Khandesh is a well known region for its prehistoric and rich heritage.
Its culture is not only ancient but also multifaceted. Many communities
are happily residing in the lap of this region.
Unified amalgamation of Arya, Non-arya and Mughal
Khandesh exhibits a homogeneous mixing of different cultures of Arya,
Non-arya, Buddha, and Mughals. Adivaasis (primeval tribes) inhabiting
in and at the foot-hills of Satpuda hills have retained their original
customs and traditions even today. Theirs is an ancient original culture
and is older than the Arya invasion in this country. A group of brave
and nomadic tribe of Aryas called Ahir/Abhir settled in this region
and the subgroups of this tribe like Gurjar, Ahir, and Gavali people
changed the scenario of Khandesh for betterment.
The Mughal rulers-Akbar, Jahangir, Shahajahan, Aurangzeb and Danial
and Farukhi Kings have left imprints of their culture and rule on Khandesh.
Satvahan rulers who were much impressed by Buddhist philosophy and the
caves and frescoes carved by them at Pitalkhore near Chalisgaon town
of Jalgaon district indicate the seamless amalgamation of cultures in
Different theories of nomenclature of Khandesh:
There exists difference of opinions about the nomenclature of this province
as Khandesh. Some of them are described as below-
I) Khandesh is the region of Ahirs who were devotees of Lord Krishna,
who is fondly called 'Kanha' by his devotees. They referred to this
as country (desh) of Kanha hence Kanhadesh which in due course of time
II) According to another view, Kanbai (Kandevi) is the deity of many
communities of this region. Hence country of Kandevi hence Kandesh which
further metamorphosed in to 'Khandesh'.
III) Still some have different view as for many years this region was
under control of Muslim rulers who were known by the name 'Khan'. Their
country hence 'Khandesh'.
IV) One more view states that as this region was the mine (locally called
khan) of human gems and jewels and mineral resources. Therefore it is
named as 'Khandesh'.
Tribes, communities and dialects of Khandesh:
Tribes-Since remote past, pretty diverse kinds of tribes and communities
have been living very happily together in this land of Khandesh. Scheduled
tribes include Gond, Bhil, Konkana, Pavara, Gavit, Pardhi, Tadvi; Vimukta
Jaties include Kaikadi, Kanjarbhat, Gorbanjara, Lamani, Jogi, Pardeshi
Bhamta, Ramoshi Vadar, Chhapparband; Nomadic tribes include Gosavi,
Bairagi, Sanyasi, Beldar, Kingarivale, Ghisadi, Gopal, Dombari, Dhelari
and other backwards include Gavali, Kongadi, Rangari, Tambat, Sonar
(Smiths), Bhavsar, Sutar, Pinajara, Tamboli and Schedule castes include
the people belonging to Mahar, Mang, Chambhar, Mehatar (Scavengers)
Jangam, Mochi, Dhor, Khatik, Garudi, Meghwal communities. Along with
them, the advanced communities too have been dwelling since remote past.
Dialects-Major dialect of this region is the language (= wani) of Ahirs
called Ahir-wani which further abbreviated to 'Ahirani'. It is also
known as 'Akkadibhasha'. Ahirani is represented by different sub-dilaects
of different shades such as Leva patidari, Gujarau, Bagalani etc. Primeval
dialects include Pavri, Dehwali, Bhili, Tadvi, and Warali. Other lesser
spread dialects include Vanjari, Bhavsari, Pardeshi, Beldari, Mehatari,
Panchali, Dhori, Mahari, Mangi, etc.
Aadivaasi (primeval) cultures of Khandesh:
Roots of Aadivaasi cultures have gone deep in this soil. The need for
creation of Nandurbar as a special Aadivaasi district reflects this
very fact. The aadivaasis residing in the hills of Satpuda are the surviving
successors of Mohenjo Daro and Hadappa cultures. Their life style reflects
their relationship with the very original culture of this country. "Dab"
in the Satpuda is the cultural capital of these aadivaasis. The small
paadas (= colonies, basti) located at remote places in Navapur, Nandurbar,
Dhadgaon, Saakri, Yawal, Raver, Chopada, are replicas of ancient cultures.
Gonds and Bhils are major residents. They include sub tribes such as
Rajgond, Maharaja Gonds, Pachhashi Gonds, Bada Gonds, Pavaras, Gavit,
Tadvi, and Barelas. They worship different deities like Devmogara Mata,
Ganda Thaakur, Raja Fanay, Mandhar Mata, Ravan, Meghnaath, Hirava Deva,
Motha Dev, Waagh dev, Kanasari mata, Holika. By worshiping natural icons
of theses deities, they offer prayers to the 'Mother Nature'. Even in
the extreme conditions of famine or calamities, they very enthusiastically
celebrate Holi, Divali, Gandi Divali, Navai, and Pola. Being mother
dominated family culture, women's equality and freedom is a highly valued
Cultural Heritage of Khandesh:
Cultural and historical places in Khandesh region are the living flag
posts of Indian culture. Their preservation and conservation is the
immediate need of the time. These include the deteriorating frescoes
and caves of Pitalkhore near Chalisgaon, Shendurni of Sindurasur; fort
of Parola- the home place of freedom fighter Rani Lakshmibai; Akrani
Mahal of Dhadgaon; Hemadpant style temple of Mudhaladevi at Vaghali;
Padmalaya near Erandol; Swinging tower of Farkande, Erandol; Hot water
spring at Unapdev near Chopada; collection of articles used by Sane
Guruji placed in Pratap College, Amalner; Internationally famous art
gallery of Keki Moose at Chalisgaon; Wooden house of Bahinaabai Chaudhari
at Asoda village are the living legends of rich cultural heritage of
Khandesh which need immediate attention for their conservation.
Folk arts and artists of Khandesh:
Khandesh is a fond lover region of folk arts. Many Art loving groups
are scattered in this region. Large groups of Mahar and Mang communities
inherit the inborn spirit of traditional arts. It is aptly said in Khandesh-
"Singing and dancing (is found) at Mahar's house and reading, writing
at Brahmin's". Recent times have modified the aims and means of
arts, but richness of traditional arts is still visible in their homes.
Now a day Mang, Mahar communities exhibit singing, dancing, music playing,
acting, through different folk arts such as folk plays, Tamashas (traditional
stage acts), orchestra, band party and banjo groups. This fact is evident
from the groups of Bhika Bhima Sangvikar and Anand Loknatya Mandal.
Fugadi dance of women in probably all communities, Bhillau dance of
Bhill, and Viroba dance of Dhanagars (Shepherds) are quite popular among
Un-comparable mourning (sorrowful) Songs:
This is one more unique characteristic of Khandesh. These songs are
very rarely sung else where. They are sung particularly by women. They
are very sensitive and heart touching.. When a woman is emotionally
struck very severely at heart, such as the death of some near and dear
one, then her grief flows out spontaneously in the form of a very touching
song. This mourning song is not printed or readily available in the
market, but instant outburst of the sorrow of that woman. It is effective
enough to make a listener weep howsoever distantly related or unrelated
he or she may be. These songs are unique, wording is personalised and
describe the noble memories of the dead and also her intimate relationship
with the dead one.
Some customs and traditions of Khandesh:
Most of the communities in Khandesh observe some traditions and customs.
Some of them are- playing Akhaji on the Akshayya-tritiya; to arrange
gondhal- jagaran during the marriage ceremony; munja (unmarried young
boys) bhojan; to arrange a marriage of frogs and procession of dhondi
for praying rain showers to pour down; festivals of gramdevatas like
Mari mata, Khandoba; to beg for holi; fixing of annual labour contracts
for farming etc. Through these acts, Khandesh culture sweetly whispers
its past and present in our ears.
Author: Prof. Dr. Shashikant Sonawane, Pratap College, Amalner
Translator: Prof. Ravindrasingh A. Patil, Jalgaon