Madai Festival is one of the most spectacular festivals of Chhattisgarh and reflects the fascinating tradition and culture of this tribal region.
A significant adivasi festival of Chhattisgarh, Madai is celebrated across the state with gaiety and fervour. Tribal communities venerate Goddess Danteshwari and unite her with local deities from various surrounding village about 500 approximately in the month of March.
The communities which celebrate Madai Festival are Kurna and Charama of Kanker district, most of the tribes of Bastar region, people of Narayanpur, Kondagaon, Bhanupratappur, Antagarh and Pakhanjore.
Madai was started by Purushottam Dev, the king of of Bastar in the late 13th century CE. It is said he began the tradition of worshipping Danteshwari and indulging in festivities to give the people a respite from the mundaneness of their daily lives. According to the Puranas, present-day Dantewada was the place where the teeth of goddess Sati were found. Hence, the name Dantewada. Danteshwari Temple is one of the 52 sacred Shaktipeeths in the country.
The Madai festival of Chattisgarh is inaugurated in an open field where general tourists and devotees can witness the procession of Goddess Madai. Devotees from various tribes also gather there to witness the procession. After the procession, the priest or a similar figure begins worshipping the goddess. While the worship is held, the onlookers observe an auspicious silence and offer prayers at the feet of the deity. After the puja finishes, the event is celebrated with tribal dances, folk songs, and tribal theater held in the open grounds to praise the Goddess. Since villagers from all neighboring villages and far away villages come to witness the occasion, the Madai festival of Chattisgarh is always held in a large open space.
This grand festival begins in the Bastar region. From Bastar, the festival travels to Kankar district and from there to other regions like Narayanpur, Antagarh and Bhanupratappur. During the final months of the festival, the festivities are held in the regions of Keshkal, Bhopalpattnam and Kondagaon. The worship of the Madai Goddess is thus a collective festival that connects all the tribes of Chattisgarh by a thread of common worship of the victory of Madai Goddess over evil forces that have tried in vain to invade the forests, the adobe of Goddess Madai.
Tribal men and women dressed up in dhotis and saris respectively carry prayer flags and dance on the streets to the beats of dhols and nagadas. They observe a day-long fast and break it after the evening prayers.
Over the next nine days, the tribals worship goddess Danteshwari in nine different forms – Brahma-charini, Chandraghanta, Kumanda, Skandamata, Katyayani, Kalratri, Bhadragauri and Siddhidatri. On the ninth day, the ritual of holika dahan is observed. This is, however, different from the one celebrated during the Hindu festival of Holi. Folklore has it that a local princess had immolated herself to escape from rapists. The bonfire is held to honour her. After this, devotees smear abeer (coloured powder) on each other and end the festivities with an elaborate feast.