Tribals’ Unique Festival: Bhagoria
(हिंदी मूलपाठ के लिए कृपया पूर्ववर्ती पोस्ट पढ़ें)
I was posted in Nimar in West Madhya Pradesh in 2002-03. It has unique culture and traditions that attracted me a lot, but the most unique is the Bhagoria festival, a festival of gaiety and love, in which the colors of tribal folk culture are easily discernible.
When, Where and by Whom
It is organized every day in different villages for seven days in March before Holi festival every year. It is mainly celebrated by the Bhil and Bhilala tribals of Khargone, Barwani, Dhar, Jhabua and Alirajpur districts of Madhya Pradesh.
A Unique Fair
Like a rural fair, sweets, snacks, icecream, ice balls, clothes, toys, utensils, fruits, vegetables, tattoos etc, everything are available at one place. Swings and various games are also there for entertainment. A large number of tribals also come to these fairs for purchasing necessary items for celebrating Holi festival.
A Colourful Celebration
In this fair, filled with music, dance and colours, tribal youths and girls roam in their traditional attires. The girls wear heavy silver ornaments and the young boys carry flutes. They are also seen doing their traditional ‘Lahri’ dance. Display of samples of tribal handicrafts and artwork, especially dolls made of cotton and cloths are a special attraction.
Origin of the Festival
It was started by the two Bhil kings Kasumar and Balun in their capital Bhagor during the period of King Bhoj. That’s why it is called Bhagoria. Some people believe that the first hero and heroine of this festival were Bhava and Gauri (Shiva and Parvati). Hence the name Bhagoria.
Courtship and Marriage
Another literal meaning of Bhagoria is to run away (in Hindi). During this festival, a tribal Bhil boy proposes to a Bhil girl of his choice. If it’s acceptable to the girl, both of them run away with the mutual consent and do not return until both the families agree to their customery marriage.
Types of A Proposal
When a young man likes a young woman, he applies gulal (red powder) on her face. If girl also agrees, she also applies gulal on the boy’s face. Similarly if a boy offers a girl a betel and the girl accepts and chews the betel, it is considered as her consent. There is no force applied by the boy, if the girl doesn’t accept the proposal.
I myself did not see this love episode, but I did see young men and women walking together chewng betel nuts. They normally move in groups, all girls, all boys or mixed ones.
Now some progressive and educated tribals don’t consider the festival as Valentine’s Week. They don’t accept the fact of marriage by elopement. They want to raise public awareness in their society by ending the prevalent undesirable practices like addiction to toddy consumption. This is definitely a good omen for the future.
But I feel that Bhagoria is a wonderful cultural festival of tribal gaiety and gender equality. It gives an opportunity to know each other and to forge fraternity and affinity. It’s spirit should be kept intact to maintain their special identity.