The 7th Annual Chikoo Festival held at S R Save Camping Grounds, Bordi Beach, Dahanu, Maharashtra concluded amid much fanfare on 3 February 2019. The event saw a footfall of over 1.4 lakh and witnessed several new attractions this year. Initiated by the MTDC to promote tourism in the area, the Chikoo Festival has been a resounding success ever since its inception in 2013. This year the event was supported by the Adivasi Vikas Vibhag, Maharashtra Shasan for Tribal Community Welfare in the newly formed North Konkan district of Palghar. There were more than 250 stalls showcasing everything from local produce to handicrafts and local delicacies.
The Chikoo festival is organized by the Rural EntrepreneursWelfare Foundation (REWF), which consists of a group of likeminded individuals from the area. They are committed to bringing this region up and creating opportunities for locals. This event is one of the many initiatives they organize throughout the year.
The festival was inaugurated by Shri Madhav Bhandari (ViceChairman, Relief & Rehabilitation Committee, Maharashtra state), along with MP Shri Rajendra Gavit (Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha, Palghar) and other dignitaries.
On the first day, a book called The Mystical World of Warlisauthored by Madhukar Vadu, a Warli artist and researcher from Manor, was also released. The book which was originally in Marathi is translated by Phiroza Tafti, Convenor of Intach Dahanu Chapter. She has also sponsored the printing of the book, which is a collection of several traditional stories that the author has heard from village elders of Manor in Palghar. The purpose behind curating the book is to promote the Warli culture and inspire youngsters. Visitors were delighted to catch a glimpse of Warli paintings at the Tribal Village Visit to Dhundiyapada painted during the past couple of days as a part of beautification carried out for ChikooFestival.
Over 150 adivasi tribals travelled from across different locations in Maharashtra such as Sindhudurg, Raigad, Pune, and Nashik to showcase their prowess at the festival this year.While on the one hand, there were tribal dance performances such as the Bohada and Tarpa, the Thakar adivasi group displayed an entertaining puppet show. In another scintillating performance, the tribals from Raigad showcased an instrumental game which left everyone spellbound. About 60 stalls were sponsored and dedicated to the adivasi group and another 5 stalls were given to the gram panchayat for the backward segment to utilize and earn revenue from. Local artisans hired in conjunction with the local tribal art association conducted workshops such as the one on soil less farming. People present understood how to sustain farms out of organic waste. Over 10 Warli painters were employed and trained to showcase and explain their art form to everyone interested.
Interested and budding foodies and cooking enthusiasts participated in a Masterclass by acclaimed Chef Smita Hegde Deo who made two different dishes: a purple yam cutlet and Chikoo Panchamrut. On the second day, another Masterclass was held by Chef Asma Khan who displayed how to make salads out of Chikoo and Bengali style Chikoo chutney with papad and Lucchi. Speaking about their experience, Ms Smita and Ms Aasma, said, “The Chikoo festival is indeed a one-of-its-kind event that not only promotes local culture but is also a source of livelihood for those living in this region. We thoroughly enjoyed our time here, taking the Masterclass which was a very interactive session, and attending the numerous other events that happened in the side lines. We will surely mark this festival in our annual travel calendar and ensure that we encourage others to follow suit as well.”
Some additional exciting, experiential, and engaging elements this year included movie screening; bonfire; barbecue with an Indian twist; board games; night walk and star gazing; and Bahroud mountain trek. The night trail and star gazing were conducted by a local venture called The Jungle Farm. Visitors got the opportunity to take a stroll under the stars on a quiet night while listening to the sounds of nature. The night walk lasted for about an hour and was followed by a bon fire and ukad handi (pot barbeque). The stargazing session was conducted by a professional instructor and guests had a lot of fun observing stars and constellations through a telescope. People were also excited to explore a day in the life of a Warli tribe, where they experienced local cuisine, life, etc.
The festival is a great way to enable the local farmers to explore opportunities and scale their business, there cannot be a more apt platform for them given that the festival provides global exposure. Above everything, it is an attempt at creating a sustainable economy for the local people of this region.
The festival not only supports local farmers but also women, the entrepreneurs in the area, and other rural initiatives. Chikoo fruit is a major source of revenue in this region, and this festival celebrates the same while combining other elements. To be a part of this festival is to support local initiatives while having an entertaining experience with family and friends. Last year, the festival saw a footfall of over a lakh in 2 days.
Entry to the festival was free, which made it a perfect event for both leisure and business purposes. The Dahanu region enjoys proximity to metropolitan cities such as Mumbai, Thane, Surat, and Nasik and is well connected by railway, airway, and road – which is an added bonus for the festival.