India is a land of contradictions. Though India is also the land of Kamasutra and temples with Erotic Sculptures, the Indian society is still very orthodox and conservative. Even in this 21st century, ninety percentage of Indian marriages are arranged and the women still supposed to follow the rules set by Manusmruti, thousands of years back. But believe it or not, one tribal community in India celebrates a festival that encourages girls to elope with boys.
This festival is celebrated in the districts of Khargone and Jhabua in Madhya Pradesh among the Adivasi tribes of Bhils and Bhilalas. The Bhagoria festival kicks off in the month of March just before the Holi Festival. The origin of the festival is unknown, though many attribute it as a social development arisen out of a need to counter the demands of dowry from the parents of prospective grooms. The lovers forced to elope as that was the only way to get united, and the fairs gave them the perfect opportunity. In Bhil society, the boy and his family still have to pay a dowry to the girl’s family.
There are many legends behind the festival – the name Bhagoria came from Bhav and Gauri, that is Shiva and Parvati and the locals believe they were the first to get solemnised the Bhagoria way. Some attribute it to a King named Bhagore who conquered the land. He allowed his army men to elope with girls they fell in love at the market that takes place before the Holi Festival. Over a period of time this became a tradition. The festival is also known as Bhagoria Haat Festival.
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Single men and woman wearing traditional dresses attend the festival, with a desire to find a perfect match. This is a Mela with lots of stalls and other means of enjoyment like rides, and the whole process of matchmaking is supervised under the eyes of village elders and senior members of the society.
If the boy liked a girl will apply colour (Gulal, used as color during Holi) to the girl and if she doesn’t remove it, considered as she is willing to elope with him. If she wipes it away, it means she is not interested. A betel leaf is also used as a sign of proposal, if the betel leaf is accepted, the proposal is accepted. The marriage ceremony between two lovers becomes compulsory after the act of running away. This tradition is puritanical in nature and observed with ritualistic strictness. This is not an occasion to have some fun.
Click Below to watch Video of Bhagoria Mela