Nagpurians have a novel way of wishing away everything that troubles society, in the form of the Marbat. Started in its present form in 1885 to protest against the British, the Marbat procession is unique to the Orange City and is a major attraction at the end of the holy month of Shravan.
The last day of Shravan, celebrated with the festival of Pola, marks the end of monsoon. This season brings with it many waterborne diseases and pests which are a nuisance to people.
Legend has it that the Teli community would take small dolls out in procession after Pola would be celebrated. These dolls would be representative of all the diseases and evil spirits that people believed pestered them. These would then be burnt, symbolising the destruction of everything evil.
Kali and Pili Marbat. cricinfo
During pre-Independence, the dolls also became symbolic of the oppressive British regime. This led to the creation of the Pili (Yellow) Marbat, a gigantic female figure connoting the pale skin of the foreigners. Along with this, a Kali (Black) Marbat- symbolic of a woman from the royal Bhonsle clan who colluded with the British- and a male figure, Badgya, began to be paraded around before converging in a field to be burnt. This is a practice that has continued to this day.
The processions, which can be seen in the East Nagpur localities of Itwari, Mahal and Jagnath Budhwari, are carried out with slogans like Rograi gheun jaa ge marbat (Rid us of disease). In fact, anything that has been a source of annoyance to the people- corruption, terrorism, a political figure, an epidemic- finds itself chanted as a slogan. Some notable mentions in last year’s Marbat were the disappointing “Achchhe Din” promises, ISIS and Shobhaa De!
The Marbat, therefore, gives vent to people’s frustrations, and acts as a means of protest, albeit with an element of lighthearted (sometimes light-headed) fun.
Now you know what all the fuss is about!
Title image: youtube