Clad in men’s dress, Jharkhand tribal women celebrate hunting festival ‘Jani Shikhar’
The tradition of Jani Shikar, which takes place every 12 years, has been observed for centuries when the womenfolk attired in men’s dress, leave homes to hunt for animals, mostly goat and hen
Clad in manly attires like trousers, jeans and shirts, thousands of tribal women, armed with traditional weapons, on Saturday took to the streets on a hunting spree in different tribal dominated districts of Jharkhand to celebrate Jani Shikar, an annual commemoration of a famous victory against the Mughals some 500 years ago.
The tradition of Jani Shikar, which takes place every 12 years, has been observed for centuries when the womenfolk attired in men’s dress, leave homes to hunt for animals, mostly goat and hen. At night, they organize a feast to celebrate the day.
Panic-like situation was created at Ranchi’s Pithoria area when hundreds of tribal women armed with lathis and traditional weapons stopped vehicles near Ambedkar Chowk and forced the drivers for donation. The act scared a few people, while some lodged complaints with the local police. The police reached the spot but allegedly avoided any action, knowing it was a part of a tribal festival. Similar scene was witnessed at Ranchi ‘s Kanke and Morabadi area.
Dayamani Barla, a tribal rights activist, said that Jani Shikar was a symbol of tribal empowerment. “Feminist movement might have actively surfaced in the 1960s but the hinterlands of Jharkhand has experienced women power 500 years ago, when tribal women defeated Mughals in two consecutive battles,” Barla said.
Narrating the history, Barla said around 1610, Mughals had launched an onslaught against tribal settlements at Rohtasgarh, now in Bihar but the attackers found it hard to conquer the local people.
“Then a spy advised the Mughals to attack them on the morning after Sarhul as most of the people would be in slumber after partaking of alcohol during celebrations at night. The womenfolk got a tip-off of the secret strategy. Then, they dressed as men not only resisted the attack but also defeated them twice,” Barla said, adding, the women, however, lost the third battle after Mughals came to know that they were fighting with women, not men.
Since then, the tribal people have been commemorating women power as Jani Shikar at an interval of 12 years by hunting animals.
“We hunt animals that come in the way. Basically, chicken, hen and goat are killed and no one resist us as village people know about the celebration. We take the killed animals to our village and enjoy a feast at night,” said Barsha Devi, a participant in the hunting group.
Like other festivals, the Jani Shikar has also seen changes over the time. “Earlier, womenfolk used to wear traditional dhoti and pagris. Now, they wear jeans and t-shirts. Besides, taking donation forcefully was also not part of the tradition,” said Sadhulal Munda, general secretary of Maharaja Madra Munda Kendriya Parha Samiti, Pithoria.