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Bhagoria Festival – A Quintessential Illustration of Swayamvara

Johan Huizinga has emphasized about the importance of safeguarding the coveted cultural features in his famous quote-  “If we are to preserve culture, we must continue to create it”. The Bhagoria festival illustrates similar mindset in the tribal residents of the ‘Heart of India’.

The very celebration of this festival in different parts of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra signifies the willingness of the community to protect the ancient cultural traditions of the region. They deserve immense appreciation for upholding their cultural identity by continuing the age-old practices despite the enormous changes in the modern society.

About the Festival

The festival of colors is celebrated by the tribal community of Madhya Pradesh in a quite unique way. The major tribes that are involved in the zealous celebration of this festival include the Bhil, Bhilala and Pateliya. The celebration begins seven days prior to Holi. The most popular location for the celebration is Jhabua. The most convenient way to reach there is by undertaking a three and half hour journey by road from Indore. Road travel is necessary for reaching there due to the absence of a railway station at Jhabua.

Exploring the culture of Madhya Pradesh

Significance of the Festival

The localites point out towards two major perspectives related to this festival. One perspective suggests that this celebration reflects the end of the harvesting. Since, agriculture holds tremendous importance in the state , this perspective establishes a direct link between the agriculturally dominated economy and the thoughtful celebration to signify the completion of the harvesting season.On the other hand, the second perspective reveals a quite distinctive reason underlying the enthusiasm associated with this festival.It suggests that Bhagoria festival provides a prominent platform to the youngsters to express their heartfelt feelings towards each other at this festival.

Bhagoria Festival

Decipher the meaning of Bhagoria

The term “Bhagoria” emanated from a word in Hindi language- “Bhag” which means running away. In the tribal culture of Madhya Pradesh, this relates to an astonishing practice wherein the boys elope with the girl of their choice. Therefore, this festival is also called the match making festival. All of us have come across the mythological tale about the splendid wedding of Lord Ram and Goddess Sita as a result of the Swayamvara. Therefore, this festival is an exciting opportunity for all of us to witness this unique practice in reality. Swayamvara was an ancient practice wherein a girl of a marriageable age would choose her groom upon the desired completion of a pre decided task. The Bhagoria festival is a modified form of an ancient practice of ‘Svayamvara’.

The Beginning

There are multiple stories related to the origin of this unique festival. One story suggests that this distinctive matrimonial tradition commenced with the wedding of Bhav and Gauri who were none other than the mythological dieties- Lord Shiva and Parvati. Another story reveals about an initiation of an unique practice during the rule of King Bhagore. When he established his kingdom over this region, he permitted his army to elope with the woman with whom they wish to marry. This practice led to this tradition which led to continuation of this practice.

The entire atmosphere of the Bhagoria haat is similar to those Melas ( fun filled carnivals) shown in the Bollywood movies!! All of you would resonate with this fact by just witnessing this festival once. The additional incentive for all the visitors of the haat is the enriching experience of the tribal culture which is quite prominent at Madhya Pradesh. This festival also has an agricultural importance as the timing of this event coincides with the end of the harvesting season.

Glimpses of Ancient Cultural Practices

Key activities at the festival-

  • Fun Rides for adults as well as children
  • Lahari” dance performed by the youngsters from the Bhil tribe
  • Beautiful handcrafted dolls from Jhabua
  • Stalls with variety of heavy silver jewellery
Fun Rides at the Bhagoria Festival (Credits- gettyimages.in)

Glimpses of the Match Making Festival

During this festival, the boy applies color to the girl with whom he desires to spend his life. The girl can reciprocate with the same color if the feelings are mutual between them. The most praiseworthy fact pertaining to this ritual is that it does not involve any kind of coercive behavior from the boy towards the girl. Rather, it involves friendly exchange of feelings between the boy and girl. This also reflects a liberal mindset of the community towards establishing the matrimonial relationships.

A tribal woman adorning silver jewellery at Bhagoria Festival(Credits gettyimages.in)

So, what are you waiting for??? Block the dates on the calendar and head towards the heart of India to witness an enthralling experience of a modern version of an ancient practice of swayamvara and that too in a tribal festival!! Go ahead, an amazing cultural experience is waiting for you!!

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