BHAWANIPATNA: The hills are alive with the songs of tribals preparing for the Niyam Raja festival.
Every year, with due diligence, the Dongria and Jharnia Kondhs celebrate the festival at the Niyamgiri hills that border Kalahandi and Lanjigarh, and renew their vow to never allow mining on the hill.
The 14-year-old festival has its roots in the tribals’ belief that the sacred hill is their god and will forever act as their source of livelihood.
This time, the three-day-festival will begin on February 24. Songs of protecting the environment ring in the air through the time, as does the prospect of enormous communal feasts. “We bear the expenses of the festival ourselves. We collect Rs 10 and a kilogram of rice from each family. These are then handed over to the activists of the Niyangiri Surakhya Samiti, who then organize the feast,” said NSS convener Satya Mahar.
On Tuesday, revellers were seen purchasing ornaments, new clothes and traditional weapons called ‘Tangia’ at the weekly haat in Lanjigarh block’s Trilochanpur village, situated at the Niyamgiri foothills.
Amidst presence of Maoists and security forces in the forests, the dongrias do their shopping at the weekly haats. , collecting forest produced and after earning
“Whoever is in power, whoever is opposing him, it’s all useless for us to know. We believe in Niyam Raja and his benevolence in making out daily lives smooth,” said Suna Majhi, a member of the Dongria Kondh tribe.
For tribals the festival is as much an expression of gratefulness, as it is of their identity.