May 2, 2024

A giving festival in the land of loss: Cherchera in Chhattisgarh

Korba district, Chhattisgarh
2 min read

Cherchera is a traditional harvest festival in Chhattisgarh. Celebrated on a full moon night in Paush (January), it involves people going from house to house in villages, asking for freshly harvested rice kept in storage. People visit each other individually and in groups singing, “Cherchera kothi ke dhaan herte hera (Give me the rice from your stock).” Dance performances such as danda naach and sua naach are also part of the festival.

People—rich and poor, young and old, irrespective of class and caste—go out to ask for offerings. Even the chief minister and the governor take part in this. The communities believe that this act of asking humbles a person. People usually give rice, depending on how much they have; often, they also offer visitors a glass of locally brewed mahua liquor. Dance troupes start visiting the homes a week or so before the festival, and, since they travel in groups, they easily collect 5–6 kg rice from each house. If people have relatives living nearby, they make sure to go to their houses during the festival because they are likely to receive more.

Cherchera was once popular across the state, but it is now mostly a rural festival because the urban population doesn’t relate to it. However, in the villages in Chhattisgarh too, people are struggling to celebrate the festival in the traditional way.

In the past few decades, many people have lost their land to coal mines. The loss of agricultural land means that the produce is low or nothing at all. This has forced some people to offer money instead of rice, while others, such as the farmers who grow corn, have resorted to giving corn. But there are still landless community members who wish to continue the festival in the authentic way. So, when they receive rice through the public distribution system, they keep a portion of it aside to give to those who come asking on Cherchera.

Murli Das Sant is the Chhattisgarh state project coordinator at Ekta Parishad.

Know more: Read this article to learn about the impact of coal mines on rural livelihoods in Chhattisgarh.

Do more: Connect with the author at to learn more about and support the climate protest in Ladakh.