Kumudis worship cattle during Diwali festival

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Baripada, Oct 26 (UNI) When the entire country gears up to welcome the Festival of Lights, the Kumudi community of Orissa celebrates the most important three-day festival by worshipping their cattle.

The three-day extravaganza reflects the community's respect and gratitude for their cattle, which assist them in agricultural operations, by honouring them. The Kumudis, during this festival, symbolically elevate their cattle to the pedestal of Gods.

Lakhs of Kudumi Mohantas, mainly inhabiting Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar, Sundargarh and Jajpur districts, celebrate this agrculture-centred festival with great pomp and revelry.

Kudumali Cultural Association Secretary Chittaranjan Mohanta said even the community's kin residing in neighbouring Jharkhand and West Bengal celebrate the festival simultaneously.

During the festival, better known as ''Bandhna'', the Community offers prayers to the cattle which help them till the land and do other agricultural chores.

The festival has many similarities with the Santhal's ''Sohrai'' festival observed by the tribes during Diwali. It begins with a purification ceremony (Om) when the people take part in ceremonial ablution.

Houses and courtyards are scrupulously spruced up too. The first day is devoted to ''Gohal'' (Cowshed) puja. ''Alpana'' or the traditional floral patterns made on the floor with coloured ground ''Arua'' rice powder could be seen at the entrance of the cowsheds.

The shed is smeared with cowdung water. The lady of the house sprinkles water on the cattle from a pot with mango leaves, and washes their feet.

The head of the family anoints the animals' horns with oil and vermilion. Oil lamps are lighted in the cowshed throughout the night. Agricultural implements like ploughs and yokes are cleaned and smeared with vermilion and are worshipped.

On the concluding day, people also have an interesting interaction with the cattle. The villagers assemble at the grazing ground of the village where the cattle are flocked together.

Groups of villagers move around the flocks of cattle and sing and dance, to which are added the catchy tunes produced by the ringing of the ''Ghungroos'' tied to the necks and legs of cattle.

The festival is aimed at worshipping the cattle with reverence and pray for their welfare.

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