Every year, as September ends, a smell of festivity lingers in the air in Eastern India. The region, especially Bengal, is awash with anticipation of the arrival of Maa Durga. But for one small group of people, it is not a time for celebration but of mourning. Read on to find out.

At the same time when everyone around them is caught-up in a celebratory mood, a group of tribals in Jharkhand, parts of Odisha and western borders of West Bengal (mainly Purulia dist.) observe martyrdom of Hudur-Durga – their name for Mahishasura.

While for most of us, Mahishasura is the ultimate villain, the demon king who is hell bent on destroying everything good on this earth, for this dwindling group who claim to be descendants of the demon king, he is the ultimate tragic hero.

On all four days of Durga Puja, these people perform the Dansai dance – a story-telling effort to reclaim the heritage / prestige they lost in that mythical war when their superiority was usurped in an unfair war.

On Ram Navami / MahaNavami, they observe a day of sorrow when according to their beliefs, their great ancestor was felled by treachery of the Gods.

For the remnants of the Asura clan, Ravana – the Lanka king from Ramayana – is a descendant of Mahishasura and viewed in equal parts a wronged hero just like his ancestor.

In many ways, the mourning of the fall of Mahishasura (and Ravana) by these tribal communities reflect the clashes between Aryan and indigenous/Dravidian communities. It is said that history is written by the victor and the Asura clan truly believe in this.

For them, their distant ancestors lost in a battle of survival against more powerful and advanced arrivals from the sub-continent’s north-western borders, leading to their portrayal as the villains of the plot.

Without getting into a debate of right or wrong, the story, customs and rituals of the Asura clan is a fascinating insight into the land of diversity that is our nation – the differences that do not divide but define us.

Any forced attempt at assimilation will only kill off our rich anthropological history and if it happens, it will be a sad day for India.

We certainly hope and pray that such a day does not arrive and all such differing world or religious views continue to thrive in our great land.