The tribal people of Madhya Pradesh form an important part of its culture and contribute to the colorful graffiti of the state. They have their indigenous norms, moral yardsticks and tribal heritage that they strive to preserve. This unique tradition and vibrant culture comes alive in the Bhagoriya festival of Jhabua. Jhabua is a quaint town on the Gujarat-Rajasthan border of Madhya Pradesh and is the backdrop of celebration of the annual Bhagoriya Haat. The festival marks the onset of the spring season and falls a few days before Holi. It is a boisterous merriment, accompanied by singing, dancing and drunken revelry.
Bhagoria Festival is especially a trademark celebration of the Bhils
and Bhilalas, particularly in the district of West Nimar and Jhabua.
Apart from rejoicing in the bounty of the spring season, the prominence
of the fetsival lies in it being a mass svayamvara or a marriage market.
As the name suggets, 'Bhag' Means 'Run' in Hindi. Thus, during the
festival of Bhagoria, young people choose their partners and elope with
them. Eventually, they are accepted as man and wife, as per the sietal
convention dictates. Thus, it forms an apt time for lovers to elope with
each other and seal their love with conjugal bliss and formal
Young boys and girls deck themselves in gaudy clothes and jewelry and
congregate in the village fair during Bhagoria. According to tradition,
the girl smears gulal (colored powder) on the forehead of the boy whom
she selects as her bridegroom. The boy reciproates in a like manner if
he harbors positive feelings for her. In no time, the couple escapes to
the forests and is declared as husband and wife. Earlier, Bhagoriya Haat
was also the meeting ground to settle account with adversaries. Today,
it is solely a positive festival that celebrates the joyous aspects of
life. A festival of love, life, music and colors, Bhagoria no doubt
carves a special niche amongst the tribal people of Madhya Pradesh.