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Last Updated: May 17, 2007 - 8:46:52 AM
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Holi brings love - and elopement - for Bhil tribals
Mar 3, 2007 - 9:35:09 AM
'The better the crop, the better the dowry. These days, however, it is really low - between Rs.40,000 and Rs.50,000 - because of a not-so-good crop this year,' said Deenu, a prospective groom.

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[RxPG] Bhopal, March 3 - Love, romance and even marriage is in the air for the Bhil tribals of Madhya Pradesh as Holi approaches. For, just preceding the festival is the weeklong event of Bhagora Haat.

The 'haat', or country fair, is special for Bhils because that is the time when many of them look for soul mates. This year Holi is being celebrated March 4.

At the heart of the festival is the uninhibited mingling of the sexes, which men and women celebrate by dancing to the beat of dhols and thalis and the sweet melody of the shehnai and bansuri.

Bhagordev or the tribal god of dance is worshipped during the fare, which is celebrated at west Nimar and Jhabua districts. The most respected village elder presides over the ceremony and offers sweets to the god.

As the fragrance of tadi and mahua - intoxicate the ambience, tribal boys and girls gather from far and near in large numbers to choose their partners. They eat, drink, dance and elope, as elopement is an important precondition to their marriage.

Young men go around applying gulal - on the girls they like. If a girl reciprocates the sentiment then she too applies gulal and that is all the permission a young man needs to marry her.

The mutual exchange of paan or betel leaf also signals a declaration of love.

'The boy applies gulal on the girl's face and if she does the same then they move towards a lonely place in the deep forests for some moments of utmost intimacy and celebrate Holi in their own way,' said Digraskar, who himself chose his life partner at the Bhagora Haat.

The couples who run away as per the Bhagoria custom - 'bhag' means to elope - are then accepted in the Bhil society.

'A woman and a man who decide to elope soon come back to a tumultuous welcome and are pronounced man and wife by their elated families,' said Digraskar, who works as a supervisor at Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited -.

The festival provides an institutionalised framework for announcing the alliance publicly though in Hindu mythology the eight days preceding Holi, known as Holika Ashtak, are considered inauspicious for marriages or any good work.

The important thing is that unlike in most other cases, the boy here has to pay the dowry for his would be partner to her father.

The festival, which coincides with the end of the harvest season, is celebrated with even more gaiety if the crops are good.

'The better the crop, the better the dowry. These days, however, it is really low - between Rs.40,000 and Rs.50,000 - because of a not-so-good crop this year,' said Deenu, a prospective groom.

The changing times have also caught up with this quaint festival. Whereas earlier they would dress up in all their tribal finery, today the Bhil males wear shirts and trousers to the haat. Even the women have started applying lipstick and talc in a nod to modernity.

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