Seven teams, ninety-six participants, ten performances, three workshops and two days the festival sphere in the cultural capital of central India showcased an one of it’s kind festival this year.
Khajuraho, the heartland of dance festivals in central India, welcomed a new entrant this year- the First National Tribal Dance and Cultural Festival at Shilpgram.
This two day long festival revolved around creative workshops for the participating teams and performances by them. The seven participating teams were from the most political and ecological disturbed regions of the country. A team of creative volunteer artist and activists who work towards conserving dying art forms came forward to share their knowledge.
Fern York, and artist cum sculptor from Australia was one of the curator took painting and sketching workshop, Ramlal Bhatt, a puppeteer working on social issues from Uttarkhand was the other curator. His workshop on making puppets with newspaper left participants and guests amazed. Ragan Dutta, member scientific advisory council said, “Stick puppet, string puppet and hand puppet all in one and that too with such ease and swiftness was treat to watch and learn.” P Madhavan involved in alternative photography took a session making of pin-hole camera.
This festival is a brainchild of a Delhi based Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) – Environics Trust. Tribal art forms are the indigenous practices by which cultural past is carried forward. Spread over two days was a held in Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh two days before the commencement of the annual Dance festival as an initiative to preserve, protect and promote the rural tribal art form of the major tribal belt of India.
Rajeshwar Rao, leader of a 19 member team from Konta, Sukum district said, “We have performed a few times in our region however this is for the first time we have boarded a train and it feels so good to be performing at a platform which recognises tribal ethnicity and culture.”
The performance ensemble had some brilliant performances and mix of first time stage performers and veterans. Malkangiri District, Oddisha Dance form: Bonda and Dhimsa. Dindori District, Madhya Pradesh Dance form: Gudum Baja Sukum District, Chattisgarh Dance form: RanoBela re. Dindori District, Madhya Pradesh Dance form: Gondi and Sela Karma Kondagaon, Chattisgarh Dance form: Karma, Dadriya, Jhrpat, Paargi Kondagoan, Chattisgarh Dance form: Mandri and Danda.
Bundelkhand, Madhya Pradesh Dance form Bhivari. Performances were very warmly welcomed by local audiences and on the final day even as the performances stretched till late in the evening audience remained completely engrossed and didn’t mind staying on for longer.
Talking about the festival Sreedhar Ramamurthi, Manging Trustee, Environics Trust said, “Over years Khajuraho has become the nucleus of various dance festivals – both folk and classical however this is for the first time that a tribal dance festival was organised here.” He continued, “Being a land of rich cultural heritage there are various art forms that India encapsulates. However, it is sad to note that like various regional dialects and literature- art forms too are experiencing a slow painful death.”
The guest of honour saw some distinguished people from Delhi and Kahjuraho region alike. Ragan Dutta, Advisor to the Prime Minister’s Scientific Advisory Board and Amita Dutta, Srikant Dubey, MLA(Panna), Ashok Chaturvedi, CEO Rajnagar, Arun Pateria, CMO Khajuraho. All of who provided the organizers and participants with encouragement and support to carry on with their ethnic practices.
Environics Trust has been working in the tribal belt for about—years with people affected by mining through it’s network, mines minerals and People, which has focused on the hardships and fatality in the area because of mining and related activity. The focused states for this year are Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat. It has come to our notice that along with grave environment and human rights violation mining and related activities are slowly eroding a cultural existence thus through this festival we begin a campaign to protect and promote the indigenous.
Their brochure read, “Dance is an all-inclusive form of story telling which involves traditional music, stories from local folklore and lends it to sculpting and painting thus, we at ET are focusing on it.”

1st national tribal dance festival Khajuraho photos