Where the Gods Are on Trial

People

Where the Gods Are on Trial

Illustration: Mudit Ganguly

I

n southern Chhattisgarh’s Kanker district, a strange procession begins every August.

Hundreds of tribal men, armed with bows and arrows, sickles, and small axes, set out on foot from nearly 300 villages from the area adjoining the state’s beautiful Bastar region. The men, dressed in their finest dhotis and kurta, accessorised with cowrie necklaces and bracelets of brace, are converging on Sur Dongar, or God’s Village. They trek past 12 hairpin bends to reach Mount Kalkesh, weathering plunging streams and dense forests, sometimes covering more than 50 kilometres a day. That’s a long journey, considering their precious cargo: their gram devtas or village deities, seated on a fragrant aanga, made of Bel or Saja wood, anointed with peacock feathers, turmeric, oil and flowers. Tots of the local brew keep the villagers going.

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