India: One Day Women Can Play and Dance

India Unheard shows us two different festivities in different areas of the country where married women from tribal communities can, for one day only, play and dance in public without risking censure.

Indial Classical Dance in Kerala by Steve Cox, CC By

In Tribal Festival Celebrates Femininity, Devidas Gaonkar explains how due to the patriarchal structure that still persists in many tribal communities, there are very few occasions where women are allowed to get away from their chores and duties in the home, and this festival is a chance for them to gather together and have fun. He grew up observing his mother and sister enjoying themselves this day and understood the importance of giving women the chance to enjoy festivities in the same manner men are allowed to do so.

The following video by Devidas Gaonkar shows the Dhillo festivities, which take place on the day before Diwali, in Cotigao, Goa:

‘Dhillo’ is the name of the icon made of clay or cow dung that the women make to symbolise their deity; it is placed on the village ‘maand’ (platform or space kept for performances or festivals) where the women proceed to perform folk dances, which are known as ‘khel’ (game).

Another India Unheard Video Volunteer, this one in the Maharashtra region, talks about a similar day when women in her village can dance and have fun:

In rural Mahasrashtra where Rohini, the correspondent of this video lives, women are treated as inferior to men. So while men are free to do whatever they want, women's moves are restricted and they must take need special permission from family members to even move out of their homes. They are especially forbidden to sing, dance or play in public view. Those who do so, are looked down upon as women of loose morality. However, once in a year — on the day of Nagpanchami this bar is lifted and women are expected to dance and play games.

India Unheard is a community news service launched by Video Volunteers; an organization which trains community members into becoming correspondents who tell the unique stories about their minority or marginalized communities through video, SMS reporting and other social media tools.


  • A gentle capture of a long story hidden behind the colors. When a photograph becomes an educational tool and features whole story not only short-lasting impression it achieves one of its important goals. I like that the author draws the inspiration from the Tribal Festival Celebrates Femininity in India and doesn´t only deliver us an aesthetic value but also approaches the whole cultural background.

  • azmat

    Oh the simple yet pure celebrations of our people!! Alas its only one day women can display their love of song and dance. Our mothers and sisters are important part of our life and heritage. They should be given enormous respect and honor and freedom equal to men. The women and young girls in the video look cheerful and happy as they teach us how to celebrate life in those beautiful dresses representing the magical colors of the rainbow.

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