People turn into ‘ghosts’ to appease Lord Shiva

April 12th, 2008 - 8:05 pm ICT by admin  

Ranchi, April 12 (IANS) In a ritual to propitiate Lord Shiva, some residents of Jharkhand have been “transforming” themselves into ghosts throughout the Hindu month of Chaitra (mid-March to mid-April) during religious ceremonies to get their wishes fulfilled. The ritual, part of the Koka festival, is observed by thousands in Tamar block, 70 km from state capital Ranchi, and nearby villages. The festival is celebrated over three months. The main festival procession was taken out in Tamar Friday evening.

The festival is celebrated after Holi as the harvesting of crops begins. According to legend, people started observing the Koka festival to appease the gods for good crops. With the passage of time, people started praying for other things too - property, good health and wealth.

The Koka festival is also celebrated by some to attain tantrik or occult powers. Devotees invoke Lord Shiva, who is considered the guru of the tantriks. The Koka festival is also known Chaitra Parav or Bhokta Parav.

Attired in colourful dresses and wearing ghost masks, people beat drums during the ritual to pray to Shiva to achieve ‘tantra shakti’ and get their wishes fulfilled. Those who “become” ghosts wear ghost masks and a garland of gulaichi, a yellow flower.

“Those who participate in the festival first take a dip in the river and convert themselves to ghosts and then take part in a procession to the Shiva temple located in the village - beating drums, chanting mantras and dancing. The priests perform rituals in the temple,” said Gandura Munda, a priest.

According to anthropologists, the Koka festival started hundreds of years ago.

“Initially, the festival was celebrated only by the tribal people. Now it is celebrated by more people as it is associated with harvesting. People become ‘ghosts’ to appease Shiva.

“Shiva’s baratis (marriage procession) had ghosts, snakes and animals and this is the reason people convert themselves into ghosts while taking out the procession,” said V.S. Upadhyay, a retired professor of anthropology at Ranchi University.

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