Photo & text: Mrigank Kulshrestha
Nhaan is a unique folk festival celebrated in the Hadoti region of Sangod, Rajasthan. Organised by the local NhanSamiti right after the festival of Holi, Nhaan involves dance performances by transgenders and other old-school theatrical shows. Sangod, during this time, comes alive with the folklore and traditional colours of Nhaan.
The main attraction here is the Swang, which is just like modern-day fancy dress competition. The villagers dress up in colourful attires, enacting different themes and even make strange gestures to the cheering of the local crowd. The events include swallowing snakes and daggers, sliding over a 100-feet-high road gradient, singing, dancing, acrobatics and black magic.
The origin of the festival is said to have been in 15th century to celebrate the martyrdom of a courageous man from the Gujjar community named Sanga. It is said he sacrificed his life, while fighting the warriors from 12 villages. Transgenders from far-flung places participate in the fanfare. This festival, where all the villagers also participate, is special because it gives considerable attention to transgenders who usually are not been paid any heed. The festival itself is a culture which is not seen in the towns anymore.
Villagers travel from far and wide to attend the Nahan Mela. However, the women of the villages do not attend the festivity due to social stigma attached to participation of transgenders. Men from all classes enjoy these performances, starting from dusk to dawn.