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Eco-Consciousness Dictates The Festivals Of Ho Adivasis Who Need These Two Leaves To Celebrate Them

Every community awaits eagerly for its special annual festivals. After all, it is the time of the year when kitchens are filled with delicious dishes and the air is filled with music and songs. Adivasis of India have their own festive celebrations depending on their location and habitat. It is noticed that these communities use locally sourced material for conducting the puja and the rituals. Among the Ho Adivasis of Jharkhand, there are two leaves that are considered mandatory during such occasions without which the festivals cannot take place. These two leaves are none other than the Sarjom Sakam which is commonly known as Sal or Sakhua and Rum Sakam which is known as Siali leaf. The leaf is called "Sakam '' in the Ho language.

Every festival begins with the offering of food and prayers to ancestors. The food is served in small sal bowls

Sarjom/Sal leaf and Rum/Sakam leaves are important elements of the Ho Adivasi community as they are used for serving food on, similar to how many other Adivasis eat on banana leaves. In the community, serving food, rice beer, rice wine on leaf plates is considered to be a sign of respect for the elders and guests. In many festivals, the first plate of food is served in the name of Adivasi deities and ancestral spirits who are believed to visit the homes and take part in the festival. During such occasions lots of tribal recipes are made. It is believed that unless the food is first offered to the ancestors, the family members cannot eat. All these leaf plates are made by the female members of the family. No metal plates or metal bowls are used on these occasions making the entire festivities eco-conscious. Leaves are directly fetched from the forest and those who do not live near forest buy it at the weekly markets of the villages and towns.

On the left are Sal leaves and on the right Rum leaves. All photos by Ashish Birulee

When is Sarjom leaf used?

Sarjom leaf is used in the preparation of a traditional chicken recipe known as "Laad Jilu or Podom Jilu." To prepare this recipe the chicken is wrapped in many layers of Sal leaves. When cooked this way, the chicken infuses the flavour of the leaves that give it a mind-blowing aroma and taste. It is mandatory to make Laad Jiju at every festival. Apart from chicken, many other tribal dishes are also made using the Sal Leaf.

The leaf is also used for making different types of leaf plates and leaf bowls. These plates and bowls are made in a variety of shapes and sizes. The Ho Adivasi women construct small plates to offer food to the deities and bigger plates to serve food to guests and family members. Rice wine is served in tiny leaf bowls and rice beer is served in bigger bowls.

Rum leaves are slightly bigger than Sal leaves
Rum leaves are slightly bigger than Sal leaves

When is Rum leaf used?

Rum leaf is as important as Sarjom leaf. This leaf is used during the Maange Pooja/ Maange Festival which is the biggest festival of the Ho Adivasi community. Maange festival starts from January and continues till the middle of May. There is no particular day fixed to celebrate the festival. Each family of every village celebrates it on different days. This occasion gives people the opportunity to visit other villages and participate in the festival.

Rice beer is best served on this leaf. One of its specialties is that this leaf is bigger in size and the rice beer doesn't leak as compared to Sarjom leaf.

During one of the major festivals called "Heroh Porob", the Rum leaf is used to make Sakam Laad, a recipe which is made using Arwa chawal. To make this dish, the rice is first ground into a powder and then mixed with water to form a paste. After that the rice is poured on a leaf and wrapped. It is then sealed and put into an earthen pot and steamed. The steamer works in the following way: First, some water is poured into the pot, then some chopped wood is added to make a platform, and then the wrapped rice paste is placed on top of the wood so it does not touch the water. This recipe is typically made by the Ho community and only once in a year.

Among the Ho Adivasis, only the women make the plates and bowls made of leaf

This is a clear example of the eco friendly manner in which Adivasis celebrate their festivals.

There is minimum use to plastic and the waste from these celebrations is completely organic. Adivasis have close ties with nature. Without forest, without trees, without the leaves the community is incomplete.


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