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On the Fabric of Madai: In Conversation with Brijlal Mandavi

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Translation of the Hindi transcript of an interview conducted by Anushka Rose in 2018, with the gaita at Banoli, Kanker

 

Anushka Rose: What is the significance of the Madais of Bastar?

 

Brijlal Mandavi: The historical significance of the Bastar mela (or pen Madai) for the adivasis can be traced to the Raj Madai of Jagdalpur. The Raj Madai, (previously organized by kings), marks the beginning of various Madais in Bastar. All the devis and devtas (goddesses and gods) are brought to Jagdalpur to celebrate this particular Madai. The celebrations last for about a month, and only then can the deities return to their homes (in various villages) with permission from the host deity.

 

Since all adivasi clans have their respective gods and guardian deities, all the deities are carried to Jagdalpur for the Raj mela. After a month’s celebration, as they prepare to return home, the sevak of the deities, who is also known as bhakt or sirah (in Gondi), is overcome by the divine power of the deity. This also serves as an indication that the gods have begun to return to their homes. This further marks the beginning of smaller Madais that begin to get organized at the level of the villages. The Madais are a mark of joy and celebration shared by various deities, such as Jimmidaarin yaya (the guardian deity of the village, also known as Sitla mata). She is actually called Jimmidaarin in Gondi but some call her Sitla too; there are other deities too, such as Ghatu Mane, who is also known as Manne, Bhanga ram, Hitlajin and many more—all of whom are brought together in the mela. Together, the deities are carried in procession three times around the fair, and only then the fair is declared open to the people.

 

During the procession, people offer flowers and pay their respect to the deities and also to the bhakts (who have been overcome by the power of the deities). During the procession, women also throw rice on the deities and on the men who are being driven by the gods. The procession goes around the fair thrice, in order to secure the fair and the people against all things evil. In the last round, the procession goes in the reverse direction and then rests at the deo sthal (the place where the gods reside) where ritualistic dances are performed. After the dances and celebration are over, the deities return to their respective villages with permission from the host deity.

 

People also buy flowers and other offerings that are made to the clan gods of the family. They also purchase sweets that are then shared among the members of the family and relatives to celebrate the joy of (pen) Madai.

 

This can be seen as the historical significance of the Madai which begins with the Raj mela (Raj Madai).  It forms an essential part of the lives of adivasis in the region of Bastar.

 

(For bigger cities) The state administration fixes the date for pen Madais, and the Kotwaar then shares the date of the Madai through announcements in the villages. Following this, many traders come to the place where the Madais are held. However, this was not so back in the earlier days. Earlier, the population was limited and so were the items for sale during the Madai. Now, the scale at which the Madai is celebrated has increased with the rising population. People throng the mela with their relatives and share the joy of the Madai. They go back and celebrate the festival of Madai with their near and dear ones the next day and offer prayers to their deities of their clan. On the occasion of the Madai, everyone also decides to stay away from work and celebrate with their families and relatives.

 

 

A.R.: What are the deciding factors for choosing a village for hosting the Madais?

 

B.M.: Madais are organized in villages that host haat/bazaars in a panchayat; such villages are centrally located so that people can access the village hosting the Madai with ease.

 

 

A.R.: Would Banoli be able to host a Madai?

 

B.M.: Banoli would not be able to host a Madai for the  two following reasons—first, given that this village is located deep inside the forest, many traders and people would find the venue of the event inaccessible. Secondly, to have a successful mela, it needs to attract crowds in order to make it lively. Therefore, if the Madai is ever to be organized in Banoli, it would not be able to attract crowds. Thirdly, the population of the village itself is not big enough to attract traders and sellers. For years, our elders decided that the bazaar would be hosted in a place, such as Karra (Haatkarra, a neighbouring village about 8 kms from Banoli). For the same reason, the Madai was also thought to be organized in a place, such as Karra where people could easily access the bazaar, and could come down for the mela as well.

 

 

A.R.:  On the first day of the pen Madai, before the parikrama begins, what are the rituals that are performed for the deities brought in from various places?

 

B. M: The ritual ceremony is wrapped up within a day since all the deos are from villages close to the host village. (Arunopol—who is holding the camera—adds that assembling all the deities would not take long since everyone is from nearby villages). The day of the Madai is usually organized on the day of the haat. For instance if the haat is scheduled on Sundays, the Madai mela will also be scheduled on Sunday.

 

People usually leave for the Madai around 10am and reach the venue by 12:00–1:00 pm where all deities are assembled with their sevaks, and they together wait under the shade of the trees. The worship rituals begin with offerings made to the guardian deity—Jimidaarin yaya of the host village. There is also a system of hierarchy present among the deities present at the venue. For instance, the deities, Bhangaram and Jimidaarin yaya of Banoli, are offered prayers before the offerings are made to the other deities.  After worship offerings have been made to the mother guardian of the host village and the other supreme deities, the offerings are then made to the deos (ancestral gods) who have been invited to the pen Madai.

 

After offerings and worship service, the deities are assembled and taken in a procession around the fair. The procession does three rounds of the fair, and goes in the reverse direction in the last round, to return to the space from where the procession had begun. The purpose of this procession is to secure the bazaar, and to ensure the well being of the people and the traders who have come to celebrate the Madai against any evil spirits. The divine powers of the ancestors ensure the safety of all the people who come to the Madai.

 

After the procession, the deities and gods are assembled in front of the deo temple where people then perform the traditional dances in the presence of the deities to celebrate the occasion of the Madai, and also the coming together of the various deities to protect the people. Further, the dances also indicate the joy of people who have worn new clothes, and have come to enjoy the extravagance offered by the traders in the Madai. After the dance, the deities return to their villages, and the fair is declared open to all. People of all ages visit the fair. The next day is when the festivities begin at home where people host their guests. Some people may also offer animal sacrifices to their clan gods, and the meat is then cooked and served to the family members. Madai becomes a time for festivities where people come together to worship and make merry with friends and family. It is during this time that everyone takes to celebrate and enjoy both the Madai rituals and the fair.

                      

 

A.R.: Are Madais deity-centric?

 

B.M : Certain pen Madais are also area and deity specific. For instance, Semargaon, which is home to Lingo Baba (one of the most significant deities of the Gonds), hosts a Madai in the honor of its guardian deity. Their guardian deity is also a pargana deity (a deity who presides over a large group of villages) once in every three years. This event is known as deo bazaar.

 

Invites are sent out to all the deos. On the day of the Madai, all deities are brought to assemble at the venue. All through the night, traditional rela songs are sung and traditional dance is performed to the music played by traditional musical accompaniments, such as the percussion, flute and string instruments. Everyone dances along with their anga pens and dangs throughout the night.

 

The next day, when seva is offered, which is also called pujaan, offerings of vermillion, rice, lemon, agarbatti (although now we are discouraged from using agarbattis)in addition to animal sacrifices are made depending on the rank of the deity. Animals, such as chicken, goats and pigs are offered to the deities as part of the religious ceremonies. The sacrificed meat is then cooked and offered to the deity after which the people along with the priests can consume the sacrificial offering. After this ceremony, when the presiding deity gives permission to the visiting deities to leave, only then can they return to their villages.

 

Lingo Baba’s bazaar takes place once in three years in Semargaon, also known as Wagnar (in Gondi). This year, the event was organized on a grander scale. The number of people who arrived with their deities was much more than that of the previous years; the crowd was such that there was no space to place anga pens in the designated place of the Madai.

 

 

A.R.: Where do people, who come from places that are far away from the venue, stay during the event?

 

B.M.: People usually put up pandals (tents) for their stay during the three-day event. The Madai usually takes place at a cleared-out space. People from all over the country come to attend the fair. The ceremonies are performed in the traditional and customary ways through singing of traditional songs and musical accompaniments; 18 holy instruments are played during the ceremony. Only gifted people can play these instruments drafted by the ancestors themselves.

 

Deities form an integral part of our lives. We have specific deities for various natural forces, such as the deity for rain. When prayers are offered to a particular god, it is known that Lingo Baba would respond within three days of worship.

 

In our area, Lingo Baba’s son, Maran Marri, presides as the rain deity of our pargana. We know that if prayers are offered, he will definitely respond to us with rains. There are not many but only two deities who preside over the forces of rain.

 

 

A.R.: The event that you have elaborated for us is known as the deo bazaar. What are the pen Madais organized in villages and urban centres traditionally known as?

 

B.M.: Deo melas were initially known as bazaars. Rather in Gondi, what we refer to as deo bazaar is actually the deo yatra. What remains the same in Lingo Baba’s bazaar and the village Madai is the procession and the dance performed with the deities. What varies is the duration of these events. Since in village Madais, deities that are invited are from neighbouring villages, thus they are able to assemble at the deo sthal sooner than the deities who are invited to bigger pen melas. Often, people take an entire day to reach the venue. Thus, the ceremonies and the dances are performed through the night. The melas here are also organized over a longer span of days unlike that of the village Madais.

 

In the coming year, the deo bazaar will be organized for Lingo Baba’s son, Maran Marri; this event is celebrated once in seven years.

 

 

A.R.: Since you are the gaita (in the service of the guardian deity of the village) of the village, will you be responsible for organizing this deo bazaar?

 

B.M.: Yes. Since the event is organized once in seven years, this time it will be organized in the year 2019. Like any deo Madai, this too will be organized over three days. It is similar to the deo yatra. Although deo yatras are organized on a smaller scale, the Madai that will be organized in the honour of Maran Marri, the deo bazaar will be a grander version of the deo yatra.

 

 

This content has been created as part of a project commissioned by the Directorate of Culture and Archaeology, Government of Chhattisgarh, to document the cultural and natural heritage of the state of Chhattisgarh.