TRIBAL ODISHA AND CHHATTISGARH II: Chhattisgarh’s Madai Festival

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  • TRIBAL ODISHA AND CHHATTISGARH II:  Chhattisgarh’s Madai Festival
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Madai is a festival widely celebrated in the tribal villages and towns of Chhattisgarh between the months of December and March; it is particularly associated with the Gond people, although now also celebrated by other tribal groups. It is associated with the conclusion of the annual harvest and the prospect of the next seasonal cycle, and focuses on thanksgiving to the local gods and goddesses and securing their continued protection and goodwill. But it is also an occasion of local and regional festivity and bonding, to which the people of neighboring communities are invited and which are normally held in conjunction with one of the markets which are a dominant socio-economic feature of tribal life throughout Chhattisgarh. The Madai embodies this fusion of religious, economic and social elements in Adivasi society. The Madai usually forms in a large field in proximity to a village and market site and also perhaps to a local shrine or temple. Slowly groups of participants arrive from various villages in the area, carrying the decorated long bamboo poles that embody village gods, and led by local priests and shamans, often already in a state of intoxication or trance. Ritual sacrifice is often an element in the celebrations, as it is in this portfolio, where a goat is offered to the local gods. Male participants dance to persistent rhythmic drumming and music supplied by other folk instruments, inducing states of trance and eventual collapse. These ritual performances attract a large audience from the market and surrounding areas. This portfolio concentrates on the ritual elements of the madai, and includes images from festivals in two villages, one happened upon purely by chance and the other learned of through consulting locals on the day of performance. The final image is of a shrine at the site of the second madai, dedicated to the fiercest form of the Devi, the blood thirsty Kali.