Damankiyari: The Gem of Directionless Land

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Written by Dr. Tilak Purakayastha
Transcreated in English by Sunita Jash

It’s 6’O clock in a winter morning, two friends are having a casual conversation over phone. They are discussing about the ‘Ahalyabhumi’, the directionless land. Whimsically, they set a plan and started for it; One from Bengal, other from Jharkhand. And the destination was any village in ‘Ahalyabhumi’.

They met on Dishergarh bridge at about 9’O clock and decided to visit any eye-catching village there. They reached Kashipur, now the dwelling place of Panchakot royal family by crossing Raghunathpur and Adra. They came across many an exotic places, also had some mischevious eye contact with the attractive lasses. Many of them flicked the eyes,but not the heart. Eyes were wandering around, from left to right, though busy with the steering.
Finally they reached. Marvellous, awesome- those words just came out spontaneously by achieving the village named Damankiyari. One has to come here to find out the reason behind those words. Most of the houses are of mud, roofed with hay, really a rustic view! There are one and two storied houses also in this hamlet. The dwellers are mainly Santhal. Generally, Santhals are divided into  12 totems like Baske, Tudu, Hansda, Saren, Murmu, Hembram, Besra etc. The village women could not confirm properly the number of houses belonging to each totem. They were just giggling by hearing us sitting in the warm sun. The main reason behind this is our broken Santhali language. It seemed that Bengali was their mother tongue,as they were very fluent in it.
They celebrate a lot of  festivals like the Bengalees do. The names are also interesting: Badhna, Saharai, another one is Poushna. Though they follow theq religious beliefs if Sari Dharam and Sarna Dharam, they rigorously enjoy the Hindu festivals like Doljatra and Durgapuja. Santhal girls were wearing printed saree or long skirt, not their traditional two part dress named Fatah.
This village is included in ‘ Nirmal Bangla Aviyan’ project. It ensures that there are toilets in every household, also the separate toilets for boys, girls and specially abled persons in Anganwadi centres, schools and other public places like Bus stand, market area.
There are many other villages also to get this badge of ‘Nirmal Bangla Aviyan’, this village is no exception. There are many scarcities too here. There’s a little scope of getting job. Basic amenities like drinking water or health services are also not adequate. Communication system is under developed. Facilities of Higher education is unsatisfactory here. All these sectors need some fruitful actions. There are 209 more villages with almost same features having this one. Damankiyari is 13 km far from Kashipur and 35 km far away from Purulia Sadar.
Damankiyari is one of the 13 villages in Simla Dhanara Gram Panchayat. The other villages are Sumaidi Bhulandi Gopalpur etc. It’s mainly a tribal village consisting of Santhal people. As per census report of 2011, the population was 1680 where number of male was 825, female was 855 including 219 children. The rate of education is quite satisfactory. 70% of male and 47% of female population are educated here. 50% people are engaged with agriculture and other small scale projects. There is a misconception that Santhal women are very diligent whereas Santhal guys are slothful and inactive resulting to a matriarchal social structure. But the practical scenario is different. They have a patriarchal society. They are not Mongoloid, their genre is of Proto Australoid.
The poverty and the misery, it’s the whole story of the villages in Bankura and Purulia. But still there’s a speciality in this village. Having a blissful smile on your face, your eyes will be widened and the beautiful comments will automatically be delivered: Wow! Splendid it is! The first thing that will be observed is their neatness. Santhals are very tidy by nature. But mainly here the girls and the women decorate the mud walls, courtyards and even the cow sheds beautifully. It’sjust hard to believe by just hearing. All these are done by using clay, cow dung, husk and natural colours. Not only the households, but the frontal places of the houses, the roafs- all are too much clean. One can hardly find a mess ther. They are not satisfied by getting the honour only, they are actually living neatly, continuing it in their day to day life. Even the courtyards are smeared with cow dung water smoothly. And the most interesting thing is all the designs made in the houses are unique, different from each other.
There is wonderful sitting rocks in front of every houses. If there is not enough space available, just a small sitting arrangement is done. All these are made of mud, painted black. It gives the texture of black cement. Really an extra ordinary combination of mud houses, hay roof, beautiful wall paintings. There are some mud houses where some earthen pots are kept in descending order from the bottom to create the shape of pillar. These pots are also coloured vibrantly.
I can hardly see any Santhal man outside. One is coming out of his house, unstably, one can easily understand that he has consumed rice beer. It’s like a mandatory act in Santhal culture. Rice beer is must in every occasion from the religious events to the marriage ceremony. It’s produced by themselves, using rice and chebulic myrobalan. The proportion of alcohol is lower in quantity. The production process of rice beer is beautifully depicted on a wall by portraying it with colours step by step.
We will conclude by mentioning one Judhisthir Baske , a middle aged Santhal man. He was wiping the huge courtyard of his mud house with clay and cow dung. The walls are neatly designed by using many colours and motifs,may be by Judhisthir himself or someone from his family. It’s really amazing to watch that a man can even wipe the floor in such a fine manner. Last but not the least, he started sweeping and rice threshing in his own by using modern technology and machineries available there. It gives a unique feelings to see the uses of scientific methods even in such a place.
There’s a sub Post office which is also made of mud, having consonance with the other houses in Damankiyari. I have never seen such. It was closed as it was Sunday. The board of the post office, the hanging letter box remind some of the old days’ memories, nostalgically.

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Post Author: Dr. Tilak Purakayastha

Dr. Tilak Purakayastha
2/3, CENTRAL HOSPITAL KALLA, ASANSOL 713340. MBBS and MD from Calcutta University. Doctor by profession and Best Doctor Award Winner by Central, several lifetime achievement award winner. Traveller, Photographer and Writer is his hobbies.