Sohrai: The Thanksgiving Festival of the Santhal Tribe

- March 23, 2023

By Komal Narwani 

The Santhal tribe of India celebrates the five-day-long Sohrai festival every winter. The villagers express gratitude to the Bongas, or the good spirits of the families of the village, for bestowing them with necessary food and requirements throughout the year.  

The word ‘Sohrai’ comes from ‘Sarhao’, which means thanksgiving.  

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The five-day festival is celebrated with very interesting rituals, dance, music and food.  

Day 1: Um Hilok – The day of cleaning 

The villagers clean their houses and get ready for the grand celebration. Women decorate the walls of their houses with Sohrai art. A place of worship is built in the field outside the village where offerings are made and a ceremonial prayer is performed.  

Illustration: Ritoparna Hazra


Day 2: Bongan Hilok – The day of devotion 

The families spend their day at home remembering departed souls. The head of the family observes a day-long fast. The whole family then worships good spirits by offering delicacies.  

Day 3: Khuntao – The day dedicated to domestic animals 

In the morning, agricultural tools are cleaned and oiled. The cattle are given a good bath, oiled and decorated. The villagers express gratitude to their livestock by worshipping and offering garlands and food.  

Illustration: Ritoparna Hazra
Day 4: Jaley – The day for strengthening relationships 

The Santhal visit each other on the fourth day of Sohrai. They dance and sing and make merry. They greet their neighbours with rice beer and delicious food all through the day, strengthening their bonds and letting go of discord from the past.  

Day 5: Sakrat – The day of departure of the spirits 

The last day is reserved to send the Bongas back to their place of rest. The villagers also perform certain ceremonies to ward off evil spirits that, they believe, must have made their way into the village along with the Bongas. Children display their artistic and acrobatic skills at night and the festival ends with great fun and food.  

Read more about the tribes of India in Amar Chitra Katha’s Legend of Lohasura on the ACK Comics app! 

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