Home Religion Feeding, Sharing and Devouring: Ritual and Society in Highland Odisha, India
Hundi or nisani
Hundi or nisani&9 refers to the deity of a village (people often speak of “village” hundi, ga hundi) and the local representation of the earth (bosmoti, dortoni, dorti mata). On the occasion of ritual activities at hundi, plowing and wounding the earth’s surface in general are forbidden, and once a year, the layers of earth within the shrine are renewed, after the rain has washed them away during the monsoon months. The earth and hundi as the earth’s local representation are conceived of as female, as was evident in Buda Sisa’s remarks; the term ga mata pita (“mother-father of the village”) is likewise common. In general, the ascription of gender to deities is variable and context-dependent, as other examples will also show.
Hundi is distinguished from all other village shrines by its position in the village, its construction, and the frequency of sacrifices. Hundi is located in the center of the village; all other shrines are found outside the village boundaries. The shrine consists of a mound of stones surrounding a hollow space closed with stone slabs. One or more stones protruding out of the earth are found within.   This construction is surrounded by a stone wall, and this inner area is entered only by the pujari and randan at sacrifices, so long as the tsoru is being cooked. Once it is ready, all other members of the Four Brothers take their places within this wall to eat tsoru; women are not permitted to enter. The other shrines most often consist only of an open surrounding wall with a megalithic monument and associated trees within.91 Three times a year, the pujari opens the hundi shrine, chickens and pigs are sacrificed, and tsoru is eaten at the shrine; hundi is thus venerated more often than any other deity.92
Hundi’s significance for the village consists in making the earth fertile and granting protection. Without this deity, no village can exist, it was often said; humans and animals would all die of illness, and nothing would grow in the fields. Hundi represents the territory, is oriented inward, and protects the village boun?daries. This shrine is therefore also referred to as a house (gor), in contrast to the yard (dand), that is, to the deity pat kanda outside the village boundaries.
Photo 5: The shrine of the village deity hundi
After the sacrifice for the village deity (on the “festival day” of the April festival), the shrine has again been closed. (The “door” is adorned with mango garlands.) The village sacrificer and the cook drink liquor together inside the wall that surrounds the shrine, largely undisturbed by the attention of the village's remaining inhabitants.
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