Saturday, September 19, 2020
Madhya Pradesh

Fairs and Festivals



Navanna

As soon as Diwali is over, the feast of Navanna is celebrated. It depends on the full ripening of corns; only then is the day for Navanna fixed.

In Bundelkhand, it is performed on the eleventh day after Diwali. On this day cows are fed with cakes prepared out of new corn. No one takes his food until this rite is done. The Gonds first of all perform offerings of green paddy to the Saj tree and then to Bhavani Mata Holera Dev (the cattle deity), Narayan Dev and Rat Mai (night mother), who is believed to live in the verandah of every house.

Chherta or Khichharahi

The festival of Chherta falls on the last day of the month of Pausa. The ploughmen cease their work on this day and all their accounts are settled as the succeeding day. i.e. the first day of the month of Magha. This day is considered to be the new year day for opening new accounts in Chhattisgarh. Fowls and goats are sacrificed and Karma is danced the whole night.

The Gond, the Bhumia, the Panka and even the non- Adivasi boys and girls of Mandla district celebrate this festival to conclude it with a grand feast. Groups of boys and girls are formed and they go shouting from house to house. The boys collect gifts from every house. Kondo or maize, grain, kutki and whatever received by them is mixed up in a pot and cooked at a nearby river or pond. The food prepared in such a way is called Khichhari. Hence the feast of Chherta has the name Khichharahi.

When the meal gets ready a boy or a girl is chosen to act as a crow. Some food is put on a leaf-platter and placed on the ground. Then the boy or the girl acting as the crow approaches it to take the leaf-platter. At that moment all the children rush at the crow and beat it with burning faggots. The crow angrily caws at them a few times and at the convenient moment snatches the leaf-platter and runs away. After that all children sit down and eat their meal from the leaf plates. Towards evening they all return home.

Meghnad

It is a festival of the Gond tribe, usually held within the first half of Phalguna. The dates for celebrating the festival are different at different places but all falling in the first fortnight of Phalguna. At some places, Meghnad is held in the month of Chaitra. The idea of having different dates to celebrate the festival is to facilitate people of one area to go and join the people of other villages before or after propitiating Meghnad at their own places.

Meghnad is believed by the Gonds to be their supreme deity. The celebration begins immediately after the Holi festival. The main structure symbolizing Meghnad consists of  a platform built on four poles. The fifth pole juts out through the platform and bears a horizontal beam easy enough to rotate freely in a circular fashion. The platform is reached through a ladder made by two connecting poles of the platform itself with wooden rafters. The structure is generally painted with red ochre and oil. All sorts of things like earthen pots with motif designs, turmeric paints, coloured strings, cock's feathers and mixed sounds are experienced in the milieu. This gives the feelings of a puja being performed. The whole structure of the Meghnad represents the Khandera Dev of the tribe. Meghnad is mainly a tribal festival.

 In times of illness the people of Chhindwara remember Khandera Dev. They also remember him for bumper crops. Vows are made. Promises are uttered to offer so and so on the fulfillment of the desired things. When actual ritual is arranged coconuts, eggs, chickens and goats are ordinarily offered. Propitiators very often climb five steps of the ladder and thereby carry out the vow of Panch-Patoni. In serious troubles, they undertake the risk of swinging in the air by getting themselves tied by the waist, face downward, to one end of the revolving beam. A man on the ground holds the rope attached to the beam and moves around the structure, which is usually forty to forty-five feet in height.

 As the ritual is the central attraction of the occasion, the gathering provides an atmosphere of a village fair with songs and rhythmic beats of drums and cymbals. Women get possessed by the spirit of the god Khandera and start trembling near the Meghnad platform.

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