Nuakhai: A culture of Indigenous people!

Like Mahul Nua, Semi Nua, Aam Nua; today is Dhaan Nua popularly known as Nuakhai. These all are the non-Vedic indigenous festival. Nuakhai is neither in Vedas nor in Puranas of Aryan /Hindus. So how can you call it a Hindu festival and how can you attach it to any god or goddess?  This is the very effect of Sanskritisation, which can be seen in western Odisha Nuakhai format (It can be read as Brahminical Effects on Nuakhai). Furthermore, this is not true that Nuakhai is only a festival of Western Odisha, rather it has a wide presence in south Odisha, entire Bastar, Chhatisgarh, Mahasamund, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand as well as in some part of Andhra Pradesh. The Nuakhai of Sambalpur, Bargarh, Balangir, Kalahandi and other districts are taken into account because it has romanticized the festival most and, gradually destroying its original belief System. Nuakhai (Dhaan Nua, Aam Nua, Mahul Nua, etc) is an organic festival, that has had, its origin from the primitive conscious time in human evolution theory. If I am allowed to give one language to Nuakhai, I must say “This is the celebration of the completion of the first production function in human history” (Note:- for production function please refer to economics dictionary, this will give you better understanding).  

Indigenous People praying their Pitru, Pidar, Duma and Masan
Source: New Indian Express

In Bastar, only indigenous people (Adivasi, Dalit & Backward caste) observe this festival, Brahmin and other Dwija caste people even don’t call it their festival at all. Same in Jharkhand and some parts of Andhra Pradesh.  There is no calendar day to it, experienced paddy cultivator during their periodic visit to paddy field decide one day to observe Nuakhai. The date even differs from village to village in Bastar Chhatisgarh, where the cultivators are Dalit and Adivasi. God or Goddess has nothing to do with Nuakhai. Here, I am not discriminating others to observe this festival, but they (Brahmin and other Dwija caste people) don’t have any base to observe Nuakhai. Hence don’t give them any right to decide the date, which falls just after the Ganesh Chaturthi, which they try to Sanscritise the Nuakhai Indigenous festival. From the very first day of human history, the Indigenous people are inbuilt oppressor, conservative by mind and action. On the contrary, Nuakhai is a festival of oppressed, who works in the field, makes new innovations and progressive in nature. These statements cannot be true without sufficient supporting details, that as follow:-

  1. Primarily there was two Belief System, one is Shramanic and another is Brahmanic. A belief system is an ideology or set of principles that help us to interpret our everyday reality. This could be in the form of religion, political affiliation, philosophy, or spirituality. Dalit, backward (lower -OBC of present-day), Adivasi, all these came from Shramanik Belief System, thus their culture is so. Whereas Dwija caste-like Brahman, Baniya, Kshyatriya came from Brahmanic Belief System.
  2. In Brahmanic Belief System, you can find the concept of imaginary Hell & Heaven, Paapa Punya. They believe that after death there is a place where their forefathers’ mothers live and for them, they send all usable of one year via a Brahmin priest, this is known as “Shraddha” . On the contrary Shramanic culture derived from natural law, where they believe what they see, observed or experienced in a very scientific manner.  Shramani doesn’t believe in Shradhha, no place where the human can live after death. It just transforms from one form to another. “The First law of thermodynamics, also known as Law of Conservation of Energy”. Like every creature dies and decomposes, the same happens to the human body as well. The only things of your forefathers’ mothers, that one can conserve is his/her work/memory/Chintan in soft format by remembering every day. Thus they developed the concept of Masan, Duma & Pidar. Those all are masan who dies in the family. Duma is the Masan having an influencing figure within and outside the family also. Pidar is a place within our house where we keep the demographic records of our family.
  3. Patriarchy origins from Brahmanic Belief System and it reflect in their socio-religion habits. Whereas in Shramanic culture we find Matriarchy. Patriarchy is male made whereas matriarchy is out of natural selection.

Now the actual question arises that, why do they were doing this since long and how it connected to Nuakhai?

Since there was no mode of record-keeping, thus the only way to conserve their new invention, their struggles, skills, knowledge, the methodology of the production function, Do & Don’t, etc are to passing on the information from one generation to another and so on. When we call a new masan we call her/him by chanting loudly his/her doings, habits, philosophy, knowledge, etc. Its use as a reminder for existing-working generation and became learning materials for the coming generation.  

Kure Patar used as a plate to have food during Nuakhai
Source: New Indian Express

There are so many phases wise work is to be carryout in paddy cultivation. Starting from Lot-Pot, the stage when soil tested by an experienced person and inform all that the soil is ready for cultivation( It’s also known as Maetpaka in our marriage system) to the time of harvest (final stage) It’s a long Six-month work which was designed and developed by the Indigenous people. For this, they also invent Bullock cart, Nangal, Juad, Kapar, etc. You can’t run Nangal in soil by Bulls or Cow, for that you need Ox. Oxen have commonly castrated adult male cattle. Thus they developed surgical science, It is known as orchidectomy by which an individual loses the use of the testicles: the male gonad. Now, one can understand the importance of Masan/Pidar/Duma System needs to be continued for long.

With this background, since Nuakhai is a day of successful completion of their long handwork. The indigenous belief that It only happens because we learned so from our ancestor, because of their struggles and sacrifices, today we are able to have this paddy in our hand. Hence they have the first right on this paddy. “It’s like today’s property/ownership rights of Adivasi on Forest”. Thus one day before our mother-head, (since we are matriarchal family) with father invites all Masan/duma to have NUAKHAI.

Notes: – 1. Nuakhai is not a Pooja. 2. In Nuakhai we eat Nuakhai Chura-kuna, not any prasad. Even in this day, we can’t accept Prasada of any God before eating Churakuna. 3. Nuakhai Juhar is not like namaskar or pranam, as no senior-junior, respect-disrespect attached to it, it’s a Bhetghat where we greeting each other and exchange our thoughts. 

To be Contd……  

*This article is in the context to Nuakhai. Further series of article will come up on Dalit, Adivasi culture as a part of Odisha Bahujan Culture series. Keep following Nirveda Odisha for this.

Subhransu (ଶୁଭ୍ରାଂଶୁ)

Subhransu is an Independent Researcher and one of the Editorial Board Member of Nirveda Odisha Magazine.

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