Kawant Mela – the Gair fair of Gujurat in India

These farmers and rural workers were once hunter gatherers and so the dances and songs in the processions remind them of their jungle heritage, such as the male dancers painted with a paste of rice-ash to look like the big cats they once hunted.

Each village is differentiated by their own style of mens’ turban or colour of the womens’ dupatta (short sari). Even the extraordinary jewelry of the women gives clues as to their village and many wear the heavy silver necklaces of old colonial rupees. 

The young men see participation in their village’s procession as a rite of passage into manhood and clearly take pride in their elaborate headdress of peacock feathers, pictures of deities and lots of glitter, often with the modern touch of sunglasses and mobile phones.

Each village is differentiated by their own style of mens’ turban or colour of the womens’ dupatta (short sari). Even the extraordinary jewelry of the women gives clues as to their village and many wear the heavy silver necklaces of old colonial rupees. 

The young men see participation in their village’s procession as a rite of passage into manhood and clearly take pride in their elaborate headdress of peacock feathers, pictures of deities and lots of glitter, often with the modern touch of sunglasses and mobile phones.

Around their waist is a string of large brass bells or stone-filled gourds that they shake in unison with a hip jerk as they stamp their feet in the long procession. It creates a mesmerizing atmosphere.

As the day progresses, each group of village dancers and singers winds through the town streets, often led by deities in chariots pulled by life-size paper or metal horses. The noise of drums and flutes accompanies the vibrant singing lines of women, the black-faced rat-tags and the peacock crowned young men. After the procession they can rejoin their families to socialize, buy sugar cane and trinkets, get yet more protective tattoos and of course flirt.