If you thought garba performances are essentially a Hindu practice, you should pay a visit to the churches in Madhya Pradesh’s tribal belt of Jhabua.
Church authorities say though they have been organising garbas in honour of Mother Mary – called Novenas – for the last 10 years, social media platforms brought it to prominence only in the last two years.
Catholic diocese Jhabua spokesperson Father Rocky Shah told HT that the Christian version of garba was inspired by local traditions. “Novena may be a Latin word, but it has the same meaning as Navratri – which means nine days,” he added.
The inspiration drawn from local traditions is quite evident. Tribal Christians have been dancing the garba enthusiastically at the Mother Mary Church in Dungadipada for the last seven days, and nothing about it – from the music to the decorations – seems different or amiss.
“I am proud to have adopted the local culture and dance patterns in our worship session,” he said, adding that a special prayer is held each day of the Novena.
However, the BJP and the RSS weren’t impressed.
“From this, we can see that adopting local culture is essential for the survival of churches. But, having said that, there is something suspicious about the whole exercise,” he said.
Father Shah, however, said there was no ulterior motive behind holding the event. The participants said both Hindus and Christians celebrate the Novena without being subjected to any religious compulsion.
Sandeep Damor, a Christian from Kakanwani, said the event was held every year in keeping with the religious beliefs of the local residents.
Bhimpuri resident Pankaj also said there was nothing to make a hue and cry about. “I’m a Hindu myself, but the point here is just to dance the garba. After all, nobody else holds such events in this region,” he said..