Indigenous faith and bhoomi puja

Dear Editor,
This is in response to the article published in your esteemed daily on 7 December, 2019, with the title, ‘Is koson the same as bhoomi puja?’ by Zilpha Modi.
First of all, we need to know what bhoomi puja is all about. It is a Hindu ritual wherein bhoomi (earth) is considered the mother of all that exists. She is patience personified. So, before raising a building or tilling the land for agriculture or bringing a change in Mother Earth, we seek permission and forgiveness for our actions that disturb the equilibrium of Mother Earth. The Vedas have special sutras and hymns to appease the various energies residing in the space. The priest chants the Veda sutras to nullify and bad effects and to bring peace and prosperity.
Now we, the tribal people, always live in symbiosis with nature; our cultures, faiths and traditions have been driven by nature, so praying and appeasing the nature gods and goddesses along with the sun and the moon have been our tradition since our evolution as a human beings. We have been praying in forms of rituals to Mother Earth in various ways and means for various purposes, and the rituals we perform before raising our house, tilling land/jungle for agriculture, and settling down in new places are called Namdi Dinam/Moying Hingnam in Nyishi, Asi-Among Koson in Adi, Ambin Rukanam in Galo, Amchook Soonam in Tagin, and Piichi in Apatani, wherein our priests seek permission, forgiveness and pray for peace and prosperity through chanting hymns, and in return we offer eggs, fermented millets, ginger and sometimes chicken as a symbolic exchange with mother and nature.
Hence, though the methodology and ingredient used in bhoomi puja and our abovementioned rituals may differ, their essence and value is exactly same. Likewise, there are many such Hindi and English words which don’t hold the exact meaning after translation, but we go by the nearest possible meaning for better understanding and convenience.
Unfortunately, it has been painted in many ways, alleging that it has been influenced by the RSS and Hinduism. In fact, we indigenous faith believers are safer with the RSS; we should be grateful to them that at least they encourage us to uphold our roots and identity and honour our ancestors, unlike others who teach and preach to hate our ancestors and to give up our faiths and believe, thereby drifting away from the roots.
In every religion the symbols and methods may differ, but the values are always the same, and we, the believers in indigenous faiths, always believe in this philosophy, which is the essence of our culture. We believe in the inclusiveness and oneness through culture and faiths. The ethics and ethos of the tribal culture is that we never differentiate and alienate others on the basis of religion and culture; rather, we look for resemblances and rejoice them.
Therefore, in Pasighat, during the foundation stone laying ceremony of the Donyi Polo Khumko, organized by the IFCSAP and the Donyi Polo Cultural & Charitable Trust (DPCCT), the ritual performed was coined as bhoomi pujan, since the five tribes of the Abo Tani clan – Adi, Apatani, Galo, Nyishi and Tagin – though they have similarities in ritualistic values, due to geographical variations over the period of time have developed different terminologies for the same thing. Hence, for better and common understanding of all the tribes, the bhoomi pujan name was given. So it is unfortunate to see people making so much out of it; this is nothing but a western mindset which believes in division, differentiation and alienation. It is farcical that the person who walks, talks and eats Hindi finds it obnoxious when it is used for cultural and religious purposes. This mindset is dangerous for peace, harmony and coexistence in the society.
Yours sincerely,
Pai Dawe,
President, NIFCS