Dang Darbar: Celebrating India's Only Kings
Saptshrungi Mata during the Dang Darbar Haat
The Dang Darbar, which translates to 'the court of the kings of Dang' is a three-day festival that has been celebrated in the district since 1894. The festival, which is organized by the state government, is annually held in the Ahwa district of Gujarat, as a part of the Holi festivities, to honor the only remaining hereditary rulers of India.
These rulers are Dang's give Bhil kings, coming from Gadhavi, Pimpri, Amala-Linga, Vasurana, and Daher districts, who managed to protect the Dang district for centuries. Dang was never conquered by the Mughals, the Marathas, or the British. However, in 1842, the British made an agreement with the Dangi kinds that allowed the Royal Indian Naval Dockyard in Mumbai to chop and collect teak woods from the Dangi forests in exchange for Rs. 11,230 annually. The colonialists, to please the Dangi kings, introduced a lavish 15-day festival known as the Dang Darbar. During their original glory, the kings would ride up in royal buggies between tribal dance performers and police bands to receive their annual pension.
Since then, the powers of the Dang's Kings have been replaced with political pensions by the government. Although shorter, the Dang Darbar has continued to be celebrated courtesy of the Gujarat government acknowledge the many contributions of Dang's kings in the preservation of the forests. Now, Dang Darbar is distinguished by its blast of color, percussion music, and tribal dances. Usually, Dangi men will don loincloths with waistcoats and turbans while the women wear sarees with heavy silver jewelry.
Due to Dang Darbar's huge popularity and prolific attendance, it is also often an event in which development or environmental schemes are inaugurated.
The festival is also known for its Haat (market or fair), which attracts people from numerous villages, many of whom buy supplies for the full year. The Haat also presents a unique opportunity for eligible singles to find life partners. During the fair, one can often see cross-dressing and women getting tattooed.
The Haat is also distinguished by its unique tradition of worshipping the mother of the Seven Peaks, the Saptshrungi Mata, who is said to reside in the hills between Naishik. A man will be seen wearing a Saree and a Saptshrungi mask, and will be accompanied by a team of other men, who will together collect Faag (offerings). One of these men will act a guide to the man dressed as Saptshrungi Mata since the mask doesn't offer clear eyesight. The others play the Kahali and Sur. The man donning the Saptshrungi Mata costume will go around the Haat putting Tilak and blessing people who his feet.
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