The Oraons belong to a group of people in India known as "tribals." As shown by Mahasweta Devi's story "The Hunt," what meanings does their annual hunt festival have for them? At the end of the story, has Mary acted in the festival's spirit?

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The Oraons have an annual festival called Janiparab, which is also known as the festival of justice. The festival involves hunting, and young healthy members of the community participate. What makes the festival unique is its inclusion of teenage girls and young women. In many other cultures, hunting is exclusive to males.

The hunt allows the female and male members of the tribe to socialize. More importantly, the hunt allows the young women to showcase their skills. In a sense, the festival symbolizes a rite of passage for young women in the same way a hunt is a rite of passage for a young man.

Mary, the protagonist of the story, is an independent and self-sufficient woman. She has her own tree grove, the fruits of which she sells. She owns a beloved machete, which has come to symbolize her industrious nature and self-reliance, because the machete is what she uses to chop off the fruits from the trees. She also uses it to fend off other villagers and the wealthy white men who want to take her trees. So, the machete has also come to symbolize her fierce spirit and how she has to figuratively and literally fight for her equality as a woman.

A wealthy logging contractor, Tehsildar, wants to wed Mary but is afraid of her strength. He realizes that the machete is the source of her power, so he takes it away from her.

When she joins the hunt, she has already proven her strength as a woman and as a person. She is obsessed with finding and killing a giant beast. At the end of the story, it is revealed that the beast was Tehsildar all along, who represents the patriarchal society of the wealthy white elite.

In this regard, Mary acts in the festival's spirit (i.e., proving her hunting skills and strength as a woman). but in a sense, she contradicts the festival's spirit by killing the men trying to control her life rather than intermingling with them.

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