|Mahasu Devta temple, Uttrakhand,amarujala.com|
|Mahasu Devta temple, Uttrakhand,/seekpeak.in/|
|Village God Ayyanar, Tamil Nadu. findmessages.com|
A grāmadevatā is the name of the presiding deity or guardian deity (patron deity), usually goddesses, worshiped in villages in India. Most of them are village deities who are worshiped solely by inhabitants of their village. Principle Hindu deities such as Shiva and incarnations of Vishnu are also worshiped alongside the grāmadevatās. Through out Tamil Nadu, almost in all small villages one can see either a small ''Ganesha'' temple or a Grama Devathai temple or both. On the outskirts of most villages in TN, one can see a big Ayyanar statue riding the horse. He is the guardian of the entire village and the residents there
With respect to the Village gods, Mahasu brothers, on this day they appeared /emerged from the ground with the main purpose of protecting the people here by way of killing all the evil forces such as Asuras and demons who made the life miserable. On this day as part of the ritual, after giving ritual bathing to the mohras images they are reverentially wrapped in the cloth and carried ceremoniously. Devotees keep a distance and none goes close to the image. It is a sort of disrespectful act and the offended deity may curse the defaulter. Once the rituals are over, all the images except one are left in the altar. The one that is kept is taken in a palanquin. The ceremonies will continue during the day and after sundown that image is also taken inside the temple with religious fervor and placed on the altar with others.
At night a flag pole (cut from a kail -blue pine) is planted on the ground to hoist the flag of the deity. Another pole of similar tree with many forking branches - about half of meter from the stem is planted. so that a large squarish slate can be securely placed over the branches. This is called chira. The goat specifically brought up here is ceremoniously offered to the deity. At night they dance in a circle around chira.
With the addition of fuel, the Chira is kept burning and as the night gets darker, both men and women with the burning torches of resinous wood in their hands dance in a circle around the Chira and dancing and singing will go on throughout the night on the beat of Nagaras and other instruments. At times, people will withdraw from the dance circle and more will take their places to keep the chain unbroken. A stressed part of the ritual is occasionally a man or two would be possessed by the deity or his deputy (shedkulia) and he or she will cry and shout in a frenzied mood. Totally under the hypnotic sleep, people say the god has entered into such a person.
Shannt festival was a sort of bizarre festival associated with propitiation of village deities - Gram Devta in the past. It was a common festival 100 years ago involving animal sacrifices in large number which is a taboo now in many states. The shaant festival was conducted in a frenzied mood at Hanol (in Jaunsar-Bawar region in Uttarakhand), the principal seat of Botha Mahasu.
Normally, such ceremonies included three types: 01. 'Khura Shau' (one hundred legs of animals sacrificed), 02. 'Munda Shau' (one hundred heads of animals sacrificed) and 03. 'Singhaan Shau' (one head of a lion or at least representative a cat).
Last time it was held from 22 May 2004 to 26 May 2004 and was a low key affair.
Pandit Devi Ram of Maneoti, Tehsil chopal, who was among the officiating pandits (temple priest) performing puja during the ceremony, had a meeting with other pandits. They took a decision to stop the practice of offering goats or any animal to the deities and their representatives (Vazirs). The decision was accepted by all except Shedkulia of Fateh Parvat in Uttarakhand. They also took positive steps: entry of ladies in the temple and to stop the practice of sacrificing other animals in name of village gods in that Gharwali region.
Nowadays villagers in the states of Himachal Pradesh and Uttrakhand in North India celebrate ‘Shant festival’ with great pomp and show. Recently in January, 2020 in the villages close to Shimla, the capital of Himachal Pradesh it was conducted with vigor and devotion. The ‘Shant festival’ is actually a ‘festival of purification and is organised to purify the deity, ‘Khantu Devta’ and the temple. Villagers make collective prayers for prosperity and peace of the region . ‘Shant festival’ was organised after 29 years in this area; despite heavy snowfall, people were seen happily dancing at the snow-covered temple to promote century-old tradition.
|Mahasu Devta temple, Uttrakhand, Reddit com|
The animal sacrifices do exist across India, though the govt. has banned it such breach of state laws goes unnoticed in remote villages and it is a difficult job for the government to check them.