Understanding Bhil Community of Rajasthan- Tribal context

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Historical Background:

  • Mewar & Wagad regions of the Rajasthan state known as tribal (Bhil) districts.
  • Mewar is located in the mid -southern part of Rajasthan and encompasses, broadly, the Districts of Rajsamand, Udaipur, Bhilwara and Chittaurgarh.
  • Historically, the area comprised the erstwhile states of Udaipur, Shahpura (under partial subordination to Udaipur) and Pratapgarh, while to the south lay the states of Dungarpur and Banswara which were affiliated to Udaipur by descent and together formed the cultural zone known as Vagad.
  • The word Bhil is derived from the Bil or Vil which mean Bow. They are the largest tribe of South Asia and constitute 39% of the total population of Rajasthan.
  • Bhils are known as bow men of Rajasthan or the tribal of Mewar or the Archers.
  • These tribes have been mentioned in epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana.
  • Indian Mythology says that Bhil women offered Berry (fruit) to Lord Rama, when he was in the jungles of Dhandaka, searching Sita.
  • In the history of independent India these tribes of India were regarded as the fighters who were in a war against the Mughals, Marathas and the Britishers.
  • Bhils furnished the needs of Princes of Mewar with bowmen, supplies or by guarding their families.

Cultural Diversity- Beliefs & Celebrations:

  • Bhils’ religious practice differs from place to place. They worship local deities/Devara. They worship Tiger God called ‘vaghdev’. Bhils don’t have temples of their own and consult Badvas -the hereditary sorcerers on all the occasions as they are highly superstitious tribal people.
  • Bhagat or Gurus perform the religious rites for Bhil Tribe. Bhils village headsmen deal with their disputes. Bhils strictly follow rules and regulations and marry only in their own classes. Bhils close relationships are tightly based on mutual love and respect

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  • Dance and music are given importance by Bhils due to their rich cultural history. The famous dance among the Bhils is Ghoomar, Gavari, and Gair etc.

Livelihoods:

  • They are known for their truthfulness and simplicity. They love independence. They are brave and their National weapon is bow made of bamboo. Earlier they were great hunters. They now practice agriculture as the source of livelihood.
  • The main food of the Bhils is Maize. Wheat is used on special occasions and hospitality. Roti of Maize also called SOGRA with CHATNI, GREEN CHILLI or SALT and Curd Lassi is the famous food. Fruits also are the part of their diet.
  • The source of the income for Bhil is Agriculture and the Animal Husbandry. Poultry farming and labour also form the source of income. Bhils posses knowledge of manufacturing agricultural equipments and are also aware of repairing them.

Local Economy:

  • Bhils usually are occupied with agricultural activity, they sell products at weekly Haats or markets.
  • Social customs of Bhil tribe demand large expenditures on weddings and rituals call for liquor, so debt persists.
  • Communal life includes folklore and folk song parties with men and women dancing. While women have a secure position, enjoy economic and social equality from childhood. Bhils produce Maize, Jowar, Bajra, Ragi and cattle fodder while poultry is used for economic and dietary purposes.

Key customs:

  • They follow Polygamy. A Bhil woman is open to marry a another choice even after her marriage. They follow Paternal Family System’ system in which the family considers the joint family as the major force of life. The women, sons and daughters are free to lead their own lives and there is a tradition of adapting children in this society.
  • It is normally seen that that who are the outsiders for the area      and come for their service or business encouraged to have sex for the local girls then they are trapped by the community which force the guilty either marry the girl or give chunk of money. This is known as Dhapa.
  • If woman whose death take place at the house of her parents in law, then her own parents along with entire village community do come to demand   This whole episode sometimes lasts up to a month.  This is one of major practices known Mautana.

  Cooperation – A sense of team work:

Adasi- Padasi  could be a good example of team work, competency like empathy. Whole village get together to support a family which is in need  of  any kind of work/job  whether it is ploughing  farm, harvesting, wedding ceremony, during the time of death.  They do care with each other i.e

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Festivals & celebrations:

The Baneshwar fair is the main festival celebrated among the Bhils. This fair is held during the period of Shivaratri  and is dedicated to Baneshwar Mahadev also known as Lord Shiva. On this occasion Bhils gather together and set up camps on the banks of the Som and Mahi River. They perform dance around the fire and sing traditional songs. At night all of them enjoy Raslila at the Lakshmi Narayan temple. Cultural shows, magic shows, animal shows, acrobatic feats are the main attraction of the fair. This fair is actually the combination of two fairs, which are held in reverence of Lord Shiva and the other one that commenced after the setting up of Vishnu temple by Jankunwari. Holy and Dusshera are the other major festivals celebrated among the Bhils in India

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Key Developmental Issues of the Area:

  • Livelihood is the major issue of the area which is a manifestation of the other crucial issues such as scattered or less rain fall, deforestation, unavailability of fertile land, less land holdings etc.
  • Health & Education are the other major issues for the area. Specifically maternal and infant health is the most critical. HIV cases are also seen these days.
  • Seasonal Migration for 4-6 months,hardly gives the solution of  livelihood however increase  vulnerability in the society which also affects formal schooling of the child.

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Written By

Diwakkar Kukretii

Veteran social worker with more than 20 years of in-depth hands-on experience in developing ample social development & livelihood programme strategies. Proven success in leadership, managed team in enhancing capacities to achieve social development & livelihood goals.

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