A commemoration fostering unity among tribal communities: Hero stones now and then – Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala

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A New Year tribute to old heroes

The tribals of Kharsawan will install a stone slab at Shahid Sthal on January 1 in memory of those who laid down their lives fighting for a separate state in 1948. The homage aims to usher in unity among the tribal sects of Kharsawan.

With just two days left for the ceremony, called biridin in tribal parlance, functionaries of Bharatiya Adivasi Sarna Mahasangh (BASM) today visited Shahid Sthal to zero in on the site where the slab will be installed. President of Ho Samaj Mahasabha and one of the key functionaries of BASM, Damodar Hansda, said they would get the stone slab from a field at Jojodih village, about 5km from Shahid Sthal.

Hansda, who has been spearheading a movement for bringing honour to over 7,000 tribals killed in the 1948 Kharsawan mutiny, said: “The 15ft long and 5ft wide slab will have the words — Long Live, Martyrs of January 1, 1948, Kharsawan Firing — inscribed on it. The writing will be in Warrangchipi for Ho community, Olchiki for Santhalis, Devnagri and English. A local sculptor, Sanjay Bandia, is working on the inscriptions.” […]

Elaborating on the ceremony, he said in the morning of January 1, priests belonging to different tribal communities — Hos, Oraons, Santhals, Mundas, Birhors, Bhumij, Lohars and Gopes — would attend the function.

“After installing the stone memorial, the priests will pay a tribute to the tribals killed in the mutiny. Different rituals will be performed for different tribal groups. Thereafter, a rally will be taken out,” Hansda said.

One of the survivors of the firing, Jagmohan Soy, while going down memory lane, recollected: “On January 1, 1948, hundreds of tribals had congregated to hold a meeting for a separate tribal homeland. As the meeting was called in defiance of prohibitory orders, the administration resorted to firing, killing innumerable tribal men. The administration dropped the bodies in wells across Kharsawan.” […]

Source: “Kharsawan’s tribal tribute set in stone” by KUMUD JENAMANI, The Telegraph, 30 December 2010
Address : http://www.telegraphindia.com/1101230/jsp/jharkhand/story_13368701.jsp
Date Visited: Tue Jan 27 2015 17:22:33 GMT+0100 (CET)

Folk Ballads and Folklore, p. 40

Cultural anthropologists explain folk tales and ballad as the autobiographies of tribes, reflecting their ethnography, giving a penetrating picture of a given way of life. […]

When ancestor worship paved the way for hero worship, the folk ballad came of age. The ancestors were worshipped by the family, the hero was worshipped by the entire community or the village. When a man laid down his life for the sake of his people or a woman died in a tragic or memorable way, the events were commemorated by carved stones called ever kale (hero stone) and sati kallu (sati stone) respectively. […]

Some of the oral epics in Tamil are the Kaatavaraayan kadhai, Desingurajan kadhai and  Kattabomman kadhai.

Introduction, p. 2

Unfortunately, our villages are now paying the price for progress and development by allowing themselves to be transformed into satellites of towns under the impact of that global phenomenon, the technological explosion. In the process, folk culture is gradually being replaced by “cinema culture”, a culture created by plagiarising the west. It is imperative that Tamilnadu not only retains but revitalises the ethos of folk culture, a priceless heritage containing an enormous wealth of folk forms and traditions to be preserved.

Nanditha Krishna
Director, The C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation

Source: Folk arts of Tamilnadu : the performing arts by Nanditha Krishna. Chennai: C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation 2006 (revised reprint).

[Bold typeface added above for emphasis]

About the image: Hero stone “collected from forest”

Veerakkallukal (literally, hero stones) are memorials for heroes who laid down their lives […] The old text ‘Tholpappiam’ mentions these as ‘vedchi’ and ‘karantha’. It explains how the hero stones are selected, mellowed, images are sculpted and names inscribed […] ‘Puranuru’ songs that pre-date ‘Tolkappiam’, also mentions ‘vedchi’ and ‘karantha’ combats. At least a few of the hero stones that survive are believed to commemorate such combats for cattle.

Source: explanations provided by the Wayanad Heritage Museum, Kerala | Learn more about the the Wayanad Heritage Museum
Date visited: 5 March 2022

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