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Dasae
The Dasae Parob (festival) of the Santals gets its name from the month in which it occurs. This is the Bengali month of Ashwin (September-October) and the festival coincides with the celebration of Durga Puja of the Bengalis.  

Folklorists in the past have recorded that this festival and its associated rituals  mark the end of a cycle of learning in medicine, exorcism and divining, passed on from the principal Ojha (medicine man and diviner) of the community - a sort of a graduation ritual. But there are at least two other schools of thought surrounding the origin of and reason for this festival, where the association with Durga Puja is more direct. These people, in the main, have come to believe that  Dasae is a lamentation of the slaying of  their first king, Mahisashur, also known as Hudur Durga, who was deceived and killed by a woman who went on to assume the name of Durga. Also, the role of the Ojha in Santal society has become vastly reduced and this transfer of knowledge is no longer practised in most villages. However, irrespective of origin or the rationale behind it, the rituals followed have remained more or less the same, with some minor changes.



The Dasae Parob (festival) of the Santals gets its name from the month in which it occurs. This is the Bengali month of Ashwin (September-October) and the festival coincides with the celebration of Durga Puja of the Bengalis.  
  
Folklorists in the past have recorded that this festival and its associated rituals  mark the end of a cycle of learning in medicine, exorcism and divining, passed on from the principal Ojha (medicine man and diviner) of the community - a sort of a graduation ritual. But there are at least two other schools of thought surrounding the origin of and reason for this festival, where the association with Durga Puja is more direct. These people, in the main, have come to believe that  Dasae is a lamentation of the slaying of  their first king, Mahisashur, also known as Hudur Durga, who was deceived and killed by a woman who went on to assume the name of Durga. Also, the role of the Ojha in Santal society has become vastly reduced and this transfer of knowledge is no longer practised in most villages. However, irrespective of origin or the rationale behind it, the rituals followed have remained more or less the same, with some minor changes.

Traditionally, it was customary for young adolescent boys of a Santal village to receive basic instruction from the Ojha. Because of the connection with Dasae, the Ojha guru was also called the Dasae guru. The Santals believe that their first Ojha was Kamru guru, who later started being worshipped as a Bonga by all Santal Ojhas. The duration of the training, where magic charms, chants and invocations were taught,  varied from a week to several months and always culminated with the Dasae Parob rituals during Durga Puja. 

Knowledge of various medicinal herbs and plants too were passed on to the young men of the village. In the latter part of their instruction, the disciples were taught the  Dasae songs , the dance also known as Loboe or Buang, how to play specific musical instruments and were also instructed in the method of invoking spirits and being  possessed by them.  

Today, the role of the Ojha is no longer an important part of Santal society, and the Dasae guru is thus someone who teaches the village men the Dasae songs and dances and leads them during the Dasae Daran or procession .  The rigorous training of the past is no longer practised, and where it does happen, is not particularly in depth. The band of young men under the Dasae guru is known as Dasae Kora (Dasae boys). In many villages, the youngsters pick up the songs and dances by following the older men during the days of the ritual.  

There are hundreds of Dasae songs that are sung during the Daran: some are in praise of the primary god, Thakur Jiu and his wife, Thakran, others sing the glory of a specific bonga or spirit; still others describe the proceedings of the Daran - where  they had gone and why.  Most of the songs are in a question and answer format, between the guru and the disciples.  

The  actual Dasae rituals begin with the Belboron, the propitiation ceremony for the Bongas, on the 5th day (Panchami) or 6th day (Shoshthi ) of Durga Puja.  In the Belboron ritual which continues to this day, the Dasae guru teaches his disciples to identify medicinal herbs in nearby fields. During the propitiation ceremony, the students and their guru participate in a ritual where flowers, rice, vermillion (sindoor), lampblack, peacock feathers, incense, whip (chaarchaari) made from babui grass (Eulaliosis Binata) etc are ceremoniously offered to the principal Dasae bonga, Kamru guru. Several fowls and pigeons are also sacrificed to propitiate Kamru Guru and the other tutelary Bongas, beseeching them to watch over the Kora and ensure they come to no harm during the Daran.  

After the invocation ritual, the Kora are ready for their procession. The dancers dress in feminine attire, wrapping saris around their waists like a flowing dhoti and wear long turbans, again with a sari, the end of which hangs behind their heads, up to their calves. They then, together with the teacher, go from home to home, beginning with  the home of the village head (manjhi),  singing and dancing, jerking their peacock feathers,  to the accompaniment of cymbals, the Buang, the Banam and ankle bells. 

The Buang, which is exclusively used for the Dasae dance, resembles a long bow, attached at its centre to a resonator made from hollow dried pumpkin gourd or an egg shaped bamboo basket decorated with paper. The string is plucked to produce a sound. 

The Kora continues to sing and dance until the lady of the house gifts them with maize (corn) or rice or grain or cash that she pours into a bag or basket they have brought with them. In this manner, they visit each and every home in the village, till sundown. 

In the evening, the disciples gather in their guru`s house and deposit their collections of the day and participate in more singing, dancing and becoming "possessed". Spirits of the guru bongas that are traditionally worshipped as well as a host of nameless spirits like that of a cow, a stone, a spider, wild animals, washermen, fishermen, chameleon etc.  are again invoked one after the other in no particular order, with songs and cymbals and the disciples take turns to go into a trance. 

In the middle of the singing and dancing, the possessed disciple proceeds to act in the accepted manner of the spirit. For instance, a disciple possessed of the spirit of Hanuman Bonga, will behave like a monkey, jumping on roofs, especially when he spots pumpkins on the roof of a house. Through song, the guru asks of the man whose spirit he has been  possessed by. When a man is possessed, the rest of the Kora also sing songs corresponding to the spirit that has taken over the man.

Previous folklorists have reported that Baghut Bonga, the mischievous spirit of a man killed by a tiger, would invariably called up through necessary song, dancing and clashing of cymbals. The music comes to a halt and the possessed man impersonating a tiger roars and pounces. He is appeased only when given a live fowl, and just like a tiger with his prey, he bites off its head with his teeth.  Pleased, the Baghut Bonga frees the man from his trance.   

In general, possession is always brought to an end by a sharp slap on the back of the possessed individual. The merriment and feasting at the Dasae guru`s house does not extend beyond a few hours each evening and the men return to their homes by nightfall. 

The following morning, the Kora resumes its rounds, but this time moving to neighbouring villages, and exhibiting the knowledge they have acquired. They return home in the evenings and visit a new village the next day. This is their wandering, the Daran. During the wandering, they often meet up with a Dasae Kora from another village and a competition often ensues, with one group testing the knowledge of the other 

As a rule, the Daran last for five days - the last day of the parob coincides with Dashomi - the tenth day of the moon and final day of Durga Puja. Though the Dasae dances and songs are ritualistic, senior Santals feel that a gradual waning of interest among the younger generation is being observed.