Garlanded Chariot in Bastar Dussehra
Sun shifted to the opposite direction and ditched me by the time Bus reached Jagdalpur. It was Dussehra and was certainly the best chance to photograph tribal customs, attires and all. Bastar Dussehra is definitely one of India’s most engrossing festivals to cover. Tribal from whole Bastar congregate to Jagdalpur to participate in some strikingly obscure ceremonies and rituals. Soon after arriving at Jagdalpur, I hit the vibrant and colorful streets of town. I was fascinated by the stalls from tribal. Jute ropes, tabla, medicinal plants, local wine, scrambled ants (Chiti ki chatni) and so much on sell that I was overwhelmed. With so much of awesomeness around, I was kind of hypnotized and was repeatedly clicking the shutter. To quench my thirst and hunger, I hit the eating-out joints of the fair and stuffed myself with non-hygienic food. Later in the evening, religious progressions and musical ceremonies dominated the streets of Jagdalpur. Most of these ceremonies were taking place opposite to ornately decorated Danteshwari temple.
Swinging palanquin during a ritual
Some of the rituals were quite captivating. One was where devotees carried a swinging palanquin or as if they simulated a swinging palanquin through the feet movements. Another one was with ladies in red attire, bare feet, marching towards the temple, dancing around the iron rod. Couple of these ladies stared me, passed smile and I was about to fall into the notion of love… I smiled back and one of them blushed… I still remember her elated face and then she was gone…. I fell in love again in Chhattisgarh… or somehow I restrained…
Tribal dance and hymn
Every new group was trying to outperform the previous one and I enjoyed competition so much that I never wanted it to end. All the groups of artists were uniquely dressed up and their costumes were truly conspicuous. As I was the only one running around these artists with camera so they also paid special attention to my curiosity. Sadly there was even no press to cover this festival, forget about the tourists. As I already overcame the fear of being kidnapped so I was thoroughly enjoying the event giving everyone full chance to notice me. Another unusual sight was a smaller chariot, beautifully adorned with garlands and lightening and locals were singing and dancing around the chariot. The incoherent beauty of music was edifying and soothing to the senses. Sometimes there is no need of orchestra to deliver a classic. Sometimes it’s just in the air…within the people.. within the merry crowd.. within the faith.. or within that craziness within… within the nature… within the freedom to expression… that’s what festivals do in India. Festivity in India has something special which cannot be replicated otherwise by modern-day artists or intellectual gatherings because it does not require any extraordinary talent and also are not inspired from deluded notions. It does not seek the purpose of life or any eternal answer…its life.. Simple…. Nothing can make it simpler…
Another ceremony in Bastar Dussehra
I was strolling vigorously in order not to miss any event and then I suddenly noticed boisterous crowd running towards another street and as I anticipated, it was the Swaying Juggernaut. Garlanded Chariot of Bastar Dussehra is a prime attraction of the festival. It’s similar to popular Rath Yatra of Jagannath puri. It’s a huge chariot which is carried by hundreds of people through ropes. Rath is made of wood and every year a new Rath is constructed. Event of carrying juggernaut is so lively that you cannot hear any other sound but the sound within. It’s a meticulous job to drive the juggernaut using ropes. Sometimes you may feel that it’s going to tumble upon the crowd. There had been incidents people being crushed under the wheels of the juggernaut. Locals enjoy the rooftops to witness the event from safer distance but I went dangerously close to the Rath to capture moments. Rath yatra engaged me for more than 2 hours and chariot was hardly displaced by few meters. I was sincerely overwhelmed by the events of Bastar Dussehra. In fact I feel it was one of the best decisions I took. Dussehra continued to continue but I made my way back to hotel.
Streets of Jagadpur during Dussehra
While turning off the lights, rolling the blanket over me, Images of Bastar Dussehra rewound and I realized that despite all the shimmering colors and glee of festivity, Bastar is the land of poverty-stricken tribes those might be content with sheer negligence from outside world. The most disheartening sights of the evening were people covering their body with threadbare cloths and certainly not for dealing with the humidity. Unlike tribes of Andaman Islands, tribes in Bastar region are pretty much exposed to luxury of modern world but finding it difficult to reach perhaps. In a short while, shrilling sound coming from the distance diminished and night enveloped the land of Bastar again in absolute serenity with dwellers receding back to havens.