Karma Dharma: The Festival of Uranw community

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Karma Dharma

Karma Dharma (Karam Dharam) is one of the greatest religious carnivals of Uranw community (Jhagad community) which is considered as one of the backward communities of Nepal. Karma Dharma is the festival of dance which is called ‘Karam’. The Karam dance is a group dance performed by two groups is two rows, i.e. boys’ and girls’ group. This Karam dance is also widely being practiced in Jharkhand, India as there is also a Uranw community.

There are many myths within Uranw community about Karma Dharma and they celebrate it. During this festival, a religious tree named ‘Karam tree’ is worshipped. There are many reasons, myths, and stories that are associated with the celebration of this festival.

One story tells that, there were seven brothers whose days were passing in a miserable way. There was no rain in their village and that deserted their lands. The condition of those brothers along with other peasants was worsened. The brothers decided to leave their village in search of work. Days passed, but there was no sign of their return. Being worried, their wives sitting under a Karam tree shared each other’s grief. That night in their dream, the same tree spoke with them that if they worshipped the tree, their husbands will return back to them. The next day, all of them worshipped the tree and their husbands arrived the same day. The village was also blessed with precipitation the same day that swept away all their misery later. The farms were green again. Till today, during the celebration of this festival, it rains. Since then, they consider the Karam tree as a powerful tree and worship it every year.

Karma Dharma or Karam puja begins from Purnima (Full Moon) till Aunshi (No Moon) during Bhadra and Ashoj. It lasts for 15 days while there are some people who observe this fest even after Aunshi. A week before Purnima, people fill a bucket with sand and sow maize and barley seeds. A day before Purnima, people select an open area where they can worship the tree. In that area, they make a small house of bamboo and banana tree.

Karam-puja
Image Source: Wikipedia

The same night, they go in search of Karam plant. Three branches of the tree are plucked for the purpose in which one branch must contain one stipule, another must have three stipules and the third one should have five stipules. All the arrangements are made on that day. Those who take all the responsibilities of Karam Puja are called Nagas and Nagins.

The next day (Purnima) is the day for worshipping/ organizing Puja. Folks from the community carry rice, roti, holy stick and sit together to listen to a religious story from the priest. After the story completes, they all worship the Karam plant inside the bamboo house. After worshipping, they all perform Karam dance together, sing songs, play musical instruments like Madal. During Karam puja, people consume delicacies except for meat like Paneer, Curd, Fruits, etc.

There are three types of Karam Puja; Raazi Karam, Dido Karam, and Jitiya Karam. Raazi Karam falls on Purnima while other two Karmas can be observed as per the decision of their priest. They have to take fastings and on this day, they must go vegan. No meat is allowed. The Karams coincide with Hindu Dashain and Tihar festival. The one that falls during Dashain is called Dashain Karam and in Tihar, it is known as Sukaratri Karam. Sukaratri Karam is the last day of Karam puja and on this day, the Karam plant is disposed of in any holy river.

In the old days, people used to gather together just by hearing the sound of Madal while today, an invitation has been common. The charm of this festival must be protected as it is one of the important festivals of the rare Uranw community. Uranw community is really a unique community where their cultures are really distinguishable.

By Abhi Uranw For Hamro Library


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