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“Selecus look how peculiar is this country….” once exclaimed Alexander the Great, the king of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon when he invaded India.
The Greek king truly recognized the country as India has been really a composition of peculiarity. Like many peculiar instances, Mandar mela at the foot hills of mythological Mandar hills at Bounsi block of Banka district in eastern Bihar is unique and peculiar in its kind.
The mela commence on every January 14 on occasion of Makar Shankranti. Mandar is a sacred place for Hindus as well as Jains but Mandar hill has a special significance in Hindu mythology as it was used churning of the sea. The religious texts claimed that Gods and demons participated in the churning of the sea to extract ‘Amrit’ (nectar).
Apart from that, Mandar is considered as the most holly place for the Santhal tribal, especially for the Sapha Hor sects of the Santhal who follow Sarna (Hindu) religion. Old historical evidences said that in the ancient time major parts of eastern part of this country side was inhabited by ethnic tribes, mostly Paharias as mentioned in old documents and even different religious texts.
Though Santhal tribes migrated from other places by the British to Santhal Parganas (adjourning parts of Mandar Hills at Bounsi) in half of eighteen century. Sapha Hods have been practicing their special rituals at the foothill of Mandar hill since then while considering the place as most sacred.
On the occasion of Makar Sankranti, the Sapha Hors gather at the big tank known as Papharani which is located at foothills and worship while commencing different rituals.
“Look on the occasion of Makar Sankranti, Mandar Mohotsav is organized every year with great fanfare and large numbers of devotees take a bath on Papharari. A week long Mela is also organized here to mark the event. The Sapha Hors also gather at the place to perform their rituals. But their presence is simply omitted from the arena of Mandar Mohotsav despite the fact that the practice by the tribes is a historical evidence of golden past of the region,” claimed Shanker Kumar, a native of Bounsi.
Bounsi where the Mandar hill is located is an ancient place known as Balisha Nagri. Old historical remains in the forms of scattered ruins could be witness many parts of Bounsi like at the foothills of Mandar hill. Even the black stone sculpture of the deity of Madhusudhan is supposed to be from the period of Pala dynasty. “ History mentioned that King Dharma Pala founder of Vikramshila Mahavihara, assigned some noted sculpture makers like, Dhiman while Bityapala was the noted artiest having specialization in making of rock cutting idols. The idols of different deities from that era could be found at different places event at noted religious places of Hindus. The idol of Lord Madhusudhan is supposed to be from that era,” claimed historian Siv Shanker Singh Parijat.
“ More research works should be done on Mandar, which is consider as a treasure trove of history. Unfortunately, we failed to focus the place which is very rich with archaeological and historical evidences,” said Raman Sinha, a faculty of history in Tilka Manjhi Bhagalpur University.
Hari Narayan, a social activist at Bounsi claimed that the essence of the ancient culture is still present even at Mandar today. “The glimpse of that ancient era is still reflect through the rituals by the Sapha Hors here which is unique,” he comments. “Early time the ethnic Paharia tribe, the original inhabitants might use such many rituals here but as their population gradually declined, today we do not find them. Secondly, like Santhal tribe the Paharia too worships the Nature in forms of Sun, trees or the mountains and hills. So it might possible that the great legacy of the ethnic Paharia tribe has now been carry forwarded by the Sapha Hors here. Since Mandar hills has the religious significances, the age-old practice by the Santhals still on continuation,” he logically acclaimed.
Many research scholars and people having love for history termed it “peculiar”. According to them the involvement of Sapha Hors at Mandar during Makar Sankranti adds special essence to Mandar Mohotsav thought the tribes are yet to be recognized as a part of the official programme of the Mohotsav.