MAADUM HAAT is a feast for the senses, with its mosaic of colours, sights, sounds and smells, as only Indian bazaars can be. It is not a typical Indian bazaar. It is simply a barefoot bazaar, entirely ethnic and without any frills. There are no stalls, – even makeshift ones, only rows and rows of pots, some earthen, many aluminum, containing mahua, sulfi and suram, all local brew. The specialty of these markets is that you can never buy something artificial products from the market. Everything from the eatables to the different materials which you can buy are natural products.
During the visit to the market, you can observe that there are a few vegetable vendors – humungous bottle gourds with an inviting sheen nesting in hand-woven baskets and heaps of unfertilized, unpolished, wholesome rice. You will be astonished to find that the most expensive thing in the market will cost you 10 rupees. Most of the things are priced at a single rupee or less.
Selling seems much less important than communing and enjoying oneself. In a delightful paradox, the ambience of this market is clearly pre-market, unscarred by the ugliness of globalization or the vanity of brands. No non-biodegradable containers like glass bottles, Styrofoam, plastic, polyurethanes sacs or even tetra packs, which are universal elsewhere in the country. The packaging materials which are sewn up with needle-thin sticks and miraculously leak-proof. Men and women just lounge around drinking out of the cups and chatting. There is a distinct air of company and levity even though many have walked more than 30 kilometers to reach the Haat.
For this weekly Haat, the villagers from far-flung villages start out the previous day and walk barefoot all the way. The Haat is at the heart of Adivasi life. Gonds form the main tribe in Bastar and their subdivisions include Marhias, Murias, Dorla, Abujmarhias and Dhurwa. In every village the weekly Haat is organized.
More than 300 large haats are a weekly attraction in various villages in Bastar. The cock fights is the main attraction of the Haat. The villagers visiting the Haat, do more than bazaar for the necessities, but to hang out with kith and kins, smoke tobacco and catch up with news and gossip. The Haat is truly a social foundation that binds Adivasi communities together. It brings about a sense of continuity and unity among the different tribes in the nearby places.
To visit the market place, the Adivasi women dress up in the traditional off-white cotton saris that come up to their knees, while there will be some others who will sport colorful nylon saris, which seem to be quite popular. The more fashionable ones wear a blouse too. Adorning their raven tresses are exquisitely carved wooden combs, which, you learn, are gifts from their husbands during their courtship. In fact, these combs play a vital role in the courtship customs of the Adivasis of this region. The more combs a woman receives from her potential suitors, the more desirable she is deemed to be.
Thus a Haat brings in the spirit of oneness and communion among friends, families and a little chink of joy in the hearts of the tribal, living under abject poverty and deficiency.