I vividly remember the elderly people of my villages pleasing the local deities with ceremonial acts for the blessings of rain and water. People with local saints, move towards the site and please the guardian so that the localities have enough rain for the year. I do not have scientific explanation on it; the people have a story of returning home soaked with rain cherishing it the success of their mission. The similar act but with different culture can be seen in south where people celebrate the ceremony of “Devi Puja”.
Devi Puja? Yeah, I am sure many will be wondering because still there are thousands who haven’t explored of it. Simple, Devi puja is the only “Puja” to take place in jungle and forest, on stones and woods and importantly the only celebration to find people eating “Selroti” in forest. Ha ha.. I guess you remember now with Baitika and Deoseri with plates full of selroti. For southern people, Devi Puja is an annual celebration to please and worship the mother god for continuous rain and water. The act could be also an expression of gratitude to local deities for continuous water. With small locally made temple from banana trees consisting five in numbers, Devi temple is made up of one ripened banana fruit tree in center. Why only banana trees? What if there aren’t banana trees? Why five in number? What is the reason for having matured banana tree with fruits in center? Those are the first question that arose out of curiosity and happened to ask the people.
The reasons are beautifully connected with conservation. According to the elders, bananas are available in jungles and have been used form the time of their ancestors. Small bamboo species are also used to make the temple aesthetic if available. The people believed gods resides in all direction, the four banana tree is the representation of temple to please them. The matured banana tree in center with fruit is the offering so that the gods and deities are pleased to return them with continuous happiness and luxury just like the sweetness of ripened. For a conservationist, banana trees are used as it helps in water source management. It is an act welcoming people to plant banana and other trees in water sources. In the puja site, it is well maintained and fenced in some cases so that the water sources won’t be damaged and polluted. Therefore, as a team devi puja should be promoted for win-win measures. The reasons are detailed as follows;
- Act of community stewardship:
Devi puja brings all people in villages or community together to pray and please the local gods. It is a platform where people share their common goals of having continuous water and related peace. In every village, lead by the local saint people performs the puja. The puja should be promoted as people become responsible for their water sources. More the number of Devi Pujas, the likelihood of adopting all water sources and at the same time care for it increases. If more of it is being cared, then all water sources will be fenced and planted with banana and other water enriching trees. The beauty of religion towards conservation can be seen through the synergy of community. It is the Puja where communities go for conservation before reminding by someone else.
- Peculiar Celebration with “Selroti” in jungle
Jungles are often the hometown of rangers where they happen to guard resources despite the weather harshness. Unless packed with lunch and snacks, wild fruits are the only edible food for the jungle explorer. The forest remains dry and silent with few animals and birds around. Devi Puja is a unique Puja signaling the jungle inhabitants the role of community in conservation. It is an interesting moment where people prepare and eat “selroti” in forest near water source after offering to the deities. Now, why “selroti” when there is enough rice to be offered? As a saying in our language “every community has their own system”, “selroti” is offered only in special occasion like Baitika and Deoselri. Just like eastern villages are unique of red rice, southern is with selroti.
So, even if you miss Baitika and Deoselri in grasping selruti, you can make a chance to visit Devi Puja. And, for your more information, it is celebrated only in Tuesday of the date the community has agreed upon.