Fare & Festivals

 
 
dances.jpgA Colourful Tradition

While the traditional religious festivals of the Hindus, Muslims and other communities are celebrated in Madhya Pradesh as enthusiastically as in the rest of India, it is the tribal fairs and festivals of Madhya Pradesh which are a celebration of the ethnic lifestyles of the colourful tribes of the land. The tribal festivals in Jhabua and Bastar are marked by carefree revelry, drinking bouts and exotic entertainment like cock-fighting, uninhibited dancing, etc. The casual visitor often fails to appreciate adequately the genuine and strong tradition of democracy in tribal society, the harmonious living with nature, the respected status accorded to women, the amicable sharing of the community resources.

Among the cultural festivals of Madhya Pradesh, the Khajuraho Festival of Dances and the Tansen Music Festival in Gwalior are poignant celebrations of Indian classical dance and music.

Bhagoria Haat - Jhabua

This colourful festival of the Bhils and Bhilalas, particularly in the district of West Nimar and Jhabua, is actually in the nature of a mass svayamvara, a marriage market, usually held on the various market days falling before the Holi festival in March. As the name of the festival indicates, (bhag, to run), after choosing their partners, the young people elope and are subsequently accepted as husband and wife by society through predetermined customs . It is not always that boys and girls intending to marry each other meet in the festival for the first time. In a large number of cases the alliance is already made between the two, the festival providing the institutionalised framework for announcing the alliance publicly. The tradition is that the boy applies gulal, red powder, on the face of the girl whom he selects as his wife. The girl, if willing, also applies gulal on the boy's face. This may not happen immediately but the boy may pursue her and succeed eventually.

Earlier, the Bhagoria haat was also the place for settling old disputes; open invitations were sent to enemies for a fight in the haat. Bloody battles used to be quite common in the past but today police and administration do not allow people to go to the haat armed.

The Bhagoria haat also coincides with the completion of harvesting, adding to it the dimension of being an agricultural festival as well. If the crops have been good, the festival assumes an additional air of gaiety.

In the life of the Bhils and Bhilalas, Bhagoria is not merely one festival but in fact a series of fairs held one by one at various villages on their specific market days, commencing eight days before Holi.

Dussehra - Bastar

Celebrated by all Hindus of India on the tenth day after Navratri (September or October), Dussehra is celebrated as the day of Rama's victory over king Ravana, or as a day on which the Goddess Kali destroyed the buffalo-demon and liberated the world.

The Dussehra festival celebration at Jagdalpur is unique in its perspective and significance. It is a mixture of Hindu and tribal beliefs. To quote Grierson, "Primitive cults are influenced by Hinduism, but also react on it; and it seems to have been part of the policy of Bastar chiefs to identify themselves as much as they could with the religious life of their subjects, save those in the Abujhmar hills. Much of the long Dussehra ritual at Jagdalpur is celebrated from tribal ideas".

Another important feature of this festival is that an underlying spirit of participation, cutting across caste and creed, prevails. During the celebrations, along with Danteshwari Mai, representing the Hindu Goddess Durga or Kali, a number of lesser powers and tribal deities, some indigenous and others borrowed from Hinduism, are also worshipped.

Dussehra starts with worship at the temple of Kachhingudi, a local goddess. A seven year old girl of the weaver caste is chosen and ceremonially married to the priest of the shrine. This girl symbolizes the goddess. After a while she goes into a trance and is asked to grant the safe conduct of the celebration.

Another custom that is followed is that Halba family belonging to the subdivision, is enthroned in the Darbar Hall for the Navratri period. The Dussehra rath, chariot, is always pulled by Maria and Dhruva tribal. On the nineth day of Navratri, there is a puja in which nine unmarried girls are worshipped, fed and clothed; Brahmins are also fed. On this very day the chief also celebrates the Navakhani, new eating, ceremony, which is essentially a tribal ceremony. In Bastar and surrounding tribal areas the new crops cannot be eaten till the tribes, in particular amongst Marias, there is a Navakhani for almost each crop.

There is an interesting local version of the mythological episode of the sanyas, banishment to exile, of Rama, and his victory over the King Ravana. On the tenth day of the celebration the chief of Bastar is symbolically kidnapped, while asleep, by Murias to the Muria settlement of the village Kunharbokra. In the evening the kidnapped chief, seated on a huge rath is slowly taken towards the town. Bhatra tribals have a special role in this ceremony. Armed with bows and arrows they make way for the rath. The construction of the rath is always exclusively done by the Saoras every year. The iron nails used in the construction of the wooden rath are always made by Lohars, blacksmiths. The ropes for dragging the rath are prepared and supplied by the member of the Parja tribe. The construction of the rath is supervised by the Dhakada. Before using the rath for the ceremony it is always worshipped by the members of the Khaki caste. The girl who gets possessed in the temple of Kachhingudi Devi always comes from a weaver family. The musical band at the Kachhingudi Devi ceremony is always played by the same caste. In this way, the Bastar Dussehra is a Hindu festival deeply influenced by the local myths and religious beliefs as well as the customs of the tribals. 

Tansen Music Festival - Gwalior

Madhya Pradesh occupies a special position in the history of Indian music. The Gwalior gharana is among the most prominent arbiters of the classical style. Raja Mansingh's patronage of Dhrupad singers is well known.

A pillar of Hindustani classical music, the great Tansen, one of the 'nine jewels' of Akbar's court, lies buried in Gwalior. The memorial to this great musician has a pristine simplicity, and is built in the early Mughal architectural style. More than a monument, the Tansen Tomb is a part of Gwalior's living cultural heritage. It is the venue of the annual Indian classical festival held here in November-December. Renowned classical singers of the land regale audiences through five mesmerizing night-long sessions of the much-loved classical ragas.

Khajuraho Festival of Dances - Khajuraho

The Khajuraho Festival of Dances draws the best classical dancers in the country who perform against the spectacular backdrop of the floodlit temples every year in February/March. The past and the present silhouetted against the glow of a setting sun becomes an exquisite backdrop for the performers. In a setting where the earthly and the divine create perfect harmony - an event that celebrates the pure magic of the rich classical dance traditions of India. As dusk falls, the temples are lit up in a soft, dream-like ethereal stage. The finest exponents of different classical Indian styles are represented- Kathak, Bharatnatyam, Kuchipudi, Odissi, Manipuri, and many more.
 

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