Amidst the excitement and colours of Navratri and the intoxicating beats of Dandiya Raas and Garba, my heart travels back to the fun filled times when my evenings were spent singing and dancing to the various folk songs such as ‘Ailama Pailama Ganesh Deva…’
As the Ashwin month of Hindu calendar sets in, India comes alive with auspicious pujas and the nights are vibrant with lights, music, and life! In today’s times Navratri resonates with the clicking of the Dandiyas and the beautifully coloured Garba pots or the mystical Durga pujas with the swirling and graceful dances. But there’s yet another folk tradition that is typically celebrated during Navratri.
Bhondla or Hadga is a Maharashtrian tradition of folk songs and dance and is celebrated over the nine days of Navratri. This tradition of Bhondla or Hadga or Bhulabai is more common in the Marathi dominated parts of the country.
Bhondla starts from the first day of Navratri (Ghatasthapana) and it is celebrated for full sixteen days till Kojagiri Pornima. Like other Indian festivals, the celebration of Navratri too is connected with the nature and corresponds to the celebration of a good rainy season that brings good crops.
I remember how I and my friends along with our mothers and sisters used to gather – all decked-up – around a decorated picture/idol of an elephant and sing and dance in circles to various peppy songs like Ek Limbu Jhelu Bai, Karlyacha vel laav Ga Sune, Jilbi Bighadli, Shrikanta kamla kanta etc.
As a child I always bugged my mother as to why the songs were so weird, or why we danced around elephants or why were the ‘in-laws’ called as “jhipra kurta” (wild dogs) etc… I’m sure my mother would have very patiently answered all of my questions but I really did understand the under lying meanings of the songs and traditions of bhondla quite recently.
These songs that are sung are passed down the generations and are about everyday things. Some of these songs are naughty and as a kid we all used to burst out giggling. Some of the other songs have references to “hardships” of the matrimonial homes as opposed to the love and comfort of maternal homes. Embodying a common sentiment among girls who have to leave their families to move into their matrimonial home, these songs and the traditions of celebrating Bhondla essentially revolve around “taking a break” from the marital responsibilities and returning to the homes of their mother where they meet with their old friends and have fun teasing each-other.
In spite of calling one’s ‘in-laws’ with crazy names, Bhondla is celebrated by women of all age in good humour. After the songs, it is time for Prasad or Khirapat. It was something we all would eagerly wait for, as it involved a mini guessing game. Turn by turn each girl would get a Khirapat (treat) for those nine days that we met and the others would have to guess it. The guessing game was then followed by devouring the sweet and salty treats quickly so we could get back to playing indoor games like “mama cha patra haravla” etc.
Now as to the ‘dancing around elephants’ part:
Bhondla/Hadga is the custom that is celebrated as the Sun moves to the thirteenth constellation of the zodiacs called as ‘Hasta’. Hasta Nakshatra is generally seen as the elephant shaped constellation; hence pictures or idols of elephants with garlands in their trunks are venerated. Elephant is also the vahana (vehicle or mount) of Goddess Laxmi and the Goddess is popularly worshipped in her “Gajalakshmi” form where she is flanked on both sides by elephants with garlands in their trunks.
As Navratri is nothing but the veneration of different forms of Shakti (the primordial feminine principle), elephants – as a vahana of Goddess Lakshmi – find an important place in the bhondla celebrations.
Sadly, today not many know about these Maharashtrian traditions of Bhondla or Bhalubai (where sometimes even the idols of Shiva and Paravati are worshipped). Hopefully these traditions are still carried on in pockets across the country.
As I write this blog, I await for Saturday…for keeping up with the tradition and for our childhood-memories’ sake, we have organised a Bhondla at our house! You guys too are invited 🙂
“aadat padla shimpla…amcha blog sampla” hahaha.. 😛 😀