Sohrai, one of the biggest festivals among Adivasis (indigenous people) in the Indian state of Jharkhand, is celebrated during the same time when the Hindus celebrate Diwali. The morning after Diwali, the Adivasis across Jharkhand celebrate their festival — Sohrai. The word Sohrai is a Mundaric word for the stick, which is used to drive cattle as well as close the gate of the cattle pen (Soro). It is celebrated when the paddy has ripened and is about to be harvested. Thus it is connectd with the origin of agriculture. In this two-day festival, the cattle and their God — Pashupati — are worshiped to ensure the fertility of the land and the subsequent harvest. Cattle helps in crop cultivation and hence it is worshiped.
On the first day, the cattle are sent to the fields in the morning to graze, while in their absence, the womenfolks of the house decorate the huts by painting them and laying aripan for their welcome. The Aripan (floor painting) — originated in Mithila region of Indian state of Bihar — is derived from the Sanskrit word alimpana, which means ‘to plaster’ or ‘to coat with’. Meanwhile, food is prepared which would later serve as prasad after the puja. In night, they light earthen lamps (diyas) in the cattle-sheds.
Upon returning, the cattle are warmly welcomed, their horns anointed with oil and vermillion. Garlands made by strewing paddy strands are tied across their foreheads. When the puja gets over, the prasad is distributed among the household members and neighbours. The cattle then rest for the day.
Next day, sohrai people worship their cattle-shed. They bring some paddy strands from their paddy field, which they use in the worship. After worship they tie those plants to animal’s horns. In the afternoon, amid the loud sound of drums, the cattle are taken to an open field where they are let loose for games and recreational purposes.
In the Indian state of Jharkhand during this festival an indigenous art form – also known as Sohrai – is practised by the womenfolks. This art form is ritualistic art done on mud walls to welcome the new harvest and also to celebrate the cattle.
These colourful paintings are done totally by using natural pigments mixed in mud — Kali matti, Charak matti, Dudhi matti, Lal matti (Geru), and Pila matti. Artists use datoon (teeth cleaning twig) or cloth swabs daubed in different earth colours to paint on the walls — bulls, horses with riders, wild animals, trees, lotuses, peacocks, and horned deities. Sohrai paintings are considered to be good luck paintings.
Sohrai is said to be following upon the similar patterns and styles once used to create Isko and other rock arts in the region like Satpahar. This art form was prevalent mostly in caves but now has been primarily shifted to houses with mud walls. This has thus been continuing since ancient times.
Tests carried out by experts have recorded that while the rock painting are around 10,000 years old, the cave paintings discovered from the hills of Isko village in Hazaribagh district date back to the mid stone age period, more than 30,000 years ago, as per Jharkhand Tourism website.
Happy Diwali! Happy Sohrai!