Ger: Indore’s 95-year-old link to era of Rajas, Maharajas

Ger: Indore’s 95-year-old link to era of Rajas, Maharajas

The city administration has initiated the process to get ‘the Ger’ enlisted in United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) list of Heritage.

Manish UpadhyayUpdated: Sunday, March 12, 2023, 10:12 AM IST
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Indore (Madhya Pradesh): Indore’s pride –Ger – is now 95-year-old. The tradition started in 1927, when Holkar dynasty’s Maharaja Yashwant Rao –II, the overlord of the city, organised it for the first time. After Independence, the rajas and maharajas became a part of history and folklore but their unique tradition has withstood the test of time and continues to flourish, courtesy the Indoreans.

The city administration has initiated the process to get ‘the Ger’ enlisted in United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) list of Heritage.

In last 95 years, the Ger has turned into a symbol for the entire city as residents flock a particular area to celebrate festival of colour together. The number of people turning up for Ger and subsequent Rangpanchami is in lakhs with more new faces joining the tradition every passing year as the city’s population swells.

The Ger too has transformed with passage of time. From being limited to a round around the Rajwada in the initial year, its area has spread from Tori Corner to the Rajwada post independence.

Veteran journalist Nagendra Azad, who penned chronicles of Holkar dynasty, gave details of Ger’s inception in the first edition of his book ‘Indore Digdarshan’. The book was published way back in 1999.

He wrote that Maharaja Yashwant Rao-II turned major and became full-fledged king of Holkar Estate in 1930. Though, he was the king even as a minor but had to follow the advice of Estate officials about the works of Maharaja.

Azad wrote in his book that the Holkar Estate had bought the first fire brigade in 1927. The same year, during a discussion on Holi celebrations, the proud minor Maharaja Yashwant Rao-II had declared: “We will shower colours on the public with fire brigade’s water pumps.

In 1927, for the first time a fire brigade was bought to extinguish the fire. In the same year, on the festival of Holi, Maharaja was asked by his courtiers that how will you be play Holi colours this time? The minor Maharaja Yashwant Rao-II replied in a child-friendly loud voice - We will shower colours on the public with the fire brigade's water pumps.”

He instructed that colour be prepared from Tessu flowers (Butea monosperma or Palash Tree) and filled in water tanker on bullock cart. This colour would be sprayed on the public through fire brigade’s jets.  His orders were followed and natural red colour was prepared. Later, saffron scent was added to diminish the foul smell. Even common man was allowed to use this colour for personal pichkaries (water guns).

On the Rangpanchami, Imperial Army and Holkar Army troops stood in attendance at the outer square of Juna Rajbada. Holkar’s fire fighting fleet, including the new fire brigade, was brought to Rajwada Chowk by a steam engine. In 1927, for the first time Maharaja Yashwant Rao Holkar took a round of the Rajwada with his fleet and showered colours through the pump on the public. This then turned into a tradition and became an annual affair on every Rangpanchami till 1948.

Post-independence, the then social activist Babulal Giri and his group took the initiative to keep the Ger tradition alive. Babulal Giri’s nephew Shekhar Giri told Free Press: “They organised the Ger in 1949. In absence of fire tenders to spray colour on people, they used buckets full of colours in it. This Ger was taken out from Thiya Tori Corner to Rajwada.”

“After emptying the buckets on people, they used to fill it from nearby traps. Later, from 1970, they started using gigantic pan filled with colours. Now, water tankers are used to spray colour,” he added.

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We are taking the initiative to enlist historic Ger in the list of heritage tradition of UNESCO. We have called documental evidence from public and thereafter the proposal would be submitted.

-Dr. Ilayaraja T. Collector Indore District.

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