Ponomosor or Bhagwan is the benevolent supreme power of the Kharia Tribe revered by every member of the community. Believed to protect the village from all evils, the spirit is evoked by the people during crisis period. The Kharia regard Sun (Bero) and its rays (giving) as the symbol of Ponomosor (Ibid).
The Kharia believe that after the death of a person the soul remains attached to his original abode and thus, resides with his family in the form of a spirit, showering love and affection on his relatives. The ancestral spirit is thus, treated respectfully and worshipped by his family members. A male ancestral spirit is known as Burha while the female ancestral spirit as Burhi. The Kharias each day offer these benevolent spirits a morsel of food before a meal. Every Kharia kitchen consists of a corner set apart for the permanent abode of the ancestral spirits.
Besides, on special occasions or festive period the ancestral spirits are worshipped and sacrifices are made. As per Kharia rituals the first fruit and first crop of the season is offered to them. Libation of a few drops of rice beer before consuming it also constitutes a customary ritual. Prayers offered to these spirits are believed to grant them relief from all sorts of sufferings and miseries.
Pat is the communal or village spirit that is thought to reside in hilly areas of the village. The spirit, considered as a benevolent sprit, is revered and worshipped to protect the village from calamities. The Pat is regarded as the guardian spirit who alerts the villagers of any mistakes committed or religious lapses on their part. The Kharia also name it as Pat Raja, as it is believed to have two orderlies with him; one a beast, i.e. tiger and the other, darkness.
Other Village Deities and Spirits
Besides these, the Kharias also believe in and worship few other village deities and spirits thought to possesses power and significant influence over the lives and community members.
The Kharia also worship other village spirits known as Pats and Hants with their leader named as Darha-Dubo (the gatekeeper spirit), also sometime known as Raksha-Dubo (the protective spirit). The leader spirit is deemed to guard the village from other impish spirits. This spirit is also some time known as Raksha-Darha or Asur-Darah.
Dharti Mai is a female benevolent spirit responsible for agricultural productions. The spirit is propitiated during various agricultural ceremonies. She is regarded as mother Earth Goddess reverenced by all the members of the community.
Mahadan is a benevolent spirit prayed when an epidemic breaks in the community. Kharias residing in the outskirts of the village settlement offer sacrifice in the name of this spirit. Mahadan is represented by a typical large stone of the shape of a lid.
Baranda is regarded as the Bhayad Bhut i.e. clean spirit known to protect and safe guard the community from miseries and catastrophes. The Kharia propitiate and offer sacrifice in the name of Baranda. The spirit is represented by a carved wooden post. The families of the same clan residing within same geographical area offer sacrifice when they are disturbed or harmed by the spirit.
Khunt-Pat or Khunt-Daut
The Khunt-Pat or Khunt-Daut encompasses several spirits in their group. The Khunt is the collective name given by the Kharia to all the spirits of the dead Kharias of a village who are not included among the ancestral spirits. The Pat on the other hand notifies the spirits of rocks and hills of the village and its neighbourhood. The Dant refers to the 'stem of a tree' that includes the tree-spirits or jungle spirits. The group also embraces Darha, Baghia, Churil and Mua or the Man Masans i.e. the spirits of deceased ancestors or any other deceased member of the family whose shades were not brought back ceremonially to the house due to the manner of their death. Sacrifices of fowl, goat or pig of varying colours are executed in the name of these spirits during any occasion. The spirits are also propitiated on individual level during emergency situations. These spirits are confined to particular places in the settlement that are marked by a stone or a tree.
The Kharia tribes have been residing with several ethnic groups for centuries. With some they developed enmity. When their enemies died, their spirits tried to cause harm to the Kharia people. Ahir and Ahirin are regarded as the spirit of such enemies that are worshipped to keep them appeased.
Baghaut Mua is the spirit of a person killed by a tiger, thought to harm the community and injure its residents. It is thus, a malevolent spirit. The word Baghuat means tiger while mua means spirit of the killed person.
Churil Mua is said to be the spirit of deceased pregnant women thought to cause harm to the community members. It specially affects the infants of the village and also injures a child in the womb. The villagers thus, worship it to appease the spirit.
It is a malevolent spirit of the Kharias that is believed to cause discomfort and misguide them from the right path during their journey in the jungle or at an unknown place.
This spirit is thought to cause great loss by robbing the Kharias of their prosperity. When harvest does not generate good production it is deemed to be affected by the Chor deva. Hence, to counteract its effect, cow dung along with small bundle of straw are placed over the heaps of paddy during the time of harvesting.
Apart from these there are a few other malevolent spirits that can be listed under the group of Khunt spirits. Among them are the spirits of dead people, whose death is caused by snake bite, falling from a tree, drowning in the water, or by any unnatural mean.
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