[Reader-list] VILLIAN OR MARTYR?

Asit Das asit1917 at gmail.com
Mon Oct 13 01:17:32 CDT 2014

Asur tribals mourn ‘martyr’ MahishasurJaideep Deogharia
,TNN | Oct 11, 2013, 01.12 AM IST
READ MORE West Bengal <http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/topic/West-Bengal>
|Jawaharlal Nehru

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RANCHI: As Hindus across the world observes Durga Puja or Navratri, a small
group of tribals in Jharkhand are in mourning. While most celebrate Goddess
Durga slaying the Demon King, the Asur tribe from Jharkhand and West Bengal
will observe Mahishasur Martyrdom Day on Mahanavami and remember how an
"outsider" used trickery and illusion to kill their ancestor.

Asurs believe they are descendants of 'Hudur-Durga' -- the Santhal name for
Mahishasur -- and do not worship any god. They say that the Devi Mahatmya
story of the Markandeya Purana, which describes the birth of Durga and her
nine-day battle with Mahishasura, is biased. According to them, the birth
of Durga from the conjoined powers of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva was a
"crooked conspiracy".

The tribals now have help from experts and academics to bring their
perspective to the forefront. Started three years ago in Kassipore area of
Purulia district in West Bengal to search for tribal roots of Indian
mythology, an organization called 'Shikar Dishum Kherwal Veer Lokachar
Committee' has gone from strength to strength and now invites tribal
counterparts from neighbouring states to Purulia later this month to help
out with their mission.

A team from Jharkhand -- comprising Sushma Asur, Vandana Tete, Ashwining
Pankaj and other new-age activists researching tribal literature -- are set
to participate in the programme this year. Sushma, a member of the
primitive tribe group (PTG), features prominently on a Facebook page titled
'Asur Aadivasi Documentation Initiative'. She urged other communities -
particularly those in the power corridors from 'Akhra', a platform for
tribals to promote their art, culture and literature -- to stop celebrating
the assassination of their ancestor with "such grandeur".

"Ravan and Mahishasur are our ancestors and the celebration of their
killing by trickery must not continue the way it has for centuries," she
said. "The so-called upper caste always had a grip over documentation of
Indian mythology and that is the reason why the tribal perspective never
got highlighted."

The tribal belief is part of an oral tradition. Vandana Tete, who has been
documenting unwritten tribal folklore, said: "Tribal tales are mostly in
oral form and from various Santhal, Asur and Porku folktales we have
figured out that Mahishasur was a king and he was killed by Durga. The
incident has never been revered in our community. Civilized society should
give equal place to all perspectives."

Admitting that comprehensive research has not been done to look into the
real history of mythological events, Tete said the ritual of Durga Puja was
sponsored by the erstwhile East India Company for the zamindar families of
Bengal to create a socio-religious divide among the tribals and the upper

Today, few Asurs, especially the younger generation, know who Mahishasura
was and what he means to their community and the activists hope to change
that. Soon after the gathering in Purulia, the tribals will congregate at
Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi on October 26 to raise their voice
against the "centuries-old systematic repression of their culture and

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