(Last Updated on : 27/04/2011)
The religion of the Baigas is primarily animism. Their principal deity is Bura Deo. The deity is believed to reside in the Saal Saj Tree which is worshipped by the Baigas in the month of May (jeth) during which goats, coconuts, fowls, and liquor of the new mahua crop is offered to the deity. For the village land and boundaries another deity, Thakur Deo is worshipped who is appeased with a white goat.
The Baigas who plough the field observe a ceremony before the commencement of the rains. The ceremony is called the Bidri. During the ceremony a handful of each type of grain that has been sown is collected and given to the priest by each cultivator. The priest then mixes the grains together and sows a little of it under tree where Thakur Deo resides.
After this the priest returns back a little of the grains to each cultivator and keeps the rest with him. The individual cultivator then sows the given seeds in the centre of his field over which the crops will grow. This ceremony is believed to reap rich harvest.
Dulha Deo is another god worshiped by the Baigas. This god is believed to ward off all types of diseases and accidents. He is worshipped by offering him a fowl or goat of reddish colour. Bhimsen is regarded as the deity of rainfall and Mother God or Dharti Mata is considered as the wife of Thakur Deo. Hence she should also be appeased for good harvest. The grains before being sowed are worshipped at the threshing floor and water and liquor are sprinkled on it. Woship of Hindu gods are also prevalent among few of the Baigas but not in an orthodox manner. Hence it becomes sacrilege on the part of the Hindus to offer animal sacrifices to the Sun God, Narayam Deo but the Baigas offer him a special offering, the pig.
The animal that is to be sacrificed is permitted to wander loose for two to three years before it is being killed. The animal which is being killed for sacrifice is laid on his back in the threshold of the doorway. Across its stomach a plank of Saal saj wood is placed on which six men on either side sit or stand on it. The fore and the hind legs of the pig are pulled backward and forward until the animal is crushed to death. During the sacrifice the men sing or shout sacrificial mantras. The head and feet of the animal is cut off and offered to the god.
The spirits of the married couples are believed to live in the streams and the sprits of the unmarried ones reside in the trees. The later one is usually assumed to become ghost or malevolent spirits. Demoniacal possession is warded off through a popular remedy. Human hair is mixed with red chillies and cow dung and burnt in front of the person possessed with spirits and it is thought that the awful smell produced will drive away the spirit. The Baigas believe in many superstitions. They believe that if a single crow is seen bathing in the stream it is considered as a sign of death. If a cock crows in the night it must be immediately killed and thrown into darkness. Woodpeckers and owls are also considered to be bad omens. The Baigas do not believe in fresh birth or rebirth.
The Baigas serve as priests of the Gonds because as they are the early residents of the place they are believed to have better acquaintance with the local deities. They have in-depth knowledge of the medicinal uses of the trees, herbs and the roots have been instrumental in providing effective cures when even the local doctors have failed. The priests of the village are skilful sorcerers and are acquainted with the unseen world. Even the Baigas are invited to villages or towns to give aid when they were attacked by cholera. It is believed that their visit would give them great relief. During their visit, the Baiga priests would go around the village and pull out few straws from each house. Later he would burn them down in front of the village deity, Khermata. Along with the straws he would also offer a chicken for each homestead. If this remedy does not work then goats are sacrificed and finally pigs are sacrificed. By this time it is assumed that the disease will be warded off. Hus with time the Baigas have attained a respectable position in the villages.