Maharashtra, known as ‘santabhumi' i.e. the land of saints, is home to renowned sages whose contribution to the society is immense. The saints have not only preached holy books and gave moral education to the masses but have also found out ways to connect with the common folk interestingly.
Some of the ways in which they did so were Bhajans, Keertans, and Bharuds that helped in making people understand the difference between good and bad and the right and wrong in an engaging manner. In this article, we will focus on the traditional art of Bharud that developed and manifested in all parts of Maharashtra, especially in the rural areas.
What is Bharud?
Bharud is an ancient form of poetry that was used by saints for social enlightenment. Saint Eknath is known to have composed most of the Bharuds performed today. In his life period, he wrote over 300 Bharuds with different themes.
In a Bharud performance social enlightenment and humor join hands in a way that directly connects with the hearts of the audience. Generally, the performances are inspired by the daily life of common people. It has no limitations of theme, language, place, or people. It can be performed in groups or solo too.
Essentially, there are two types of Bharud- Bhajani Bharud and Songi Bharud. Bhajani Bharud is a performance in which the compositions and Bhajans are sung and through them, samaja prabodhana (social enlightenment) is done. On the other hand, Songi Bharud is an act, where the men dress up like women, or different characters and enact the composition. It also includes singing and dancing. Songi Bharud is more popular as it is more entertaining.
Where do we commonly see Bharud performances?
Bharuds are performed mainly during the Ashadhi Ekadashi Waris. Ashadhi Ekadashi is one of the most significant festivals of Maharashtra, where thousands of Warkaris (devotees of Lord Vitthal) travel on foot from all over Maharashtra to Pandharpur, where the temple of Lord Vitthal and his wife Devi Rukmini reside. In the Waris, various folk arts are performed to entertain the tired pilgrims and to encourage them to keep moving on, Bharud being one of them.
How has Bharud evolved?
With time, the themes of Bharud have also changed. Now the Bharud performers perform on issues like female foeticide, farmer suicides, cost inflation, corruption, etc. The original verses of the compositions remain the same, but the explanation part and the conclusions have changed.
Apart from the themes, there is a change in costumes too. In earlier days, the Bharudkar playing the role of a woman, would just wrap a long dupatta on his torso and also put it as a ghunghat on his head. Now the men wear sarees and dress up like a typical lady of the village. Time has influenced people’s taste in art forms and so people have started using proper costumes and props to make their acts more interesting and captivating.
Moreover, a man dressing up as a woman works as a stir-up for humor in most places. Some of the Bharudkars also face nasty jokes and taunts when they perform or even after they’ve finished performing.
Astonishingly though, not many people know about this art that is so dear to Maharashtra and its inhabitants. I would go so far as to say that, even some of the Maharashtrians don’t know about it. As a result, not many people are choosing Bharud as their career choice. Bharudkars don’t receive as much respect and money as they used to get in earlier days.
Although the government has recognized the art form as one of the folk arts of Maharashtra, the performers don’t receive any benefits from it. For instance, they don’t receive any fixed salary as performers of one of the most ancient and unique art forms of Maharashtra.
Bharudratna (Gem of Bharud) Niranjan Bhakre is the most notable Bhraudkar in recent times. He has received appreciation at a global level. Niranjan Bhakre also got nominated for the Padmashree awards for his fantastic performances all over India and abroad. Through his Bharud performances, he mainly aims at generating awareness about the government schemes among the public.
Check out on of his performances in Marathi below!
Participation of Women
Women in Maharashtra and most parts of India have been homemakers since ancient times. Their strengths and talent weren’t acknowledged until very later. So, while the men went out and worked or studied and performed various art forms, the women of the villages spent their day in the house, doing chores and looking after their children.
Till the time when women acquired their rightful place in society, people were so used to seeing men on the dais that they couldn’t imagine women performing Bharud. Women also didn't give it much thought. Therefore, women’s participation in Bharud is noticeably less. Even if they do perform; they generally indulge in Bhajani Bharud.
As we will go ahead, we hope that women will surely overcome the taboo and we will have a woman Bharudratna, like Niranjan Bhakre, who’d spread Bharud not just in India but all over the world.
Let’s all appreciate this beautiful art form and learn about it so that our fellow Bharudkars gain confidence in us, the audience, that we will appreciate and acknowledge their skills and efforts in preserving the heritage of our country in the right manner.
Pratha Content Writing Intern