DMPQ Premium- Describe the socio-cultural context of Gujrati folk theatre ‘Bhavai’.

Bhavai, also known as Vesha or Swang, is a popular folk theatre form of western India, especially in Gujarat.  Bhavai have been derived from sanskrit word, Bhava which means expression. It is also associated with Hindu goddess Amba.

The story of Bhavai’s origin and creation of the Bhavaiyya community dates back to the 14th century and is credited to Asait Thakar, the father of Bhavai. Legend has it that in Unjha of present day Gujarat, there lived a Brahmin called Asait Thakar. A Muslim subedar kidnapped Ganga, the daughter of the local village headman Hema Patel. In order to free her, Thakar appeared before the subedar and claimed Ganga as his daughter. Thakar was a Brahmin, and knowing the fact, the subedar asked him to dine with Ganga to prove their relationship. In those times, stringent rules regarding caste segregation were in place. Thakar obliged and was thus able to free Ganga. However, he invited the wrath of his native Brahmin community which decided to excommunicate him for breaking caste barriers. As a token of gratitude, Hema Patel gifted some land to Thakar. Thakar started writing short plays satirising social evils and taboos which became the foundation for Bhavai.

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