रविवार, 31 जुलाई 2011

Religion and Making of a Region: A study of The Baidyanath Cult Amar Nath Jha Associate Professor, Department of History S. S. N. College, University of Delhi, Delhi

Anusandhanika / Vol. IX / No. I / January 2011 / pp. 1-11 ISSN 0974 - 200X
Religion and Making of a Region: A study of
The Baidyanath Cult
Amar Nath Jha
Associate Professor, Department of History
S. S. N. College, University of Delhi, Delhi
The  7 century A.  D.  seems  to  be  very
important  for  the  making  of  ‘Indian  History’
along  with  the  emergence  of  various  sociocultural  traits  in  its  various  ‘Regions’.  The
‘Harshacharita’  of Banabhatta, the first
historical  book  in  Sanskrit  language  was
written in prose in 7 Century A.D.  This book
gives  an  insight  into  the  administration  and
reign  of  king Harshavardhan who  ruled from
606-647  A.D.  The  historical  details  given  in
Harshacharita  are  similar  to  those  of  Hieun
Tsang, a Chinese traveler who gives important
information  about  Indian  History.  It  was  but
natural  that the ‘Region  of  Santal  Paragnas’
did not remain unaffected during this period. It
also  witnessed  several  developments  during
this period.
The  region  of  the  Santal  Paragnas  had
acquired a distinct identity of its own, at least
t h 1
from 7 century A.D. onwards. The
Baidyanath  cult  facilitated  for  this  distinct
The region of the Santal Paragnas had acquired a distinct identity of its own, at least from 7 century A.D.
onwards.  The  Baidyanath  cult  facilitated  for  this  distinct  regional  identity  of  Santal  Paragnas  and  its
surroundings. The Santal Paragnas along with some of the areas of modern Bihar and West Bengal; such as
the Banka and the Jamui Districts of Bihar in the north and north west and Burdawan and Birbhoom Districts
of West Bengal in the south and south east comprise a large and separate geo-cultural entity. Some of the
characteristics of this region can be identified by any serious student of History. Topography, demography,
Languages, mode of agriculture, landscape, pattern of house building, food habits, attire and several other
things form this vast country into one distinct region. Most of the people of this region are tri-lingual. Apart
from the local dialect, almost all the population of this area understands and speaks Bangla and Hindi. Shiva
and Shakti are worshipped in the entire area. Baidyanath remains in the centre of the entire world view of this
region. Not only the famous temples of Baidyanath and Basukinath but several other Shiva temples and
Shakti-Pithas are the centers of cultural activities of this region. Here Shiva and Shakti combine together and
become one, as far as the philosophical background of the Hindu religion in this region is concerned. All are
Shakta as well as Shaiva at a time, in this country. Even Vaishnavites also worship Shiva and Shakti. Hence,
Shiva-Shakti cult becomes the essence of the Baidyanath Cult and Baidyanath in his Ardhanarishwar form
not only is worshiped but remains as the supreme deity of this region. All other deities are connected to him in
different ways.
Keywords: Baidyanath Cult, Shakti-Pithas, Great-Tradition, Little-Tradition, Regional Culture.
regional  identity  of  Santal  Paragnas  and  its
surroundings which demonstrates the
assimilation  of  both, the  “great tradition”  and
the “little tradition”, which gives this area its due
identity.  The  “great  tradition”  –  Vedic  and
Pauranik  tradition  -  along  with  the  impact  of
Mithila and Bengal, is the dominant tradition of
this  region.  The  “Little  tradition”  -  along  with
several  local  cults  has  also  acquired  very
important place in the day to day rituals of this
region.  This  gave  birth  to  a  distinct  sociocultural tradition. Consequently, Baidyanath
Dham emerged as a nucleus of the Baidyanath
Cult. The study of the Baidyanath Cult provides
us  the  clue  to  understand  the  evolution  of  a
distinct ‘Regional Culture’ in Santal Paragnas
in historical perspective.
Materials and Methods
Since this region has not yet been studied
by any professional historian, therefore, a little
data is available for the purpose. Nevertheless,
some  works  of  great  scholars  like  R.  K.
Chaudhary,  J.  C.  Jha,  B.  P.  Sinha,  C.  P.  N. -2- Anusandhanika / Vol. IX / No. I / January 2011
Sinha,  D.  K.  Chakrabarty  and  Surendra  Jha
provide  relevant  and  important  references,
though in a stray manner, related to this region.
Therefore, this writer has primarily relied upon
the field studies conducted by him during last
few  years. Findings of the field  studies have
been  substantiated  by  oral  traditions  of  the
region. Thus, historical conclusions have been
derived through the prism of CulturalAnthropology. Hence, it may be claimed that
the role played by ‘Religion’ (The Baidyanath
Cult  in  this  case)  has  been  studied  here  to
understand  the  process  of  the  making  of  a
‘Region’ (The Santal Paragnas and its
surroundings  as  a  case in  hand) for the first
time by any scholar so far. However, this theory
needs to be tested with further studies.
Results and Discussions
The  region  of  Santal  Paragnas,  now  a
commissionary division of the modern state of
Jharkhand, is “lying between 23° 48’ and 25°
18’ N. and 86° 28’ and 87° 5’ L. with an area of
5,470 square miles” . It is bounded on the north
by modern Bhagalpur and Katihar districts of
Bihar, on the east by Malda, Murshidabad and
Birbhum districts of West Bengal, on the south
by  Burdwan  and  Dhanbad  districts  of  West
Bengal  and  Jharkhand  and  on  the  west  by
Giridih, Hazaribag, Jamui and Banka districts
of Jharkhand and Bihar. The old Bihar district
has been subdivided into six separate districts -
Dumka, Deoghar, Godda, Sahebganj, Jamtara
and Pakur.
It has three clear physiographic components.
The west or southwest section is dominated by
a  rolling  topography  interspersed  with  hills.
The  Calcutta-Patna  section  of  the  Indian
Railways passes through this area.
“Communication-wise  this  section  was  not
important till the advent of the railways” opines
D. K. Chakrabarti , but he is not correct. The
issue has already been dealt elsewhere, it can
be said that this very section provides the most
important information regarding the process of
state  formation  taking  place  in  the  early
medieval period of modern Santal Paragnas.
The most important river in this section is the
Ajay which, like the lesser rivers of the region,
has a shallow bed and frequent meanders. In
the  Godda  area  and  the  stretch  between
Burdwan and Teliagarhi along the Ganges, the
topography is flat and alluvial. The BurdwanTeliagarhi  stretch  is  historically  the  most
important  communication  line  between  the
middle Gangetic valley and the regions further
east. This  is  a  corridor  defined  by  the
Rajmahal hills on the west and the Ganges on
the east. The hills come very close to the river
bank at some places. The forts at Teliagarhi,
north  of  Sahibganj  and  Sakrigali,  south  of
Sahibganj are on this line. The rim of the hills
overlooking the  river are honey combed with
stone quarries and “we like to imagine that the
situation was the same in antiquity, particularly
during the  Pala  and  Sena  periods  when the
stone from the Rajmahal hills was widely used
to make innumerable sculptures”.
Historical  development  in  the  region  of
Santal Paragnas  - In the Later Gupta period
Adityasena was certainly the master of South
and  East  Bihar. His  Apsad  and  Shahpur
inscriptions  are  found  in  Magadh  and  the
Mandar  Hill  Rock-inscription  in  the  east  of
Banka  Sub-division  of  the  Bhagalpur  district
(ancient Anga). In this  connection  reference
may be made to Vaidyanath Temple Inscription
which  was  brought from the Mandar  Hill. “It
appears that the Baidyanath Temple Inscription
actually preserves important historical information
about Adityasena” concludes Dr. B. P. Sinha.
Here  it  may  be  added  this  inscription  also
preserves  important  information  about  the
historicity  of  the  Baidyanath  Temple.  But
surprisingly Dr. Sinha is of the opinion that “The
inscription is certainly much later, belonging to
th 11
the 16 century A.D.” But it seems that Sinha's
findings could be questioned. In effect, there
are enough evidence to prove the antiquity of
this Temple and hence this region as well.
Bateshwar inscriptions near ancient
Vikramsila University speak about Baidyanath
Tirtha Kshetra. Thus, one can say that in the
7th  century  A.D.,  the  Later  Gupta  Emperor
Adityasena ruled this region.
Rahul  Sankrityan  is  of  the  opinion  that
during  this  period  this  area  was  known  as
‘Sumha’. By various sources it can be inferred
that the core area of it (Sumha) was located in
Santal Paragnas. Dr. Surendra  Jha writes in
this  regard  “Geographical  connotation  of the
ancient site of Sumha country varied from time -3- Anusandhanika / Vol. IX / No. I / January 2011
to  time.  Major  portion  of  the  present  Santal
Paragnas was in Anga and the region in which
the  village  Maluti  is  located  was  known  as
Sumha”. But he further mentions that another
geographical  term  related  to  Sumha  was
‘Radha’. According to  Jain Acharanga Sutta,
Vajjabhumi and Subbhabhumi were component
part  of  ‘Ladha’ (Radha)  and  the  equation
shows that only a portion of Radha was known
by the geographical term ‘Sumha’. Thus it is
clear that Sukshma  Desha  or Sumha  region
contained eastern portions of Birbhum as well
as Santal Paragnas opines Dr. Jha. However,
the  writer  disagrees  with  Dr.  Jha  to  some
extent and believe that Dr. Jha is not correct
when  he  disputes Bhattacharya, that “Prof.
Bhattacharya  has  wrongly  identified  it  with
Dakshina Radha only.” In fact taking clue from
Rahul Sankrityayan and corroborating with the
inscriptions mentioned  above, it is  clear that
the area of Apar Mandar, Radha and Sumha
overlapped and hence Sumha and or Radha
denotes more  or less  entire  area  of modern
Santal Parganas along with its surroundings,
which witness the process of historical
developments  during  this  period.  During  the
fabulous regime of Pala dynasty.
During  the  fabulous regime  of  Pala
dynasty  this  region  was  part  of  the  Pala
Empire. D. C. Sircar also  says  “Vatesvara is
mentioned  as Valesvara  (i.e.Vadesvar) in  an
inscription  of  the  early  Pala  age  found  at
Vatesvarasthan near the colgoan (Kahalgaon)
railway station in Bhagalpur district”. Keeping
in view the closeness of Santal Paragnas with
this place (Santal Paragnas has been carved
out with portions of old Bhagalpur division and
Burdwan division as mentioned earlier), it can
be inferred that during the early Pala period the
region  under  study,  Santal  Paragnas,  must
have been in flour ishing state and
Vatesvarnath area was within the cultural zone
of Santal Paragnas  since this  also mentions
Vaidyanath kshetra.
In the region of Santal Paragnas a good
number  of  stone  idols  and  other  old  relics
belonging  to  the  Pal-Sena  period  (circa  8th
century-12th century A. D.) have been found.
The temples at Burhait, Basukinath, Deoghar,
Katikund, Dumka, Maluti, Pathrol etc comprise
a good number of stone idols of the Pala-Sena
period. A beautiful  Door-jamb  belonging  to
the Sena period was found near Rajmahal by
the railway authorities. Likewise, at Teligarhi,
a richly carved Stone Pillar (12th century A. D.)
is  still  under  worship. Recently  the  Basta
Pahar in the Meharama block of Godda District
has been explored and traces of a number of
ruined brick built temples on its summit have
been  found. Local  people  connect  this  site
with  Ramayan  age.  Further  excavation  may
add something new to this place.
During the reign of Narayan Pal this area
again formed the core part of part empire as
is evident from the fact that “Acharya
Abhayakaragupta, a great teacher and scholar
of  Tantra,  became  the  abbot  of  Vajrasana,
Nalanda and Vikramashila. He wrote a
commentary  in  eight  thousand  verses  on
Prajnaparamita.  Many  of  his  books  were
translated into Tibetan by Buddhakirti.
Abhayakaragupta  hailed from Deoghar,”
writes Radhakrishna Chaudhary.
During  his Gangetic  campaign  Rajendra
Chola  seems to  have  visited the Baidyanath
Temple,  as  per the  collective memory  of the
people of this region. The Baidyanath Temple
Inscription  of  Adityasena  mentions  about
Cholesvar, probably indicating Rajendra
Chola. Since in Tirumalai Rock Inscription of
Rajendra Chola, mention is made of
Ranashura, of Dakshin Radha, the ancestor of
Lakshmishura,  the  ruler  of  Apar  Mandar
mentioned  in  the  Ramacharita,  separately
from Mahipal of Uttar Radha, usually identified
by the scholars with Mahi Pala I of Pal family ,
we  can  safely  reach  the  conclusion  that  the
collective public memory of the land bears the
historical fact.
Two inscriptions  of  Pala  period found in
this  area  clearly  establish  the  fact  that  the
region  of Santal Paragnas was  a  part  of the
Pala  Empire.  The  Tapovan  Inscription  found
from Tapovan hill rocks, lying six km south-east
of Deoghar, speaks of ‘Shri Ramapal Devah’
and the second Inscription found from
Harlajori, a place five km in the north-east from
Deoghar  mentions  ‘Sri  Nayayapal  Devah’
leaves no doubt to this.
During  the  early  sultanate  period,  this
region was under Bengal. Ikhtiyaruddin-4- Anusandhanika / Vol. IX / No. I / January 2011
Muhammad Bin Bhakhtiyar Khalji had invaded
Assam  and  Bengal  en  route  Tailiyagarhi. As
per a local legend, the Son of Laxman Sen, the
King of Cooch Bihar, fled from there and came
to  Deoghar  in  the  year  1201 A.D.  The  local
tradition claims that the king after fleeing from
his capital took shelter at Deoghar and made
this  place  his  capital.  Following  the  prince,
Ikhtiyaruddin Muhammad Bin Bhakhtiyar
Khalji also came to Deoghar and he also made
Deoghar his Capital in the same year, 1201.
As per the local legend, there was a fort built by
him at the present site known as Jhaunsagarhi,
which was later burnt by Kala Pahar and is
called  Jhaunsagarhi,  since  then.  However,
there is no archeological evidence to support
this local legend as on today.
The Muslim invaders overrun entire area
during  13th–14th  century  A.D.  Tailiyagarhi
was  an  entrance  door  for  Muslim  invaders.
They  used  to  travel  to  &  fro  from  Bengal  to
Taliyagarhi because the main route from Bihar
to Bengal passed through Teliagarhi,
Sakarigali  and  Rajmahal  of.  this  region.
Therefore, it was but natural that the region of
Santal  Paragnas  did  not  remain  unaffected
from the movements of new political powers of
the  land.  However,  it’s  greater  part-Sumha/
Urrat Radha/ Dakshin Radha/ Apar Mandar--
remained free from the destructions as we do
not have any evidence of invasion of
Bhakhtiyar Khilaji on the temple of Baidyanath,
which  had  acquired  great  fame  since  7th
century A.D. Rather, if we believe Minhas, after
the  invasion  of  Bhakhtiyar  Khalji  on  Rai
Lakhamania (Monghyr), the Brahmins of that
area fled and took shelter at their holy places
named Shankhanath and Jagannath. Keeping
in view the religious importance of this place
this  Shankhanath  should  be  read  as  the
Baidyanath. In this context it is interesting to
note that he did not harm Baidyanath Temple,
while  as  he  is  said  to  have  burnt  the
Vikramshila University. Can we have the liberty
to  say  that  the  Baidyanath  commanded
respect  of Muslims  also from the  very
beginning,  which is  seen  even today,  as the
daily  puja  of  Baidyanath  is  not  completed
unless  he  is  offered  flowers  from  the  Halim
family, descendents of Data Saheb Faquir, a
venerated  sufi  saint  of  the  area,  before  the
doors of the temple are closed?
Migration of the Maithil Brahmins in the
Region of Santal Paragnas - We are told that
during  the  early  medieval  period  Maithil
Brahmins migrated to Bengal in good
numbers. The story of Adisura, a legendry king
of Bengal is being credited for the migration of
Maithil Panditas to Bengal. But the historicity of
Adisura  is  not  yet  proven.  Some  identify
Adisura with Gurjar-Pratihar Bhoja. There are
others  who  hold  that  Vallalsena  may  be  a
descendant of Adisura from the mother’s side
who  flourished  in  1060  A.D. “It  is  also
suggested that Adisura could well have been a
son  or  a  grandson  of Ranasura  of Dakshina
Radha reffered to in Tirumalai Rock
Inscriptions  of  Rajendra  Cola.” But  D.  C.
Sircar has different views about Adisura.  He
holds Adisura legend totally unreliable.
According to him, Sura royal family in ancient
Bengal is known but no genuine ruler named
Adisura is found in Bengal sources. The only
Adisura known to the East Indian history is a
petty chief who is mentioned by Vacaspatimisra
in his Nyayakanika. In this context J. C. Jha
opines  “Hence  Adisura,  his  contemporary
must have flourished in the middle of the ninth
century A.D.” Swati Sen Gupta  also  opines
“He may have been a petty chief of North Bihar,
and  a  vassal  of  the  Palas  of  Bengal  and
Further, if one try to reinterpret the story of
Adisura, he may reach to some valid
conclusion. As suggested by Swati Sen Gupta,
Adisura might be a small king of North Bihar.
Again as stated earlier, it is also suggested that
Adisura  could  well  have  been  a  son  or  a
grandson  of  Ranasura  of  Dakshina  Radha
reffered  to  in  Tirumalai  Rock  inscriptions  of
Rajendra Cola. And, since Ranasura himself
might have been an ancestor of Laksmishura,
the  ruler  of  Aparmandar,  mentioned  in  the
Ramcharita, It can be safely concluded that
the said Adisura, a descendent of Ranasura,
was  the  ancestor  of  Laksmansura  of  Apar
Mandar.  As  shown  earlier  the  area  of  Apar
Mandar/ Sumha/ Uttar Radha/ Dakshin Radha
are  inter-changeable  and  overlapping  and
correspond  to  the  modern  Santal  Paragnas,
therefore, Maithil Brahmins must have started
to come to this area during the reign of Adisura
who was the king of the region of the modern -5- Anusandhanika / Vol. IX / No. I / January 2011
Santal  Paragnas  during  10th-11th  centuries.
Thus we can conclude that both D. C. Sircar
and R. C. Majumdar may not be correct when
they declare Adisura a mythical character. He
was  a  historical  personality  and  ruler  of  the
region of Santal Paragnas. Readings of Swanti
Sen  Gupta  that  Adisura  was  a  king  of  east
Bihar Na not of North Bihar needs corrections
under abovementioned observations. Thus, by
all probable explanations it is safe to conclude
that the migration of the Maithil Brahmins in the
region  of  Santal  Paraganas  started  taking
place since 10th-11th century AD.
The migration of Maithil Brahmins in this
region  started  a  new  era  for  this  land.  The
process  of  acculturation  and  Sanskritisation
left deep impact on both the Maithila Brahmins
and  the  local  traditions  of  this  area  which
ultimately gave rise to the distinct character of
a religious sect of this area to be known as ‘The
Baidyanath Cult’. The Baidyanath Cult and the
cultural  horizon  of  the  region  is  deeply
influenced by the migration of Maithil Brahmins
in this area to a great extent, as a whole.
Evolution of a Regional Culture in the
Region  of  Santal  Paragnas -  The  Santal
Paragnas  along  with  some  of  the  areas  of
modern Bihar and West Bengal; such as the
Banka and the Jamui Districts of Bihar in the
north  and  north  west  and  Burdawan  and
Birbhoom Districts of West Bengal in the south
and south east comprise a large and separate
geo-cultural entity. Some of the characteristics
of this region can be identified by any serious
student of History. Topography, demography,
languages,  mode  of  agriculture,  landscape,
pattern  of  house  building,  food  habits,  attire
and several other things form this vast country
into one distinct region. Most of the people of
this region are tri-lingual. Apart from the local
dialect, almost all the population of this area
understands  and  speaks  Bangla  and  Hindi.
Shiva and Shakti are worshipped in this entire
area. Baidyanath remains in the centre of the
entire world  view of this  region. Not only the
famous temples of Baidyanath and Basukinath
but  several  other Shiva temples  and ShaktiPithas are the centers of cultural activities of
this  region.  Here  Shiva  and  Shakti  combine
together  and  become  one,  as  far  as  the
philosophical background of the Hindu religion
in this region is concerned. All are Shakta as
well as Shaiva at a time, in this country. Even
Vaishnavites  also  worship Shiva  and Shakti.
Hence, Shiva-Shakti cult becomes the
essence of the Baidyanath Cult and
Baidyanath  in  his  Ardhanarishwar  form  not
only is worshiped but remains as the supreme
deity  of  this  region.  All  other  deities  are
connected to him in different ways.
In course of field studies  the writer has
come across a number of deities worshiped at
different  levels  in  this  region,  but  all  extract
powers  from  the  Baidyanath  only,  in  the
capacity  of  his  subordinate.  We  have  made
extensive study of the following deities in order
to understand the influence of the Biadyanath
cult, which ultimately gives this entire region a
distinct identity. Some of those deities are as
DUBE BABA: The first and most
important  local  deity  of  this  area  is  ‘Dube
Baba’. As the name itself suggests, ‘Dube’ is
one of the surnames of Kanyakubja Brahmins,
who  have  migrated  to  this  land  from  the
Madhyadesha  during  the  pala-Sena  period.
‘Dube Baba’ is worshiped primarily in Deoghar
and Jamtara districts and also in some parts of
Giridih district of this region. In Deoghar district
two  villages  named  Dakai  and  Bamangama
are the two most important places where this
deity  is  worshiped  on  a  large  scale,  though
there is not a single village in these two districts
where we do not find the prevalence of Dube
Baba Pooja.
The emergence of ‘Dube Baba’ as a deity
is  attributed  to  his  enmity  with  a  powerful
Khetori chief. Dube was killed by the chief in a
fight for a piece of land. Thereafter, incarnated
as ‘Dube Baba’, he started uprooting Khetoris
from  the  area  by  his  divine  use  of  snakes.
Unable to  sustain the  curse of  snake-bite all
khetoris left that area and took shelter in the
vicinity of Basukinath Dham of Dumka district,
where Shiva is worshipped as lord Basukinath,
the lord or the king of  snakes, and thus the
wrath of ‘Dube Baba’ on khetoris was
restrained.  But  ‘Dube  Baba’ retained  his
supreme  position  as  a God  of  snakes in the
above mentioned two districts of the area. In
this entire area,  where  ‘Dube  Baba’ is
worshipped, we do not find the habitat of any -6- Anusandhanika / Vol. IX / No. I / January 2011
khetori family even today.
Dube Baba is the supreme deity of snakes
in this area. Here snake-bite is cured only by
the grace of this deity. Even today, in this age of
globalization  and  computerization,  after  any
incident  of  a  snake-bite,  not  only  illiterate
villagers  but  the  highly  placed  officers  and
English educated intellectuals of this area also
take refuge to this deity, instead of going to a
doctor. It is believed that with the pleasure of
Dube Baba the  snake will  come back, again
bite the victim to take back its poison and the
victim will be cured. Therefore, snakes are not
killed in this region. This may undoubtedly be
the  reflection  of  utter  superstition  but  at  the
same time this also speaks of the popularity of
the  deity  in  this  entire  region.  This  deity
derives all his powers from Baidyanath as he is
regarded as the manifestation of a particular
aspect  of  Shiva,  Nageshwar,  the  lord  of
serpents too.
BABU  OJHA :  ‘Babu  Ojha’ is  primarily
worshiped  in  the  village  named  Sakarigali,
situated at about 15 Km west of Deoghar city.
This deity is the main deity of this village and is
perceived  to  be  a  ‘Rakshak’ or  saviour.  He
cures the problems related to ghosts and black
magic. People from far distant places visit this
village to  get  cured  of their  problems  and in
lieu,  offer  their  worship  to  this  deity.  We  all
know that Shiva is known as Bhootnath as well.
I believe this deity is the manifestation of that
aspect of Shiva. This deity is satisfied only after
being  given  he-goat  sacrifice  to  him.  The
importance of ‘Babu Ojha’ can be assessed by
the simple evidence that on the main door of
the  Baidyanath  temple,  local  pilgrims  offer
water,  flowers  and  other  things  to  this  deity,
before entering into the sanctorum (garbhagriha)
of  the  temple.  As  per  our  present  state  of
knowledge,  ‘Babu  Ojha’ is  worshiped  in
Sankarigali village only but exercises immense
influence in the entire area. The entire region
gives high respect to this deity.
Brahma Devata : This deity is very special
in the sense that only Maithil Brahmins worship
him. All Maithil Brahmin families have their own
‘Brahma Devatas’. This deity is supposed to be
one of the most pious and elevated forefathers
of the concerned family, who is incarnated as
‘Brahma  Devata’ after  unnatural  death,  to
protect his family members from the negative
influence  of  all  evil  forces.  So,  he  is  also  a
‘Rakshak Devata’ of individual Maithil Brahmin
families in this region. The interesting thing to
note is that this deity is different from ‘Brahma
Pishach’ who is also worshipped in the similar
fashion in  certain families  of  not  only Maithil
Brahmins  but  other  Brahmins  too.  While  an
unnatural death of a non-Maithil Brahmin may
lead to his emergence as ‘Brahma Pishach’the
same cannot be said about ‘Brahma Devata’.
The basic difference between these two is that
while ‘Barhma Devata’ is a Rakshak Devata of
Maithil Brahmins only, as said earlier, ‘Brahma
Pishach’ is an evil spirit. Villagers are scared of
‘Brahma  Pishach’ but  ‘Brahma  Devata’ is
highly respected and venerated. This deity too
derives  his  power  from  Baidyanath  and
protects his progenies from evil forces.
Yaksha Baba: Almost 20 Km in the north
east  side  of  Deoghar  city,  there  is  a  deity
known  as  ‘Jakh  Baba’ or  ‘Yaksha  Baba’ in
Jaynagara village. This deity also cures people
suffering from all black magic. As we know that
Yakshas  and  Kinnaras  are  regarded  the
servants of Shiva, hence in that capacity this
deity too derives his power from Baidyanath.
Interestingly  this  is  perhaps  the  only  place
where this deity Yaksha is worshipped, though
we come across much folk lore narrating the
charismatic power of Jakha. He is regarded a
foolish  but  very  powerful  deity  who  can  be
tamed by people by their seer wisdom. He is
not  a  harmful  deity  and  generally  regarded
very friendly and helpful to the villagers in this
entire region. People from all part of the Santal
Paragnas visit this place in large numbers in
order to be blessed by ‘Yaksha Baba’.
Kolha  Gosain :  This  deity  is  basically
worshipped in the so called low caste people of
this area. The very name of this deity gives us
some  clue  about  his  origin. He might  be the
chief  deity  of the  primitive ‘Cole tribe’ of this
region.  This  tribe  seems  to  be  one  of  the
aboriginal  inhabitants,  like  Paharias,  of  this
region.  In  the  process  of  acculturation  this
deity became an important deity of the region.
People of all caste and class are very fearful of
this deity and offer sacrifices to please him. He
is so ferocious that nobody dares to displease -7- Anusandhanika / Vol. IX / No. I / January 2011
him and is offered his share of sacrifice at all
auspicious  occasions  like  birth,  mundan,
upanayan and marriage ceremonies.
In  a  village  named  Lakhoria,  situated
around 20 Km in the south west from Deoghar
city, this deity is worshipped. Though, as we
said, this deity belongs to the lower caste/tribal
origin, but worshipped by all castes including
Brahmins.  Normally  he  is  satisfied  by  goat
sacrifice, but he is very fond of hen & cocks.
Though Brahmins are allowed to offer only hegoats,  other  caste  people  can  offer  hen  &
cocks also.
Baba Namdeva: This deity too is
worshipped mainly by the Charmakar
community of this region but the ceremony and
vrata  known  as  ‘Chaupahara’ related  to  this
deity  is  observed  by  all  class  and  caste
including  the  Brahmins.  Mythologically  Baba
Namdev is said to be the son of Parshuram by
some sections of the Charmakar community of
this area but this popular belief is not supported
by any scripture or Purana. Nevertheless, the
famous  Bhakti  Saint  Namdev  has  some
similarities with this Baba Namdev of
Chaupahara story. This Baba Namdev is also
said to be the incarnation of Parshuram, as per
the  popular  belief  of  other  sections  of  the
Charmakar  community  of this  region. As  per
the  versions  of  this  section,  Baba  Namdeva
was  born  in  a  low  caste  family  as  he  had
committed the sin of killing his mother Renuka
in  his  last  birth  by  the  order  of  his  father
Jamadagni.  Though  as  a  vow  and  penance
Baba Namdev had completed extreme
‘Tapasya’ and he had adopted the Bhakti Marg,
but Brahmins did not pay him any respect and
he  was  forced  to  remain  as  an  untouchable
and was prohibited to enter the village temple.
Hence, he was compelled to offer pooja to the
village deity from the back of the temple. But as
he was a great soul, the village deity shifted the
door  in  the  direction  of  Namdeva.  Thus
Namdeva becomes the symbol of the magical
power  of  an  untouchable  earned  by  the
‘Tapasya’ or  ‘Bhakti’ and  ‘Chaupahara’ is
celebrated to mark his achievements.
The  most  important  thing  to  note  about
this  ‘Chaupahara’ is  that  though  this  is
celebrated even by Brahmins but the ‘Bhajans’
and songs are sung by a group consisted of the
people from ‘Charmakar’ and or ‘Dom’
community  only.  They  are  also  known  as
‘Dholakiyas’. Interestingly this group sings the
songs composed by two great personalities of
this area named Charu Charmakar and Bhava
Pritanand Ojha respectively. For the first half of
the ceremony songs of Charu Charmakar are
sung. The tones of these songs are very bitter
and critical to Brahmanic order. In the second
half  of  the  ceremony  devotional  songs  and
Jhumars dedicated to Baidyanath and Parvati,
composed  by Bhava Pritanand  Ojha,  one  of
the chief priests of the Baidyanath Temple and
a  representative  of  the  orthodox  brahmanic
order,  are  sung.  Thus  Charu  Charmakar,  a
rebel of brahamanic order and Bhava
Pritanand  Ojha,  an  upholder  of  brahmanic
order, both are venerated by Brahmins as well
as Charmakars in ‘Chaupahara’. Hence
‘Chaupahara’ event  becomes  the  symbol  of
the  assimilation  and  synthesis  of  the  two
mutually contradictory and hostile world views.
This assimilation of cultural values and
synthesis of different world views provides this
entire  region  of  Santal  Paragnas  a  distinct
identity of its own.
There are also a number of various other
local deities worshiped in this  region, but we
are not including details of all of them and have
studied these five major deities only, because
all the symptoms and characteristics
associated to the distinct culture of the region
of Santal Paragnas are imbibed in these five
major local deities. All other small local deities
appear to be proxy of these five.
With a careful and minute analysis of the
mode  of  worship  of  these  deities  we  also
observe several distinct characteristics of this
region. We find that while ‘Dube Baba’ comes
from a Kanyakubja Brahmin caste and
naturally  he  is  supposed  to  be  a  vegetarian
deity as the Kanyakubjas are, but he accepts
both Anna as well as Pashu-Bali that is animal
sacrifices as offerings. He-goats are sacrificed
to him in a large numbers at different places.
Both  the  villages  of  Dakai  and  Bamangama
witness  the  scene  of  hundreds  of  goat
sacrifices  every  year.  This  can  simply  be
explained in terms of the influence of the “little
tradition”  of  the  area  on  the  “great  tradition” -8- Anusandhanika / Vol. IX / No. I / January 2011
where  aboriginal peoples’ non-vegetarian
mode of worship  combined with Maithil
Brahmins  goat  sacrificial mode  of worship is
attributed to this vegetarian Kanyakubja
Brahmin  deity. Along  with this the  ecological
concerns of aboriginal people is still honored
by not killing snakes in this region. That is why
many rare species of snakes are still found in
this region. Therefore, the emergence of ‘Dube
Baba’ as an important deity of this region with
this  distinct  mode  of  ritual  worship  is  a
reflection of the process of cultural assimilation
between  the  “Great  tradition”  and  the  “Little
tradition” of the region.
Similarly ‘Babu Ojha’, who comes from a
Maithil  Brahmin  caste,  is  able  to  acquire  a
place  on  the  door  of  Baidyanath  temple  is
again the reflection of the same process. We
all  know that the Baidyanath is worshiped in
the  region  since  time  immemorial  and  the
historicity of the Baidyanath Cult goes back to
7th  century  A.D.,  while  as  Maithil  Brahmins
migrated in this region much later, only around
10th-11th  century A.D.,  as  we  have  already
discussed earlier. Hence the prominent
position acquired by Babu Ojha on the door of
the Baidyanath Temple signifies the important
place acquired by the Maithil Brahmins in the
overall Baidyanath Cult horizon. Similarly the
acceptance of ‘Brahmadevata’ as an important
deity of the area also indicates the same thing
i.e. the important positions of Maithil Brahmins
in the process of the evolution of the regional
culture of this country.
The recognition and acceptance of ‘Kolha
Gosain’ and ‘Namdeva’ as important deities by
the  upper  caste  Hindus  including  Brahmins,
very  clearly  establishes  the  fact  that  the
process  of  interactions  between  the  local  or
“little tradition” and the elite or “great tradition”
ultimately paved the way for the emergence of
a  distinct  regional  culture  of  the  region  of
Santal  Paragnas.  We  further  notice  this
procees  when  we  find  that  two  sub-castes
emerged within the Charmakar community of
this  region  which  is  known  as  ‘Goriya’ and
‘Dusiya’ Charmakars. The ‘Goriyas’ are those
having  fair  skin  and  who  left  eating  flesh  of
dead animals simply because their women folk
were allowed to enter the houses of Brahmins
as a ‘Dagarin’ and were even allowed to feed
their  milk  to  the  infants  of  Brahmin  families.
The  ‘Dusiya’ remained  polluted  or  ‘Dushit’
because they  continued  with their traditional
work and food habits. That is why we find that
the ‘Gorias’ do not marry outside any
Charmakar families of this region and claim to
be  as  pious  as  those  of  the  Brahmins.
Interestingly ‘Dagarins’ command respect and
love of the Brahmin communities of this region.
This  is  a  very  distinct  characteristic  of  the
region of Santal Paraganas.
The topography of this  region has made
the  Santal  Paragnas  a  safe  heaven  for  the
rebels  as  they  could  hide  themselves  in  the
dense  forest  and  unconquerable  hills  of  the
region.  We  come  across  many  examples
during medieval period when rebel against the
mighty central power took shelter in this region.
During the British period also this country used
to be the refuse of revolutionaries. That is why
we  find  a  tradition  of  rebellions  in  this  land.
Leaving aside the remote past even if we try to
analyze  its  recent  past  we  find  a  series  of
revolts against the British rule in this country
starting from ‘paharia’ revolt  up to the
‘Jharkhand  movement’.  Inhabitants  of  this
region have always been up in arms against
the  exploiters  and  invaders.  This  distinct
characteristic was possible due to its
topography. The topography of this land gives
it a distinct regional identity.
The  Region  of  Santal  Paragnas:  a
victim of Historiographical Colonialism - It
is a truth that the  region of Santal Paragnas
has never been able to attract the attention of
historians, despite the fact that it contains very
rich  pre-historical  and  historical  traditions.
Generally this region is perceived as a part of
ancient  and  medieval  Anga,  which  is  not
correct. As has been said earlier, historically,
only some parts of Santal Paragnas
constituted a portion of the Anga and a greater
portion  of  this  region  remained  outside  the
boundary of the Anga. Similarly, southern and
eastern  parts  of  modern  Santal  Paragnas
constituted  parts  of  various  early  medieval
kingdoms  of  modern  Bengal.  Therefore,  the
historicity  of  this  region  known  as  Santal
Paragnas in modern times, gives her a distinct
regional  identity  during  the  early  medieval
periods of Indian history.-9- Anusandhanika / Vol. IX / No. I / January 2011
Before  venturing  into  the  study  of  a
regional  culture  in  the  region  of  Santal
Paragnas we must not forget that most of the
modern  historians  focus  only  on  the  events
related to the Santals and other tribes and thus
tend to forget to throw light on the land, culture
and history of Santal Paragnas in toto. May be,
unconsciously, Santal Paragnas becomes the
synonym of tribal  culture alone, while as the
fact remains that along with Santal and other
tribes the entire region has a long history and
culture like its other neighbours i.e. Bengal and
Bihar.  Therefore,  this  general  understanding
about Santal Paragnas needs to be improved
with factual details.
We all  know that the geography  plays a
significant role in the formation of the regional
identities of a place or area in the course of its
historical evolution. Gramsci also acknowledges
this  point In  his  essay ‘Some Aspects  of the
Southern  Questions’. Historians,  like  B.
Subbarao  also  feel  the  same  way. M.  S.
Pandey also addresses the same issue. Thus
geographical differentiation does not underline
only the evolution of variant landscapes, etc.
but also marks the process of alternate social
and cultural formations. Therefore, we have to
understand the geographical composition and
the  process  of  state  formation,  in  order  to
understand the religio-cultural developments,
of  the  area  of  our  study.  But  unfortunately
regional histories do not find much attention of
dominant historiography in India which
sometimes prepares ground for socio-political
unrest in the country.
In the 55th session of the Indian History
Congress  (1994),  referred  earlier,  delivering
the Presidential address for the Ancient India
Section Dr. C. P. N. Sinha too expresses his
concern that “the hitherto dominant
explanatory models for the study of early India
very  often  ignore  the  specificities  of  the
different regions”. Consequently, the “imagined”
Indian Idioms receive  such domineering
historical  projections  that  they  too  subsume
even  the  distinct  traits  of  the  constitutive
regions. Such a tendency not only negates the
dynamic role of a set of peripheries by pushing
them into the backyards of historical
development,  but  ironically  puts  a  region  as
antithetical to the national ethos if the former
seeks to underline its own identity. It is needless
to say, therefore, that a historiographical tradition
which neglects regional history may culminate
into dangerous outcomes– by negating
regional  identities,  it  in  effect,  generates  a
regional perception that seeks to demand for
break  way  autonomy  for  itself.  Hence,  “it  is
argued  that  to  overwhelm  to  the  extent  of
negating regional identities under the rubric of
pan-Indian  historiography  is  to  tread  a  path
which is essentially counter productive”. The
historical identity of a  region should certainly
be  appreciated  and  an  attempt  should  be
made  to  situate  it  in  the  “broader  context  of
historical developments in early India”. There
is  a  sensible  need  for  sharing  important
concerns  with  the  suppressed  voices  and
imaginations  within  the  metropolis.  So  the
need of investigating history at micro-level has
become much more relevant today, than was
in any other period of history, to understand the
basis  of  Indian  cultural  traditions.  “National
history  is  nothing  but  a  composite  of  the
histories  of  regions  comprising  the  nation”
says again Dr. C. P. N. Sinha, in his book ‘The
Mithila  under  the  Karnata’. In  the  Indian
context  regional  history  has  significance  as
India has always been a sub-continent, a vast
geographical entity  with a variety of cultures,
religions  and  languages.  “Each  fragment  of
this  vast  land  mass  has  fostered  a  unique
culture of its own”. Regional history in India is
a far more complex and absorbing subject than
in any other country of the world because often
a particular region has a distinct identity of its
The present study does not permit to put
all findings related to the reconstruction of the
history of the region of Santal Paragnas (best
be renamed as Upper Mandar, a principality or
small  kingdom  of  7th  century  A.D.,  which
incorporated  almost  the  same  geo-political
boundary  of today’s  santal Paragnas  and its
surroundings),  the  use  of  a  specific  geocultural term, ‘The Vaidyanatheshwar Kshetra’
as  cited  above,  to  denote  this  entire  area
leaves no doubt that this is a specific ‘Region’
since the early medieval period. The region of
Santal  Paragnas,  forms  a  separate  geo--10- Anusandhanika / Vol. IX / No. I / January 2011
cultural entity from the very beginning, at least
from the 7th  century A.D. The importance of
Baidyanath lingam as one of the important 12
jyotirlingams  and  one  of  the  famous  Shakti
pithas  called  Chitabhoomi,  mentioned  in  the
list of the  Shakta  Pithas named hardaPitha,
indicates about the historicity of this ‘Region’.
1.  Jha Amar Nath, Locating the Early History
of Santal Paragnas, Paper  presented in
Ancient India Section of the 70th session
of All India History Congress, University of
Delhi, Delhi
2.  The Imperial Gazetteer of India, Vol. XXII,
p 78
3.  Chakrabarti D. K., Archaeology of Eastern
India, Munshiram Manoharlal, New Delhi,
1993, p 98
4.  Jha Amar Nath Jha, op. cit
5.  Chakrabarti D. K. , op.cit
6.  Ibid
7.  Sinha B. P., Dynastic History of Magadh,
Abhinav  Publications,  New  Delhi,  1977,
p 158
8.  Ibid
9.  Ibid
10.  Sinha B. P.,  op. cit., p159
11.  Sinha B. P., op. cit., pp. 158-159
12. Shree Shree Vaidyanath Jyotirlinga
Vangmay,  Hindi  Vidyapeetha  Deoghar,
2009, p 258
13.  Sinha  C.  P.  N.,  Presidential  Address,
Section  I,  PIHC,  55th  Session,  Aligarh,
1994, p18
14. Jha  Surendra,  Synthesis  of  Budhist,
Shaiva  and  Shakta  Tantras,  Pratibha
Prakashan, New Delhi, 2009, p 15
15.  Ibid
16. Sircar  D.  C.,  J.A.I.H.  Vol.  1-2,  1972-73,
p 46
17. Shree Shree Vaidyanath Jyotirlinga
Vangmay, op. cit., p 258
18. Sinha Ajay Kumar, The Santal Paragnas
through  the  Ages.  (I  could  not  find  any
book  of  this  writer  on  Santal  Paragnas.
However I have a printed article with the
above title with me.)
19.  Ibid
20.  Ibid
21.  Ibid
22.  Ibid
23. Chaudhary Radhakrishna, The University
of  Vikramasila,  Bihar  Research  Society,
Patna, 1975, p. 31, Cf. R. Sankrityayana,
Tibet Me Baudhadharma, p 42
24. Ghosh Amartya, PIHC: 53 Session, 1992-
93, pp 79-81
25. Shree Shree Vaidyanath Jyotirlinga
Vangmay, op. cit., pp 262-263
26. We do not have any further evidence to
corroborate this, except the District
Census  Hand  Book  (Santal  Pagnas),
1961, Cf. S. Narayan, The Sacred
Complexes  of  Deoghar  and  Rajgir,  New
Delhi, 1979, p 5
27. As per the versions of the local people of
Deoghar,  Kala  Pahar  had  attacked  the
Baidyanath Temple in 1565, but could not
destroy  it.  Thus,  he  became  revengeful
and set the said old fort/settlement of the
present Jhaunsa Garhi to fire and burnt it
28. Chakrabarti D.K., op. cit.
29. Shree Shree Vaidyanath Jyotirlinga
Vangmay, op. cit., p 277
30. I have been told about this practice by Mr.
Harafu, the surviving descendent of Data
Saheb Faquir and also by the Priests of
the temple
31. Chanda  R.,  Gauda-Rajmala,  p.p.  69-71,
cf. J. C. Jha, Migration and Achievements
of  Maithila  Panditas,  Janaki  Prakashan,
New Delhi, 1991
32.  Ghosh Amartya, Op. cit
33.  Jha J. C., op. cit., p 30-11- Anusandhanika / Vol. IX / No. I / January 2011
34. Jha J. C., op. cit
35.  Jha J. C., p. 31
36.  Ibid
37. Ghosh Amartya, PIHC: 53 Session, 1992-
93,  pp.79-81.  Also  see  J.  N.  Sarkar,
History  of  Bengal,  Vol.II,  Calcutta,  2003
(reprint), p 459
38.  Sinha  C.  P.  N.,  Sectional  Presidential
Address  (Ancient  India),  Proceedings,
IHC: 55th Session, 1994, p19
39. Jha Amar  Nath  Jha, Migration  of Maithil
Brahmanas to Santal Paragnas,
Anusandhanika  / Vol.VIII /  No. II /  July
2010, pp 184-189
40. Ibid
41. Das  R.K.,  Principal,  Kendriya  Vidyalay,
Suratgarh, Rajasthan who is also a native
of  the  village  Navadih  (near  Rohini)
Deoghar  district  of  Jharkhand,  provided
me  this  extremely  important  information
which  was  subsequently  confirmed  by
investigating other sources
42. Selection from political writings, 1921-26,
London,  1976,  pp.458-462.  Cf.  C.  P.  N.
Sinha, Sectional Presidential Address, op.
43.  Subbarao B. , The personality of India: Pre
and Proto History of India and Pakistan,
Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda,
44. Pandey M. S., The Historical Geography
and Topography of Bihar, Motilal
Banarasidas, Delhi, 1963
45.  Sinha  C.  P.  N.,  Presidential  Address,
Section  I,  PIHC,  55th  Session,  Aligarh,
46. Ibid
47. Ibid
48. Sinha C. P. N., Mithila Under the Karnatas,
Janaki Prakashan, Patna, 1979, preface
49. Ibid
50. Ibid

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