Bastar Dussehra

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1. Bastar Dussehra is unique. It is about worship of Ma Danteshari not Sri Ram & Ravana. It is a 75 day festival. U see Bison Horn Maria performing Gour dance outside Ma Danteshwari Mandir. Suggest attend 4-5 days with Jagdalpur as your base.

2. Minutes away from Bastar Palace is Jogi Bithai (Jogi’s Penance). A member of a particular family of the Halba tribe (in a pit) sits in penance for the success of the festival. Was told he survives on tea & water. Different members of the family sit in penance every year. Major attraction. All those who come for Bastar Dussehra offer their respects to him.

3. Album covers Dussehra celebrations from Oct 17 (Maoli Devi leaves Dantewada), 18 is reception of Maoli in Jagdalpur, 19 is Dussehra-Rath Parikrama, 20 is Baahar Raini Rath Parikrama. Note festival begins with Kachhangadi & Paat Jatra festival in front of Danteshwari Mandir. Mass havan inside Ma Danteshwari Mandir premises.

4. Continuing-rituals include making offerings to a wooden log brought from nearby Bilauri village for the preparation of an 8 wheeled, double-storied wooden chariot (seen later). Post divine sanction granted by a young girl, symbolizing the goddess, the chief priest performs the Kalasha Sthapana ceremony in Maoli mandir next day. In pic locals got prasad from home, fed girls & devotees. Requested them not to use thermacol plates.

5. Outside the temple met this Sadhu with ash smeared all over his body. Ma Danteshwari is the goddess of the Kakatiya rulers of Bastar & worshipped by Adivasis too. Celebrations in Jagdalpur started by King Dalpat Rao Deo in the 17th century. Temple is a Shakti Peeth.

6. Opposite temple entrance is pillar on those top is a murthi of GARUDA, vehicle of Lord Vishnu. As you devotees try to put their hands around the pillar, few can do it.

7. Procession of taking Dev Maoli from Dantewada to Jagdalpur starts around 4.30 pm. Before that there is an enjoyable GOUR dance by Bison Horn Maria community. U see their ladies entering Ma Danteshwari mandir. Lady right of pic, iron road or chaddi is called TIRUD. Top rod metal pieces is a whistle called COWRY. When lady dances it produces a likable sound.

8. Bison Horn Maria men. The big drum is called MANDAR. Bison is the name of wild buffalow. Men have its horns on their head. Dance in the huge open area outside Danteshwari Mandir.

9. Another pic, they dance in rhythm. Notice anklets round men ankles. Gives you a sense of the dance. For the festival keep your base as Jagdalpur. I stayed at Hotel Devansh – nice and very good breakfast.

10. Dance requires women to bend from time to time. For urban Indians might not be so easy, that to perform over 4 days. Men & women have water bottle placed on their backs.

11. Peacock feathers in the centre with horns on either side. The festival celebrates Ma Danteshari and her sister Maoli.

12. Devotees who come for darshan offer coconuts to the deity. These are brought out, broken and coconut given to all devotees to eat.

13. On Oct 16 there were numerous local groups serving prasad, apples, water to devotees – cutting across all mind-made barriers. I am grateful to them, their prasad kept me going. Jagdalpur was full of Bhandaras serving prasad to devotees.

14. Devi Maoli being taken out of Danteshwari Mandir. It goes in a procession till outskirts of Dantewada, then placed in car. Large crowds throng the road till Geetham. After that it stops at specific places where devotees wait for darshan of Devi Maoli.

15. Bison Horn Marias lead the way outside the temple. Devi Maoli follows. Without the marias and their music the festival would be incomplete.

16. Back view Bison Horn Marias – lots of music, speakers and lights as we shall see later.

17. Musicians at work.

18. Procession on road outside temple.

19. Lady devotes waiting for darshan just outside temple gate. All along the 90 odd kms drive from Dantewada to Jagdalpur saw ladies waiting for darshan of Devi Maoli.

20. Procession on the bridge over river in Dantewada. Bison Horn Marias dance in front followed by Devi Maoli.

21. Gour dance in full form. Lady in green on right was perhaps the best lady dancer amongst them.

22. Next stop ladies waiting eagerly.

23. Gour dance in the dark. Rare occasion where I used my flash. Wish to thank Arvind of Jagdalpur for helping with finer points of captions. Errors are all mine. Please mail feedback.

24. Before Geetham Devi Maoli taken to devotees for darshan – think havan had just got over. It was so crowded barely managed to get in and click this pic. Amazed by the extent of devotion and importantly shraddha or faith.

25. If I had stopped at every place might have reached post mid-night. So at Geetham left for Jagdalpur. Front view Bastar Palace. After I checked into hotel was told of Nisha Jatra that starts from Bastar Palace about 9.30 pm i.e. on Oct 17. So had dinner, took auto to palace. Not sure if I could enter – palace has free entry & is unlike the Rajasthan palaces.

26. Hall inside palace. Musicians playing music, king stays on the first floor. To read about history of festival https://www.lonelyplanet.in/articles/9222/bastar-dussehra

27. Outside hall saw ANGA DEO, it is the much respected shape of God and can have a ladder life shape, stone, tree or stick. Bastar Dussehra is so connected with the lives of the adivasis, their beliefs-customs and traditions with the King of Bastar being head of the community.

28. Adivasis swerve with their Anga Deo in the hall – as if they are in a trance. If you are not careful could get injured. Was totally unprepared for this. Adivasis are devoted to their Gods, dance, music and use of their sacred instruments.

29. After a while the king came down, then the Adivasis with their Anga Deo proceed for Nisha Jatra (it is a procession of lights that leaders to the puja mandap). Seen outside Danteshwari mandir i.e. part of the palace.

30. Procession on road to puja mandap. Not sure why these people are in white and what they carry in the pots.

31. Along the walk adivasis with their Anga Deo were there too. They seemed like in a trance with tremendous power.

32. Procession was till end of pic. Met two Muslims during festival who said they worshipped Ma Danteshwari too.

33. We reached our destination, locals waiting for the rituals to be completed. It was post 11 pm, I decided to return to the hotel. Hitched a ride on a bike, found young boys ever willing to give me a ride to the hotel.

34. Adjacent to Danteshwari mandir in Bastar Palace was a room where girls were to be worshipped & fed. This was first girl and probably the youngest.

35. This is the chariot on which Devi Maoli would be kept and then a procession taken out through Jagdalpur. Carpenters come from village Beda Umargaon. It is constructed by the Saoras community. Locals said that when the festival started the king had assigned responsibility to individual communities – that have continued to date.

36. Opposite where chariot being made is Maoli Ma Mandir. A four wheeled flower chariot (not the one you saw) circumambulates this temple every day up to the seventh day ie up to Oct 16, Dussehra was on 19th in 2018. I reached on 17th night. Large number of adivasis stay on temple premise with their Anga Deo.

37. Anga Deo inside Maoli Mandir. Locals told me that these Anga Deo could be hundreds of years old, have passed through generations.

38. Devi Maoli who is brought from Dantewada on Oct 17 is kept at Jiya Dera all night and Oct 18 for public darshan. Again Bison Horn Marias led the procession called Maoli Parghav. Jiya means pujari and Dera means place where the pujari stops.

39. Artists Bison Horn Marias were a star attraction. Many people from Jagdalpur rushed to click pictures with them.

40. Musicians at Jiya Dera. Instruments are Nishan and Mohri.

41. From Jiya Dera it a straight road to Bastar Palace. It is a huge procession led by Bison Horn Marias, musicians and ordinary people. There are strong street and coloured lights all along.

42. GOUR DANCE of the Bison Horn Marias.

43. Close up of artists line one. Lady on left of pic was amongst the best performers over days. What man has round his shoulder is called Mandar.

44. Devi Maoli procession. At some point the Devi Maoli would be handed over to the king as we shall see later.

45. Gour dance. For this pic ran up to someone’s first floor home – they were nice enough to let me enter.

46. Musicians had an amplifier and speakers in their hands. Pink turbans very prevalent all through the festival. Thought pink turbans more prevalent in Punjab only.

47. Close up of Devi Maoli. Alongside you can see adivasis with their respective deities – could take the shape of a stick, stone etc.

48. A break from the evening proceedings, a day light pic at Kumdakot (sal grove). U see me with performing artists.

49. Enroute Durga Pandal.

50. Slightly more than mid-way from Jiya Dera the king of Bastar stands to receive Devi Maoli.

51. Having received Devi Maoli the king proceeds to take to Danteshwari Mandir in palace. Pic 51 and 52 are thanks to photographer Arun Mishra whom I met that evening. I was late to reach the 1st floor of a house. In order to make album complete Arun helped with 2 pics.

52. Raja of Bastar with the palanquin, headed to Danteshwari mandir. It was a stampede out there. Thanks Arun.

53. Entrance to Bastar Palace. Left is entrance to Danteshwari mandir.

54. The Raja went in post which adivasis with their Anga Deo waiting to go in – one has to be careful not to get knocked off.

55. After the king enters the temple proceedings for the evening are over. The whole area wore a festival look. Locals said crowd was less this year due to elections. Also since Dussehra was late, per the Hindu calendar, it clashed with rice harvesting season forcing many to stay away.

56. Next day ie Oct 19 is Bheeter Raini with Rath Parikrama i.e. held on Vijayadashami. The chariot takes a circumambulatory course around the Mauli temple after which it is parked for the night. As a ritual around 400 marias & murias steal the chariot away to Kumdakot. I reached Bastar Palace about 4 pm. Please help with caption.

57. Work on the chariot was still going on – locals said return by 6.30ish. Note this chariot has no wheels. Note every year a new rath or chariot is constructed.

58. In front of the chariot adivasis places their deities, music is played and then dance to music.

59. Dancing in a trance. Can you help with an appropriate caption?

60. Deities could take the form of a stick, stone, doli etc. Devotees place their gods on the ground whilst music is played and they wait for the chariot to get ready.

61. Here their god takes the form of a long stick hence this pic. India has so many ways of worship amazing. What matters is that we allow each person to worship the way they wish to.

62. Chariot ready, getting ladder on to the chariot was quite a task. Representation of the king take Devi Maoli and place it in the chariot. Next ropes were in place to pull the chariot. Since it does not have wheels very difficult to control.

63. Roads on all sides full of people, mood festive. Some of these men were in a trance. Others have local deities in their hands. Can someone help with proper caption?

64. Musical instrument is called MOHRI.

65. Pulling the chariot – great fun, lots of laughter.

66. While that was meaning the amazing Bison Horn Marias started performing outside entrance of Bastar Palace. They attract huge crowds everywhere.

67. Devi Maoli procession comes out of Bastar Palace and heads to the chariot where it is to be placed for taking through town. Chariot wheel broke enroute, am told it eventually reached Kumdakot at 5 am the next morning. I left for the hotel by 11 pm. Some experience.

68. Kumdakot (sal grove) is about seven minutes by auto from Bastar Palace. Takes place a day after Vijayadashami & post 3 pm. Day after chariot is stolen, the king visits Kumdakot to offer cooked rice of the new harvest to the Goddess. After having prasad from her, the chariot is pulled back to Bastar Palace.

69. Board explains.

70. Adivasis bring their deities one by one.

71. Various local deities. Tent is place for king to sit and where the ritual of rice making etc. is completed.

72. Close up of deities.

73. Whilst waiting for the king to come music is played and people dance. Musical instruments are Nagda and Timki.

74. ANGA DEO. Look at snake in centre of pic.

75. With Anga Deo on shoulders they go into some sort of a trance.

76. Next they swing and move around as few ordinary people would. One of them hit me from behind, it hurt for a while – really surprised me.

77. Again those in a trance come with their Anga Deo / respective deities to Kumdakot. Please help with caption.

78. Bison Horn Marias and the wow Gour dance. Behind them is the king.

79. Anga Deo.

80. King (youngish looking and friendly) comes because the ritual has to be completed by him.

81. Adivasis waiting with their Anga Deo.

82. Big collection of peacock weathers is called MADI.

83. Anga Deo again.

84. Chariot ready to return to Bastar Palace. It would again be pulled. I left by 8.30 pm not sure when it would leave. Next function is OHADI where the deities who congregated at Jagdalpur from various parts of Bastar are big farewell. It marks the end of Bastar Dussehra. Must visit. For useful info on festival https://ethnotravels.com/en/bastar-dussehra/