicks, rice and sweetmeats.