Jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh is home to Bhil tribe also referred as the ‘brave bow men of India’. The land piece between the flow of rivers the Mahi in the north and the Narmada in the south embodies the cultural center of this tribe; Jhabua. It is 150 km from Indore, there is a regular connectivity by buses on Indore-Ahmedabad Highway from Indore. The nearest railway station is Meghnagar(MGN), on Delhi-Mumbai line which is 15 km from Jhabua.
The region mainly consists of 3 tribes Bhil, Bhilala and Pateliya; Bhils being the predominantly populous tribe. Alirajpur got separated from Jhabua in 2008 to form a new district. The terrain is hilly and undulating. Forests were the main source of livelihood for the tribals before the forests act of 1865 and 1878 but now major population is involved in agriculture.
On contrary to hyper individualism prevailing in the current social structures, tribal societies still preserves and enjoys community living in many of their day to day activities. Marriage traditions involve participation from all families of village.
Halma is one such tradition of community participation in development. We can understand it this way, if a person from the community is in trouble and after all her efforts unable to get out of it, calls out for Halma meaning members from each family in the village will join her and solve problem collectively. For example, a farmer building his home is accompanied by members from other families. When the task is complete they celebrate it in traditional way of a feast and dance.
Shivganga, an organisation working for holistic development of tribal villages, upon realising the power of this tradition of collective efforts motivated local tribals to use this in solving larger community problems. Despite good rainfall, the region faces acute water shortage problem because water flows down through slopes and is not retained by soil. They are solving this problem by doing Halma.
Each village has a small forest area which is called a place of their village deity; Matavan. It is a social norm of conserving village forest and not using the wood for personal use. The entire community takes the responsibility of conserving and flourishing it. They offer their first harvest of every season to deity with reverence and gratitude.
It is a social practice and an excellent example of community sharing the responsibility. Whenever, a social event is organized or a festival is celebrated, every member of the community pays its shares of expenditure and inputs.
Bhagoria, is the tribal festival holding a place in the list of top 10 tribal cultural festivals of India which hosts spectators from across the world. This is the festival of coming together joyfully to celebrate the harvest season. This is being organised at all places during 7 days just before the festival of Holi. It generally falls in the last week of February to first week of March. This festival witnesses huge participation from tribal youth displaying the colours of love and joy. The group of men and women wearing same colour traditional attires and silver jewellery attracts a lot of attention.
The tribal are still far from using heavy pesticides and fertilizers in agriculture. The produce is still natural and organic which gives a taste that is rare for the people living in urban landscape.
‘Dal Paniya’ is very famous dish, usually made during festivals and on auspicious occasions. Paniya is a bread prepared from corn flour and is roasted after sandwiching it between the leaves of Palash tree. For non-vegetarians this place is home to rare and unique ‘kadaknath’ breed of chicken, famous for its taste and health benefits. Chicken is prepared in vessels of mud over firewood and served along with bread made from corn flour gives an ever satiating experience. There are a lot of ‘mahua’ and ‘taad’trees grown naturally in this region which gives a lot of opportunities to have freshly prepared mahua. People can even plan to have taadi under the tree of taad while participating in the process of preparing it. Katthivada forests in Jhabua district is noted for its large sized and different variety of mangoes across the world.
An artistic eye will observe the beauty and art in everything it will come across. Their homes, hangings on the walls, bamboo handicrafts, traditional attire, silver and bead jewellery, dolls, and other items that have for long decorated the living rooms all over the country. The physique of bhil men along with ‘Teer-Kamthi’ have for ages adorned. ‘Pithora’ wall paintings in the district is an spectacular ancient art form.
A serene evening accompanied by a Bhil men playing handmade bamboo flute takes the listener to an entirely different plane of experiencing the life. The Bhili dance is performed on flute and ‘maandal’ (a drum). They form concentric circles while dancing and in a perfect sync with each other. Their movement is aesthetic and rhythmic and a group of people playing flute and Maandal in the centre.
This place is 8 km north-east of Jhabua on the Ahmedabad-Indore State Highway №22. It is at a distance of 1 km on the western side of the road, on the Sunar river. As the name of the village denotes there is an ancient temple and (Jhiri) or a perennial spring. The spring has been built up into a Kund. A festival is held on Baisakh Poornima, which falls mostly in the month of April according to the Gregorian calendar.