Dance of pain to please deity

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By PARVINDER BHATIA in Jamshedpur
  • Published 8.06.04
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Jamshedpur, June 8: His feet struggled to keep pace with the frenzied drumbeats as blood trickled down his chin. The needle had pierced the delicate skin of his lips but the pain did not seem to jolt back Neel Mohan, a 30-year-old tribal of the Dindli slum in Adityapur, from the throes of his passion.

The audience watched in awe — sometimes cringing in empathy — as Neel performed the ritual dance of the Charak Puja, one of the most ancient tribal festivals.

Neel was now a Rajani Bhakta, one of the many devotees who dare every year to stretch their endurance in the worship of Lord Shiva.

Twenty-five more devotees or Rajani Bhaktas, needles or iron rods piercing their skin, performed the dance at the Shiv Mandir in Adityapur, where the three-day annual Charak Puja is organised every year.

It is a long-held belief that Shiva grants his worshipper’s wishes if he can bear the pain in silence. Neel, for example, has been married for the past ten years but still has no child. After countless visits to the doctor failed, Neel took this extreme path.

A panting Neel later said, “I firmly believe that my long cherished dream of having a child will come true.”

Tribals also vouch for the fact that the devotees do not need medicine to heal the wounds, inflicted by the iron rods or needles. The wounds heal on their own.

This festival has been celebrated with religious fervour since 1818. According to the president of puja commitee, Bubu Dutta, Charak Puja is the oldestfestival of this area and is still celebrated with pomp and gaiety.

The fearful sight of the Rajani Bhaktas dancing in abandon draws hundreds of people every year.

“It’s a heartrending scene. The sight of sharp iron rods sticking on a person’s body inspires awe. What is amazing is that the devotees do not cry out in pain. Maybe their piety takes them beyond the mortal and towards God,” says a member of the puja commitee.

Hundreds of tribals from far off places gather here for Charak Puja. But, over the time, the festival has expanded beyond the tribal community. Bengalis, Biharis and even Muslims have started taking part, said Dutta. People come from neighbouring states of West Bengal and Orissa to watch the dancers.

Mohan Mahto, another first-timer, said, “This is the first time that I have performed as a Rajani Bhakta in Charak Puja. It is incredible but I felt no pain when I was dancing though I had needles stuck in my mouth.”

He was convinced that his brush with pain would impress Lord Shiva. “I have faith in this puja. I know that my offerings will be accepted and my prayers answered,” he added.