“We are going to perform Dashra naach [dance],” says dancer Itwari Ram Machhiya Baiga. “This [dance] begins from Dashra [Dussehra] and continues for three to four months till February and March. After celebrating Dashra , we visit our fellow Baiga villages and dance the entire night, ” adds the president of the Chhattisgarh Baiga Samaj.
In his sixties, the dancer and farmer lives in Amaniya village in Pandariya block of Kabeerdham district. Along with other members of the troupe, Itwari ji has arrived to participate in the state-organised National Tribal Dance Festival being held in Raipur.
The Baiga community is a Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group (PVTG) – one among seven in Chhattisgarh. They also live in Madhya Pradesh.
“Usually about 30 people dance the Dashra naach , and we have both male and female dancers. In the village, the number of dancers may go up to hundreds,” adds Itwari ji . He says that if a male troupe visits a village they will dance with the women troupe in that village. In return the male troupe of the host village will visit the guest team’s village and dance with the women’s troupe there.
“We always enjoy singing and dancing,” says Anita Pandria from Kawardha block in the same district. She was also a participant in the dance festival and part of the Itwari ji ’s team.
The dance includes questions asked in song and responded similarly.
The Baiga dance is an old tradition found in all Baiga villages. It attracts tourists, and troupes are often called upon to entertain VIPs at popular destinations, but the community says they are not adequately paid for performances.
Cover photo: Gopikrishna Soni