Divlya is 14 km northwest from the town of Zemen. In it Vladimir Dimitrov – the Master, a great Bulgarian painter, re-created the beauty of Divlya’s maidens on his canvases.
In Gencho Keremidchiev’s ethnographic research from the distant 1948, he writes:
“For the Divlya inhabitants Surova is the biggest feast in the year, bigger even than Bozhich (Christmas). All the events that happen are “before” or “after” Surova. For this day everyone should come home to the village and if someone is planning a departure, he deliberately delays his travel in order to be with the survashkari. The feast fever obsesses the young men long before the holiday. Absorbed in their preparation for the masquerade, they neglect their everyday chores. This gives their parents a reason to say, “Let Surova once pass so you can settle…”
In the survakari group only young men participate up to the age of 30. It should include “bolyubasha” (leader), “podbolyubasha” (vice-leader), “a marriage procession with a bride, brother-in-law and sister-in-law”, “a priest” and “a bear with bear-keeper”. The rest of the group participants are “old men” and “gypsies”.
The boy-“bride” is dressed in a traditional wedding dress, his head is covered with a veil. The sister and brother in law are also in festive clothing – she is in a traditional dress (saya), and he is in traditional waistcoat and pants (mente and benevreci). “The priest” wears a cardboard top hat and a cassock from a woman’s shirt, painted in black. The masks of the “old men” are oval or fan-shaped and are up to 2 meters high. They are made from feathers and wings of different wild and domestic birds, and just in front of the face an animal leather is stretched with holes for the eyes and the mouth. The nose is made from pumpkin stem or red paprika, the beard and mustache are made of wool and hemp. All of the “old men” are dressed in worn out women’s shirts painted in red and cut in ribbons. On their belt they wear bells, different in size and sound. The “old men” are armed with huge wooden swords and staves 3-4 meters long. “The gypsies” are with faces painted in black, dressed in old rags, caring rag baby dolls and sell sieves, combs and spindles.
On the night of 13 January the survashkari go through all the houses in the village to wish good health and a rich harvest throughout the year. When leaving the yard the group wishes “We – out of here, God – in here.”
On the feast day of Surova the masquerade groups of the villages Divlya, Gorna Vrabcha, Dolna Vrabcha and Gorna Glogovitsa gather on the Divlya village square. The common survashkari celebration begins. Under the sounds of the bagpipe and the drum and the deafening sound of the bells, the “old men” jump wildly, play the horo (chain) dance, make up funny pranks with the surrounding people, wrestle with each other, jest with the girls… The common joy lasts the whole day and it is talked about throughout the whole year until the next Surova.”
Today the population of Divlya village has vastly declined, but the Surova tradition is still alive and is performed every year on 13 and 14 January.
Archive of the Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Studies with Ethnographic Museum – BAS