Rathwas can be seen at their colourful best at Holi during the 'Kavant' festival near Chota Udepur. Revel in their folk dances and music and see 'Basuri' playing youth and peacock feathered dancers mesmerizing onlookers with the 'Chuum Jhuum' echoing sound of pebble filled gourds and 'Ghungroos' tied round their waists. Young girls elope with their chosen mates on this day.
sub groups are 'Dhebariya', 'Kohaliya', 'Moti Nat', and 'Nan Nat'.
'Kohaliya Rathwas' are the highest in social status among the sub groups,
and 'Nani Nat' the lowest. Each sub group is divided into clans with
surnames based on their clans.
Rathwas imitate upper class 'Tadagis' with a common intermix of traditions and modern dress patterns. There is a mix of traditional and non-traditional culture in their language.
Weekly 'Haats' or Bazaar days are held in and around Chota
Udepur. The Kavant Haat is held every Monday.
Now an agricultural community, they are no longer hunters and nomads and use traditional farm implements. They are dependent on the forest for agricultural land, wild animals for prey, wood for fuel and house building, teak wood, 'Mahuda' for liquor, 'Asitra' and 'Timru' leaves for 'Bidis', forest products for food and sale.
They make country tiles, build houses, do carpentry work, and make ropes from Bhindi stalks. They make baskets, mats and mohti grain jars from bamboos. All these items are for their personal use.
Rathwas rear cows, buffaloes, bullocks, calves, goats and fowl, for additional income. Their major source of income is selling of cattle in the Kavant market. Their houses are in fields or hillocks. They build Kacha houses but large landholders are well off.
Rathwas use tattoos as a form of beautification and
protection. A Snake or Scorpion motif is supposed to keep the person safe
from bites or effect of poison. They wear 'Kadu', an arm ornament of
solid, ornate twisted metal ending in a tiger or lion face, and wear bead
and 'Ghughri' neck ornaments. Around the neck they wear an ornament of
silver rupee coins or of white metal ten Paise.
Men wear silver bracelets, Kada and have tattoos near outer eye. They wear a turban covered with a handkerchief embellished with tassels of silk threads and glass beads. Rathwa women and men wear a silver or white metal waist ornament of chains and horizontal bars called "Kahado".
Women wear silver necklace of three or four strings with a pendant of four peacocks, called "Sankal". On arms, along with silver ornaments, they wear "Kanchlina Chipiya", armlets of dried coconut shells with painted motifs and hammered silver strips. On left nostril is a "Bhamariyo Kanto", a nose pin of lacquer with a coloured stud. They also wear a lot of other silver and glass bead ornaments.
Rathwa women wear hairpins, silver ring earrings in upper ear, heavy silver stud with floral pendant and coin on lobe. A silver necklace, and upper earnings meant to protect wearer from Asthma.
marriages where the boy brings home a girl from a fair has more or less
disappeared. Now there are arranged marriages. Clan exogamy is observed
and a bride price is paid. At religious festivals the boy's father carries
all the foodstuff.
A Patel or leader of the group performs wedding ceremonies. The "Fuleku" custom is observed. Close relatives of the bride or groom living in the same village invite them to tea. The bride does not go with the groom after the marriage ceremony. They observe the "Anu" custom. The day after the wedding about 20 to 25 people from the bride's side accompany her to the groom's village. They hand her over after the second wedding ceremony.
Pithora ritual painting is done by the Rathwas. The wall
separating the kitchen is painted to propitiate and fulfill vows to
Pithora, the Mota Dev of the Rathwas. The painting has marriage
processions of Pithora and Pithori, the most important legend of the
Pithora painting. Young women lie alone in the protective and benign
atmosphere of a ritual painting, believing that Pithora will cure their
illness. Celebration of Pithora ritual by painting the house, animal
sacrifices, ensure protective presence of Pithora.
Rathwa Bhils of Chota Udepur region of Baroda district have immense faith in the folk God called "Baba Pithora". In the event of no rains no hope for good crops, sickness of unmarried girls or disease among animals, a vow is taken in the name of this God and when wishes are fulfilled the image of Baba Pithora is drawn inside the house of the one who takes a vow.
Before Aalekh of Pithora is done, the wall or the ceiling is white washed then images are drawn by the Rathwas. There are several typical images used in red, green, black, blue and yellow colours. This Aalekhan is quite typical and a traditional art of their imagination.
Being an agriculture based society, celebration of festivals
and fairs is connected with the almanac, changes in seasons and
agricultural work cycles during monsoon in the month of Shrawana and
Bhadarvo, on full moon and on Purnima and Amavasya. At fairs, young men
and women select their mates. A lover of a particular girl kidnaps her,
assisted by his comrades, while being chased by people from her village.
Sometimes a scuffle or Dingana ensues. Thereafter the girl is allowed to
marry her lover. The act of kidnapping a girl from the fair is called "Laadi
Khenchavi" or taking a girl away.
Bhils and Rathwas are addicted to liquor because some of their social customs and traditional religious rituals call for the drinking of liquor.
Rathwas visit Hanteshwar temple. A Badvo is considered the
village doctor or sorcerer. They believe in taking vows and worship
Vaghanio Dev, Bhapanio Dev, Dudhiya Dev, Khala Dev, and Japadia Dev. The
Bhugariya fair is held at Kavant.
The Bhils in the Chota Udepur region must not divulge the art of divination to anybody. To learn magic they go to a river, recite mantras over lemon and coconut and throw these upstream.