Ever heard of a festival where you are officially allowed to elope with your lover? Check this one out, guys. Held in the Jhabua district, the
Bhagoria is to the Bhils what the Madai is to the
Gonds - a festival of fun and joy.
It is held a week before the Hindu festival of colours, Holi. Men and women celebrate it with ritual dancing to the beat of drums and
thalis and the sweet melody of shehnai and bansuri (flutes).
Bhagoradev or the god of dance is worshipped on this occasion. The most respected village elder presides over the ceremony and offers sweetmeats to the god.
In a large number of cases the alliance is already made between the two, the festival providing the
institutionalised framework for announcing the alliance publically. 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
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.