In India, local religious life has often provided relief from the monotony and dominance of the great traditions. The cult of the Anga Devs, found mostly in Chhatisgarh’s Southern districts, is One such example. Each clan spread over several villages also has a clan god, called Anga Dev. An Anga Dev (anga means limb, and dev means God), made of wood hewn from a special tree, has the four well-rounded ends of two logs as limb and a plank joining the two logs in the center at its body. Carried on the shoulders of four men, each bearing a limb. It is supposed to take on a life of its own, and direct worshippers whichever way it wills.
The deity is looked after by a priest or a pujari, and several deities are often under the care of a senior priest or gainta. The primary role of the deity is that of inquest. Any serious question troubling the community -illness, theft, prospects of rainfall, general misfortune- are brought to the deity who, by an act, indicates the direction that should be taken. Sometimes the deity speaks through a shaman or sirha.
Interestingly enough, during certain occasions like madais (travelling fairs), the powers of Anga Devs are tested. If an Anga is found lacking enough power, he is replaced. In this case, the gold or silver ornament which is believed to house the soul of the existing Anga is removed and put in the newly-made replacement.
Anga Devs from different localities from a network of deities, and are taken to be related to each other as brothers. Each of them while sharing some basic traits with the others has a peculiarity or idiosyncrasy that position in the pantheon. Further, they sometimes customarily congregate in the temple of a superior non-anga god or goddess where stock is taken to a well-being and activities In a typical assembly of this sort, like in the Bangaram temple in Keshkal, not h=just a melee of Angas, pujaris,gaintas and sirhas but also regular village folk seeing their ware and enjoying their outing. The event resembles a fair with a lot of colour and festivity.
With the emergence of Hindu Kingdoms in the Bastar region, the tribal cult of the Anga devs was reworked by these states and their local clients to bind tribal people to their Rajput rulers. In Kanker, the king was understood to be a dev himself, and the first among all the Anga Devs. were called to the place, to meet and pay mutual respect to each other, and then, sent back to their areas to keep the ruler’s peace.
Post -Independence the cult of the Anga devs has worked. yet, communitarian requirements and nostalgia for tradition has kept the cult alive in its rudiments. Even today, many believe in the powers of the deity. As such an entire economy of people, goods, faith and culture still exists around the Anga Devs. To many others, however, the cult is an anachronism and has museum value.