The Cultured Traveler – A column exploring the many miles of what South Asia has to offer.
Tribal life has always mesmerized me, be it the culture, food, dress, herbs, songs and dance. Recently, I got the unique chance to witness all the wonders of tribal culture at the three-day National Tribal Festival in Raipur, Chhattisgarh.
An Amalgamation of Different Cultures
Performances were presented by tribal dancers from 27 Indian states and six union territories. The festival also featured performers from seven other countries — Uzbekistan, Nigeria, Mali, Sri Lanka, the Kingdom of Eswatini (Swaziland), Palestine, and Uganda. Dancers from other countries were thrilled to see the steps of Indian dancers and presented their own countries’ culture through the dances. It was spectacular to see the postures, gestures and feelings, and beauty of the dancers.
Two Themes Were Main Attraction
Competing for a reward of five, three, and two lakh rupees, the participating tribal groups exhibited the best of the culture through dance performances on wedding ceremonies, traditional festivals, and rituals, social dances like harvest dance, among others.
The dance forms in the wedding ceremony category featured Gour Sing from Chhattisgarh, Karma from Madhya Pradesh, Dhimsa from Andhra Pradesh, Gojari from Jammu & Kashmir, Kadsa from Jharkhand, Guryaballu from Andhra Pradesh, among others.
The dance forms in the category of traditional festivals and rituals featured Karma from Chhattisgarh, Gussadi Dhimsa from Telangana, Urav from Jharkhand, and Sidi Goma from Gujarat.
Team Jharkhand won in both categories, winning cash prizes of 10 lakh rupees. Team Odisha was the runner-up in both categories, while team Assam won the third slot in the wedding dance category and team Chhattisgarh won the third position in the traditional dance category.
Karma dance is Chhattisgarh’s most famous tribal dance form. During the performance, karma dancers gather around a tree while swaying and singing to the beats of drums. They worship trees and still follow this tradition. In Bastar district of Chhattisgarh, the Gaur Sing dance of the Muria tribe carries on a culture of obeisance to the environment.
Live Showcase Area
Apart from the colorful dances, stalls were put to exhibit the tribal work. At Shilpagram, a craft market for local and tribal handicrafts, textile designers, jewelry designers displayed their tribal-inspired work.
One of the major highlights of the festival was the tribal conclave – a confluence of experts, scholars, and practitioners exploring new ideas that can create opportunities for the tribal communities of Chhattisgarh. The conclave delved into topics from responsible tourism to the need for revival and preservation of traditional crafts. They even discussed how digital platforms can be combined with traditional crafts to create opportunities for artisans to explore new markets.
This was an occasion for the people to get to know the tribal culture in India and beyond. I feel grateful to have been given the opportunity to be part of this experience and recommend this festival to all!
Suman Bajpai is a freelance writer, journalist, editor, translator, traveler, and storyteller based in Delhi. She has written more than 12 books on different subjects and translated around 160 books from English to Hindi.