On October 01, 2003, the Ghantali Mandir Ground will offer the residents of Thane an opportunity to witness a unique dance competition. From five-year-old to those above 50 will participate in the Dance contest that is being organised by the Ghantali Prabhodini Sanstha. Participation to the contest is free. Now, if you think you are a great dancer and you’ve got it made, think again – because, the competition is for a particular genre of dance, popularly known as Bhondla.
Hindus, and in particular Maharashtrians, are very fond of cultural festivals. Each year, around the months of August to October, they celebrate many festivals. One of the prominent among these festivals is the Navratri. Like most other big festivals, Navratri is also known for a few peripheral celebrations, one of which is called the Bhondla dance. Bhondla begins with the installation of the deity’s idol and lasts up to the ninth day of Navratri. In the Hindu calendar month of Bhadrapada, when the sun moves to the thirteenth constellation of the zodiac called "Hasta" (Elephant), unmarried and newly married girls perform a dance known as "Bhondla" or "Hadga" and sing specially composed Hadga or "Bhulabai" songs.
If sources are to be believed, it promises to be an exciting contest. There are in all four age groups of participants: 5 – 14 yrs; 15 – 30 yrs; 31 – 50 yrs; and above 50 yrs. The participants will have to dance to the songs selected by organisers. These songs will vary from popular variety to the traditional Bhondla songs. To suit modern tastes, they will also play a few prevailing tunes.
What makes this contest difficult is that there are hardly any youngsters who are acquainted with the traditional dance forms. It’s a pity that while many foreigners take great interest in our rich cultural heritage, our own people do not value much what they have inherited from their own culture. Few countries in the world have a tradition, culture and variety as diverse and as multi-faceted as our own country. Underneath this diversity lies the continuity of Indian civilisation and social structure from the very earliest times until the present day. But, unless we reverse the current trend, we may be unable to sustain this continuity. And, future generations may perhaps only read about many of the delightful practices that once made their country so colourful and vibrant.
From this point of view, the city of Thane has many culture-conscious citizens who are constantly striving to bridge the gaps between past, present and the future. The Bhondla dance competition is one such example. Vilas Samant, chief organiser of the competition is of the opinion that most youngsters of today are not very familiar with the traditional practises that we have been following since ages. He says, "The idea behind the show is not solely entertainment. Our underlying goal it to create awareness among the younger generation and also generate some enthusiasm among them about the ancient customs. We want to keep the traditions from dying."
Perhaps no one else described India’s rich culture better than Mark Twain when he said, "India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, grandmother of legend, and great grand mother of tradition. Our most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only."
Readers interested in participating in the Bhondla dance contest may contact Pestcol Pesticide, Ghantali Devi Mandir Chowk, Thane. The last date for filling the forms is September 28.