Nagoba Jatara : Annual Pilgrimage of Adivasis in Keslapur

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Ramesh Kasa

Ramesh Kasa is a freelancer based in Hyderabad. He co-founded the facebook page "Humans of Gondwana' with his two companions Shatali Shedmake and Harshit A Charles to pursue their interests in story telling. The trio travel in the interiors of central India bringing out the everyday struggles and triumphs of AdIvasi communities through their facebook page.

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Photo Credits: Shatali Shedmake, Harshit A Charles


Welcome Arch of the Nagoba Jatara 2017- Keslapur

Nagoba Jatara is an annual pilgrimage of Gond and Pardhan communities in Adilabad district, Telangana. The Mesram clan of Gond and Pardhan communities make their annual worship and offerings to their Serpent clan god ‘Nagoba’, whose shrine is located in Keslapur village. This year’s Jatara was organized from 27-31 of January. The Nagoba Jatara is the second biggest tribal gathering in the state of Telangana and has pilgrims coming from all over central India. Pilgrims from distant locations arrive in their bullock carts to participate in the Jatara. The annual tribal fair which lasts a fortnight begins on the night of ‘Pushya Amavasya’. Preparations begin after the appearance of first moon in the ‘Pus’ month. The community elders meet at the Keslapur Nagoba temple and a notice is sent to the successors of Potters’ family who make the sacred pots to be used in rituals. This potter’s family in the Sirikonda village carries the tradition of making the pots used in the rituals and offerings made to Nagoba deity.

The Nagoba Shrine at Keslapur

 

Pilgrims arriving in Bullock carts to make annual offerings to their deity Nagoba

The Mesram clan members then walk towards ‘Hastinamadugu’ to fetch holy water from the ‘Godavari’ river. A group of 120 clan members participated in the walk this year. With the holy water, they return to Keslapur and settle under the ‘Vata Vriksh’ or Holy banyan tree which is located at 300 metres from the temple. All Mesram families carry utensils, food grains and all necessities in bullock carts and start to the temple few days in advance. They cook and sleep in the shade of the tree. The tradition of reciting legends of Nagoba by Pardhan musicians is now carried forward by ‘Mesram Tukdoji’ who is keeping their tradition alive.

Carrying the Sacred Water for purification rituals

 

Singing of the Nagoba legend by Pardhan musician Mesram Tukdoji

 

Women cooking under the Banyan tree

 

Women arriving with Puja material in bamboo baskets

The purification ceremony began on the night of 27th January in which all the members of Mesram clan participated. The sacred water is used in the purification of temple premises after which the Adivasis worship their deity. An Anthill is made by Mesram clan women as symbolic to their serpent God. A ritualistic introduction of newlywed brides called ‘Bheting’ is performed on the same night. New brides in full white attire are formally introduced to their god and are then declared eligible to worship Nagoba. There were 60 brides this year who worshipped their clan deity for the first time. The Jatara is also followed with offerings to Persapen and Betal who are among the major deities. A ritual called ‘Toom’ is performed to remember the departed souls in the past year.

Making of the Anthill by Mesram clan women

The Mesram clan organizes Nagoba Jatara under the administration of ‘Integrated Tribal Development Agency’ (ITDA) which spent 40 lakh rupees this year in accommodating facilities for the pilgrims. ITDA project officer RV Karnan, IAS, took special initiatives like making it plastic free, giving free Wifi and organizing traditional games competition which made Jatara special this year. Paper bags and Leaf plates were cheaply sold in an official stall which reduced the consumption of plastic, making it a Greener Jatara. ITDA collaborated with BSNL and Jio networks to give free Wifi and Nagoba became the first ever Adivasi fair to have free Wifi. The first ever traditional games competition was organized for the students of local schools. The Jatara also witnessed traditional ‘Bullock Cart’ race this year, which took place after almost two decades.

 

Traditional bullock cart race organized on the second day of the Jatara

 

 

Inter school competition of traditional games: a girl’s team taking part in the field

The ‘Praja Darbar’ was conducted on 30th, in which all the local public representatives took part and heard the grievances of Gond and other Adivasi communities. The tradition of conducting Darbar began by the great anthropologist ‘Christopher von Furer-Haimendorf’ in 1944 to address issues faced by the local Adivasis. He took this initiative after understanding the significance of Jatara, where huge number of local Adivasis gathered. The tradition which gradually gained momentum is now attended by all the branches of Government, who put special stalls to inform about the latest schemes and programs and take appeals from people on wide range of grievances.

Delegates on stage during the ‘Darbar’

 

A grievance redressal stall administered by ITDA at the Jatara

 

Stalls of various government branches at the Jatara

A special stall exhibiting ethnographic photographs on the life of Adilabad Adivasis grabbed attention of many in the Jatara. Michael Yorke, student of Prof. Haimendorf captured the life of the tribes between 1976 and 1978 in ‘Tiryani valley’ of Adilabad district. He has donated his collection of 1300 photographs to the district administration. Selected photographs from Michael Yorke’s collection were put in the exhibition.

People looking at the photo collection of Michael Yorke

Though the Jatara continues to have pilgrims throughout the week, Mesram clan members formally bid adieu on third or fourth day which announces the closing of rituals by Mesram families. The Mesram families in their bullock carts proceed to Shampur village to worship ‘Budum Dev’ and then finally proceed to their homes.

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Ramesh Kasa

Ramesh Kasa is a freelancer based in Hyderabad. He co-founded the facebook page "Humans of Gondwana' with his two companions Shatali Shedmake and Harshit A Charles to pursue their interests in story telling. The trio travel in the interiors of central India bringing out the everyday struggles and triumphs of AdIvasi communities through their facebook page.

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