I had no idea what to expect when we rolled into Kavant, India to attend the much anticipated Fair. Kavant is a small village in Gujarat, populated with a tribal group called the Rathvas.
Rathva literally means forest dweller. They have inhibited this area for thousands of years. This festival has a long history, originally celebrating the harvest.
To put in context, I was traveling with the Jim Cline Photography Three Festivals Tour. What drew me to this two week tour was the opportunity to attend several versions of the Holi Festival. I have written several blogs about that experience. Wow. It was colorful and fun and stimulating.
The other two festivals were simply bonuses in my mind. But I found them to be visually stimulating and intriguing. As I reflect back on the trip, I now see what a great job the tour company did in putting this experience together.
We had three very different kinds of photography opportunities. Holi is a Hindu festival and we focused mostly on women’s celebrations. Hola Mohalla, I have also blogged about—is a Sikh male dominated military festival. So what about the Kavant Fair? Well, this blog post will show you the tribal influence and celebration. Next week, I’ll write about the flirting and matchmaking that goes on.
Before I show photos of the Rathvas, let me share that we were in such a remote location that there were NO HOTELS. NO tourists. No charming little guest houses. We were quite a novelty to the people there. The Jim Cline Photography Tours arranged for very comfortable tents to be set up for us, complete with running water. Yep, we each had our own bathroom.
Interesting in a town where few people have such luxuries. I struggled a bit over that although I did no complaining about the creature comforts. I share that with you so that you understand how REMOTE we were. Traditional tour companies don’t come here.
The Rathvas go back to the time before Arayan invasions of India, considered to be “original peoples.” They are not Hindu, Jain or Sikh unless converted.
They do a lot of drinking during the Fair which makes mockery of the laws of Gujarat which is a “dry” province. We experienced that first hand when we went to another smaller fair and the crowd was so rowdy our tour leaders decided we best leave. Safety was a priority.
But the main festival was great fun, seeing the tribal groups in their colorful get ups and face and body painting. I was particularly intrigued with the belt of bells the participants wore. Constant hip motion caused the bells to ring in unison.
The day we were there they were expecting a notable dignitary so a grand welcome was in order. We also saw lots of paint being thrown which surprised our guides. We anticipated that for Holi but not here. While colorful and festive, it is a bit of an issue when you have cameras.
Not to worry. We managed to keep our cameras safe while enjoying the fun. The following are my effort to capture the spirit and people of the Kavant Fair.
It was all worth it to see the marvelous dancing and chanting and colorful attire. I loved seeing the young boys, knowing that they are learning the centuries old traditions. Next week I’ll post photos of the young people parading and preening.