The Bhils are the third largest tribe in India, after the Gonds and the Santhals. This old and once flourishing tribe obviously has a vast cultural profile. Their ideologies are simple, and tradition rich. The Bhils were a patriarchal society and women were treated as entities to be cared for and protected, and kept away from the world. They were also worshippers of nature, which is evident in their paintings and their lifestyle. The significance of tattoos in the spiritual and social happenings grew, and tattoos became extremely popular here.
The specialized form of dance of the Bhil tribe was called Ghoomar, which is a traditional dance done in long and colourful ghagras or skirts. Dance and music took prime importance in the festivities such as Sawang, which was a major entertainment event with lots of story-telling, dancing and drinking. The Bhils also enjoyed their share of alcohol and drinking in times of gaiety, this was however restricted only to the males of society. The most important festival, however, was Gavri, the breeding site for dancers and performers. Group dancing was the most exquisite event to be observed here, dances depicting Hindu mythological stories and there relevance in the Bhil society. Girls, were disallowed from participating in such expressions of celebration.
The Bhils were equally innovative and endearing in their garment style. Permanent tattoos had become a trend in their modernist period, but they were still tied to orthodox ideas and superstitions. The suppression of women is one fact that bears testimony to that statement. Another superstition was their belief that their holy ornament pejania, usually made of brass and worn around the hand would protect them from storms and animals. Their clothes were vibrant, yet modest; colourful, yet pleasing to the eye. The women wear an upper body garment called kapda tied around the neck, along with a ghagra, which is replaced by trousers up to the ankle when they are working on the field. They also wear odhnis, which is a scarf-like long piece of cloth draped over the shoulder. Most of their clothes have bold prints called nandana print. The ear ornament of the women is called aganiya. A Bhil bride is a sight to behold in lots of bangles and a turmeric colour ghagra that symbolizes purity. The men wear plain long kurtas along with dhotis.
The Bhils culture and tradition is very rich no doubt, but it’s also getting depleted at a rapid rate. Culture is after all what moulds their tribe, defines it, sets them apart, and gives them a sense of belonging. A tribe to gaze at in amazement, the Bhils sure have a lot to amaze us with.