The highly anticipated 17th edition of Bhimthadi Jatra is scheduled to be held at the Agricultural College Ground in Shivaji Nagar from December 21 to December 24. Ahead of this vibrant cultural celebration, we spoke with Sunanda Pawar, the visionary behind this initiative. Here are the excerpts from the interview:
How did the concept of Bhimthadi Jatra originate, and what inspired it?
About two decades ago, the Maharashtra government launched a microfinance movement in the state. I got involved in this initiative in the Baramati region, where I trained women's self-help groups in packaging, hygiene, and finance. After the training, when these women started preparing their products, the need for a market became apparent. This led to the inception of Bhimthadi Jatra, around 17 years ago. Our inspiration was to empower rural women, fostering financial independence and self-reliance.
Sunanda Pawar |
How has Bhimthadi Jatra evolved over the past many years?
Initially, the jatra took place at the smaller Agriculture College Ground in Pune, with free participation for attendees. Over time, entry tickets were introduced for visitors, and stalls for women above the poverty line now incur a rental fee. This change aimed to instill value and motivate participants to enhance product quality. The event's attendees have diversified, attracting visitors from Mumbai, Nashik, Solapur, and beyond. Despite challenges, Pune's consistent support has remained unwavering.
What distinguishes Bhimthadi Jatra as an event?
Bhimthadi stands out due to meticulous organisation by volunteers from the Agriculture Development Trust Baramati. Every aspect, from ticketing to security, is managed by these dedicated volunteers, ensuring a personal touch. The event's reputation for cleanliness and efficient organisation is attributed to the hands-on involvement of these trusted volunteers.
Has Bhimthadi Jatra resonated with Punekars?
Pune's enthusiastic response over the past 17 years, regardless of weather conditions, has been heartening. The city's residents consistently show immense love and support for Bhimthadi Jatra, turning out in large numbers each year.
Are there plans to expand Bhimthadi Jatra beyond Pune?
Expanding Bhimthadi Jatra to other cities or countries depends on securing adequate funding. The event's essence lies in the personal involvement of volunteers from the Agriculture Development Trust. While there is a desire to take the jatra to Mumbai, feasibility hinges on obtaining the necessary financial support.
Is there room for improvement in Bhimthadi Jatra?
Bhimthadi Jatra is known for its exceptional organisation and creative themes. While there's no perceived need for improvement in the current Pune event, there is a dream to extend Bhimthadi Jatra to Mumbai, contingent on favorable circumstances.
How has Bhimthadi Jatra empowered rural women?
Over the years, women participating in Bhimthadi Jatra have shared stories of newfound financial independence. They proudly contribute to their children's education, start their production units, and even sponsor the event after being participants. The event's support of folk and tribal performers has provided them with opportunities, turning their talents into sustainable sources of income.
How have you maintained a low profile while organising such a successful event?
Instead of seeking media attention, my focus has always been on the work itself. With a background in rural India, I am intimately familiar with the challenges faced by rural communities. Having dedicated over 30 years to water conservation, menstrual hygiene, and education, I find fulfillment in the impact of my work.
What sets this year's Bhimthadi Jatra apart?
This year's Bhimthadi Jatra features traditional elements like folk performances, Bhimthadi Select, farmers' market, and live food areas. Additionally, a distinguished panel of women, including Vijayalaxmi Chabra, Susan Thomas, and Ashwini Narayan, will engage in discussions on the adaptability of sarees to contemporary times.
Dates: December 21 to December 24
Time: 11:00am – 9:00pm
Venue: Agricultural College Ground, Shivaji Nagar, Pune
Entry fee: ₹50/-