The indigenous communities of the tea gardens in Sylhet celebrated their largest traditional festival, Karam Utshab, with a call for the enactment of a law to protect their tradition, culture, language and environment. The festival began on Thursday and concluded on Tuesday, at Khan Tea Garden under the Jayantapur upazila of Sylhet.
People from different districts attended the festival and performed their rituals. On the opening night, the community people, led by the chief, prayed under the ‘Holy Karam’ tree. They brought out a colourful procession, accompanied by dance, songs and traditional instruments. They paraded across different villages, to which they belong.
A discussion meeting, organised by Sujit Baraik, a resident of Khan Tea Garden, was also held on Monday night, where indigenous priest, Angat Baraik, led the festival. He said that young girls observed a fast from dawn to dusk, on the first day of the festival. During the afternoon of the fourth day, the youths went out from the village in a colourful procession to collect branches of the Karam tree from their vicinity. The girls took the branches back to their village, while the boys joined them to sing and dance.
At sunset, an altar was built, where they planted the branches of the Karam tree. Young men and women danced around the altar when the branches were being planted according to their ritual. Later, a puja began, where the priest recited verses explaining the significance of the festival. The event ended on Tuesday morning, through the immersion of branches of the Karam tree in the local canal.
AFM Zakaria, Head of the Anthropology Department in Shahjalal University of Science and Technology, attended the programme as the chief guest. He said that Karam Utshab is one of the major festivals celebrated by the tea gardens’ indigenous families. It is a way for them to express their affinity towards nature. However, the unique culture is on the verge of extinction. Zakaria claimed that the government should enact a law to protect the tradition, culture and language of the communities to preserve the heritage.