It feels as if time slows down suddenly . The Lush paddy green fields look like a large sheet of green carpet well spread across the miles. The sound of the chirping birds and the breathtaking waterfalls from far off creates the rhythm in the surrounding . The earthy smell of soil is enticing. As one goes deep into the mysterious forest , you are welcomed by these beautiful tribal communities with a big smile . Welcome to Bastar –The Tribal Planet of India.
Bastar is a well kept secret of Chhattisgarh. A treasure of the myriad of wonders and undiscovered surprises , Bastar flaunts with dense forests, kanger valley national park, caves, waterfalls , colourful festivals , exquisite handicrafts and incredibly simple tribal people with their rich cultural heritage. Home to almost 40 tribal communities, Bastar is popularly known for Bison Horn Maria, Abhuj Maria, Muria, Bhatra, Dhurva, Halba, Dorla, and Gadba tribal communities. The Bastar region starts from the Kanker district, though the tribal settlement starts beyond Keshkal valley which leads to Kondagaon and Narayanpur.
It’s a fact that Chhattisgarh is still not considered as one of the popular tourist places in India. Until and unless, you experience this jewel in the heart of India, you will never imagine what you have been missing in this land of mysteries. My recent trip to Chhattisgarh openeda completely new world for me. A world which is not only rich with cultural history, but a timeless land of pristine natural beauty, center of art and culture and a wonderland of Tribal communities. A state which has so much to offer that you cannot ignore any aspect of this surprised land .
The glimpse of the local tribal culture can be seen in the weekly Haat in Bastar.
I was fascinated by every step I was taking in the state . But what made me spellbound was the tribal culture of Bastar. My first meeting with the tribal of Bastar happened when I visited the weekly Haat ( market ) .These weekly Haats are places of recreations, social interactions and business as well.
The weekly Haat is a kind of marketplace where tribal people come from far off distances with their local products like vegetables , local drinks , toiletries , fried snakes etc to sell . It’s a lively place to be among the tribal people. I had some great time interacting with these lovely tribal women who were selling vegetables and also the local drink ,famously known as Mahua .
Interestingly , I got to know that Mahua drink is made of a flower called Mahua which grows in almost all the parts of Bastar .
Basically, these flowers are processed to make this drink. I was not shying away to try some Mahua drink from the tribal woman at the Haat. I must tell you it was intoxicating . Not only that , to my delight , I also witnessed the famous cockfight in the market which is considered a distinctive marker of Bastar’s tribal cultural identity. I was so mesmerized by the whole experience of meeting the tribal people in that short span of time that I decided to go deep into the forest to spend some time with the tribal community to have a sense of their primitive lifestyle.
So I visited the village called Mawlipadar in Bastar to experience the unique lifestyle of Dhurvaa tribe. As I was moving deeper into the forest, I was mystified by everything that was passing by. It was around 11.30 AM. I reached my destination. I was warmly welcomed by the family. The surprises started unfolding when I was asked to accompany by the head of the family to the forest to collect Red Ants to make the famous chutney called Chapura. I was thrilled to have that exclusive privilege to experience the rare opportunity. As I was walking towards the forest area I met few village women on their way back home. We exchanged smiles though we failed to understand each others language.
The beauty of traveling is that you go with some impressions about the particular place, but you always come back with a series of your own discoveries which are unparalleled in nature
I was impressed to see the man who was climbing the tree so easily that within a few minutes he was on top of the tree and collected the red ants.
As I was heading back to the village, I was accompanied by one of the most accomplished guides of Chhattisgarh named Awesh Ali, who is one of the best known people of Jagdalpur having a huge range of knowledge about the tribal communities of Bastar. While walking with him, I was introduced to a new world of discoveries , mysteries and unfolding realities of the tribal communities.
Tucked in the remote corners of India , these tribal communities still practice the ancient traditions and rituals .I was amazed to know their wedding rituals The whole process is unique in its nature. In the tribal communities in Bastar, the younger generation, specially the unmarried girls and boys are free to choose their life partners.
There is a place called Ghotul for Muria tribes which is an exclusive living space to find partners for themselves.
Interestingly , the young unmarried girls and boys visit Ghotul after they finish household work for the day. They meet , dance , sing and have that exclusive time to know each other. It is said that man and woman dress themselves to their finest to have the romantic possibilities in Ghotul. Women are dressed up with their colourful attire along with the traditional jewelry , headgear and add to their beauty, the Muhua flowers to their hairdo. They spend the night in the Ghotul which give them a free space to know each other . Once they decide their prospective groom and bride , they come back to home and inform their respective parents, which eventually leads to marriage. It’s a great sense of liberation. The kind of independence they practice in the deep forest is simply outstanding.
According to the tradition, the parents of the young girls and boys have to send their children to Ghotul. In case they don’t send their children , they have to pay a fine in forms of Mahua drink , some rice or may be a goat etc. Not only that , I was surprised when I got to know that there is a system called “ Reverse Dowry “ where, unlike the traditional dowry system in India , here it is the groom’s family who has to give dowry to the bride’s family. Here Dowry does not mean the expensive material gains , rather the household things like Rice , Goat , Mahua flowers or may be local drinks etc. I was spellbound .
Tattoo is one of the most important parts of Cultural Identity of Tribal Communities In Bastar
Interestingly , another most important part of their cultural identity is the tattoo. Each tribe has their own distinct tattoo art which makes it easier to identify the community from each other. It is believed that the bride need to have tattoos on her body before the marriage. Traditionally, if a woman does not have tattoos , her parents have to pay a huge dowry to the groom’s family. The tattoos are not just considered as body art here , but it has a way deeper meaning to it. As they believe that though jewelry adds beauty to the bride , but they are temporary . It is the tattoo on the body which is considered permanent jewelry for a woman’s body. For them, tattoo is considered to be the only thing that a person can take along in the journey of the afterlife. According to their tradition , tattoos are essential for woman to gain entry into the heaven .
I was speechless. A community which is dated back from many centuries , completely untouched by time is practicing such a modern concept which is way beyond my imagination.
Being in the 21st century, educated people are nevertheless practicing the stereotype thinking about the establishment of marriage where communities like these which are far off from the light of modernization are practicing such a modernistic style of spirit is something unbelievable.
Bastar Dusshera is the longest festival of the world which goes for a long 75 days”
It is said that if you want to know a community better , you should always attend their festivals. Bastar is also known for its magnificent Bastar Dusshera which is the longest festival of the world. Bastar Dusshera goes for a long 75 days, which is a grand celebration of tradition, rituals , and the culture . Bastar Dusshera is celebrated in honor of the local deity “ Shri Danteshwari Mai “ which was started almost 800 years back
The whole Jagdalpur comes to live with vibrant colours and different cultural activities. In the 17th Century , It was under the reign of king Dalpat Dev,that Dusshera started being celebrated in Jagdalpur and since then it is also known as Jagdalpur Dusshera . The king encouraged the tribal communities to participate in the festival and since then all the tribal communities in Bastar actively participate in the festival. Even Today, the king of Bastar is considered to be the highest priest to the Danteshwari Maa temple who performs all the rituals in the temple during Dusshera . The highlight of the festival is the “ Rath Yatra” wherein 8 and 4 wheels chariots are decked with flowers and the chariot is being pulled around the town along with the procession. It’s a sheer Visual treat. The last day of the Dusshera is called “Bahar-Rainy” in their local language.
Interestingly, the chariot is made by local tribal craftsmen who are based in the two main villages called Jhar-umad and Beda-umad.
Almost 140 tribal craftsmen from these two villages have been making the chariot every year for the Bastar Dusshera from over 600 years.
And time slipped through my fingers without my knowledge . Sitting in the house with the family , seeing their daily life and experiencing the lifestyle of the tribal people in person was those rare moments which will always remain special in the corner of my heart .
I was overwhelmed when I was served with the local delicacies by the Dhurvaa tribe family. I could not have asked for more than this when I sampled their authentic Bhat ( Rice ), Daal and Amath.
I was floored by the hospitality of the people. And the experience of having a meal with the family in a leafy plate and bowl which are made from the leaf of Saal trees was truly a singular experience.That was not the end. To my absolute delight , I experienced the Geri dance performance by the Muria Tribe in Chitrakote .
Dressed in their ethnic wear with the silver jewelry , girls were looking gorgeous . But what took my attention was , when the Muria boys started dancing in rhythm with the music on the stills. Later, I got to know that People used to walk on stilts to avoid being bitten by snakes in the forest and it has developed into a tribal dance.
A beautiful ending to my day in Bastar.
From meeting tribes of Bastar in their weekly Haat, sampling the most authentic tribal delicacies in a Dhurvaa tribe house, walking deep in the forest to collect red ant to knowing about the lifestyle of the tribal communities in Bastar in person was a rewarding experience. I was not only introduced to a new world of fascinating cultures , but a world which is primitive yet so modern in many ways. Bastar is undoubtedly a compelling destination which is yet to be explored. Bastar proudly upholds a deep rooted ancient way of tribal life that can’t be found anywhere else in India.
More Information about Chhattisgarh
Upcoming Festivals: Sirpur International Dance Festival & Bastar Dussehra (Not To be missed)
- Hareli Eco Resorts, Mohda
- Hiuen Tsiang Tourist Resort , Sirpur
- Dandami Luxury Resort , Chitrakote
Chhattisgarh is a completely safe place to travel. Kindly erase the per-fixed notion about this beautiful Destination.
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