A time to elope among Bhil tribals

March 6th, 2009 - 12:01 pm ICT by IANS  

Bhopal, March 6 (IANS) Elopement is not frowned upon at this time of the year among the Bhil tribals of Madhya Pradesh. The colourful seven-day Bhagoria festival that precedes Holi is a celebration of romance during which young people are encouraged to elope with their soul mates.

This is the time when in village after village of West Nimar and Jhabua regions of Madhya Pradesh, young men and women gather in large numbers. They take part in the festivities, during which they decide if there is someone they want to elope with.

“The boy applies gulaal on the girl’s face and if she reciprocates they elope,” said Digraskar, who had also chosen his life partner during an earlier Bhagoria festival.

An exchange of paan (betel leaf) also signals a declaration of love.

“A woman and a man who decide to elope soon come back to rousing welcome and are pronounced man and wife by their families,” added Digraskar, who goes by one name.

“Here, the boy here has to pay the bride price for his would-be partner to her father. Nowadays it is between Rs 50,000 and Rs.75,000,” said Babu Shah, a prospective groom.

Nowadays, many villagers from this part of the country migrate in search of work. But this is one time of the year when they try their best to get back to their villages for one of the most important festivals on their calendar.

The festival, which coincides with the end of the winter harvest season, was earlier also a platform for resolving old disputes. It assumes an additional splendour if the crops have been good.

Apart from eloping, it is a time to dance and to feast. Most men put on bells to dance to the tune of flutes and drums while the women sing. At the seasonal markets set up in many villages, youngsters enjoy rides in swings and merry-go-rounds.

(Sanjay Sharma can be contacted at sanjay.s@ians.in)

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