Gonds throng Keslapur for Nagoba jatara

By: S. Harpal Singh

Nagoba jatara is among the most important religious events for the Adivasi Gond tribe, which had ruled Central India for centuries. The Mesram clan of Gonds, which considers Nagoba or Nagendra its ‘mul purush’ or progenitor, will get together at Keslapur for the annual jatara to worship the serpent God between January 19 and 25.

Legend has it that Nagoba had come down to this place, in the present day Indervelli mandal of Adilabad district, to punish king Padiyor, who had angered the former. He, however, was pacified after the Gonds offered ‘naivedyam’ of seven varieties.

The rituals associated with pacification and prayers of the serpent God continue to this day, which forms the essence of the five or six-day event. In due course, the jatara became a socio-cultural event for the Mesram clan Gonds, spread across a large tract of land in six States in Central India.

A caravan of Mesram Gonds arriving to participate in the Nagoba jatara at Keslapur in Adilabad district

Until the advent of the 1970s, the Gonds used to worship only an anthill under a tree, which stood where the present Nagoba temple stands. The place, nevertheless, used to come alive with the arrival of hundreds of Gond families even from far flung places. The area had good forest cover then and the atmosphere used to be lively.

What has been discontinued is the recital of the legend of Nagoba by Pardhan musicians on all the days during which the jatara is held. “We miss the spellbinding recital,” observes Mesram Manohar, the Gond elder who has written a book on the jatara called Keslapur Nagoba Bhidi .

Before the start of the pujas, the Gonds continue to ‘purify’ the temple with Ganga jal or water from Godavari drawn at a spot called ‘hastinamadugu’ where Nagoba is believed to have quenched his thirst after partaking the ‘naivedyam’.

The event also includes a ceremony called ‘bheting’, which incorporates new brides into the clan.

It was the legendary anthropologist, Christopher von Furer-Haimendorf, who had recognised the importance of the Nagoba jatara and tried to make it an event for addressing the grievances of the Gond and other Adivasi tribes of Adilabad. He started the darbar at the jatara for the Adivasis to air their grievances in 1944.

Source: The Hindu

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