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Ethnic touch to modern times

Bhubaneswar, Jan. 27: Stepping into a Santhal tribe hut and getting to see their rituals of worshipping the village deity, food and drinking habits and adventurous lifestyle was an eye opener for 18-year-old undergraduate, Ankita.

Her friends, too, could not stop admiring the hut and the colourful attires and accessories of the tribal girls that left them in awe.

The Adivasi Mela, an annual tribal fair, has brought alive the vibrant culture of various tribal communities of the state at the Adivasi Exhibition Ground in the city since Sunday. Home-makers and senior citizens are already queuing up at the fair like every year to collect articles and items not available in the city during the rest of the year. The youth of the city is also thronging at the fair to get a glimpse of the kaleidoscopic display of tribal life in a set up of huts and life-size statues.

Participants at the annual fair, organised by the SC and ST development department, have brought products collected from the dense forests of their respective areas.

“People of the 62 tribes, including 13 primitive tribal groups (PTGs), gather at the exhibition ground to spread out their ethnic mosaic every year. And we are delighted to see that there are thousands of takers for their crafts and agro-based items in Bhubaneswar,” said A.B. Ota, director-cum-additional secretary of the department. The members from various Integrated Tribal Development Agency such as Rayagada, Ganjam, Mayurbhanj, Koraput, Malkangiri, Jeypore, Keonjhar and so on are a part of the fair.

Edible items such as various kinds of pulses, stems, roots and fruits — that can either be used as spices or for medicinal purpose — are available at the kiosks of the participating traders. Household articles such as mortar and pestle, broomsticks, utensils are also a hit among home-makers.

“These articles, especially the edible items, are of great quality, and hence, we come down every year to collect something from the fair,” said Maitree Sahoo, a visitor.

There is also attractive tribal jewellery as well as artefacts that are attracting buyers. “From metal earrings, neck pieces, bangles, anklets, rings to hair pins and other hair accessories, one finds simply stunning jewellery at the fair,” said Ankita.

Paintings, sculptures and décor works made of wood, horns and metal are also a highlight of the exhibition displayed in over 150 stalls. However, the tribal houses in the theme pavilion that show the huts of the Lanjia Saura, Juangs, Kandha, Santhal, Desia and many more are the chief attraction at the fair.

“The unique festival dates back to 1951, when it was first held in Cuttack. Later, it was shifted to Bhubaneswar. Though it went into a hiatus from 1962 to 1967, it was revived later and has been a regular annual event since 1982 onwards,” said an official of the fair.

Cultural programmes showcasing dance, songs and rituals of festivities of various tribal communities are hosted in the evening at the fair that will continue till February 9.

“We love to come here and sell our products directly to customers — which is usually not possible for us,” said participant Biti Saura.