In India there are two occasions that ensure mass participation: festivals and elections. The occasions, particularly festivals, are of late also being used to spread awareness about social causes. The recent Kullu Dussehra dance, with its “Save the Girl Child” message, is one such example.
Between 10,000 and 14,000 dancers, dressed in the celebratory and festive folk dresses of Himachal, gathered for the Dussehra festival in Kullu Valley on October 27, to put up a performance that would underline the message “Beti Hai Anmol” (girls are precious).
The Kullu Dussehra is a centuries old festival that is celebrated annually in Himachal Pradesh. Celebrations begin on Vijaya Dashmi, the day Dussehra festivities end in the rest of the country.
This year, the festival took place in the Dhalpur grounds and both men and women were invited to perform and take a pledge to work for the cause of the girl child.
The office of the Guinness Book of World Records in London sent officials to monitor the dance performance. The local administration is very hopeful that the number of dancers who performed is world record breaking and will make it to the Book.
Last year too, 8500 women had come together to dance on the occasion and their performance had made it to the Limca Book of Records as being the largest such congregation ever recorded anywhere in India.
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When the current 2015 event was conceptualized, the plan was to have a dance party comprising 12,000 dancers. However, the numbers kept swelling till they reached 14,500, even when the authorities had stopped registration for the event at 12,000. Although the numbers seen at the actual final performance were somewhat less due to inclement weather, media reports still placed them at above 10,000.
The women who participated in the event came from different villages spread across the mountain valley of Kullu.
What was unique about the dance party was that the oldest member was an 85-year-old lady named Bali Devi, while the youngest was a 16-year-old visually challenged girl, Nand Kala.
Along with this celebration, another innovative step to protect the girl child was taken in Haryana, a state known for its skewed sex ratio. Though the state government there has been taking many steps, there is a general feeling that the message is not getting across in the way it ought to be conveyed. So an element of innovation was injected when votes were cast for the municipal elections. This time around, the palms of the voters were not inked in the usual style. The message imprinted on the hands of those who had cast their votes was: “Save the Girl Child!”