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It has its origins in the story of a princess called Bhadravati (Bhadresvari) of Panchakote who committed suicide. Bhadravati's devotees make an image of her and sing and dance before it throughout the month. On the last day of Bhadra, they gather on the river bank and immerse the image in the water. Songs, mainly focussing on marriage, form the main attraction of the festival in which both professional groups and amateurs take part. Celebrations include fairs and cultural programmes.
Bhadu was an orphan found by the chief (mukhya) of Lada village. Raja Nilmoni Singh Deo of Kashipur in whose kingdom Ladha is located has just introduced a new strain of rice—Bhaduyi—for cultivation in Kashipur is fond of touring the kingdom in a disguise along with his minister, Dhruvachand, to see if his subjects are in favor of the new crop. In the course of his travels he hears that the chief of Lada village has a daughter who is the living embodiment of goddess Lakshmi. He decides to see her in person. He disguised as a Sanskrit pundit (scholar) and was wonderstruck by her beauty and grace and decides to adopt her as his daughter. However, her father, the village chief, will not let her go away and the king decides to let Bhadu stay in the village. He decides to provide her the benefits of a royal princess. Dhruvachand stays behind to oversee her education. Bhadu's new identity, as a royal princess, is kept secret. Bhadu is very popular among the village people because she works actively for their betterment. Then she meets Anjan, son of the doctor (kaviraj) in the neighbouring village. They fall in love, much to the dismay of Dhruvachand. In the meantime the British imprison the king because of his active involvement in the popular uprising of 1857. He is, however, later released. When he hears about Bhadu's involvement with Anjan, he orders the latter's capture and secret imprisonment. Bhadu is heartbroken and, together with two of her companions, travels across the kingdom singing songs at the gates of various forts in which Anjan may be imprisoned, hoping that he will recognize her voice and respond. The king relents and Anjan is released, but by then Bhadu has disappeared. Her companions report that one morning she seemed to fade away, merging with the sky. Village women continue to sing the songs that Bhadu first sang in the fruitless search for her lover.
Bhadu gaan, an inseparable part of Bhadu festival reflects the colours of rural society. It used to be very popular i n Burdwan, Bankura and Midnapore. But in Birbhum the existence of this unique genre is being threatened by the rising popularity of cinema and television. Bhadu songs are composed extemporaneously and sung on each night of the festival, depicts the Goddesses as young girls. They describe Bhadu and tell in loving detail how they will be entertained. Since Bhadu is unmarried, her songs are sung mostly by unmarried girls. Dancing and playing drums accompanies Bhadu.