Dalit People celebrate 04 August every year as the Festival of Mother Earth whom they call Booshakthi. The Festival originated in Tumkur District as part of the declaration of this Millennium as Ambedkar Era. The leaders of the Dalit Panchayat Movement supported by REDS took more than four years to arrive at the idea of creating alternative to Hindu Festivals. It is not enough to say that we are not Hindus, not Christians, not Muslims, Not Buddhists. We Dalits are Dalits. It is also important to show an alternative path of religion to our Dalit people who need symbols that will meaningfully reflect their life.
We went back into the history of Dalits. There is a myth that Adijambava, the great ancestor of Dalits was holding the earth in his hands three months before the universe came into existence. We researched into the cultural dimension of Dalit life and found that in the pre-Aryan period the Adijan who are now known as Dalits (a misnomer) had fertility cult centered around the worship of Earth as Mother. This also gave primacy to women in Adijan communities. Those indigenous communities who have not yielded to the onslaught of dominant religions are still retaining the worship of Mother Earth.
August 04 was happened to be the day when all Dalit leaders in the Movement decided to give up all dominant religions in their lives and celebrate the Festival of Mother Earth. We also designed the ceremonies based on Dalit traditions. The picture or statue of Booshakthi is placed on black wool adorned with neem leaves. We use Sambrani taken from the trees directly for smoke. We use only the local food as prasadam. As pooja is done Adijan Drums start reverberating in the background. We also have two special songs for the worship. We make it a point that the pooja is done by a woman preferably. On this festival day the entire community has a family worship in each home and prepare good eatables and if possible beef meal for lunch. Children are encourage to pester their parents and get new dress for the festival. In the evening the entire community assembles together to have pooja and wherever possible to also have community meal. We encourage our people to invite also the caste brothers and sisters to participate in our pooja and share a meal with us.
As Adijan people we believe that our life starts and ends with Mother Earth. We do not believe in life after death though we believe that our ancestors come back to live amidst us in the form of feeling and thinking waves. Booshakthi is the source of our strength. She has magnetic power and this power can enrich us by entering each and every cell in our body. She is the provider of eternal sustenance for us. She is our provider. She is resilience personified. She is inclusive to the extent of providing unlimited space to all people including those who mindlessly exploit her. She also becomes angry occasionally and strikes back in anger. We share life with this angry Mother. We are born once and we die just like all other living beings on earth. We belong to Earth and not the other way round. Therefore, we do not try to exploit Booshakthi. Instead we try to revolve around her movements and change. She has a cycle of producing life and we celebrate this life giving cycle of our Mother. When we are convinced that after we die we cannot even look back and see that we have died. When such is the case why do we try to dominate over others and establish our hegemony on other people as if we are going to live for ever? We become humble when we are convinced that we just have one and a very short life.
Adijan worldview is materialistic but is deeply spiritual. The energy we derive from Earth is her spirit. We celebrate that spirit on 04 August every year. Our people have been running after every other religion in search of dignity and prosperity. In the bargain they have never tried to discover their own ancient heritage of philosophy and spirituality. This is what we must do now if we have to build a bright future for our children. All dominant religions have exploited us. It is high time that we find our roots from the pre-Aryan times and assert ourselves as a people with our own specificity.
May Booshakthi bless us all.