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Tribal folk opera ‘Gavari’ hit by coronavirus, seeks state patronage

‘Demand for inclusion of Gavari performers in the Artistes Pension Scheme and Welfare Fund‘

Udaipur : The pandemic has proved to be a double whammy for the already-struggling Gavari performers in Mewar-Vagar region , who say it has hit hard on the waning art as performers have no invitations and they sit idle in their homes in the performance season. With Gavari being the biggest source of entertainment for inmates in tribal settlements, life seems to have come on a stand still for them with no immediate signs of resumption of any kind of entertainment programs. In these times of quarantine and social distancing, all festivals, functions or fetes have been cancelled and Gavari artists are left with no acts.

“ As there is no reward or recognition for performers, the younger generation has hardly any interest in learning this tribal folk opera and the apathy of the government on the other hand for its promotion discourages the few mandalis or troops that have been dedicatedly performing for years to pass on to the posterity, the values and lessons associated with the art” says Chandra Shekhar Joshi, district president of Bhartiya Janta Party Yuva Morcha, Udaipur Dehaat. Joshi has recently written to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism for inclusion of the Gavari performers in the Artistes pension scheme and welfare fund.

“Gavari, is a 40-days festival of dance-drama performed by the Bhil community which begins soon after Raksha Bandhan and continues till September-October. It is celebrated by the tribes in Udaipur, Rajsamand, Chittorgarh and some parts of the Dungarpur district. The artists perform plays in those villages where their married sisters and daughters reside. The purpose behind this custom is to ensure the wellness of their loved ones after marriage and instill in them a sense of proud and security” informed Narumal Bhil, a senior government teacher at Saradi village in Salumber block of Udaipur.

As it takes place only for two months in a year, the performers do not get any monetary gain but they have been doing it out of passion. Most of them are farmers or laborers who are associated with mandalis who leave their homes for the entire season, performing in various villages on invitations. Narumal says, there are over 10 thousand performers of the art in the entire division however, the government has never taken any initiative to promote it and lacking encouragement, people are slowly drifting away.

Gavari’s unique is its fusion of pan-Hindu mythology with purely local folk beliefs and rituals. Life for the performers is not easy. For 40 days, they spend their life in austerity, following strict rules. They follow celibacy, do not wear shoes, abstain from alcohol and meat, skip night meal, sleep on the floor and do not bath during this period. In their acts are lessons on environment protection, respecting women, abstinence from addictions etc.

 

 

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