~:: The Setting ::~
Though Purulia appears to be very rough and rugged from the outside, at least from its terrain structure, it is very lively from within. Its people, customs and festivals are a veritable feast of life. Because of their living in sylvan surroundings and their intimate relation with forests and groves the tribal festivals and religion rest heavily on seasonal manifestation of nature. From March to May Chait Parab, Charak Puja, Shiber Gajan, Chhau and Natua Parab bring in mirth in the lives of the locals. Chhau is the most interesting mask-dance, performed as a theatrical art; performers are all males, dressed with very elaborate masks and gorgeous headgears; the music and songs are based on mythology and contemporary themes and they require the dancers to do leaps in the air, summersaults, and twirls again and again.
By the end of May cultivators sow seeds and celebrate the practice, mostly with songs and dances. During June-July Santhals also go for sowing seeds. Manasa Pooja (worship the goddess of snake) in the middle of August, is a big festival for the locals. And in September Bhadu, a festival related to Aus paddy harvesting is an occasion of great joy for Bauris and Bagdis. Mostly in the month of October, on the occasion of Durga puja, the locals celebrates Dashai dance, spanning for a month and it ends the last day of Durga puja. Badhna (celebrated during Kali puja) is a festival when the villagers decorate their huts with interesting designs on walls and floors using a liquid in white colour only, made of natural ingredients. The decoration process itself is a treat to watch. All the designs are created with typically adept finger movements, an exercise not seen elsewhere. A part of this ritual is to irritate cows by playing drums etc. for a fight.
Tushu is a festival that involves songs with processions by different groups which carry colourful high Jhapis, towers made of paper and cloth. From the middle of January to February the festival of Bhansingh Pooja-O-Parab continues. Bhansingh, a god who doesn't have an image, is one who protects cattle. Spring festival for Santhals is known as Sarjan Baha. Mundas call it Sarhool; it's a nightlong festival involving song and dance. Bhejabindha and Murga Larai witness, archery and cock fight respectively. The defeated cock become the property of the owner of the wining cock. These competitive sports are highly popular among Santhals. In the month of May the Santhals of Ajodhya Hills area having their hunting festival, coinciding with the Buddha Purnima, it's also known as Shikar Parab.
The Foundation in its turn has added a few festivals of its own that are held in regular intervals. It involves the local people in great numbers. Alongside various indigenous art forms traditionally practised by the local people in Purulia, a urban art form like mime has been introduced, performed and workshops have been held for local performers also.
The Foundation also organised Nature Study and Rock Climbing Camp from 1999 to 2004 during November to March. Pakhipahar Mela, a fair that witnesses participation of local in thousands, has been a regular event from 1999 to 2004, showcasing local art forms like Chhou, Natua, Dashai, Santhali Darma, Raibese, Ranpa, Choir, Bengali folk and modern songs from outside Purulia. The training workshop organized by the Foundation for Chhau and Natua was a huge success for it witnessed enthusiastic participation of the local people. The darma competition organized by the Foundation promoted local art forms.