Most of the festivals prevalent among the low-caste Hindus
are either associated with the worship of 'Shakti' or Shiva It is believed
to have grown out of the mass religious culture of the people under the
spell of Tantrism in the remote past. One such festival is Hingula Yatra
or "Patua Yatra".
There is a popular belief among the local people that on this day of "Visuba Sankranti" Goddess 'Hingula' appears and propitiation to Her removes all evil forces. She is worshipped in the village street on Her imaginary stride to the village. Offering to Her includes spitted new cloth, 'Pana' (sweet-water), butter lamp and green mangoes.
In remote villages this festival is observed with much austerity. Those who observe fasting, especially women are called 'Osati'. Prior to the day of worship the fasting worshippers (mostly men) move from village to village with the sacred-pitcher symbolising the Goddess. Their religious procession is always accompanied by singing and dancing. These worshippers are called 'Patuas'.
The man who dances with the holy-pitcher on his head wears a black skirt, a red blouse and a long piece of black cloth tightly covering the head and having equal length on both sides to flow. While dancing, the Patua holds the ends of the cloth and moves them artistically with stretched arms in perfect harmony to the rhythmic pattern. Sometimes he dances on the stilts and performs difficult 'Yogasanas' balancing on the head, the staff that holds the holy-pitcher (Ghata). A big brass bell played with a cane-stick provides various peculiar rhythms. Sometimes country drums are also played.
Various Types of Patuas
The head of the patuas is called 'Bada-Patua' or 'Katha Patua'. All the Patuas observe fasting on this day. In the afternoon they assemble near a tank or river where all the rituals take place. The priest performing the rites is always a non-Brahmin known as 'Jadua' or 'Dehuri'. During the rituals men, women and children of the villages congregate.
The surrounding reverberates with auspicious 'Hulahuli' (a shrill sound made by wagging the tongue inside the mouth) and 'Hari Bol' cheers of men. Then, sharp iron hooks are pierced through the skins on the back of the Patuas. During this ceremony the morale of the Patuas are boosted through holy cheers of the onlookers and they themselves loudly continue singing in praise of "Hingula" or "Mangala".
In some areas "Jhamu Yatra" is organised. Persons observing 'Brata' or vow in honour of the deity walk on thorns and on the bed of live charcoal amidst holy cheers and loud drumming. Those who walk on fire are known as 'Nian Patua' ('Nian' for fire) and those on thorns are called 'Kanta Patua' ('Kanta' for thorn).
Some worshippers stand on edged swords and are carried on open palanquins. They are caned 'Khanda Patua' ('Khanda' for sword). Some of them show some feats in deep water. They are called 'Pani Patuas' ('Pani' for water). Especially all these festivals are celebrated a Shiva or Shakti Shrine. Therefore, scholars are of opinion that these rituals, of inflicting injury to the persons by the devotees are related to the Tantra culture. By doing these they try to draw the kind attention of the God or Goddess whom they seek to propitiate.