Between the borders of Maharashtra and Gujarat, lies a little village of Dahanu best known for its beautiful beaches. But did you know that Dahanu is pretty much India’s Chickoo capital? We visited the little known Chickoo Festival there last month. Here are some highlights from the festival.
The Orchard Aura
While travelling towards Dahanu, you will come across fresh green seasonal fields and little villages. Just as you enter the region, within the first ten minutes, the sweet fragrance will green you even before you see the trees. Yes, that’s the aura of the Chickoo orchards. Gholvad, Dahanu and Bordi (a small coastal village located in Dahanu) are famous for Chickoos in Maharashtra. Chickoo orchards are spread along the borders of Maharashtra and Gujarat. And even a walk around those orchards gives immense peace. It’s a beautiful picture of confluence of the two state borders, ready to mingle and spread the sweetness all over.
Journey worth the Travel
We booked this tour with a local tour company named Mumbai Rangers. The journey began with sixteen travellers and a representative from the Mumbai Rangers Team – Girish Pandagre. After crossing Virar Phata we halted at Hotel Kamat for breakfast before heading onwards to our destination with a liberal dose of antakshari en route. Once the bus entered Bordi; what an eye-catching view it was! On the left side there was the peaceful Bordi beach and on the other side orchards full of Chickoo trees!
The two-day Chickoo festival celebrated each year was really quite a simple affair. Dahanu and Bordi villagers come together and spread the joy of the chickoo harvest. Many tourists from nearby places like Mumbai, Gujarat and Pune visit the festival as a getaway. The scene was calm and relaxed; with villagers dancing to a traditional folk dance, another group singing harvest songs. A group performance of 15 people including men and women followed; this was the most awaited Tarpa Performance. This is a dance form in which the musician plays a Tarpa, a musical instrument played on wind made up of bamboo sticks, and the dancers dance holding one another around their waists moving around the musician. This is the most popular dance form of tribals of Warli and Kolis.
Near the performance stage, stalls selling fresh chickoos and other products caught my attention.
I was super stoked to see for the first time chickoo jams, kulfi, pickles, sheera, chips and ice cream! I think we gorged on quite a few chickoo deserts; my favourite being a pancake made of jaggery and chickoo pulp filling!
We tried our hand at pottery, bamboo weaving and Warli painting too. While walking around, I observed the call of a number of birds and the guide helped us identify them via posters put up at the festival. There was quite a bit of informational material about the birds, animal of the region and rescue efforts by the local communities.
Harvesting Fresh Chickoos
After spending three and half hours at the festival, we left for a walk through the Chickoo orchards. Girish met a local villager and requested him to take us to his orchard. We started walking and reached the centre of the farm, the greens were so dense that all we could see were chickoo trees and nothing else. The orchard owner had 210 chickoo trees! As part of their daily tasks at the farm, they harvest chickoos and transport them to the cities.
The farmer then taught us the right method to pluck chickoos using a Traditional Bedni, a tool made of a long bamboo rod and a small metal holder at the top. This is used to gently pluck chickoos without tampering with the delicate branches. The bedni is designed quite ingeniously as it also has a holder that stores the plucked chickoos. He also showed us how to differentiate between raw and ripened fruits.
If the chickoos are hard and the outer skin is rough then they are raw while the soft, plain and shiny outer skin says that those are the ripped ones.
With a plump ripe fruit in each hand, we toured the rest of the farm munching all the way!
Things To Do Around Bordi
After the festival, we visited the Bordi dam; just a ten minute trek away. The view of the valley from the top was beautiful; with the sound of calm water, trees swaying in the summer breeze and birds chirping away. Make sure to take a dip in the water here or you could go ahead to the Bordi beach too and spend the rest of the day there. This sure was another day spent well in the outdoors; meeting new people, experiencing a whole new adventure and spending time with lots of chikoos.
I was also happy to know about a 4 km mini marathon being organised the next day. So the next time you want to explore Maharashtra, Bordi is quite a place to head to. You could plan enjoy your weekend at the Chickoo Festival and the trail run organised in the village along the roads and fields.