The peace and tranquility of the villages on the foothills Satpura hill ranges in Maharashtra had taken a back seat for the past 15 days, as the atmosphere was charged with singing and dancing. Members of the Bhil tribe of the Satpura Hill regions from Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh had gathered in Asli village of Nandurbar district in Maharashtra to pay their respect to Holi Mata on the occasion of Holi festival.
The fifteen-day celebration traverses hundreds of villages in the district, a few villages at one day. During these days, men dressed as women and as wild animals dance with glee in hordes of hundreds to the tunes of folk instruments, as other men adorn colourful headgears made out of paper, weapons, etc perform various different traditional dance forms like Molgi. Women too join these festivals as they dance along with men to celebrate fertility. “Only men who need to fulfill a vow to goddess Holika can dress up as wild animals and women and dance in these processions. To completely appease the goddess, they have to go to five different villages in the region and dance along with the locals there,” explains Chetan Salve.
At the end of fifteen days, on 24th March, the day of Holi, the residents of Kathi village erected a 40-50ft bamboo in the centre of the village. The tradition demands that the bamboo be brought by the tribals from Gujarat travel around 350 km which is specially grown in the deep forests. “They didn’t cut this bamboo. They prayed to it and dug it up from the ground. There is an ancient pit of at least 5ft in the ground where the devotees fix this bamboo with their hands, without using any equipment,” Chetan tells us. The wood for the Holika Dahan was contributed by all tribals present there with the Bamboo positioned in the centre of the dahan.