By – PrasadRaje Bhopale, Learner at Rashtram School of Public Leadership

Halma – 99.99% of you might be hearing this word for the first time. When I heard it for the first time I thought it was some fancy name given by some NGO. But when I got to know a bit more about this concept I decided to personally visit it and gain first-hand experience. 

Halma is an age-old tradition within the Bhil tribes of Madhya Pradesh that aims at solving issues of people by arousing the Bhavana (sense) of Paramartha imbibed through brotherhood. 

This tradition of helping got hidden in the history of Madhya Pradesh with the advent of the modern era but was revived through the commendable efforts taken by Shivganga, an organisation active in the Jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh. 

I was lucky enough to be accompanied by one of the members of Shivganga, Shri Harsh Kumar for this trip, who currently is a co-worker at Rashtram. His enthusiasm and zeal towards Shivganga and Jhabua aroused in me esprit de corps. Both of us were joined by Prof Dr Bhakti Devi Professor of Sustainability, Rashtram School of Public Leadership, Rishihood University. 

We reached Meghnagar railway station on 17th April and were welcomed by Prakash Ji and Poonam Ji. They took us to the Jhabua bamboo crafts centre after which we went to the home of the Rakhadiya village head Shri Punia Ji. At Pradhan Ji’s residence, we enjoyed the delicacy of eating Pania (a local dish made by roasting corn over coal).

There he made us visit a lake built in 2019 through the process of halma. We were also lucky to visit the village Mela (fest) and experienced the facets of village celebrations and worship. The fest was full of shops ranging from food, clothing, and toys to weapons. We tried our hands on the Arrow & Arch and Sword. 

While we were enjoying the Mela, we sensed that the villagers were preparing for the upcoming Halma. Also, it was a marriage season in the area, still, I could see a few marriage houses talking about sending a few members from the marriage family for Halma. Right from a kid to the old, each and every person was talking about this Halma.  It was such a fascinating experience and I was unable to grab the driving spirit behind it. 

I thought it might be someplace where you get some employment opportunities or some opportunity to showcase your talents or anything else personal.

The curiosity to understand the concept of halma was driving me crazy. Until now, talking to multiple people, I had understood that Halma is called when someone from the fraternity is stuck in some problem that he cannot solve on his own. Halma is an official request for help.  

If it is to help some why then is everyone so eager to help? is it something they get in return? I was super eager to solve this head eating problem of mine. 

But when I spoke to the villagers the only answer I got was that they are doing this to serve mother earth. Now, how come helping a fellow villager serves mother earth? And the simplicity with which I was getting the answers was something that was shocking me more. I was not at all able to understand what was happening around me.

The urban lens that I was carrying was making it extremely difficult for me to understand the pure thoughts of these innocent and rooted villagers. Most of my doubts got cleared when I met the great soul, Shri Mahesh Sharma Ji, Founder and Head of Shivganga. 

He says that this earth is a single and connected entity. For basic things like water, we do not know where does it comes from. When we go to cities we get answers as “it comes from taps or dams”. This is the level of ignorance. He says it is important that we understand that the water we get comes from someplace far from us. For eg, the residents of Delhi get water from the Yamuna river which originates in Uttarakhand and then flows from Himachal Pradesh into Delhi. So if Delhites need to have freshwater they need to take care of the river right from where it originates. It is not geographical at all, once we understand this most of our issues get resolved in no time. He cited Bharat Mata as being a cultural entity attached to our soul rather than being a geographical entity. And these villagers understand this concept really well. That is why we are able to conduct such activities with ease. 

In the initial days when Padmashree Mahesh Sharma Ji, Founder of Shivganga came to Jhabua he visited around a 1000 villages on foot to understand the culture. Therein he found the tradition of Halma which was still alive at village level. Sharma Ji motivated people to conduct it at inter-village level. There are two main rules for Halma, first is that it is to be called by someone and for someone. For inter-village level Halma, Sharma Ji put forth that it is being called by Bhagwan Shiv for the protection of motherearth. Shivganga makes sure that the invitation reaches every house in every village and handles all the co-ordination and management.

Sharma Ji says that the will power of a human being can overcome any natural or manmade calamity. It is just that it needs to be united and concentrated. While I was interviewing the participants I came across a few who had come from more than 70kms away. The only reason for them to join Halma was Paramartha, serving mother earth. They were willing to give up their work for 2-3 days and come to dig trenches in a village where they know no one. The slogans they raised were ‘Kaun hamara Sukhdata?  Dharti, Ganga, Gaumata’ ( Who is our saviour? Motherearth, river Ganga in the form of rain and holy cow), Bharat Mata ki jai ( Hail Mother India) and Jhabua Dharti ki Jai ( Hail Motherland Jhabua).

Also for this Halma which took place on 18th April 2022, around 3000 people participated and everyone did their job with utmost sincerity. There was not even a singe incidence of injury or violence. Everything ran smooth without any control or any authority. It was simply a marvel to see this magnificent event. 

When we look at social activities in cities most of the participants join for the sake of publicity, fame, name, certificates or enhancing the port-folio. Some or the other hidden agenda is always present. The sense of Paramartha seriously lacks. The volunteers need to be asked multiple times to work with sincerity. Management and co-ordination are the major hurdles. Most of the events require a lot of financial resources. In simple words the social work in cities is majorly a marketing and publicity gamble with very less focus on actual work. 

I was just amused to see that these villages can spare time for the sake of brotherhood despite having  all the hardships of life and so much of work on their farms. But we city residents despite having relatively less work than the villagers and all the luxuries of life under the disguise of false Busyhood never show up for social causes. 

The reason that I found behind this is the inability to arise the feeling of paramartha and rootedness amongst the city residents. Until we find possible solutions to institute Paramartha, Halma can guide us to brotherhood from the current state of busyhood.