‘Baha Parab’ to promote the rights of Indigenous peoples

Apr 7, 2018

Santal community of Gobindaganj upazila in Gaibandha district on 7 April,  observed Baha Parab, the second largest yearly festival of the indigenous community living in plain lands, to welcome the spring with flowers.

A large number of Santal men, women and children attended the main function held at the ground of Katabari Union Paishad. Baha Parob Udjapon Committee, NDF and Pargana Parishad organized the event, supported by the Human Rights Programme of UNDP in association with the local partner organization Abolambon.

Wearing traditional colourful dress and ornaments, artistes of eight cultural units of six villages rendered songs and performed dances to entertain the audience.

The programme included worship of goddesses and prayer for their welfare and prosperity round the year.The participants also held festoons inscribed with demands for ensuring the rights of indigenous people.

“Baha Parab may be called 'flower festival' in Bangla. Unless we observe the Parab the women and girls of Santal community cannot use flowers like sarjam baha (sal flower), echak baha and murup baha in their bun of hair,” said Philimon Baske, convener of Baha Parab Udjapon committee.

“Santal community usually observe the festival during the full moon of Bangla month Chaitra but this time it is being observed a bit later. In northern areas as many as 38 indigenous sections including Urayo, Munda, Malo, Mahato, Mal Pahari and Rajwari observed the festival,” he said.

“Last year we could not observe the festival here as three Santal men were killed and hundreds of Santal families were evicted from their ancestral land in Shabebganj sugarcane farm area on November 6, 2016,” he said.

At the function, Santal priests conducted worship with sal flowers to satisfy their goddesses like Jaher Era (goddess for flower), Marangbor (chief of Santal goddesses) and Pargana Banga (local goddess), said Mangal Tudu, a village head.

Among others, Gautum Chandra Pal, deputy commissioner Gaibandha, Rafiul Alam upazila nirbahi officer of Gobindaganj, Philimon Beske, convener of the festival committee, Rushan Kisku, president of Pargana Parishad, and Victor Lakra, executive director of NDF, spoke in the opening ceremony of Baha Parab in the morning.

Karina Hasda, an indigenous researcher, said such festivals could not be observes in many places due to dwindling forests and acute poverty.  

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