The visit to Jhabua

This year, Avantika University got the opportunity to participate in the visit to Jhabua, live with the village folk, understand their problems, and participate in the Halma Event. We, the students of Avantika University, were fortunate enough to meet the students of IIT, NITIE, and share and discuss our experiences.

Jhabua, a tribal village, consisting of 87% of the tribal population, lies on the border of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, and hosts an event called Halma, once in every year. Villagers and young students from different schools and colleges across India come together for the betterment of the village.

The concept of halma originated from a very interesting Indian mythology. King Bhagirath worked very hard for bringing Ganga down to earth through a mass mobilization movement. Lord Shiva, impressed by his extreme efforts, bestowed his blessings on him by allowing the water to collect in his jatas(hair locks).

These Halma Events are a call to the people to help save mother Earth. SHIVGANGA, an NGO in the tribal district of Jhabua, Madhya Pradesh, is responsible for holding this event in Jhabua at least once every year.

The cause for holding these events in Jhabua is a large amount of deforestation, that has led the dense forests of Jhabua into barren land.Agriculture in this land is no more profitable, and through this event, women and children from distant villages come together on their own inspiration and own expenditure to work selflessly for one complete day.The program ‘Halma' also started ‘Matavan' – an area in the village where trees are planted in huge numbers every year.

Apart from the concepts of HALMA and MATAWAN, SHIVGANGA has looked into various other developmental aspects of the village. Two volunteers, the gram engineers, are responsible for discussing and implementing with the villagers, the different water harvesting and conserving methods.SHIVGANGA has also installed 900 libraries across the district of Jhabua, with future provisions of solar power. With the help of IIT Delhi and NITIE, SHIVGANGA is working on the installation of affordable solar panels for the purpose of illuminations and mobile charging.Since 90 % of Jhabua population's occupation is farming, SHIVGANGA has installed a laboratory on 3-acre land to experiment Organic farming as well as for the experiments of improved agriculture tools.

After spending 42,000 rupees, the government started 171 single-teacher schools for the tribal villagers. This was followed by the initiation of 65 primary and advanced schools in consecutive 3 years.

As a part of water harvesting, about 300 trenches have been made by the unified work of the village folk.One of the most striking examples of unified labor was the dam that the folk built in a span of just 45 days.

Each one of us tried to understand the lifestyle of the Jhabua Folklore. The woman wore bright colored sarees, while the men put on dull or white colored kurtas with bright colored turbans.

The children in their brightly colored clothes carried a sense of innocence with them. Both the old and young, carried excitement as they worked to create a better place to live in.

The traditional food- Makke ki roti with a red chilly chutney, was a hero of the entire experience. The food was cooked and made using traditional methods. The chutney was made by smashing chilies on the rock.

Day 1 tested our communication skills. We spent most of our time interacting with students and the village folklore. We also participated in the rally where we screamed slogans like-" gaon gaon mein jaayenge, Shankar Jata banayenge". The day ended with our tired selves getting some peaceful sleep in the big halls arranged for our stay.

Day 2 of our experience was the one all of us took back as an adventurous one. We trekked to the top of a hill to dig trenches in the land so that when the rainy season arrived, these furrows would act like jatas and collect the water. One interesting thing about digging trenches is that, strength isn't all that matters, it's the way of doing it that matters. For us students, it was astonishing to watch kids, ages 6 years old, digging trenches with much skill.

Though at first the village folk were surprised and had their time of amusement when we tried digging into the land, soon they started to teach us the right way of making trenches. This hospitality proved how similar they are to the urban folk. They are just different for their own benefit.

Our 2-day experience was written in our minds for eternity. We learned a lot through the experience.We learned how working as a team can do wonders. If we work hard, we can achieve anything. This experience gave us a different perspective. We look forward to visiting Jhabua next year too.

Written and Edited by,
Swarali Hindlekar
Chandvi Khetan

Pictures credits,
Atharva Pardesi,
Palash Bakre,
Devansh Sapre.
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