Bhagoriya is a short documentary about the Bhagoriya Haat(market) which is held for seven days before the Holi festival. The documentary explores the misconceptions associated with the festival and delves into the role of political parties in reshaping the haat.
Bhagoria (भगोरिया) is a festival celebrated by the Bhil and Bhilala tribe in MP, Rajasthan, and Gujarat mainly in Alirajpur and Jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh. A fair is held in different places for 6 days, before Holi. People from different villages come and shop for things required for the Holi puja. One of the theories of why this festival is called Bhagoria is that the festival originated from the small village Bhagor when the king saw that the Holi haat (हाट , a market to buy things) was becoming exorbitantly big. Another one is that, young boys and girls used to come to the haat and run away together away from their parents so essentially लड़का और लड़की भाग गए or the guy and the girl eloped, hence the name Bhagoria.
In the bigger areas like Thandla, these parties take out a procession to show their shakti to the people. The culture is slowly dying and the festival has become a place for these parties to show off. These processions started when an election coincided with the festival and politicians of the region decided to use it as a platform to acquire votes. The result was the birth of rallies by political parties. As years passed the intensity of these rallies increased and nowadays everybody started to take out rallies as a part of the festival. The tribal people to whom this festival belongs faded in the background somewhere.
Why this film?
The urban society with all its modernization and advancements has a big misconception that it has power over those who are not a part of it. Often the urban society has misjudgments about everything that it cannot understand until and unless it gains a real-world experience with it. It is easy to judge from a distance than to experience by being a part of something.
Bhagoriya is one such event that is surrounded by extreme misjudgments. The news channels, blog posts, newspapers, and the other mainstream media, for years, have portrayed it like a festival of love in which young men and women select their life partners and run away together to get married and this is the tradition. Bhagoriya is a market in which the tribals of the Bhil and Bhilala community come to buy things needed for the rituals of Holi puja but this is just speculation among others and It is called Bhagoriya Haat. Over time, the Bhagoriya haat became a cultural phenomenon. The influence of the mainstream media is so intense that the younger generation of the Bhils believe in this tradition but such a tradition cannot exist because of various beliefs of the Bhil community. There have been instances of running away but those were not because it is a tradition, it is because people were in love.
I was lured by the same misinformation and decided to make a documentary on this topic. After reaching there the first thing that I saw in the Bhagoriya Haat were not the Bhil tribals with their rich culture but political parties with their shallow agenda of flaunting their power in the haat who are there just to take advantage of these celebrations.
The process of making this film started with a thought of making a documentary about people running away but the preliminary research added more parallels to it along with devouring the misconceptions I had about the Bhils and their traditions. The point is that the culture is dying slowly by the ignorance of the members of the community and the influence of the mainstream media and political agendas. This is not particular to just the Bhils but this is happening in the entire country.
Bhils or Bheel are primarily the Adivasi people of Northwest India. Bhils are also settled in the Tharparkar District of Sindh, Pakistan. They speak the Bhil languages, a subgroup of the Western Zone of the Indo-Aryan languages. According to Census, 2011, Bhils were the largest tribal group in India. Bhils are listed as Adivasi residents of the states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, and Rajasthan. While being present in the largest amount in Madhya Pradesh.
These Indian tribes have a mention even in epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana. Going by legends Bhil women named Sabri offered ber to Lord Rama, when he was in the jungles of Dhandaka, searching Sita. In recent history as well these tribes of India were regarded as the fighters who were in a war against the Mughals, Marathas and the Britishers.
The Bhils are mainly farmers and depend majorly upon agriculture for income but historically they are regarded as great archers.
The songs of the Bhils, which accompany their dances and the songs of their festivals and nuptial ceremonies give a glimpse of the life-pattern they hold. These songs are sung at an even tempo with regular rise and fall. In most of the songs, meaningless chants are introduced to fill up the distance between the lines. The Bhils always sing in groups. Dancing is inseparable from their music.
The Bhils have several forms of marriage, which allow for freedom in the selection of life partners. There is a bride price system that cuts across all forms of marriage, even elopement. At births and weddings, songs are sung to invoke the blessings of elders, ancestors, deities. During every festival, the Bhils dance the Garba and through their songs, invite the goddesses to join them. Sometimes in the song, a Devi replies that she cannot join the dance as her baby is crying. Bhil gods and goddesses are very much a part of daily life.
As I was shooting alone, the biggest challenge was to keep focus on the task at hand while managing the entire shoot.