• Dang Culture

Stories, Herbs, and Spirits: The Bhagat

The Bhagat of Nishana Village holding a Devkathi

The Bhagat is one of the most versatile characters in the Dangi community. Literally meaning ‘devout’, he is usually a village elder who has learned his ropes from a previous Bhagat after undergoing very rigorous training.

Although Bhagats have no formal education, they play an important, all-rounder role in their tribes. The Bhagat acts as the priest, the medicine man, the storyteller, the tantrik (occultist), the village elder and guide.

Not only does the Bhagat preside over all ceremonies like birth, marriage, death and all religious rituals, but he is also the person Dangis turn to for advice on most life matters.

Bhagats are also sought after for their knowledge of traditional medicine. They carry on the tradition of using herbs and other plant material for the treatment of all kinds of aches, pains and ailments. The Dangi tribals have more faith in Bhagat’s treatment than in a doctor’s.

Despite the Bhagat’s many medical and advisory roles, the Bhagat is also known for his storytelling. Bhagats play an important role in keeping story recitals alive in the community through the retelling of famous Hindu epic Ramayana A Bhagat narrates, sings, and enacts these stories dramatically while Dangi musicians play various instruments in the background. These recitals are still an important mode of entertainment and education for the Dangi people. It is interesting to note that all the literature including Ramayana in Dang has been passed down through generations by oral narration by Bhagats alone.

To add to the Bhagat’s varied roles, the Bhagat is also the village tantrik. The Dangi tribals believe that he will ward off any kind of evil spirit affecting their lives. In many ways, the Bhagat is indispensable to the Dangi tribes and acts as the backbone of the community.

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