Tribal dance festival begins today in Chhattisgarh, featuring tribal artists from India and the world

A three-day extravaganza showcasing and celebrating tribal dances begins today in Chhattisgarh, and promises to be a treat for art and culture lovers.

The second edition of the National Tribal Dance Festival begins today in Raipur, Chhattisgarh, offering visitors an exciting peek into the ancient tribal cultures of India and other parts of the world.

Hosted by the state government of Chhattisgarh, the three-day event (October 28 to 30) is part of efforts to develop tourism in the region, which boasts of stunning natural beauty, rich mineral deposits and some of the last untouched tribal areas of the world.

The event will witness participation of tribal dance groups from various parts of India along with international participation of tribal groups from Kingdom of Eswatini, Uzbekistan, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Uganda, Syria, Mali and the Palestine region.

Shaila dance, Chhattisgarh

About a third of Chhattisgarh’s population is identified as tribal. Many of these tribes live in regions overlapping other central Indian states such as Madhya Pradesh and Odisha.

The state of Chhattisgarh was formed fairly recently, carved out of Madhya Pradesh in 2000, and has a multifaceted history — rich in tribal folklore, history and environmental bounty, but also wracked with domestic terrorism due to the Naxal insurgency.

Areas like Bastar, Dantewada, Koriya, Korba, Bilaspur, Gariabandh, Mainpur, Dhura, Dhamtari, Surguja, and Jashpur have significant tribal populations. Many have resisted urbanisation and held on to their own distinctive history, culture and traditions, and continue to exist in tune with the natural way of life.

A woman from the Dhurva tribe, Chhattisgarh

The festival will not only highlight and celebrate tribal art and culture but also delve deeper into more important discussions on the economic development of tribal communities. About 45 percent of the population lies below the poverty line, compared with the national average of 25 percent.

Considering the sensitive ecological and tribal culture of the region, however, the local government has had to balance economic development with sustainable measures and preservation policies.

To discuss such issues, the event includes a ‘Tribal Conclave,’ featuring panel discussions with prominent names from various fields who will come together to share their work experiences with tribal communities and future opportunities of development.

A woman from the Baiga tribe, central India

The first edition of the festival – which was held in 2019 before the pandemic and is considered one of the biggest tribal festivals of India – saw participation of tribal communities from across 25 states of India and six guest countries, and an attendance of over a lakh visitors.

This year, visitors will watch special dance forms of tribes from Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Manipur, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, and Jammu & Kashmir. Wedding ceremonial dances and other prominent rituals will be performed using tribal instruments, and participants will don traditional attires.

A woman from the Muria tribe, Chhattisgarh

A live showcase area at Raipur’s Science College Ground will have demonstrations of tribal work, and will also give visitors an opportunity to interact with tribal artists and learn about various tribal art and craft forms. The food section will exhibit an eclectic mix of tribal and local cuisine from Chhattisgarh.

The organisers assert that the aim of the festival is to present a complete exhibit of tribal communities and their way of life, explore opportunities to build collaborations between government and individual organisations, drive rural and eco-tourism, and build a sustained focus on tribal development.

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