Very few residents of the Hindi belt know that just like the Navratra festival, a Dashratra festival is celebrated in Maharashtra from 3 to 12 January every year.
The decision to celebrate Dashratra fest was taken by Maratha Sewa Sangh in the year 2000. The festival is celebrated at Sindhkhed in the northern hilly Buldhana district of Maharashtra. The festival aims at women’s empowerment by recalling the contribution of the Bahujan women who battled against social dogma and the Brahmanical system.
Sudhir Gire, executive member of the Maharashtra state Maratha Sewa Sangh and secretary of its Wardha district unit says, “We have been celebrating Women’s Day on 3 January [Savitribai Phule jayanti] instead of on 8 March, which is the International Women’s Day. We have been trying to project Bahujan women leaders as ideals. We celebrate the birth anniversaries of Fatima Bi (1 January), Tano Bai Birje (6 January), Mukta Salve, the first Dalit woman student of Savitribai Phule and Dr Sarojini Babar, a Marathi language and folk culture scholar (7 January) and Shivaji’s mother, Jija Mata (12 January). They all are remembered in the Dashratra festival, held from 3 to 12 January through various programmes.”
Evidently, this fest is a revolutionary social and cultural phenomenon. It replaces the imaginary symbols of women’s empowerment with the real ones, besides, of course, putting a stop to ‘celebration of massacres’. Estimates suggest that around 7 to 8 lakh people gather at Sindhkhed to celebrate the festival. Over the last couple of years, the celebration of ‘Dashratra’ festival has spread to many other cities of Maharashtra as well.
Published in the October 2014 issue of the Forward Press magazine
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