Travelling through the western portions of Madhya Pradesh one happens to witness a colorful pastiche of cultures, indigenous people and occupations. Attributed to the favorable proximity to local markets where embroidered works and other raw materials are readily available - the Bhil and Bhilala tribes of Alirajpur and Jhabua districts of MP skillfully express their penchant for colorful kaleidoscopes of bead works, silver jewels and embroidery.
For instance, the Aadharkaanch village in Alirajpur district is known for the famous Galsan Mala (beadwork necklace). This little hamlet bordering markets of Gujarat and MP, provides women Self Help Groups (SHGs) a geographical advantage to procure beads, colorful wool & embroidered fabrics from regional bazaars adjoining this area.
Neatly woven into multicolored necklaces, bangles and earrings the bead works native to Jobat in Alirajpur - find their commercial and aesthetic recognition in the local melas and fairs in the state organized and promoted by the district, state and central government's schemes. Priced at Rs 80-100 for a set of necklace & earrings this makes for affordable motley of trinkets- which are easy to carry and wear!
This bead crafts practiced by women received a lot of attention from Madhya Pradesh Rural Livelihood Project and central/state government schemes. These projects and schemes provide a series of training programmes to women, realizing its commercial value & livelihood opportunities it could generate in order to empower tribal communities inhabiting remote hinterlands of MP.
Another fascinating cultural facet of this community is the spectacular silver jewelry and its ensembles - one witnesses during the weekly haat & especially during the annual Bhagoria festival. The Bhagoria festival symbolizes the completion of harvesting and is celebrated just before the festivities of Holi thereby underscoring the significance of agriculture and community interpretations of colors -in their daily chores and lives. This festival signifies the wedding season and rituals pertaining to nuptial vows of the Bhil and Bhilala tribes.
Women & brides adorn themselves with choicest possible designs of silver jewelry fused with traditional characteristics. Some of the most popular accessories amongst the women folk are the basta kada (armlet), khilli wala kada (for the wrist) hansli (necklace) made of coins that weighs almost half a kilogram and paan wala haar. Other accessories woven out of beads, shells, colorful wool, glass beads and sequins are chomal, dulhan ka rumal and phool. Made of coins, ghungroo, and various figurines of ethnic importance - these silver art works have come to establish the historical relevance of preserving these art works & carrying those forward from one generation to the other.
On a usual day when the local market is fervent and vivid with economic & social activity - women of all age are seen embellished with silver. These jewellery pieces are inherited, or gifted depending on the prevalent social practices within the community - with some women carrying these timeless creations in their daily routines thus highlighting the lack of safe spaces to store these personal possessions & wealth in rural economies.
Views expressed in the article are personal.