Running away in the Bhagoria Festival


I once had an opportunity to work in a travel magazine and this was my first company sponsored work trip where I had to go and cover the event. In my head the only thing that kept running for a very long time was – wwooohhhoooo…wwhheeeee…yyaaayyyyy..alright people here I come…

Whoever thought that love marriages did not exist in the Indian History Books should definitely go the Bhagoria Festival. Its a festival which in all senses is a true valentine’s day of the tribes of Madhya Pradesh filled with love, life, music and color.


Living up to its name, Bagoria indicates bhag (to run) together after choosing your partner. These young pairs elope and are subsequently accepted as husband and wife by their families and the society. The boy and the girl may not always accept each other during their meet at the festival. To predetermine that, the boy puts gulal (red/pink powder) on the girls face whom he has chosen as his wife. If the girl accepts, she willingly also applies gulal on the boy’s face and if not, she wipes it off and walks away. In the later case, the boy can continue to persuade her to win her back or can carry on his search for a different life partner.

Carried on by the tribes of Madhya Pradesh from the Jhabua & Alirajpur districts, the Bhils and Bhilalas (the two main tribes) celebrate this colorful festival which is carried on for seven days felling before the Holi festival in month of March. Initially, this festival was also a place for people to publicly gather and deal with old disputes via battles which turned ugly. The festival is further added as dimension which coincides with the completion of the harvesting season and thus is a great time and season to rejoice the new season of trade.

During this festival, these young tribal girls and boys dress up in colorful clothes and big and traditional silver jewelry which one does not see in everyday markets. Each group wears a matching set of clothes which helps them stand out in the crowd. The groups of boys enter the arena dancing and playing instruments like the flute and other such instruments to create attention. This festival is full of dance and songs and drunken revelry. The tribes make homemade alcohol drinks called ‘tadi’ made from the fruits of the mahua tree. The fruits of this tree are dried and fermented creating a local brewed alcohol which is enjoyed by the entire tribe.

Madhya Pradesh takes pride in its various clans of tribal people as they form a 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 have preserve and hope that it does not fade away.

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