GADAG: The Banjaras’ Diwali is as colourful as their life and costumes. For the Banjaras living in some hamlets of Gadag district, the festival of lights is a unique, eight-day celebration, where tradition, ancestors and togetherness is the key. For them, Diwali is New Year.
This year, Covid has affected normal life across the globe, and this has trickled down to disrupting Diwali celebrations in the villages as well. Worried about their health while not wanting to give up the celebrations, the villagers spoke to members of the gram panchayat on how to go about the festivities. GP members then approached the taluk administration in Mundargi and Lakshmeshwar, which okayed the celebrations while keeping the Covid protocols in mind.
A GP member from Nagavi, says, “We have allowed them to go ahead, but they will have to adhere to some norms, such as wearing masks and maintaining social distance. They visit houses in large numbers, but this time, we have told them not to form crowd. The villagers have agreed.” The women of the community meet every day to practise dance routines before the eight-day gala.
The dances are performed on all days during Diwali. On the first day, they visit the house of the community leader to perform puja. After this, they start visiting other houses in the village and perform poojas at each and every one. On Amavasya, which is the new moon day, nearly 50 villagers gather and visit all the 400 houses in the village to perform Lakshmi pooja. This pooja is special -- the names of ancestors and current community members are recited for blessings.
Suresh Lamani, a villager from Adrahalli, says, “This is a unique festival. All the women in the village visit each and every house. While it takes effort, this tradition is what brings us together, and we want to pass it on to future generations.” Lalappa Lamani, a villager from Doni, says they try and ensure their celebrations are eco-friendly.
“We teach our children the importance of an environment-friendly Diwali. We also focus on paying homage to our ancestors, and this is what we pass on to our children too.” Bhoj Raj Rathode, a villager from Gadag says Banjaras in Gadag and some parts of North Karnataka celebrate Diwali in a grand way. “Remembering our ancestors is an integral part of the celebrations. Our children should know about our ancestors. These traditions keep us united,” he says.
On the occasion of Bali Padyami -- the fourth day -- all the young boys, girls and women from the community go to the fields and collect flowers, groundnut, jowar, cow dung, etc, which is arranged in front of their houses before sunrise. The village head, known as Naik, will then perform poojas at all houses for the good health and prosperity of the community.
Elders of the village visit houses that have had deaths that particular year, paying condolences and giving some solace to the family in their time of grief. Post the Diwali celebrations, the villagers get together for a long sharing session, where they discuss grievances, people who have broken rules, any new births and deaths in the village, and other important matters. The community auditor also collates and shares how much is spent on the festival.