TNN | Feb 22, 2014, 12.21 PM IST

BHAWANIPATNA: It’s festive time for Dongria Kondhs, living on Niyamgiri Hills at Lanjigarh inKalahandi district. They started their three-day annual worship on top of the mountain, about 3 km from the foothills, on Friday.The Kondhs shot into limelight for their prolonged opposition to proposed mining of Niyamgiri Hills by Vedanta Aluminium Limited (VAL).

Hundreds of Kondhs from Kalahandi and Rayagada are celebrating the festival by dancing and singing traditional songs followed by sacrificing of hens, pigs and buffaloes. This time the recent rejection of forest clearance for Vedanta‘s bauxite mining project by Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) has added to the joy.

Kumuti Majhi, president of Niyamgiri Surakhya Samiti, which spearheaded the anti-Vedanta stir, said their efforts to save the hills have finally yielded results. “Our prayers to dharni penu (Niyam raja) have been answered and now we can live in peace.”

They are praying the nature god for betterment of their lives. In the morning, the tribals erected a wooden pillar, ‘khamba basa’, on the hilltop. Then they made a temporary temple of clay and started worshipping the deity known as ‘dharni penu’. The worship will continue till Sunday amid lighting of bonfires.

The MoEF rejected the forest clearance for Vedanta’s project in January. Twelve gram sabhasheld in Kalahandi and Rayagada last year had vetoed the mining proposal. The Supreme Courthad empowered the gram sabhas to decide on the project.

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