Hope is such a peculiar thing. It is abundantly available, yet we often search for it everywhere, in everything.
After nearly three decades in Nagpur, there is still so much for me to discover and understand, particularly when it comes to the cultural and historical events of this place. One such event that I always wanted to witness was Marbat.
Unfamiliarity and lack of information kept me from attending Marbat for so long. I had questions like where it would take place, how long it would last, and where I should go.
My main concern, however, was the crowd. Would it be safe to be amidst such a large gathering? Would I get hurt? Thus, when Orange Odyssey posted about witnessing this event, I eagerly registered.
It was a scorching Saturday morning in Itwari, a neighborhood that never seems to sleep. The narrow lanes buzzed with excitement, perhaps fueled by endless gossip or the unifying force of shared emotions. It's hard to pinpoint the reason since I'm not particularly fond of driving in this area. Today, however, something felt different. Today, it felt like I could comprehend this place better, as if I truly belonged here.
After finding a spot for my vehicle, I made my way to the meeting point. Amol and Mandira provided us with a briefing on the origins of Marbat, its history, and the mythological stories associated with the procession. While I listened attentively to everything they said (and yes, I remember it all), I was more concerned about securing a good spot. At one point, it felt as if I were eagerly waiting for the school bell to ring so I could finally reach my destination.
Gradually, the Kaali Marbat (Black Effigy) emerged—an empty effigy with a demonic appearance. The synchronized movement of every person's arm carrying the effigy seemed to require practice. But what truly amazed me was the continuous rotation of the effigy in multiple circles. It was truly an unbelievable sight for my eyes!
As men danced in black attire to loud music for almost an hour, I didn't want to do anything that would cause me to lose my spot. Mandira kindly handed me refreshments, ensuring that I didn't have to move. If others enjoy breakfast with a view of mountains, I had mine with Kaali Marbat.
The crowd began to swell, and various Badgyas representing societal evils started to appear. Interestingly, one Badgya depicted a man harassed by so-called "Female Supportive Laws." While I had expected to see a Covid-themed Badgya, this unexpected addition caught my attention.
The grand finale arrived with the Peeli Marbat (Yellow Effigy) after three long hours of anticipation. Every Marbat and Badgya bows down before the Kaali Marbat. However, in front of the Peeli Marbat, this dynamic seemed to reverse. I witnessed the real-life manifestation of the Hindi phrase "log cheetiyan ki tarah dikh rahe the" (people were crowded like ants); there was hardly any breathing space.
Even in this indescribable rush, the men carrying the Marbats continued their work without a hitch. There were no falls, casualties, or mishaps of any kind. I finally left my spot, which was immediately taken over by Amol, who carried on my legacy of not leaving it, not even for a group photo.
Marbat is an event that draws people out of their homes to celebrate a theme present in almost every Indian festival—the triumph of truth over evil. Here, we collectively hope that an effigy will bear the burden of the evil that has accumulated over the years. It symbolizes our desire for all that is wrong, all that is bad, and all that has caused immense suffering to be consumed by the flames. As I mentioned earlier, hope is a strange thing. It can be found anywhere or created out of thin air. It comes easily to people, bringing them together to chant,
"Gheun ja ge Marbat!!" (Take away the evil, Marbat!)