For more than 100 years, the 9,000-odd villagers of this Jharkhand hamlet nestled by the Khanjo river have not celebrated Holi as they believe that the ghost of their former king will wreak havoc in the village if his diktat is not followed. As the story goes, Durgapur, about a century ago was ruled by king Durga Prasad, who loved to celebrate Holi. One year, he lost his son on the day of the festival and subsequently, whenever villagers organised a celebration, it was followed by a famine or epidemic that led to the deaths of several people.
Former mukhiya Amresh Kumar Mahto said, “Before his death, the king issued orders that his subjects should never celebrate Holi. Incidentally, the king also died on Holi while fighting a battle. For more than 100 years, we have not celebrated Holi. The villagers still accept the order and fear their king’s ghost.”
On the day of Holi, instead of colours, music and festivities, the streets of this village wear a deserted look. The villagers still believe that whoever celebrated Holi in Durgapur either died suddenly or suffered a long run of bad luck. So deep is the fear of the curse that even the people of neighbouring villages and other settlements do not smear colours on the villagers of Durgapur on Holi. A village priest said some fishermen came to Durgapur several years ago and breached the tradition and soon an epidemic broke out in the village. Some villagers, however, said that things have been changing over the years and youngsters were now allowed to move out of Durgapur and celebrate the festival in other hamlets in the vicinity.
“Those who want to celebrate Holi leave the village and enjoy themselves in relatives’ or friends’ places,” said a local.