Baa Parab

The Santhal and Ho tribal communities living in Orissa, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh, celebrate the Baha or Baa Parab in February/March when the Sal trees are in bloom. Parab means festival. It is the most important festival for the Santhals and Hos. The region where the two tribal communities live is full of dense forests of tall Sal trees. They use the wood and leaves of the Sal trees for various purposes. Therefore, they admire the Sal trees which are in blossom with the advent of the spring season. Baha or Baa in the tribal dialect means flowers. On the day the festival begins, the village priest called Diuri offers Sal flowers to the presiding deity of the village along with the sacrifice of a fowl. During the offering, the ritual is performed strictly according to the tradition. After the ritual, the young girls go to the forest to collect Sal flowers. They offer the flowers to their brothers as a token of love and affection. It is similar to the tying of rakhi by the girls of non-tribal communities, especially in North India. After the offering of flowers the dance is performed. The girls and the boys stand in two files, facing each other. While dancing, the two files come closer and separate alternatively according to the rhythm. Dances are performed in as many as ten different rhythmic cycles, namely, Saar, Baa, Racha, Jape, Ghanguriya, Gaudua, Daonria, Gena, Jadur and Khemta. Some of the rhythmic cycles are influenced by the-non-tribal music of the region. The drum that rules the dance is called Mandar, a conical drum with two faces. The melodic content of the accompanying music is provided by Basni the bamboo flute.

The Munda tribe of Bihar also celebrate the Baa Parab. The tribes are very meticulous about the festival. The songs and dance performed at the festival are never performed at any other time. They will not touch the Sal tree or use its leaves for about one month before the festival. They are so particular that they will not even touch the water of a pond where by chance a Sal flower falls before the ritual of the festival.