As many as 50,000 participants from India and abroad came for the two-day tribal International Sarna Mahadharam Convention, which started on Thursday at Lugu hills in rebel-hit Gomia of Bokaro, 70km from district headquarters.
Organised every year by tribal outfits at Lugu Buru Ghanta Bari, famed as the site where tribal guru Lugu Buru spent 12 years in meditation with his disciples, the event was accorded the status of a state festival by Jharkhand government last year when CM Raghubar Das visited it.
Lugu Buru, who Santhals consider their founding father, predates Christ. The main events, prayers and religious discourses, take place at and near a cave atop Lugu hills, which is a steep 7km climb.
This time, representatives of tribes from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal, as well as from various parts of India such as Odisha, Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, and from within Jharkhand, came for the two-day event. Around 20 have come from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal. Participants include 100 tribal religious leaders, many from outside Jharkhand.
On Thursday, participants took a dip in the nearby Charcharia canal, considered to have divine powers to cure ailments. The canal never dries up.
Participants also prayed at the cave. On Friday, tribal religious leaders will hold discourses on living in harmony with nature.
Mukhiya of Lugu hills region Bubli Soren, who chairs the puja organising committee, said the government arranged buses under Mukhyamantri Teerth Darshan Yojana to ferry pilgrims from Bokaro to Lugu hills. Massive tents have been erected on the hill for pilgrims with lights, drinking water, toilets, among others.