on 16th-17th Jan. 2010 at SHAKTI-LAHRC, Songadh, Gujarat.
"We had never seen such a big crowd in our carrier" said Virsing mama, the leader of the Rodali Party (Adivasi traditional Entertainment). He is at it for more than 30 years. "We enjoyed taking part in many traditional competitions which we had forgotten" said Mansinghbhai, one of the Bow and Arrow competitors. "Drumming was fun in front of thousands of people" exclaimed Kavjibhai, one of the drummers. "The small children were very graceful and confident while dancing" said Ratuben, one of the women watching the performance. "How wonderful it was to watch the performance of different groups like Vasava, Gamit, Chaudhary, Kokna, Dangi etc. all on the same stage with their different uniqueness!" spontaneously exclaimed a lot of people. "This is a great way of conducting a cultural festival bringing all types of people with their own contribution" acclaimed Mavjibhai, the Tapi District Panchayat President.
The Registration started before 2.00 PM on 16th Jan. as people started pouring in. After registration and signing or putting their thump prints on the canvas in support of the 14 demands (campaign) carried out as part of the Cultural Festival and Competitions. Sipping the tea, the Catapult (96) and Bow and Arrow (20) competitions started at 3.00 PM. There were many to cheer them up and to learn from them. Then at 4.00 pavri (4) and pavi (11) (flute type musical instruments) competitions started. Then all went for a delicious Dinner. Dinner was prepared for 7,000 people and everything was over by 6.30PM. This year the Adivasi Traditional (Fancy) Dress competition (23w + 14m) witnessed many more men and women happily, confidently and with a sense of pride taking part in the event at 6.00PM. Then the dovdu (13) (big pipe musical instrument) competition took place. The competitors enchanted the audience with a nostalgic memory by their skilful performance. Since the drummers (39) were many, that competition was divided into semi finals and final. The drummers were lost in producing the great sound that thrilled the entire crowd and many were shaking their bodies in tune with the drum beats!
Then the cultural team of LAHRC put up a skit that touched the audience very emotionally. They depicted the plight of the sugar cane cutters and through it raised a few questions to the audience about adivasi identity, unity and dignity. It was very much appreciated by one and all.
Then the Chief Guest, Dr. Tusharbhai A Chaudhary, the State Minister for Tribal Affairs, Govt. of India arrived with his team of elected members. Mr. C M Balat, the Collector and District Magistrate of Tapi District and Mr. Chaudhry, the Mamlatdar and Executive Magistrate of Songadh Taluka were also present on this occasion. In their presence, a rite was performed in adivasi tradition by an elder to invoke the blessing of Nature on all. Then the Guests were warmly welcomed with flowers. After that Rameshbhai read out the different demands of the people in the context of the signature campaign and requested the elected members to do the needful by giving them the copies of the 14 demands. The Minister was given the canvas which the people had signed. Dr. Sudhir Jani who had done the analytical study of the survey on the need of changing the present standard followed for deciding the Below Poverty Line (BPL) card holders briefly explained his findings and urged the elected members to act upon it by presenting them the summary of the study. The study was a combined effort of CASA, Mumbai, SHAKTI-LAHRC and many other groups.
The Guests appreciated the efforts of Adivasi Mahamandal, Adivasi Sarvangi Vikas Sanghs and SHAKTI-LAHRC that had organized this festival. They urged the people to work unitedly towards preserving and protecting the culture, identity and unity of the adivasis. One of the speakers exploded, "If we do not care to protect our culture, identity and unity, no one will!"
Then the competition of dances (8 children + 24 adults) started first for the children and then the adults. It was a treat to watch. All the performers tried their best to give their best. Each group was given 7 minutes to perform. It was indeed a very difficult job for the judges to decide the best performance! Then came the best item rodali party which the people awaited eagerly. This team kept the audience spell bound till 6.30 AM with the different social messages they had chosen to communicate in their traditional styles.
Then the festival was brought to an end after the prize distribution and vote of thanks. This year, all the participants in the competitions were given certificates as a gesture of appreciation.
There were more competitions and more competitors for the festival from the Districts of Dangs, Narmada, Navsari, Surat and Tapi. A moderate estimate was that there were at least 11,000 women, men, youth and children watching the event from the Districts of Dangs, Narmada, Navsari, Panchmahal, Surat, Tapi, Valsad, Ahmedabad and from the neighbouring State of Maharashtra. Many people had contributed generously both in cash and kind to make the event a great success. The entire programme was conducted by a team of adivasi leaders and volunteers. Now we feel, "We can" and that is the message we would like to communicate to all! Mr. Dhansukbhai Vasava, a Govt. servant said, "This festival will surely have deep impact not only on our adivasis but also on others". Already one NGO is planning to conduct a similar festival in its area of operation.
For more information go to our website:shaktilahrc
Jai Adivasi, Jago Adivasi.
Report prepared by Rineshbhai Gamit, SHAKTI-LAHRC, Songadh