Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Over a thousand members of the indigenous Mahali community observed Jitia Parbon (a Mahali festival) at Baganpara village under Godagari upazila last Saturday amidst much fanfare.
Mahali children, women, and men from some 18 villages of Rajshahi, Naogaon and Chapainwabganj participated in the daylong festival that started from midnight.
The remote Baganpara village reverberated with life as groups of Mahalis danced with the beats of dhol, madol and other traditional instruments.
The festival formally started with a prayer for the well being of the country.
Although the festival is considered to be the biggest social event of the Mahali community, it was not observed for about half a century until the celebration resumed last year.
"Mahalis withdrew from celebrating the festival since many of them converted to Christianity. But now, we find our existence as Mahalis is at stake and this festival is part of our identity," said Zakaria Dumri, executive director of Mahali Adibashi Artho Samajik Unnayan Sangstha (MAASAUS).
Dumri stated that the community stopped celebrating Jitia Parbon as Christianity does not support it. The festival requires a strictly vegetarian diet and includes prayers, singing, dancing and distribution of cakes.
"The history of the parbon goes back over thousands of years," said Zakaria, who has researched on the origins of the Mahalis.
There was a Mahali leader called Jit Bahan Thakur, who was born of a virgin mother. Jit rescued the Mahalis from the evils of superstitions, subjugation and injustice. In honour of Jit, the Mahalis have been observing Jitia Parbon since then.
"Dal, bhat, jhijang torokari/ Jitia Parobo bhari/ Kumra, kodu, alu, shosha/ Sobi miley eki ghati" is the song rendered with dances throughout the festival.
Mahalis fast for three days prior to the festival and exchange gifts with each other.
MAASAUS, in association with the social organisation Dighor Baisi, arranged the festival. Manusher Jonno Foundation and Oxfam GB also assisted in organising the festival.