Work and Play in Gamshahi. Performing the Indigenous Village in Eastern Gujarat

  • Gregory D. Alles (Author)

Identifiers (Article)


Adivasis in eastern Chhotaudepur District, Gujarat, celebrate a whole-village festival known as Gamshahi or Gamgondriyo ideally once every five years, but usually at longer intervals. This article concentrates on the central ceremony, which takes place from Wednesday afternoon to roughly Thursday noon, traditionally between Divali and Holi, as determined by village leaders in consultation with a ritualist known as a badvo. It first describes Gamshahi as a realization of ritual scripts, then it analyses the celebration as ritual work nested within ritual play, both constituting a ritual spectacle. It does so in preparation for noting contrasts with another periodic festival that exhibits a similar nested structure, the Olympic Games. The contrast marks distinctive features of contemporary indigenous culture in India, at least of this indigenous culture, as distinct from globalizing modernity. The ultimate, as yet unanswerable question that it poses is, as Adivasis increasingly participate in this global culture, will they adapt, reassert, or relinquish traditional celebrations such as Gamshahi?