Monthly Archives: May 2013

Shankhajeet De Report

Excerpts from December 2012 report

I call Gurujee after I have setlled in in I B at Khamar. He came in the evening. We discuss about the projectand its objective. He says he will share with me with whatever he knows.

He is happy and we talk about the fellowship and its financial modalities.

Siba Prasad joins me to meet the local BDO there. It is regarding the performance that is being scheduled for 9th during the Pallalahra Utsav. I get a chance to talk to him in the bus. I ask about the Bhatas. He says that Bhata have come to this area many years ago. They claim that they have migrated from Puri and Jajpur. However he says he has never heard any relatives living in that area. Most of his relatives are either in Pallalahra, Talcher or Athamullick subdivisions. I ask him if he could introduce me to any old person who might have some knowledge about Ravana Chhaya. It is not necessary that he has to be a performer himself. It could be that he had seen it in his childhood. He says it is impossible. On the way I see Malyagiri Hills for the frst time. It is beautiful. Siba Das tells me all small villages dotting the area have Bhatas living. He says there are Bhatas living in Pallalahra, Debgarh and Keonjhar area. I ask him if he could take me there. He says he can as he knows many in that area but nobody knows anything about Ravana Chhaya. He says that he is also very keen on knowing more about their communities relationship with Ravana Chhaya and made some attempts earlier to talk about it with Bhatas living in those areas. But, it seems they had not heard of it.

We arrive at Pallalahra. He goes to meet the BDO and I go to the bank and post office. We decide to meet in the bus stand after our work is done.

I meet him in the bus stand talking to somebody. He introduces that person as the guy from whom he buys leather for making puppets. On the way Siba tells me that that person was a little scared to reveal himself as trading with wild animal skin is illegal thus he can’t come in public forum. I ask him if he could take us to places where he procures leather from. He says he might not like to but could I will take you there.

The Palace of Pallalahra King is located in a hillock next to the main town. It looks dilapidated and requiring immediate attention. Siba tells me that his family has been related with the Pallalahra King since old times. His grandfather Prananath Das used to supply Pan and Alcohol to the King who is the current King’s father.His grandfather popularly known as Panua Budha used to be at the Palace very frequently. I asked if he did Ravana Chhaya. He says no. Surprised, I asked how he claims himself to be Kathinanda Das’s grandchild. He says Panua Budha and Kathi Budha’s fathers were brothers. With that kinship Kathi Das is his grandfathertoo. He says the King’s family is in abject poverty. It seems the last King and his sons wasted all money

on Alcohol and other sorts of wasteful expenses.

He says “yes we are Bhatas and we make a living by pleasing the masters”. So, it is their job to praise people and takes money from them or rice. The Rajas are not respected anymore by the young villagers and they lack any sort of financial credibility even in the local vegetable market. To quote Siba’s he says “even the saag wali budhiya won’t give them a one rupee credit”. Siba says he is perhaps the only asked erstwhile Kangal (bankrupt) king of entire Gadjat area. They have heard that the current king’s sons live in Raipur and the King too spends most of his time there these days. We reached the palace. The gate is massive, but, all wooden and iron fixtures have been scrapped away. In the guard room lives a family. I ask Siba if it will be the guard family. Laughingly, he says maybe not. The King might have rented it out to someone for even hundred, two hundred rupees and might be using that money to buy one day’s alcohol. We go in and reach the small alter where the deity is there just before the next gate. Siba says the deity earlier was kept in a big temple inside, but, it has collapsed and the Devi has been kept here now. The altar’s wooden gate is locked. It is a simple door that might have been made cheap, locally. Weather beaten but strong, the door has marks with vermillion and decorated with fresh Hibiscus flowers.  I try to get in the second gate in excitement, but, Siba stops me and says we rather take permission from someone as after all let us not forget that it in king’s Palace. I ask that I don’t see any guard, but, he points out that some people who have gone in might come out and we can ask. I see two bikes and a few bicycles parked near that gate. In twenty minutes we ask if we could go in and I introduce myself and describe my intentions of taking just a few still pictures. That person says that the king is coincidentally here and he would go and ask if he would like to meet us. We go in and wait near the third door which leads directly to the inner courtyard. We wait there. I peep in and it looks like a shabbily kept house. It reminds me of local landlord’s backyard in my own area near Titlagarh. I see dry and wet cow and goat dunk lying everywhere. There is also a stone tub with cow-feed. The courtyard perhaps has not been cleaned. The king comes out I introduce myself and ask if he would remember any Ravana Chhaya performance in his Palace. He looks perplexed and takes time to decide whether to talk to me. Soon I say that I am not looking for any immediate answers. I would come again if he collects any old pictures and documents related to Ravana Chhaya and keep it with him. I would come again at a mutually agreed date and talk and shoot. I ask permission if I could take a few pictures. He allows but stands there to see what I am shooting. While I am busy shooting Siba introduces him as Panua Budha’s grandson. The king remembers Panua Budha and soon they talk about things in low tone which I can’t overhear. But, I am sure it was just pleasantries and not any specific. While taking pictures I go up a raised platform which looks like have been recently repaired and white washed. Both of them jump towards me asking me not to do that. I backtrack feeling that I might have crossed some line of decorum. Siba says this is where the temple was and that very platform was the sanctorum. Siba says that only the priest (Jhankar-a non Brahmin priest who are there all over Gadjat area) and King is allowed to go up that platform. The King in the meanwhile starts talking to me and asks more about me and my home. He confuses me to be of some royal family by my surname (De).

He says that Ravana Chhaya used to be performed in the night at the very place where we are standing. I ask him if he remembers who performed then. He can’t remember. He says the high time for such performances used to be during the Dola Jatra during the celebration of Holi. It seems the whole area below (he shows) used to get crowded with a mela and many other performers such as Ghuduki Nacha, Danda Nacha and Sapua (Snake charmers) used to come. I request the king if I could click a few pictures of him. He refuses smilingly saying he is not properly dressed

Khageshwar Pradhan now seems ready for the interview. He seems to be in a contemplative mode.

He tells me Ravana Chhaya of Gourang Das has broken many norms and has commercial intentions. He says that a few years ago he got many puppets made in cowhide and he sold them at good rates in Delhi. His actual expression was “he opened a shop to sell puppets in Ashoka Hotel in Delhi and made lakhs  of rupees”. He says performing Ravana Chhaya with puppets made from cowhide is a sin. Cow is considered sacred in farmer community. When my friend cut puppets out of cowskin he fell ill soon after.

I get the signatures of Guruji on NFSC receipt vouchers. Khageshwar Sahoo hands me over a photocopy of an article written by Late Dhiren Patnaik, the ex-secretary of Odhisa Sangeet Natak Academy on Ravana Chhaya. We discuss the future of Ravana Chhaya. Everybody talks about lack of money, but, guruji says the real crisis of Ravana Chhaya is the access to new leather. He says that Ravana Chhaya puppet requires leather from dear, Blackbuck, Antelope and Wild boar. All these animals come under wild Life protection act. How can we get these skins legally.

I ask them how long does a puppet last. They say it can last upto fifty years or more if properly

taken care of. I ask if they could show me some of them. They say the old ones made by Pothani Das and Baishnav Das are not there anymore. They all got destroyed. There are very few of the ones made by Kathi Das left. I ask what happened to the rest. They say that Kathi Das sold them for pittance and some of which were bought by Jeevan Pani and are there in Delhi Sangeet Natak Academy Archives. I ask then which puppets are with you now. He says, they say the ones made during the puppet making workshop that was held in Bhubaneswar in 1978. Then I said that the wild life conservation act was already in place by then. How they could procure so much of leather. They said the leather came from dead animals from the state zoo at

Nandan Kannan located near Bhubaneswar. Guruji said, it was not simple as we walked in there and bought it off the shelf. The procurement was done under special permission given by the then Chief Minister Janaki Ballabh Patnaik. It seems Kolha Charan Sahoo was active in local politics and had leanings towards congress party. In any case it is because of Janaki Babu that Ravana Chhaya was performed in Cuttak in 1956 on his insistence when he was the editor of Prajatantra Newspaper. So, Janaki Babu wrote special recommendation on his Chief Minister letter head and Dhiren Babu of State Sangeet Natak Academy co-ordinated the whole thing and wrote necessary permission letters. Most of the puppets that we have today were made then.

So, guruji says now even if we are commissioned new productions we get into trouble with this. For each new theme we have to make a new set of puppets. For some characters we may need to make four-five puppets that capture the stage or position of the character at different points in time even in the same story.

For example, we use four types of puppets for Hanuman in Ramayana. Besides that we nowadays also use puppets to increase detail on the screen for a scene such as the Ashoka vatika in Lanka where Sita was kept after her abduction.

They said that our Odhisa’s artistic beauty is in the Pattachitra style, so, all the new puppets should be made according to that style.  When I Guruji he said they changed everything- the music as well as the puppets. Siba interjects that, for example, for the scene of Hanuman when he enters Ashoka Vatika it seems he went like a cat. Kathi Das made the puppet of hanuman looking like a cat for that scene. These guys in Bhubaneswar who had no understanding of

Ravana Chhaya, rejected that puppet saying, it looks very gaudy and made new puppets. But, we kept that old puppet and use it even today because it captures the role of hanuman for that scene best.

So Baishanab Das went away. He started his own Ravan Chhaya team in Bhaluki village. They earned some money by performing in villages around. Both the teams sustained.

But I knew the real master is Baishnab Das. If there is anything to learn then it can only be through him. He is a master of Kirtan, a table player, and a very good Khanjani player. But it is Kathidas who got selected. You see, Baishnab Das and Kathidas both are like elder brothers. I have also helped Kathidas bringing him to my home. We respect them for them being senior to us by age. The neglect of Kathidas led to Bashnab Das going away

We performed “Sita Chori” according to his style but did “Ravan Badha” in our own. (sings the RavanBadha Chanda” to say what did they perform in Rabindrabhavan).






Now let me talk about Gouranga Dash. He got a project from Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts New Delhi.

We were discussing about Sundara Kanda

Yes. Hanuman going to Lanka, locating Sita, Showing her Rama’s ring, Hanuman’s burning of Lanka, fights with Demons, etc. In such a way they show many actions and they perform for around couple of hours. It is true that the performance used to go on for 14 nights? I have never heard them peroforming for 14 consecutive nights. They say and we also know that entire Sundara Kanda can be performed in one night. Thus we can imagine that it must be taking minimum 7 / 8 days. During the time of Basuvev das and Kathidas, how many people were needed to perform? They needed 3 /4 more people, not much.

How? In the front of the screen there used to be 3 people and 2 behind. They had a different style of puppet manipulation.They used to bring in puppets of only those characters about whom the singing used to be done. (sings a verse), you see its only about Hanuman, thus they would make Hanuman fly across the screen in different directions. They didn’t bring in puppets of trees and animal etc to feel the screen. (Interestingly he uses the word colour to describe embellishments). You see earlier they used to tie a long piece of cloth and fix a mat below. And they used to fix the puppets on the mat. They used to bring in only those characters about whom the song is talking about. In our style many characters move at the same time. But in their style only one character used to move at a time.In that case only one person was needed behind the screen.One person will be manipulating puppets with both the hands. Who will supply him with the puppets? Three in front and two in the back .Yes. But at times they managed with just two in the front. What were the musical instruments they used to use earlier? Khanjani and Ginni.If there was another person, then they used to add Daskathi to it.

Is it why Gobind Tej discouraged the use of Daskathi?

Yes. Thats why we used only Ginni.

Do you mean to say Daskathi used to be used earlier? Yes, but the core instruments are Kahnjani and Ginni.

You also said the singing of Bhatas was different.

You see they sang as they felt. They had no coordination between Raga and Tala.

You see they use the same songs and instruments. But their inner tuning was different.

See when they began to sing, they would start with a roar. The Khajani will then start beating furiously. They would sing one line of verse at one go. (Sings a line mentioning Dasaratha).

But that would not be enough. One would then say “hey someone bring in Dasaratha” Then the person behind the screen would bring in the puppet of Dasaratha in case he hasn’t followed the lyrics. Then the singer would say let in sit on the throne. Then the puppeteer would let the puppet it on the throne.

Thus they could manage beutifully by mere conversations. So if they sang just one line, the managed the puppet manipulation by adding conversations even between themselves. One can do it again today.

When you were a child, do you remember how long they used perform?

May be three or four hours. They had a lot of stamina and practice. They knew all verses of Sundara Kanda by heart. They knew all verses. You know they could not sing in bits and pieces. They had to sing it completely. After I came in we made cuts and pieces of verses to make it smaller. Only keep the necessary and take out the rest. I did it, not Kolha Sahoo.

You mean both Kathi Das and Baishnaba Das remember the entire Ramayana by heart?

Did they ever come to Bhagabata Tungi?

No. They didn’t have any relationship with Bhagabata Tungi. They did like any other villagers to pay obeisnace. But not anything beyond that. Now you see one man in charge of it and doing the rituals. Of course people still revere it today and offer flowers and fruits. Even today, if there is any important event at home, we send some offerings to Bahagabata Tungi. The priest performs the rituals. But earlier, each household had to take the responsibility of it for five days in turn. There used to be a wooden pole. If it came to my house, then I have to take care of its rituals for five days.

Who would give you that pole?

The previous house. You see it was this system in the village. After my five days get over, I will pass on the pole to my next adjacent house and so on.

Was Bichitra Ramayana was sung in the Bhagabata Tungi?

No. Only the Bhagabata written by Ati Badi Jagganatha Das. That time they didn’t sing all of it. They only sang “Ekadasa” Skanda. Now I have given the priest a whole set of 12 Skanda and has asked him to sing all. What caste does the priest belong to? Our caste, Chasa. Not Brahmin. We chasa have been worshipping there for earlier times. As a child we used to carry fruit offerings and puffed rice, lit a oil lam, offer “bala Bhoga” and recite one chapter from Bhagabata. Then we would blow the conch, strike the metal bass and distribute prasad amongst children and go back home. Now the rituals are same.


My Question is you said someone pointed out singing of two other songs apart from Bichitra

Ramayana. Who was he? He was not an Odia, but he understood that those lines were not from Biswanath Khuntia’s literature.

Who decded that Raavan Chhaya will be performed only on Biswanath Khuntia’s Bichitra Ramayana? It was the tradition of Bhata community. They don’t learn anything else.But thoese lines were song by Baishnaba Das himself. You see he was also a Kirtan master too. He taught many other things to his people. He trained people in Khola(a double side drum), Ginni(Small cymbals) to be used during kiratan. Thus he knew much about other styles of singing. But generally Bhata community learnt only Biswanath Khuntia’s Bichitra Ramayana and performed.

Bhatas are a commnity who went house after hoouse begging singing.

Because people in general gave imporatance to Ramayana, thus they stressed on this too. But if they found some people with other taste, they sang other types of songs. They sangs songs used in Nata and Tamsa. (forms of performances which had more entertaining quality and allowed more non-religious themes).Did that mean that they sang it along with Ravan Chhaya.

You see during the day they sang all types of songs to beg. But during evenings they performed RaavanChhaya singing verses from Bichitra Ramayana and begged. Begging was their vocation. Women sold bangles in households. But men never sold bangles. They begged during the day and performed Ravan Chaya during the nights.

Did women from their community ever participated in a Ravan Chhaya performance? No

How did you get to know that they exclusively sang verses of Bichitra Ramayana in Ravan Chaya


Whenever they performed in villages nearby or even in our village which I saw, they always sang verses ofBichitra Ramayana. They gave more stress on its ‘Sundara Kanda” as compared to other from the seven kandas. When Shantanu Mahapatra got involved, it is then we added Laxman and Indrajit fight into the performance. Bhatas never did this earlier.

What was there in sundara kanda? It was easier for them to perform Sundara Kanda. In this Kanda Rama will send his 8 senapati to look for Sita. (Sings the relevant verse).

Puppets of jungles wil be projected, within which monkeys will be moving around (continues singing) from here they would reach the sea shore and Hunuman will go to Lanka. He would leap (sings relevant verse which mentions Sodasha goddes). Sodahsa Devi’s image will be brought in. Thus many characters are brought it. Then Hanuman reaches Lanka, meets

Lanka Devi. His meets the cows. They would bring out a small image of Hanuman resembling a cat. (sings relevant verses) Display of these diverse puppets made the show very attractive. The village folk liked it as they heard Ramayana as well as got entertained with shadow, songs and music. For example they would extend the scene of the cows. We would see herds of cow going across the scree. A Gauda(Cow herd) would be herding the, A bull will come and will chase the cow herd away. Then a tiger would come and fight with the bull. Thus they introduce many caricatures into the scene to attract the audience. When this would be enacted on screen through shadow n screen, the music performers who sit by the side in front of the screen would also enact those scenes sitting.See one sings and two more follow s him repeating his lines. They sit in front of the screen thus people can see them. They will show the fight between the tiger and the bull. This brought in humor.

There is another reasoning too. It is in the folk lore, not written anywhere. It is narrated by Prabachak. Ram killed Raavan and returnted to Ayodhya with Sita. There were wives of Bharat, Laxmana and Shatrughna. They asked one day Sita to describe Raavan. He abducted you and kept you in Lanka for fourteen years. Tell us how he looked like. Sita said she has never seen Raavan. They said how it is possible. He kept you for 14 years. Though he kept you in Ashok van but he kept coming to you frequently. Sita said she never looked at other men. The moment I heard footsteps of Ravan coming, I used to sit bending my head low. But I can tell

you what may have looked like. When he was taking me to Ashokvan after abducting me from Panchavati, he took me in a flying chariot over the sea. His shadow fell on sea water. I have seen that from up. They asked sita to describe that. Then she drew an imprint of that on the ground to show them how his shadow looked like. SO the nomenclature might have come from this myth too. What I understand that Raavan Chhaya name has been there from earlier times

Yes. It is not a new name. They have called it Raavan Chhya since the time they have been performing it. Today we might call it Chhaya Nrutya(Shadow dance), Shadow puppet, etc. But they had only one name, Raavan Chhaya. So during performing Raavan Chhaya, they did only on Bichitra Ramayana? Yes.

Are Bhata equal to Chasa in caste structure?

No they are lower caste. Earlier we didn’t allow them to touch us.

Can you tell me if there was any music instruments played along with Bhagabata reading?

Do they practice in the Tungi? At times yes but they do it mostly outside the tungi.

Who is Sarvarakar? He is the village head, the Pradhan. How was the relationship between the King and Sarvarakar? He was the representative of the king in the village. He would collect all the taxes for the king and submit it in the King’s court. He would also at times collect paddy for the King in case there was a wedding in the palace. They would at times take away cows from the village and give them in the palace for the kings to have its milk. The king gave them some land so that they can produce without have pay taxes.


Sudhir Kumar Report

Excerpts from January 2013 report

Tusu Festival—Process

Makar Sankranti is the day when the glorious Sun God begins his ascent and entry into the Northern Hemisphere. It is believed that the Sun ends its southward journey ( Dakshinayan) at the Tropic of Capricon, and starts moving northward (Uttarayaan) towards the Tropic of Cancer, in the month of Pausha on this day in mid-January. Tusu is celebrated on this day in the Panchpargana region of Jharkhand.

The weather begins to change from this day and it appears as if the festival is being celebrated to bid farewell to the departing winters. The trees begin to shed their leaves and the mango blossoms make their appearance on the mango trees.

Tusu is an important festival of Jharkhand, especially of the Panchpargana region. By mid January, cultivators wind up their agricultural chores and are all geared up to celebrate and relax. During the last round of harvesting, farmers leave a clump of rice plants in the fields. On the day of the festival, this clump is uprooted and planted in the courtyard of the residential quarters. Women of the household worship the clump. This clump is referred to as Dini Budhi or Dini Giran and is considered to be a deity. The soil around this clump is scattered in the fields before sowing new seeds.

When the month of Agahan or the ninth month in the Hindu calendar comes to an end, an idol of Tusu Mani is set up in the houses. The idol is usually made up of straw and mud. In some households, a lump of cow dung and a ball of rice flour are showcased. Three vermillion marks are drawn near the newly erected Tusu. Prayers are offered everyday with oil lamps or diya and incense sticks, marigold flowers and beaten rice by unmarried girls. Women gather every evening to sing Tusu songs.

On the dawn of Tusu festival, special offerings are made to the Goddess Tusu. Eight types of grains are roasted and offered to the Goddess. Gud Pitha is also prepared on this day. People feast and rejoice. The idol of Tusu is immersed in the flowing waters of a river. Tusu fairs are held on the banks of the confluence of two rivers. These fairs are usually held on the banks of the rivers Swarnarekha, Kanchi and Radhu.

Tusu is immersed following some rituals. Chordals are made of bamboo strips and they resemble the Tajia of Muharram festival. Chordals are decorated with flowers, colored paper and peacock feathers.

When people step out of their houses with Chordals, Tusu is placed at its centre. They sing songs throughout the journey. In the beginning, the songs are sung with gaiety. But the songs become very sad when Tusu is immersed in the river. When people retreat from the river banks, the songs become lewd and have sexual connotations. But no one takes any offense.

In some villages young men engage in dramatic battles and fights to display their strength. This festival is also called audibaudi. It is believed that if a man leaves his village on this day, chances of his getting lost are high.

Tusu is a festival of joy. With the storehouses full, farmers rejoice. Parents begin to look for a suitable match for their grown up children. Young men eagerly look around for girls as beautiful as Tusu Mani during the fairs and the festival. Girls sing and dance in the gatherings so that others get a chance to observe them and select them for their sons. Several competitions are also organized and prizes are given away. Best chordals win a prize. Sword fighting and fights between hens are also prevalent.

Young girls pray for a good husband and young men pray for good wives during this festival. On the next day of the festival, farmers plough their fields thrice.

The tusu story

A potter had a beautiful daughter named Tusu Mani. She was known for her exquisite beauty and her reputation spread far and wide in the Panchpargana area. People of this area were awestruck by her beauty. A Mughal ruler happened to see her one day and he decided to marry her. The ruler was, however, very cruel. He had made the lives of his subjects very difficult.

Tusu’s father, the potter, couldn’t dream of giving her daughter away in marriage to the cruel ruler. But the king was determined and he was even ready to kill the potter if he did not relent. The king sent messengers everyday to the potter and began to harass him too. Poor Potter was in doldrums and did not know what to do.

Potter’s distress affected Tusu Mani too. The ruler’s increasing barbarity and her father’s anguish moved her. She rushed to the Kanchi River and drowned herself in its waters. She understood that if she would die, the Mughal ruler would depart from the region and the people of Panchpargana would resume their peaceful lives. She sacrificed her life for the welfare of the people of the region. The dwellers of this region felt proud of Tusu Mani. Hence, they began to celebrate the festival of Tusu in her memory.

Report of makar sankrranti / tussu festivals

I met my collaborator on 3rd and 4th of January 2013. He provided me with two stories related to the Tussu festival. He said that the katha varies from region to region. My collaborator advised me to visit the Tamad and Bunduarea.He informed me that Tussu is celebrated with fervour in this Panchpargana region of Jharkhand.

Tussu Katha (MakarSankranti) Version -1

In a village of the Panchpargana region, there lived a potter. The potter had a beautiful daughter named Tussu Mani. One day Tussu went to the forest area to collect some leaves. The Prince of the region was also hunting in the same forest. While he was on the look out for wild animals in the dense forest, his eyes fell upon the beautiful maiden, Tussu, engrossed in plucking fresh leaves and herbs. Soon their eyes met and they fell in love. It was love at first sight for the young couple.

The Prince visited the porter’s residence and requested his daughter’s hand in marriage. The Potter, fully aware of his status in society, declined. He felt that such a match was impossible. But the Prince did not give up easily. He implored and begged. The Potter relented. Tussu Mani was married off to the Prince and they departed for their palace.

The couple was extremely happy together. Days began to fly like frightened birds. This happiness, however did not last long. One day, the prince died. Tussu was shattered. She did not know how she would spend the rest of her life without her beloved. She decked herself and jumped into the funeral pyre of her husband.

People of the kingdom were heartbroken. So far they had rejoiced and worked hard too. But now their life came to a standstill. It was hard for them to believe that they would no longer see the couple anymore. The people of the kindom erected a statue of Tussu and decorated a ( Jhanki) in her commemoration. They even began to worship her.

Tussu festival is hence celebrated in memory of beautiful Tussu Mani, Tussu who departed to her heavenly abode with her dead husband.

Tussu Katha ( MakarSankranti) Version –2

Once there lived a king. He fell in love with the beautiful daughter of a Potter named Tussu Mani. But before the king could marry her, she passed away. The king could not reconcile with the fact that Tussu was no more. He was deranged. The working of the kingdom began to be affected. There was disorder all around.

The people of the kingdom hit upon a plan. They erected a statue of Tussu Mani and brought it to the king. This statue of Statue of Tussu was placed upon a (Palki). The king gave a sigh of relief. He slowly regained his senses. People of the kingdom rejoiced. The day began to be celebrated as Tussu festival.

The image of Tussu began to be erected every year. She is worshipped solemnly and then her statue is immersed in a water body. The beauty of Tussu had its spell in the entire Panchgarna area. Her beauty is worshipped in this festival of Tussu or Makar Sankranti.

I reached Haradih temple in Tamad district of Jharkhand in the morning. People had started coming to the temple to celebrate the festival and rejoice in the Tusu fair. The devotees took a bath in the Kanchi River and then headed for the temple of Shiva to offer their prayers. The ancient temple complex in Haradih consists of Vaishnavi temple and Mahishsurmardini temple. On being asked, people could not narrate any specific story related the festival of Tusu. A visitor could only say that long ago Tusu prayed to God with a wish in her mind and her prayers were answered. The number of visitors had lessened over the years. The festival has begun to lose its original flavour. The devotees to the Kanchi River did not carry a Chordal with them.

From Haradih, I headed for the Sati ghatMela. Thankfully, I caught a glimpse of a few Chordals here. The villagers explained that earlier prizes were given away to the most beautiful Chordal. But now this was not in practice. The inflation has also led to the lessening of the number of Chordals in this festival. The atmosphere of the fair was fraught with political discussions. Many prominent politicians had turned up at the fair. Tusu fairs provide a political platform to the local politicians.

On 15th January 2013, I visited the Haradih temple complex at Tamad. The complex houses a Vaishnava temple, a temple of Goddess Shakti and a Shivalinga. This place is popular for the Tusu fair that is organized every year in its campus. Many people visited the temple and offered their prayers at the temples and the Shivalinga. They informed us that the ancient temple had collapsed and a new one had been constructed in the recent past. Visitors offered flowers on the remains of the ancient temple too. But no one seemed to know the significance of the fair or the story behind it. It appeared as if the visitors had come to offer their prayers like any other day, though they did show some keenness for the fair where they could do some shopping and even enjoy some delicacies.

We proceeded towards the Sati ghat Mela that is organized on the banks of the Kanchi River. This fair appeared to be bigger and well organized. Many people had come to participate. It is believed that Tusu Mani had jumped into the funeral pyre of her husband on the banks of the Kanchi river. Hence this bank began to be called Sati ghat Mela. Many politicians participated and they even grabbed the opportunity to lure vote banks for the upcoming elections. Some villagers visited the site with Chordals which they immersed in the Kanchi river.

The educated tribal population of Ranchi had organized a get together in Manya Palace, a banquet hall in Morabadi.The rituals were performed with fervor. Many processes about which the villagers had appeared to be ignorant of were performed here. The image of Tusu Mani was worshipped. Many colourful Chordals could be seen at this gathering. Those present knew the story behind the festival and were well versed with the process of the rituals. Tribal delicacies were served to the guests after the completion of the rituals.


Excerpts from March 2013 report

End of holi

On the next day, a group of men head for the forest for hunting. This procession is called Phagua Shikar. The women of the household bid farewell to the hunters. They do not go to hunt to the forest. They merely ramble around and observe the changes that have come up. By evening, the hunters return home empty handed. Women wash their feet with clean water and welcome them back.

Fagua or colourful holi   or chutia ka  fagdol jatra

 People begin to celebrate on the next day. They sprinkle colours on each other and rejoice. This festival announces the arrival of spring and departure of winter. People come together and every nook and corner presents a typically colorful sight. By noon, the participants began to retreat to take a bath. After cleansing themselves, people proceed to offer their prayers to the Gods and their ancestors. Rice beer, hen, sweets and other delicacies are offered to the village deity, deity of the orchards, hills and the Sun. Then people gather for the Phagdol Yatra.Fagdol is the doli of Phagua. There are a couple of temples in the western and eastern side of Chutia. The idols of all Gods and Goddesses are placed on dolis decked with flowers and they are brought out on the main street of Chutia. The residents of Chutia and the outsiders join the procession. The gathering offers Gulal( dry colours) to the deities. And then they rejoice amongst themselves. By 10 at night, the idols of the deities are taken back to the temples. Children and young seek the blessings of the elders by touching their feet and applying gulal.

Fagua-holika dahanholika dahan

The next day was Purnima. Firewood and even dry branches of trees were heaped together into a pile near the Chota Phagua dol Chabutra in Chutia. Doughnut shaped dry lumps of cow dung was strung together with a string and was draped on the pile of wood. Before setting the pile of wood on fire, certain rituals were observed. Men and women visited the spot with a bowl of water, beads, roli, rice, perfume, flowers, raw thread, turmeric, moong daal, sweets, dry colours, coconut etc. Ripe sheaf of grain is also used. Toys made of mud and cowdung were placed near holika or the pile of wood. Holika was then worshipped. Raw yarn was wrapped around the pile in three or seven circles. Water along with other things was offered to holika.After sunset, in Pradosh kaal, the holika was set on fire. When the flames began to leap up high, some men carried burning firewood into their dwelling to burn away all negativity. The grain sheaf was roasted in the burning fire and eaten by those present. It is believed that the intake of crops roasted in this fire keeps one away from diseases. Offering grains had started as a primitive ritual, an offering to the Goddess of fire in order to appease her and beseech her to spare the fields having crops ready for harvest.  The ashes of holika is also carried home and applied on the body. The elders kick the ashes in different directions with their feet to drive away all evil from the neighbourhood. Some people also perform havan on this Purnima to seek the blessings of the fire God.

2ND festival fagdol or fagua or the first day

Chutia is the ancient capital of Chotanagpur. The fifth ruler of Nagvanshi dynasty, Maharaja Pratap Rai, shifted his capital from Sutiambe to Chutia in 307 century. Various small settlements of Mundas and Sadans came up during this time and the residents of Chutia started celebrating Fagdol from then on.I went to Chutia two days before holi and headed for the place called Chota Phagua dol Chabutra. A Munda Pahan or priest arrived with a branch of Arandi or castor bean oilseed tree. He planted the branch on the platform that had been mopped with yellow mud and cow dung. He wrapped some hay around the branch and set it on fire. After that he cut the branch into two parts in a single stroke. This marked the beginning of a new year. The smoke that emanated from the branch was closely observed and the Pahan or priest made some forecasts about the coming year.As soon as the Pahan finished his job, the gathering began to rejoice. They offered rice beer (hadia) to the Arandi branch and began their dance on the beat of Mandar dhol, dhak, nagada, shahnai, conch and cymbals.



Indraneel Lahiry Report

November 2013 report


To get started on the task of archiving contemporary puppetry practices of Odisha, it is imperative that I have an idea about the history of the art in the state, the different cultural influences that has gone into it over the years and its present state. When I had asked my collaborator Sri Maguni Charan Kuanar to help me with this, I realized that he is more of a performer, and cannot satisfactorily and coherently answer my queries. He seeing my interest suggested I meet Sri Gouranga Charan Dash a Professor of

Oriya at the Ravensaw University, Cuttack. I met him at the University; he was also holding the post of the Head of the Department and was an extremely busy man. He had done his doctoral thesis was o the puppetry theater of Odisha. I did not realize then that he too was a puppeteer. He gave me a lot of time though. We talked about his experiences in being a practitioner of Ravana Chhaya(shadow puppetry) tradition of Odihsa, of which only two professional troupes exist. He was very happy to see that such a project has been undertaken as there has not been a comprehensive film on the puppetry art of Odisha, and invited me and my wife to his village in Khamar, Angul district about four hundred kilometres away from Bhubaneswar.

In his village Sri Dash has created an institution called ‘Kondheighara’ , a space where there will be a museum on puppetry of Odisha, research books on the subject, an amphitheater where regular shows can be held and a  place where all puppeteers across the state can come together and discuss their future. A sprawling five acres of land full of old trees adjacent to a Kolha village. It is name after Guru Kathinanda Das the revered guru of Ravana Chhaya. Sri Dash and his wife both are academicians and have learnt the art of puppet manipulations, sing and perform for traditional texts as well as for new ones that they have developed mostly for Sangeet Natak Academy. There has been a rift with the other Ravana Chhaya troupe which is in the village of Odasa very close to Sri Gouranga’s village. He has been blamed for modernizing the tradition. Sri Gouranga also has arguments in his favour, about why such changes and innovations are required for an art form to survive throughout the ages. He is of the opinion that the traditional Bhata community who were the pioneers of this tradition had also improvised on it as no one knows in which form it was available in antiquity. No Bhata people perform anymore though. The people from the ‘Kela’ community, who were the traditional puppeteers and snake charmers of Odisha, have migrated to different profession other than probably one troupe who practice Sakhi Kondhei (glove puppetry). We discussed extensively the complications that have arisen after the Government has started giving grants for the development of the art. Most of the money is devoured by the middle men and sometimes the poor artists are cheated off their remuneration. Also we see that nowadays many artists are ashamed of their identity as a man of very low caste, as it was the practice before, which deter them from travelling different places in search of their audience. He has also helped me with giving me contacts of other practicing puppeteers, all of whom I intend to document in the course of the term of the fellowship.

Sri Gouranga is about to publish a book called ‘Sacred Shadows’ about shadow puppetry practices of our country and his research material has been also very helpful for my study. We extensively shot with him about the techniques of making leather puppets and their manipulation, the songs that are used, etc. which are currently being edited.


December 2013 report


Maguni Charan Kuanar, veteran rod puppeteer of Odisha and my collaborator for the fellowship was invited by the Dept. of Tourism to perform at the 7th Toshali National Crafts Mela in Bhbaneswar.

Maguni arrived at about 5 pm. The show was scheduled at 6:30 pm. For his performance he needs to create a small wooden box, large enough to house two men who would sit on the floor and manipulate the puppets. Maguni came in a rented out truck from Keonjhar, about four hundred kilometres from

Bhuabaneswar, with a team who had been brought together specifically for te show. Maguni previously had dedicated band members who would travel with him all throughout the year. He would also give them a salary and take care of them. He prefers to work with freelancers as he does not take up shows as much as he used to.

Maguni’s crew hurriedly got busy in constructing their stage. One of the people from the Organizers, a

Govt. officer was seen rebuking Maguni in the Green Room. Later on we came to know that Maguni’s crew did not wear an uniform, they had just their different trousers and shirts on which the organizers would not allow on stage. Maguni went to the far and bought all his crew members a saffron coloured

‘kurta’ but did not buy for himself. Folk artists are hardly treated with any respect in Odisha, may be because most of them belong to lower castes or they come from poor households. The classical artists,

Odishi dancers, singers though are treated with extra courteousness. Many of them are city based, Brahmins or daughters of eminent families. While talking to Maguni just before his show we could feel a hint of sadness in his voice. Maguni and his crew were called up on stage and felicitated by the distinguished guests. He started with a small sequence of ‘Maishashurabdh’ (killing of demon Mahishahura by Devi Durga). Then he started with a sequence from Ramayana. Most of the puppeteers in Odisha even Maguni borrow heavily, mostly the songs, from ‘Bichitra Ramayana’. An early eighteenth century text by poet Biswanath Khuntia in Oriya. It was written keeping Ram Leela peformances in mind and was hugely popular at that time. Maguni also is heavily influenced by the ‘opera’ culture or ‘Jatra’ as it is known in this part of the country. Maguni has incorporated small comic episodes in his show. Characters like Bhagirathi who is a drunkard. The character of the Messenger to Ravana is very popular with audiences. Maguni’s characters are very life like in their body language and expressions. He is a wood sculptor par excellence and a skilled mimicry artist too. The voices of both Bhagirathi and his mother are Maguni’s. What is fantastic is the emotions that he renders through his voice.

Maguni abruptly ended the Ramayana sequence because he had to leave the stage for the next artists.

He quickly performed the fight sequence between Rama and Ravana and ended his performance with a huge applause from the audience.

Maguni and his crew left for their hometown soon after in their truck in the cold of the night as the organizers would not arrange for their stay in the city. Previously they would used to come and stay during performances at the guest house of Sangeet Natak Academy. The organizers claim that they would charge at least five hundred rupees more if they would stay for the night, which is beyond the budget allocated for such programmes.

This was my second visit to Sri GourangaCharan Dash’s house, a two storied, modestly made, overlooking a five acre of cultivable land in the middle of the village Kutharimunda in Khamar in Anugul district. Sri Dash plans to make a museum for puppets and a research centre and an amphitheater for screenings and performances. He and his architect friend from IIT, Mumbai have meticulously planned the venture. Sri Dash was very happy to show us the empty land where he is planning the Centre and added that in a couple of years the entire construction will be complete. By the end of my fellowship period the amphitheater should be done and we planned a small gathering of all puppeteers from Orissa here.

My interest of visiting his house again was to see the leather puppets that he had made for his shows and gathered from others. He had only formed his troupe called Sri Ram Chhaya Gabeshana Parishad in the year 1996 so all his puppets are fairly new. All the old leather puppets of Orissa have been over the years been sold to collectors in India and abroad. So, most of the leather puppets that we see today with the puppeteers are new. Incidentally he was preparing the leather to make a cutout of a puppet.

The process starts with the selection of the animal hide eg. cow, deer, mountain goat, etc. . Deer hide was the most commonly used animal hide for puppets as it is smoother than the others, light transmission can be more, it is thinner and lighter. Nowadays, mountain goat is preferred as there are restrictions in procuring other animal hide. But, with different kinds of leather the effect on the screen is different. Cowhide or mountain goat hide is thicker, heavier less translucent. Since it is heavier its manipulation is limited. The skin can be suitable for characters like trees or animals who are not the main characters and whose movement does not forward the narrative. Deer hide being the lightest and the skin being more translucent can be used for human beings or godly characters like Rama.

The hair was removed from the dry skin of the mountain goat. The skin was then cut according to the sketch on the paper. After the cut is done finely, the linear cuts inside the puppet and perforations will be made to give the shape of the body, a resemblance of the costume and ornaments, etc. Previously the Ravanachhaya puppets had very few lines in the body and the shapes of the figures were rather primitive. Nowadays the puppets resemble the Pata painting style with more ornamentation and intricate cuts. Still the puppets do not have joints, so their limbs cannot be moved separately. Unlike the other shadow puppets from Karnataka or Andhra Pradesh the puppets in Orissa are not coloured. Sri Gouranga Dash however paints the skin of the puppet slightly to give an appearance of skin tone, also to make a dramatic composition. For example he had painted the hut, in which Rama, Sita and Lakshman were staying during their exile, black. The hut will be always in the background and will not interfere with the storytelling. Also it might help in creating depth in the composition. Interestingly he had also used Saura (tribal community of western Orissa) painting on the walls of the huts. He suggests that if Rama had been staying in the Dandakaranya forests he must have encountered such paintings on the huts. These additions also can help to make the stories more human and acceptable to the local audiences.

All moving shadow puppets are cut such that they give a profile section of the characters. The characters are also limited to move from one end of the screen to the other horizontally. The depth is compressed as all background elements that set up the ‘mise en scene’ are almost on the same plane as the characters. So, either one can use puppets diminished in size to give a notion of perspective or play with a movable light source. Traditionally for some actions like Hanumana’s flight across the sea the puppeteers have incorporated three distinct body positions of Hanumana to give a feeling that he is flying. But, in traditional story telling style it is probably not important to make the puppets resemble the characters in great detail, the shadows look more vibrant and dramatic when they are not defined. The songs that accompany the play and the puppets in the hands of a skillful artist can only make it come alive.

The traditional shadow puppeteers were the ‘Bhata’ community who took up the text ‘Bichitra Ramayana’ by BiswanathKhuntia. BiswanathKhuntia was a celebrated poet of the early seventeenth century. His work the Bichitra Ramayana or the Wonderful Ramayana has become the most popular Ramayana in the Oriya language because of its lucid and simple language, also as it contains dramatizations that appeal to the common folk.

Two printed editions of the work are available at present .One is published by RadharamanPushtakalaya, Cuttack and other by Jagannath Singh. Both the publishers have included passages from poets other than Viswanath, like Vikram, Gopi, Gopal, Narana, Padmanabha, Lakshman, Jadunandan, Shyama, Kapila and VaisyaSadasibha. The work was completed in the 25thAnka of Divyasimha Deva I, corresponding to 1692-1720. Composed with UpendraBhanja’s(  roughly 1670 – 1740 , also known as ‘Kabi- samrat’ , the emperor of poets ) BaideheesaBilasha which greatly appealed to the learned pundits, Bichitra Ramayana of Khuntia mainly appealed to the common folk, particularly the dancers and ballad singers. – fromEncyclopedia of Indian Literature vol.1, edited by AmareshDutta.

The puppeteers

There are two troupes of RavanaChhaya presently in Odisha -Ravana Chhaya Natya Sansad from Odasha village and Sri Ram Chhaya Gabeshana Parishad of Khamar both from Anugul district. Guru Kathinanda Das(1900 -1986) was one of the most prolific artists of the form and had been a mentor to both the present troupes which are led by Guru Khageswar Pradhan and Dr. GourangaCharan Dash respectively.

Guru Kathinanda Das was not an original inhabitant of Odhasha. His father Basudevdas(? – 1942) had settled there from Seepur a village 21 km away. Basudevdas’ father Hrushi Champattiray was an inhabitant of Domal village of Dhenkanal and married in Seepur. The king of Dhenkanal had given someone from his family the title ‘Champattiray’ after seeing a soulful rendering of Ravana Chhaya. Since Basudebdas did not have any children in Seepur he came and settled himself at Odhasha village.

Ravana Chhaya had flourished in Seepur during the patronage of the Kings of Talcher. The Bhata community who knew the art of shadow puppetry was nomadic. It is believed that they have immigrated from Jajpur district or Puri district of Odisha. The Bhatas used to sing praises of the King and his Sepoy’s and beg for alms as their profession. The King of Talcher recruited some of them as musicians to entertain his subjects, gave them land in Seepur and asked them to settle down. These Bhatas used to roam around villages at the time of festivals, auspicious days, and marriages and perform shadow play.

There were three troupes of Ravana Chhaya at the end of the nineteenth century at Seepur. These were owned by HrusiChampattiray, Chintamoni Das and JogendraDas’ family. Jogendra Das then left for Athamallik(a nearby town in Talcher) for some unknown reason may be family dispute. Along with Jogendra,KritarthaRai, Purnachandra Das, Natabar Ray also left for Athamallik. They started RavanaChhaya there under the guidance of Jogendra Das. The troupe disbanded during the 1930s. The puppets were not taken care of and were ruined.

Basudevdas’s daughter Kanchan was given in marriage to Baishnab from Seepur. The old troupe in Seepur had fragmented so Baishnab joined his father in law Basudev’s troupe. Kathinanda Das who was the son of Basudevdas along with now Baishnab gathered men from the Dhobi community, barbers and farmers and started their RavanaChhaya troupe.

JeevanPani writes in his book RavanaChhaya, “This rare form of shadow play was on the verge of extinction when the documentation unit of the Akademi discovered it in a remote village in April 1971. The only surviving RavanaChhaya puppeteer, Kathinanda Das, was one of the most neglected persons in the village. When the villagers saw us filming, photographing and tape recording his performance they were amazed.”

Maguni Charan Kuanar , rod puppeteer from Keonjhar , when speaking about guru Kathinanda Das mentions that he used to be a blind devotee of Rama and said everything around him was made by Rama. His deep love and devotion towards Rama was reflected in his rendition of the songs from Bisi (popularly known) Khuntia’s Ramayana. Every evening he would sit in the courtyard of his house with his tambourine and sing the songs.

After Guru Kathinanda Das’ death, many scholars are of the opinion that the puppets used by him were sold to foreign countries or are in private collections. Some of them also must have ruined because of neglect. Guru Kolha Charan Sahoo took leadership of the troupe in Odasha and was immensely supported by the villagers. Currently the troupe performs under the guidance of Guru Khageswar Pradhan.

Apparently all the puppets used today are new. Even the puppets that were the property , family heirlooms, of the troupes in Athamallik,  Seepur have magically disappeared.

Pankaja Sethi Report

Excerpts from December 2012 report

It was interesting to note how each of them from different villages in their gesture, approach, dressing and experience of outside world and inside world (outside world- I am referring to town or cities or places unfamiliar to Kondhs living space) reflected distinctive character and behavior. The villages located closer to land (low hill) such as Khajuri and Kurli interact frequently with the developing bodies and Dombo community in their mundane life. I observed, Kondh women from these villages- their manner of wearing kapdagonda ( shift in wearing style and covering their upper part with blouse) , adapting to external  influences and products(such as applying fair and lovely crème) and humming Hindi and Odiya songs shows a strong influence of external factors.

Based on these observations, it segregated them from Ghortoli, Hundijali and Kadrakuma Kondhs to some extent. I guess they have experienced infrequent intrusion of developing bodies and also of the Domb community. Thus, I saw less pollution and changes in their lifestyle. Influence of external factors is evitable; the choice of adapting shows change, progress or shift in attitude.

What is ethical or what is not ethical who decides these social concerns? Coming to the question of ethnic label or identity (Richard Fardon and Stewart Halls) Former illustrates the use of ethnic labels and the latter elaborates the shifting and viewing of identity as a process.

In this context I am taking the DongriaKondh identity and the NGO representing the label of tribal identity. I learned that the NGO using the ethnic label and identity of Adivasi are involved in mass producing Dongria Kondh textile in a village in east Odisha. The producers are group of weavers and are not Adivasi. In my opinion it was unethical to copy and sell this copied textile art in the market for money. In order to mass produce they changed the technique from embroidery to weaving- shift in technology. It was translated in such a way that it appears like an embroidered kapdagonda in similar colours and exact pattern. In this process the producer engaged in the making of duplicate kapdagonda shares no relation with the material culture. A common person who appreciates the beauty of textile cannot make the distinction. In my opinion it is just a piece of textile with no values attached to it, thus it is a commodity different from the artistic self expression rendered in actual kapdagonda. In TRIBES (TRIFED) shop, what we see is replicated piece of kapdagonda. So those NGO (local and national) who are projecting the label of tribal name and development blur the boundaries of real imagined.

Replication and copying of tribal art is common, and in this case the developing bodies are involved ;

Why is it necessary to mass produce everything when the community does endorse this. Well, who asks for community concerns?

Being an observer and participant in the entire workshop I learned varied meanings and vivid expression about the women and their material culture. The indigenous ways of creation are their expression and recreation for women. It would be too narrow to limit this artistic tradition or bracket under the word commodity. This is more than a textile. How can I or the other coming from usual product-commodity world understand this relationship of women and their narrative textiles? Kondh women explained how every line and pattern had a name and meaning. The purpose of rendering textile is not to show their excellence it is their artistic expression – a legacy of tradition, an identity which is what I want to highlight.

My interaction and time spent with the Kondh women embarked me into another realm of contemplation. Navigating between design world and deeper meanings of kapdagonda, I was not able to understand my position where am I leading to. Without any background in Anthropology I pursued my interest as a self taught Anthropologist. It all started for cause and passion, my interest and inclination to know about the people and culture. Yatra/ Travelling to villages was always part of my work and now my interactions with Adivasi, weavers and other people in my years of craft yatra became my way of learning. Small personal interaction with students will appear later in my field notes- comparison of past with the present and my relationship with Kondh students.

In the same year ( 2006 ) I discovered about another weaving workshop in Kurli village, Niyamgiri. In this project DongriaKondh women were trained to use the spinning wheel and loom. I saw the documentation of this project. Kondh women posed sitting on a loom as if they are weaving and some pictures projected how they are using the spinning wheel. These are the new technical alteration implemented by developing agencies. I discovered through images that some of the participants were my students. They were all dressed in best of their ornaments and the images projected how they are adapting to the new technical shift. Few of them (from Kurli) who have rejected traditional way of wearing costumes also decked up for that particular workshop. Surprisingly, it was a Weavers’ Service centre -Central Government project implemented by another local NGO. At least in this case, in comparison to the other project the producers are of the same community and the beneficiary. Though, I cannot think of introducing any alien idea unfamiliar to the socio-cultural context in their domain in order to create design variation for mass production purposes. I often try to contemplate, it is not necessary that local community need penetration of such developing bodies and such intrusions aim to project development of community embarking on the ‘structures of power relation’- subordinate and the dominant. Is there any ground where natives or local can make the distinction and decision of implementing projects in their domain?

I often question such non pragmatic objective, implementation and outcome of developing agencies. How they are constructed implemented and justified. Is there any difference between the three implementing agencies discussed so far? They all seem to represent the agenda of Adivasi development of art and craft; falling in the same categories of reinforcing power relations. We still need to rethink of what we mean by the word development. The aim and objective of development and what are the criteria on basis on which we identify developed or not developed.

There is always hidden agenda behind the project – to reinforce structures of power relation dominating the other- dominant- subordinate,

The shift from hand embroidered to hand woven is justified or not? Why do locals/natives not react? Why don’t they dismiss or disgree with something with which they are not related to?

Adivasimela as the label projects the identity of Adivasi- is a mela celebrating Adivasi communities such as DongriaKondh, Mankedia, Gadaba, Bonda and other Adivasi people. A cultural celebration of Odisha Adivasi showcasing their indigenous way of wearing textile, living, folk dance and music.

Every year state of Odisha celebrates Adivasi Mela annually, for a week or more in Bhubaneswar, implemented by SC & ST Research Institute. It aims to show the socio-cultural way of Adivasi lifestyle. Developing agencies of each community construct abode, goddess, painting, farming methods, tools and other unique characteristics. It is a representation of Adivasi life followed with cultural activities folk music and dance. Adivasi people bring agricultural products, baskets, and some new products introduced in order to create business. They bring varieties of agricultural products implemented by developing bodies which local people are not familiar with and it is not part of their diet. They usually sell such agricultural products in the haat as they do not consume some of the agricultural products. Quite a few NGO’s and developing agencies implemented by Ministry of Tribal Affairs are involved in such kind of projects. As a result of which, a number of indigenous species have been erased or is going to be erased.

Another interesting product I notice regularly in the entire Adivasi stall is- phenyl. Almost all the Adivsai stall stocks multiple plastic white phenyl bottles. I wonder, it is no where closer to Adivasi product so why are they selling phenyl liquid? And why are they worried about city toilets.

During this mela, I recorded VadakeSindhe and VadakaKaso interview and collected information about textile meanings. One day they stayed at my residence for research work. During the day they sat in the stall and common city people looked at them and questioned sensible and insensible questions.

What is ethnic label and identity?

In pursuit of Niyamgiri

To resonate past conversations and to strengthen my research work I planned another visit to Niyamgiri. I had three agendas to cover in this field visit. First, on basis of my recommendation Kadrakada Ando was selected for Child artisan – Kamala Devi Scholarship by Delhi Craft Council. Her presence in Delhi for the award ceremony was essential in order to receive the honorarium. Prior to the visit I discussed with the DKDA Special Officer in charge over the telephone regarding this matter and the Secretary cum Commissioner in the textile department. It was a tough task to deal with.

The second agenda was to meet the Kondh students I trained and see their villages and home. I also had their photographs printed.Finally, the third and task was to record interviews of older women and their narrative expression of Niyamgiri myths for my research purposes.

This time my sister ( Sailaja Sethi) accompanied me. I reached Rayagada station and took the old ambassador to Chatikona. This driver was new to such kind of roads, a Telugu fellow. He was scared to cut the roads and could not cope up with the steep roads of Niyamgiri. He left us in the middle of Chatikona and vanished without uttering a word. This was also a new experience-part of field work experience.

In pursuit of Niyamgiri  I could not anticipate outcome, however, I decided to work further.

Child artisan scholarship for Ando

I discussed about Ando’s scholarship with the Special Officer of DKDA. Being in charge of that community he wanted permission and authorization letter from the higher officials. So, I had to dial multiple calls from a STD booth (it was also selling tamarind and small grocery products). That time there was no mobile connectivity in the Chatikona area. The Commissioner cum Secretary helped me and made necessary arrangements. After hours of struggle Mr. Sahoo confirmed that Sindhe, Ando and one male person MPW – Ramesh Nala for their security purposes can visit Delhi for the award ceremony.

Why does bureaucracy and rigid structures of government make things difficult at ground level and make simple things complex?


Meriah Purbo

My first visit was to Khajuri village to see the preparation of Meria Purba- cane decorations and banana plants decorating the  entrance and surroundings of the village particularly around the Jhakeri Kudi (village Goddess). Young Kondh girls in kapdagonda adorned with ornaments were busy making leaf plates for offerings used in the rituals. Some of them shied seeing the camera and some of them were relaxed. Members of each family were waiting for the Bijeni (woman priest).

I was in Sindhe’s house. Sindhe had a fowl in her hand; rice was served in the winnowing basket. Bijeni enunciated words loudly dealing with visible and the invisible realm for the well fare of the family. I was advised to not to use the camera as it was the spiritual moment for them. I came to the front of the house to witness other activities.

A small group of young men, moving from one end to the other end of the village, beating the drum hanged around the neck, and rejoicing the spirit of meria purba. I could feel the strong spirit of purba. The drum beats was resonating in the entire village. People were getting ready for the Mariah Purbha. Locals told me that Meria Purba is celebrated in the honour of Niyamgiri Raja after successful crop cultivation. Kondh sacrifice podo (male buffalo) to please Niyam Raja. According to records phodo in earlier days was a human ie a human was sacrificed. This act was stopped by the British several years ago, thus human was replaced by a podo.

Common people criticize animal sacrifice. What happens when we sacrifice the entire community for our means and purposes? Nation and state interest is imperative ….somewhere we are to be blamed for excessive use of resources leading to plundering of earth and displacement of Adivasi for minerals.


JhakeriKudi – Jhakeri mean gram devi and Kudi means house of the village goddess or jhakeri. She lives in the centre of the village, and the wall of kudi was adorned with bold triangular patterns and lines. I saw the head of goat and a fowl sacrificed in the altar in front of JhakeriKudi. The body of beheaded goat was sitting in front of the house. Kondh believe, blood sacrifice pleases their God. Curing ill health, getting rid of evil atmosphere, for their safety and security, sacrifice of goat or fowl is imperative. According to them it is the Niyamraja who is asking for it so we are not at fault. The axe and rope is in his control. We are under his mercy and cannot dare to upset him.

Jahkerikudi shares a strong relationship with Kondh( nature power and soul power ) .I want to know who paints Jhakeri and why it is painted only during meriapurba.

Kadrakuma village

Sabar MPW of DKDA accompanied us to meet Ando and other three students. Climbing the narrow and steep road was not easy. I was getting exhausted and breathing speedily. I had my field notebook, laptop and photographs in my rug sack. After one hour of climbing I learned a lesson -not to inhale from mouth while climbing hills.

Interestingly, this village was not densely populated unlike Khajuri and Kurli. Perhaps in the other villages Dombo community, Telugu and southern Odisha migrants have invaded the place for business purposes. I met Ando and her mother. Ando hardly talked to me during the 2006 workshop. Unfortunately, none of the other Kondh students were present at that time of the day. The jahkerikudi here seemed untouched.


We visited Khajuri village to witness the activities. I wanted to see how people are engaged in different rituals prior to Meriah Purbo. Some people let go the phodo tied in front of the JhakeriKudi. The Phodo tried to escape unleashing the strings, meanwhile one by one threw the axe on his body enunciating words loudly in Kui. It was hard to believe what I saw. I thought they were supposed to sacrifice one day after but there was one more phodo waiting for the early morning sacrifice. I met Sindhe, Badho, Ammi, Binjho and Kaso in the evening. Their kitchen was decorated with dotted patterns and flowers in the honour of the kitchen goddess – Sita Penu. Young girls and adolescent Kondh women were adorned in their beautiful gonda and ornaments waiting for their beloved. They can choose their partners. So Dhangara tries to impress the Dhagiri but it is completely up to her to reject and approve the man. Her decision is considered prime. Usually exchange of Kapagonda (shawl they embroider) and tobacco indicates positive gesture. I could see girls of all the age groups waiting for dhangara and some of them were chatting with young Kondh boys and men. Some of them elope to the forest to share a romantic moment in the moonlight.

Meriapurba main day

Our ambassador arrived in the evening with a new driver. DKDA gave us the clerical room to sleep piled with papers and furniture. Both of us (I and my sister) managed to get some space under the table that night. We had to get up early morning to see meriahpurbo. I waited for Nala and Sabar. Few foreign tourists from Germany also arrived early morning to witness Meriah Purbo. By the time we reached the phodo was already sacrificed in the front of Jhakeri Kudi. With lot of courage I tried to come closer to people who were smashing the skin of buffalo and distributing the meat among the Kondh people. One of them was furious at me as my camera interrupted while he raised the axe. I could see Kondh people from different villages awaited for their share of raw meat. This meat is considered auspicious, it can be eaten or worshipped or the dried meat can be used a medicine,

He told me about Sindhe and her family. She is from a prosperous family and they do not have to work hard for generations for sustenance. It seems, people do not like Sindhe because her brother practices black magic and had killed many children in the village. Later Kondh people in Khajuri agitated when they came to know about his black magic activities. I had been to her house several time in 2006, in this trip I visited her house to see the ritual and for other purposes. I did not know whether it was true or not or it was just a rumour. But I was really scared after knowing this.


It was the second day of my trip and I had one more village to visit, located in the highest altitude. Early in the morning, cutting the way to Hundijjali we crossed five hills. It took us two hours to reach. The road was covered with dried leaves, while crossing the rustling sound of streams running in between the hills and sound of leaves was the resonating in silence. We splashed the stream water on our face and it was bliss to feel the clear and chilled hill water on my face. As we went higher I could see huge size of jackfruits equivalent to big sack of rice hanging from the trees. I also saw patch of pineapple plant cultivation illuminating in vibrant green and some areas covered with ragi and Kandulo (local crop).

Finally I reached Hundijali -an isolated and untouched village cut off from the outside world. It was not densely populated alike Kadrakuma. It was amazing to see small population of people located in highest position. Some houses had the asbestos sheet and some did not. It was ten in the morning and in the month of April the temperature was getting higher and higher. Suddenly people gathered around me. One of my students Sako brought one khoto (cot) and asked’ kis pain aaschu didi’. I told her, “I wanted to meet you”. When we greet out guest our gesture is usually hello, how are you? Please sit …etc , but these structures of words which we are used to, do not exist here. They are simple people. They are children of nature. Cared and protected by the nature powers. I opened my laptop and transferred the meriapurba pictures to show. All of them children, men women geared towards my laptop and were amazed to see Meriapurba which occurred few hours ago, in this alien device. I observed their reactions.

Village people were so happy that they prepared food for us. They arranged stones and boiled kandulo in it and few people placed eggs in a utensil and poured oil and cumin on top of the egg. There was one concrete house which was abandoned for years and it had several layers of dust lying since many years. They cleaned the floor and our food was served. The heat was becoming unbearable.

I could not see any river or stream close by. People in Kurli and Khajuri are in advantage position. I requested a few older women to come down to Kurli for my research work. They uttered some words in Kui among themselves. Meanwhile I was discussing questions about people and their way of living. Sabar was helping me generously. After certain time he got irritated because I was jotting down everybody. He asked me not to do it. He advised me to understand things rather than writing down things on paper. So, I stopped.


In the afternoon we left for Kurli as everybody was supposed to come together for discussion. The roads were so narrow that if we slip we fall down the hill- I do not know where. Coming down was more difficult compared to climbing, so, we placed every step carefully. We reached halfway and we saw the group of older women coming down rapidly. It was the same group of women I asked to come down for interview crossed us and we were still lagging behind. I could not even think of competing that speed. We reached Kurli, some of my students from Kadrakuma gathered for meeting.

I started my conversation asking their name and village’s name. When I asked their age, quite a few of them shouted at me , saying how can we know my age ….I might be around thirty ( said a older lady who looked around sixty). I realized there is no age factor. It is not important for them. The indigenous cultures of learning, marriage, children and becoming grant parents and following the norms and rituals of social structure is imperative for them. Their life revolves around the culture. It is the culture in which they are born, is passed on from one generation to the other.


Sindhe narrated the story of Niyamgiri. One day a Kodh went to the hills where Niyamgiri Raja lived. He was astonished to see the beauty of nature. Niyamraja happily gave him the some plants to grow. The Dongria Kondh man planted the tree. Thus, the flora and fauna flourished and simultaneously their culture progressed. Therefore, Kondh consider Niyamraja as their creator and are subject to mercy under him. They cannot dare to upset Niyamraja. Thus, in every ritual they sacrifice and remember him. The Meriah Purbo is celebrated to please dharini Penu and Niyam Raja. Niyam is the creator and protector. To sacrifice is to sacrifice in the honour of their creator. They are the child and he is the parent – sharing adult child parent relationship with the nature. Nature power is their soul power. It is the spirit of belongingness to the Nature, their relatedness sharing with the nature powers.

Nilami narrated the story of Neba and Siji raja

Neba, Siji and Niyam raja shared a close friendship. One day Siji went looking for Neba to his house. Unfortunately Neba was away for some work and in his absence Neba’s wife offered him some rice with salt to eat. Siji was extremely happy and delighted after tasting the food. He thought if she cooks such tasty food then every day I can get such food to eat. Neba returned and found his wife missing. He learned that his wife left with siji raja and cheated on him. He was so furious that he started cutting all the hills, trees and streams. He saw his wife and chopped her nose. Her nose fell is the ground and it came to be known as Nasikavansh. The community living in this area till date are tabooed and do not come to other areas.

Sako’s mother illustrated the story of jhakeriKudi and SitaPenu goddess.

Jhakeri lives in the centre of village. She guards and protects all the villagers. It is because of her presence Kondh are secured and safe. She protects the village people from the sight of evil eyes and any kind of prevalent disease entering the village. According to people in the night she turns into a tigress and roars to threaten the evil spirits and waves off the negative energy entering the threshold of the village. The harvest of first crop is worshipped in honour of Jhakeri in the honour of her kudi and sacrifice of fowl or goat pleases her. In order to settle disputes, stolen things, curing diseases and for the welfare of the family village people adore her abode. It is only during the MeriaPurba her abode is adorned and phodo is sacrificed in front of the altar. The existence of spiritual manifestation is constructed for protection. Her existence in their imagination, the visual representation of intangible spiritual relatedness in the form of abode, a structure erected in the centre of village reinforces people’s believes.

The next day all of us including Ando, Sindhe, Nala and my sister headed to Bhubaneswar. Ando was unfamiliar to the outside world; in Bhubaneswar I bought one chappal and blouse for Ando. Ando went to Delhi for the Kamala Devi Scholarship and Delhi Craft Council members were pleased to see her. After this long journey I was tired but I had more to write and much more to know about the people and culture.




The agitation against the London based Vedanta mining company moved the entire nation. Kondhs, several NGO’s protested to protect Niyamgiri- for environmental reasons and also because Niyamgiri is sacred to Kondhs. Signing online petitions, documentaries, vernacular reports in media raised voices worldwide to move both Sterlite and Vedanta from Niyamgiri. As the outside world intervened, the level of crime, rape, and atrocities increased and so is the pollution in water and environment. Such things are part and parcel of development about which everybody is gaga about but people are hardly concerned about the real consequences which is visible only at the grassroots level. After knowing and learning little or more about Niyamgiri, it is difficult to imagine Niyamgiri and Kondh separated. Kondh sacrifice in the honour of Niyamraja. I question, is this not the sacrifice of entire community for the interest of nation?

For some years I could not plan any visit to Niyamgiri considering the time and circumstances. Knowing the people so closely, I was anxious to know what is happening at the field level, while the ongoing vernacular Naxal -Moasit activities and agitation against Vedanta was going on. I received the Tata Fellowship- National Folklore support Centre (2012-2013) to study narrative expression of Dongria Kondh textile and paintings. The remoteness and inaccessibility particularly to my field area seemed more complicated than before. In the first week of December my field work had to be postponed because of the agitation in the Lanjigarh area.The prime task was to open a bank account for my collaborator- Mandika Nilamani and get the contract letter signed. The second important job was to see the current situation and circumstance and anticipate my frequent accessibility in this region. My third important task was to build conversation level with people I know and to know them more for research purposes.

My yatra

The train to Rayagada in which I usually travel changed the route and the destination. Fortunately, the route extended to Bhawanipatna and another route extended to Jagdalpur area. Now, Bissam-Cuttack- on the way to Bhawanipatna had a stoppage. I informed Surjya Narayan Padhi about my two day visit and asked him to inform Nilamani that I wanted to see her in particular. Early morning around six thirty (with photographer Tanuja Sethi – my younger sister) our train stopped in Bissam Cuttack for two minutes. Surprisingly the door towards the railway tracks was open instead of opening towards the platform side. It was hard to get off the train as the ground level was very low. Somehow we managed to get off the train and crossed railway track to reach the other side of the railway station stop. This area was Chatikona area not Bissam- Cuttack, much better for me. It was cloudy and cold; we walked down the markets and streets looking for Dongria Kondh Chatri Niwas to meet Nilamani. I had not seen such a huge building erected earlier in the landscape of Niyamgiri. It is funded by Indian Government for educating DongriaKondh girls. Young girls were clearing the garden and carrying dried flower plants on their shoulders. Each of them had a shawl wrapped around her body and walking bare foot to outside premises. As we entered, all of them greeted us one by one- Good morning didi and Namaskar didi. It was hard to believe that the tone and pitch of voice was same and sounded like a repeating tape recorder. I could see so many children in different colours of shawl inside the premises of building standing in a queue doing physical training exercises and some of them were monitoring the others. My eyes were searching for Nilamani, and then I saw an old lady sweeping the dust from the ground. Nilamani could not recognise me from a distance. I walked towards her and then we greeted each other. She was upset because her brother died recently. I discussed about the research work and asked her to open a bank account in State Bank of India. I learned that she is the secretary of that institution and earns one thousand rupees every month. This institution was set up primarily for DongriaKondh girls- a boarding school governed by Adivasi people. Approximately 250 Kondh girls from different villages are brought here especially for educating supported by the Indian government. The living expense includes clothing, food and books. I was told that in spite of all the facilities ;they are given a shawl, a set of uniform to wear, shoes, soap, oil and adequate amount of facilities, children living inside the premises wish to go back to their villages. As far as I remember there are other schools functioning such as in Kurli to educate Kondh children, however, irregularity of attendance is a common problem. In the villages MPW are also supposed to teach village children. I could see kondh girls reading Odiya books in the park and few of them hurried to take bath were getting ready for school. Some of them escape from the schools.


The president of institution was not pleased when I asked Nilamani to accompany me to Kurli. We headed towards the market, crossed the railway tracks and waited for the local vehicle for transportation. We kept waiting; unfortunately, there was no local vehicle available to take us to the hill. Meanwhile people were asking my purpose of visiting Niyamgiri and if I was a research person. This area has become so sensitive that we cannot disclose our purpose of visit and we did dare to take out our camera in public or market places to attract more questions. Finally after one hour we managed to get one mini Tata tempo for two hundred rupees in which some children who escaped from the DongriaKondh girl’s hostel came with us along with a Kondh woman. On the way few more people joined. This small mini tempo so inappropriate for hill roads was loaded with twenty people including us. We reached Kurli to collect Nilamani’s Voter Identity Card and Rational Card as it was mandatory for opening a bank account. I was coming here after many years. The population of people ( domb and other migrants) occupy the outskirts of the village. We entered Nilamani’s house from the backside. The entrance was very low and she had a small piggery. The house structure of Kondh are very small, there is hardly any sunlight. I reached the front part which opened towards the JhakeriKudi. We met her daughter – Maladi.One of my student Kurunji greeted me. She told me we waited for you didi, for a long time. But you did not visit us for many years. You are very late. I was sad to know what my students said, for which I had no explanation and answer for her question. None of the other students I trained in 2006 -Malo, Rinjo and Maladi were present. Kuruji told me that Rinjo is now the sarpanch of Kurli village. I was surprised to know that how can anybody become sarpanch in such an early age. During the workshop in 2006 Rinjo was sick most of the time. In 2007 Sindhe told me that Rinjo eloped with a Vadaka Dhangra.Some of the older ladies were discussing something. Neelamani told me that the the bijeni (woman priest ) are going to forest with a fowl to sacrifice. It seems in few months time they are not getting sufficient water, thus sacrificing a fowl the stream goddess may resolve the problem of water. I am not able to recollect the source about similar problem- somebody had mentioned Niyamgiri is rich with bauxite so it has geared the interest of mining based companies to plunder the earth of Niyamgiri. Running water is also the source of bauxite and in this sacred space and place of Kondh some of the rare species of flora and fauna have been found. If Niyamgiri is plundered it will affect the entire ecosystem, imbalance of nature and culture.

I visited the local health service centre located in Kurli on the way to Khambesi village to meet the local doctor, recently appointed by Government of Odisha. I wanted to meet the doctor because he was the son of one of the weavers’ collective group from Jajpur district with which I am engaged. Moreover, the doctor can help me getting in touch with Nilamani and other Kondh women I know living in Khajuri and Kurli village. He told me about people’s conception about diseases and it is hard to stimulate them about hygienic way of living. One woman came to him with swollen face, it seems she had too much of handiya (rice liquor).

We waited in front of the Kurli School for one hour. Our presence in that area raised several questions. People were starring at us, asking again and again our purpose of visit. While we waited for the mini tempo, one man explained his difficulties, an indirect indication that he wants money for liquor. I have dealt with this problem earlier, the only way to deal with this situation is to ignore and feel ignorant. One tempo returned from Khambesi and refused to go to Chatikona. After some time we managed to get on jeep loaded with sacks of rice and twenty people. Dancing, shuffling bouncing on each other we reached and Chatikona and waited for another local transport for Bissam Cuttack. Bissam Cuttack seemed liked a small town in that part of the world. The local restaurant owner judged that we were outsiders, so they served us with pleasure. They had no idea that this trip was especially planned for opening the bank account for Nilamani. Bank officials said that they can open only certain number of new accounts each day. We did not reach on time to open the bank account so they asked us to open the account It is not humanly possible for me take this long journey again. More than thirty people were standing in queue; the bank officer was literally checking every detail of form. The local people from surrounding villages had two hundred rupees and some of them had hundred rupees to open the account. He asked me to explain the problem to the bank manager. The bank manger raised similar concerns and asked us to come the next day early in the morning. He started complaining that all the village people want to open a bank account in hundred rupees and only certain number of people can open a bank account. I assured him that we can open an account withone thousand rupees. I tried to explain that I we started around eight in the morning and we are coming all the way from Kurli as Nilamani’s voters identity card and ration card was in her village. We could not manage to come early because of local transportation. The bank closed for lunch break, I filled the form without her date of birth and photocopied the necessary documents. The bank officer had piles of new account forms; he was individually checking details, pasting the photographs, filling the deposit form and passing it to the other person in charge. He yelled at me because Nilamani’s date of birth was not mentioned. Neither I nor Nilamani herself had any clue about date of birth. So, we created her date of birth before the Independence, which makes her a sixty seven year old lady. We still had a long way to go. I moved from one table to the other back forth verifying from each personal continuously. I felt like a machine. The bank officers wanted to know my motive and reason for opening the bank account .They asked, “Why did you choose this old lady and why are you doing all this”. There was no hidden reason; the answer was simple for Tata Fellowship. The bank timing was over; it was already half past four. In the end Nilamani signed in the register and it was successful. In the end they promised me to help Neelamani in my absence. It was a certainly a tough task to deal with. We still had a long way to go. It was getting late; however, we had no alternative so, we waited in the jeep to get loaded with lots and lots of people.

Somehow, Dongria Kondh ChatriNi provided shelter for that night. Next day morning we walked around the chatikona forests and hills close by. The fields of cotton, ragi and tall teak trees covered nearby surroundings.

In the morning, I met Suryanarayan Padhi and Ramesh Kumar Nala after many many years- both of them narrated the same old stories of Kondh people and why they are not progressing. Both of them had common criticism-these Kondh children go to the dongor (fields) and work with the parents. They waste their time and energy. Tribals do not have much understanding of the dynamics of change. Education is important and if this education can help them to protect their own culture or stand for it along with continuing the living tradition. After some time Rinjho came all the way from Kurli. I could not recognize her; she is now a new sarpanch. Lack  of adornement, adapting the sari like mainstream people of cities with a vanity bag. I was surprised to see the ahift. This made Rinjho distinct from other Kondhs. I was surprised to notice this change in five years time Anyways, she now owns a mobile, and we exchanged numbers. Then Neelamani started telling me the inside stories of Rinjho. I learned that man outside the gate was Rinjho’s current boyfriend .she was also found guilty doing various other wrong activities according to other people.

While asking some of the teenage girls about living in the dormitory, site told me that she likes living here – in the school because there is no one in her family to protect her. She was once abducted from the Mundigudamela by the nearby Kondh village people as they wanted her to get married to their family. Her family people protested but the local people did not react; they left her when somebody mentioned that she is studying in the Dongria Kondh School. Site feels safe inside the campus. They call this jhikiba- forcibly taking the girl without her consent .Adivasi women are very hard working and the main bread earner of the family.

Patriarchy exists everywhere in some form or the other


Excerpts from February 2013 report

My  acquaintance and interaction with DongriaKondh women at Adivasimela  (exhibition) in Bhubaneswar. This was not my first time. I had visited this mela earlier also. Adivasimela happens every year, celebrating Adivasi culture of Odisha- presentation of living museum-on exhibit for ten days or so.

In this exhibition all the Adivasi residing in Odisha participate to represent their community, organized and supervised bySc& ST training institute, under Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Govt. of India. One sectionshowcased the living lifestyle, dwelling, farming and rituals practiced by the community. Another section displayed Adivasi tribal jewellery, costumes and accessories. In some stalls Adivasi people from different districts sold their textiles, bamboo baskets and agricultural products. Each tribal community participated with their developing agency.

I wanted to introspect, analyze and observe ‘representation of Adivasi tradition and way of living’ under the governance of sarkari authorities. How and the way it is showcased for the understanding of common people.  Moreover, in what state of mind / position Adivasi people react to local interaction. It was interesting to be there as participant observant.

This mela is like a living museum, a celebration of Adivasi local art, culture and traditional practices. Some of the dwellings included Mankedia Adivasi dwelling. The entire abode was made of leaves interconnected to each other in a cone shape, around seven feet high from the ground and had a small opening for entrance. The man sitting next to it was making a bowl using the bark of siali tree. The interlacement of beaten and treated bark and the beauty of hand woven leaves house shows how local tradition and culture evolves with limited materials. It is the beauty of nature and culture, the need of some something which gives rises to multiple artistic expressions.

The Dongria Kondh dwelling had wall painting illustrated on the mud walls. It was a refined representation of Sitapenu wall painting. Two winnowing baskets and offerings were kept next to Sitapenu. The wall of Jhakeri Kudi was also hand painted with white, red and black colours.

VadakeSindhe, her sister-Rashmi, Malo, kurunji and other women from khajuri, kurli, khambesi were selling honey extracted from the forest and self-prepared khanda-haladi(turmeric) from the Dongor(field). I interacted with kondh women about the ornaments and the changing tradition. I asked them about the shifting tradition. Some of them, who were adorned with ornaments in this mela, however, in reality, have now given up on traditional ornaments. According to some, they do not like wearing heavy nose rings and adornment of nose rings is very painful. Clothing manner has changed. Several outside influences have altered the manner of wearing textile

While introspecting, analyzing and observing Adivasi people during the mela, the question of their identity, how they are represented, presented and stated revolves in my thought process. This month field visit raised several social concerns related to representation, power relation and shifting tradition.


The purpose of subject Anthropology was to study the other- the exotic people. In so many years the hegemonic relation of subordinate and dominate position has not yet changed or blurred. In other words, to know the exotic or study of the exotic has not altered, perhaps at a different node and level in the contemporary context.The derogatory expression linked to tribe or the Adivasi has not changed or it seems inevitable. The way technology has escalated every second person hold a mobile or a camera and yearns to capture the exotic in it. Even though Kondh women sitting in the stall insisted not to be photographed, it made no difference to people.


Representation of the marginalized and already constructed preconceived perception about the marginalized-justifying the hegemonic power relation echoes the way social structure functions.The research indicates hegemonic power relation reflecting in the preconceived notions and cultural construction about the marginalized or Adivasi. In away it is echoing Foucault’s theories addressing about nature of power in the social structures, the way it functions and rules. The intrusion of developing agency in the name of development resonates and reinforces colonialism to a large extent.Thus, power isubiquitously present.It is inseparable and it dictates inrepresentation ofthe usage of Adivasi label and identity.

Being participant observant during the mela, while analyzing hidden power relation focusing on the question of identity and Adivasi’s reaction to local visitors. Some people stare at Adivasi -what they are wearing; some raise questions about their lifestyle and few of them find them exotic. I often think while answering, questioning and explaining to people,the mundane behavior of mainstream people and the way mainstream reacts to Adivasi people’s practices and lifestyle. I often think how do Adivasi confront and react to questions raised by common people- such as sane and insane reaction of people.

Understanding of the shifting meaning of gender and material culture, particularly their relation with materials in their daily life. Based on my earlier recording on Kondh women’s association with textile and material culture, research points out the inseparable and intangible reflection of artistic expression. In the passage of time this intangible artistic expression of women in relation to materials seems blurring.  I do not want to be judgmental as I or we have also altered with time thus I do not have the right to comment about shifting tradition and culture.  According to the Kondh women present at Adivsaimela, the intangible artistic expression, association of women with material seems ambiguous and less important to Kondh women. With the shift in perception and intrusion of external materials some have already and many are in the process of rejecting the traditional manner of wearing textiles and ornaments as a matter of choice.



Saigeetha Report

January 2013 report

In January, the folk songs were collected.  To understand the stories in those folk songs, or any folk literature, one must know the matriarchal family system  prevailing in Tulunad.

In Matriarchal Family System of Tulunad, the  sisters of a man, children of his sisters, their daughters and daughters’ children are considered as  the family but not  like the Patriarchal Family System where, wife, children, grandchildren of a man  makes a family.  In matriarchal family system, if a man adopts a female child, that child is either considered as his sister or as sister’s daughter or granddaughter and not as his own child.  Here, the matriarchal and patriarchal family systems are totally different from one another.  In the patriarchal family system, father, son and grandson all three are considered as three generations of the same family.  But in Matriarchal Family System, father, son and grandson will be from three different families, because their mothers are from different families.


Brief Story of Karnage Paddana

Mayinda Hegde of Mattar Beedu marries the sister of Maapu Parander, Baare Parandedi  of Malar Beedu.   They did not get any issues, so, they vowed to God Kolyur Shankaranarayana   and their family deity ‘Jumadi’ of Malar Beedu.  After sometime, Baare Parandedi conceived and she wanted her brother to be there with her at the time of her delivery.  As soon as he comes, she gave birth to a baby girl and lost her breath.   Brother of the deceased, Maapu Parander decided to take the child home, because it is his family member which was opposed by his wife.   Ignoring his wife’s opinion, he started bring up the child at Malar Beedu naming her “Karnage”.


One day Maapu Parander went as a jury for a village court at a distant village. He told his niece Karnage to prepare food for him on his return.  She agrees and took the vegetables from the vegetable garden under the supervision of ‘Jumadi’ in the backyard without getting his permission to take.  Jumadi gets angry about her attitude.  Without knowing that she has committed a mistake by ignoring Jumadi, she started cooking the food.  When her uncle returned, she asked him to have the food and started serving it.   Due to the anger of Jumadi, he found stones and hair in the food served for him.  He was angry and slapped on Karnage.  She ran to her room and locked inside where Jumadi eluded (make her to disappear) her.  Jumadi made her flesh to be found on a leaf  to her maternal uncle and says that he felt very bad  of the torture given by her  aunt ‘Kapura’ and that is the reason why he made Karnage to disappear.

In the last part of the folk song, Maapu Parander calls his wife as ‘Kalamma’, but it should be ‘Kapura’ as per Mrs. Bhavani.

Jumadi deity is normally dresses like a lady on the upper part, but considered as the male deity in paddanans.   This reveals the combination of softness towards his devotees and rudeness towards arrogant people.

A detailed description is given about the tasty cooking of Karnage, her style of cooking, the style of Maapu Parander getting ready for food etc in Karnage Paddana.


Brief Story of Pili Chandi Paddana

Manju Poonja of Karambaranna lineage of Bunts Community sells his ornaments and collects the money to get the ruling rights of his area from the King of Puttige Dynasty.  He gets the ruling rights of Tumbejala Guthu, the land of which was very fertile and yields good crops.   Even though he gets very good yield from the paddy field, the whole was robbed by the thieves.  He wanted to protect his assets  from the thieves and asks his brother in law (sister’s husband) to  lend his  family deity ‘Pili Chandi’, which is very powerful and favourite to him against money.  For the sake of money he gives ‘Pilichandi’ to Manju Poonja and later Manju Poonja started performing ritual rites of Pilichandi as his family deity.

In this Paddana, rural agricultural events are very effectively propagated along with the divine power of  ‘Pilichamundi’.


Brief story of Potte Panjurli Paddana

Due to some misunderstanding with his maternal uncle, Duggana Baidya left his maternal house and moves to another village with his family (sisters and sisters’ daughters).  He finds shelter under Korattaya Ballalti with his family deity ‘Potte Panjurli’.  He becomes rich.  He gave shelter to the people of Kudubi Community emigrated from Goa.  The people of Mairodi Guthu who tells the untruth for betel lime container, fell seriously ill due to the divine power of Potte Panjurli.  Duggna Baidya, rushes to Mairodi Guthu ignoring the suggestion of Potte Panjurli, treats them and prays for their recovery.  They are all recovered from their illness and while returning from Mairodi Guthu, Duggana Baidya fells down by the side of the Paddy field and found dead.

Here, we can see the supreme power of the deity as well as the spreading of the family in different ways.   Binding of the deity through magical powers and reviving from the magical power is well described in this Paddana.  It is assumed that this paddana  may be of 15 – 16 century i.e at the time of Portuguese in India, because the reference to the cradling on the Cashew tree and the immigration of Kudubi Community from Goa.


February 2013 report

The Folk Ballads were collected in February.  ‘Addoora Debe’ paddana and was successfully recorded by Mrs.  Bhavani .The Kattadaltaya Paddnana , Kootattaje Ullalti Paddana and paddana of Kings of Udyavara was recorded and the photographs were taken.  After finishing the recording process, she has been dropped to her home.

“Ulavoora Eramane” folk ballad,Panjurli  Paddana,Nagakannika Paddana was recorded later.

As Mrs. Bhavani ‘s presence is needed in the ‘Balandi  Utsav’  at her place, she was not available for recording after February 22nd.  But on Feb. 25th, on the day of festival rituals, I recorded her participation in the community work.  The recording was done after getting the permission to record only “communal rituals for a short period”.  This topic is the part of the field work to be done in the month of April.

The information collected through audio & video recording and from the media is in the process of written form.  First of all, it was written in Tulu language in Kannada script and later the transcription was done.

Brief story and Analysis of the information collected in the month of February:

  1. 1.      Addora Debe:  Deru Baidya of Addoor Sana House went for local cock fighting game at Pural Bari Mandap with his peers.  They had to cross the river to reach the place.  The Boat man/Ferryman agreed to get them to the other side only if they given him the ‘Sasra Bolle’ cock , they are going to win in the game.   It is a custom that the first won cock should be cooked and offered to the deity and the ancestors of the family.  The same is told to the boatman, but he was stuck to his condition.  Finally, Deru baidya agreed if it could be cooked in his pan.  Then the boatman ferried them across the river.

Birumana Baidya puts a condition that, to take part in the cock fighting game, Deru Baidya has to give his sister on marriage to him.  Agreed to the condition, Deru baidya won the game.  While returning, Deru Baidya gives the won cock to the boatman as promised, but the cock flew away from the boiling pot and later it was cooked and offered to the deity and the ancestors of Deru Baidya.

To keep the promise given to Birumana Baidya, Deru Baidya prays deity Jumadi  to bring his sister  Debe, who had already married, from her husband’s house.  As per the directions of Jumadi in her dreams, Debe divorced her husband and came to her brother.  Deru Baidya gives Debe to Brimana Baidya on marriage.

At Birumana Baidya’s house, Debe cooked food and served it using her super natural power.   She started for a reception and while crossing a tunnel, Jumadi   makes her to disappear.

  1. 2.     Kattadaltaya Paddana:

In Kolakebail Family, the head of the Family, Derattikarival finds a hidden treasure pot in his ancestor’s property.  He wanted to give the same to King Ramerullaya.  Instead of gold and diamonds, there was a deity in the treasure.  He placed the deity on the southern side of his house and started worshiping.  Once he owed to the deity that if he provides water for his big field, he would construct a shrine for the deity.  The deity appears in his dreams and instructs him to construct a dam across the river nearby and assures him of strongly preserving the dam.  He gets enough water for his fields.  On this pleasure, he constructed a shrine at the dam itself and called the deity”Kattadaltaya”.



  1. 3.     Kutattaje Ullalti:

In Kutaje family house, the grandfather gets a new born granddaughter.  The child was brought up very carefully.   After owing to the deity, she attains her puberty and after 9 months, she gave birth to a child with super natural powers.  To name the child, they took the baby to the King of Mangalore where he was named as “Bale Bantaalve”.  Just after naming, the baby suddenly grows and while returning he disappears along his mother.

  1. 4.     Kings of Udyavara:

Two brothers who appeared in the middle of seven seas were brought to Udyavara.  When they became young, the shaving ceremony was done by calling a barber from outside.  After that, they started on a tour.   The conflict raised between them was set right by Mudadaya deity.  They obliged to him by giving Mudadaya Deity the same status of them and they are now called as Three Kings of  Udyavara Mada.


1) A lengthy note is given on cock fighting and cooking in Addoora Debe. Debe kept aside her marital life for the sake of her brother, but deru baidya takes her as granted to keep his words. An illustration of marital divorce in tulu culture is given in this text. Here debe had to brief ‘bara’ (divorce) with each and everyone at home and the chief person of the village too.

While regaining the ‘sasra bolle’ cock and twisting the life of debe like anything the supernatural power of ‘jumadi daiva’ is shown.

2) Derattikarival is sincere in offering the treasure pot which he got from the ancestral property to the king. The ballad illustrates the real wish of an agriculturist, to get the land irrigated and in return thanking the almighty through building a temple.

3) Matrilineal system of tulu culture treats a girl child like anything and the kutaje ullalti paddana describes the baby girl as she is the gold of the family and her being itself decorated the lineage. Her unnatural child is also treated as the supernatural one and the king himself treated and recognized it in the society in a better way by naming the child.

4) The illustrations of the seas in the last paddana tell us the heroes might come from some island. The ritual of shaving and cutting hair is also illustrated.  The mediator mundittaya daiva, who made the two brothers rejoin, is also treated as equal with the kings in udyavara mada.The singer’s total involvement in the ballad sung is noted at the time of recording.



Excerpts from March 2013 report

The folk ballads were collated in the second half of March 2013.

On 21st in the afternoon, I went to her place, at the time she was ready and I took her to my house. The collection of folk ballads started by resuming the Siri Epic

On 25th of March, Mr. Amudan came from Chennai with his assistant Karthik, for documentation. In the afternoon we went to collaborator’s house. The information about Pambada community and its occupation was given to him. After shooting the important things and gathering of information we visited my ancestral house Thokur Guthu, the old house which has the history of 1400 years and also the work place of my collaborator’s family.

In the evening of the same day the impersonating of the spirits by collaborator’s elder son and grandson was shown to Mr. Amudan in Paladka, which is 40 Kms. far from Mangalore. The folk epics are not sung at the time of impurity. Therefore the fieldwork was postponed. From 17th February to 27th March the Siri Epic was recorded. The style of recitation of Siri Epic is different from other ballads. The collaborator did not participate in any Siri rituals, but had seen it. She had learnt the ballads from one of her aunts, and with her work companions she used to sing them in paddy fields. There was restriction to sing it for some extent because the impersonators might be impersonated by singing the ballad itself. The collaborator does not have the touch of singing this epic for a long time of more than fifteen years. So she requested a lady who has the experience in Siri rituals, to help her to recall the epic, but could not get it

It is noted that uncollected ballads are there more than the collected ballads with the collaborator. The remaining parts of ‘Udyavara arasu’, ‘Panjurli’ should be collected and ‘Kotichennaya’, ‘Jarandaya’ were not touched yet. The information collected through audio & video recording and from the media is in the process of written form.  First of all, it was written in Tulu language in Kannada script and later the transcription was done. The ballads of “Ulavura Eramane”, “Panjurli” and “Nagakannike” which were collected in the month of February are transliterated and transcribed in this month.

The collaborator said that the ‘Nagakannike’ ballad is sung at the time of Nagamandala. To authenticate it the published ballads were undergone.

Excerpts from April 2013 report

‘Work experience of the Community Elder in her community profession’ was the title of the study for the month of April. It is necessary to go to collaborator’s village festival and find their work there. So I went to Perara Balandi shrine which is in the distance of 25 km. from Mangalore city. February 25th, on the day of festival, and her participation in the community work was recorded.  For this purpose, we had to be there from 5 pm till 11.50 pm. The recording was done after getting the permission to record “only communal rituals for a short period”.Collaborator’s son impersonated ‘balaandi’ deity and collaborator participated in the community occupation. It is said that because of the loud speakers, the folk ballads are not sung by Pambada women nowadays.

In the last week of March I went to the collaborator’s husband’s ancestral house, which is in Perara village with Mr. Amudan and Karthik from Chennai and my son Mr. Pradyoth Hegde. The same day, on 26th evening, we four went to Paladka village, which is 50 km. from Mangalore city. There was the ritual of sending the evil out of the village. Collaborator’s elder son and grandson were participating in the ritual as spirit impersonators. Till 1 am we were there. Mr. Amudan and Mr. Karthik started to Honnavar at 1.00am and both of us towards Mangalore.

On 21st and 22nd April 2013 there was a village festival in Thokur village in Mangalore Taluk where collaborator’s family members perform their community occupation. I went there on 21st afternoon to watch the proceedings of the rituals.

I went to collaborator’s place, pick her and took her to the work place, the village deity ‘Jarandaya’ shrine. Her family members already came directly from their offices. In the evening, the Pambadas start their work of preparing the decorating things for the festival. In the shrine yard itself I interviewed the collaborator to get the information about skilled things made by her community members. By the tender fronds they prepare ‘aNi’ and the ‘tiri’ which is tied around the waist of the spirit impersonator.In the whole night the festival was going on, the son and grandson of the collaborator performed the main roles in the same.

In the morning, after the festival got over, collaborator went to her house with her family members at around 8.30am. The field work was not done after that as the collaborator needed rest. Her age and health are interrupting the study process now and then.

Tulu is a major minority language of Karnataka thickly populated in Coastal Karnataka, northern Kerala. The undivided Dakshina Kannada District of Karnataka and the northern part of Kerala have the single culture, and together they are called as Tulunadu from the ancient period. The borders of Tulunad vary time to time as per the political tendency.

Spirit worship (daivaaaraadhane) is the unique ritual in the whole Tulunadu unlike other places of Karnataka. There are the daivas of the place, house, family, village and group of villages and so on. There are some communities who impersonate the spirits in the yearly of owed rituals. Pambada, Panara, Nalke community have the occupation of spirit impersonating. Pambadas impersonate only the village deities and their family deity.

In the village festival each and every community of the village participate and render their duties there which are rendered by their forefathers. Mostly Bunt manor house (Guthu) takes the leadership of the festival and under the direction of the headman (Yajaman) the festival take place. In the olden days the property was given to the main participants of the rituals called ‘umbali’, so the place name of the collaborator’s is ‘Pambadara kodi’ which had come to them as ‘umbali’. In the special occasions like Krishnashtami, Vinayaka Chaturthi, Parba the community people comes to the manor house to collect rice and coconut to celebrate the festivals. Nowadays after the performance of the village festival, the headman pays the salary for the performers including Pambadas.

As observed in the fieldwork of ‘Thokur bandi’, Pambada takes permission to render his duty as spirit impersonator by taking ‘padiyari’ and ‘ennebuulya’. By keeping ‘sutye’ the worship starts and in my opinion it is the offering to the deity, but not for the vedic god Ganapati.

Pambada starts reciting the folk ballad of the deity ‘jarandaya sandi’ with the beating of the drum called ‘karade’.

After having food, the two men starts facial make up and dress by the red clothe called ‘melangi’ and ‘karangi’. The ‘gaggaradecci’ is performed and it represents the deity is ready to assure the villagers as it protect them from the evil.‘maanyecci’ is performed by the Poojary assisted by the other one and at this time the royal prestige is shown by holding the ‘panca jiitige’, ‘bolgude’ and ‘asurgode’.

The full dressed spirit impersonator comes now. The audience feels they are in the other world with the dim light of the fire torch and the unique dressing of the impersonator with the special background music. In the ‘nudikatt’ the deity assures the protection of the villagers.

‘Bandi’- Jarandaya has Horse chariot and it represents that a warrior or the ruler is worshiped as a protector.

After returning from the place, ‘badikara bali’ was done. Then the ‘nudikatt’ starts. Disputes of the people are judged, moral strength is given and the medicin to some sickness are directed by the deity at this time. All the villages take the ‘buulya’ from the spirit impersonator and by giving the food and drink deity disperse from the human body.

The deity called ‘jumaadi’ is impersonated now and the crocodile chariot is pulled. This represents the spirit had come through the river branch. It is told that only in Thokur the crocodile chariot is there as in other places ‘jumadi’ has the pig chariot.


’Padiyari’ and ‘ennebulya’ represent the responsibility of food and cooling. The body of the community should be looked after by the head man of the village.

The collaborator’s residing place was given as ‘umbali’. The villagers worshipthe spirit of the protectors of their forefathers.For the villagers ‘daivaradhane’ is an entertainment, and also acts as a medicine to cure the sickness and to get the moral strength and the judicial court of the village.





  1. a?i                      : A kind of ornamental halo-like structure made of areca spathes,   cloth, tender   fronds of coconut or metal materials and worn on the back by the spirit impersonator.
  2.  baaloli                : A coconut covered by the tender coconut fronds in a unique style and tied to the top of pendal above the alter. It is believed that this represents the head of the spirit which will be impersonated later.
  3. ennebuulya           : A ritual of appointing or authorizing the impersonator of the deity to perform the ritualistic dance.
  4. ma??ela                : washer man
  5. muga                     : A face mask of the deity made of metal.
  6. mugaTi mu?i         : the wooden holder of ‘muga’ which is used to tie to ‘a?i’ at time of ‘mugatta ecci’
  7. muulya puujaari   : the person who has the duties of bringing the mask and other objects of worship to the place of annual festival of the village deity.
  8. pa?iyari                 : Acceptance of rice as a token of undertaking the responsibility of a ritual performance by spirit impersonators.
  9. pambada               :  a community which has the occupation of participating and impersonating the spirits in the annual rituals of the village deities.

10. panca jiiTige          : A bunch of five torches (made of cloth soaked in oil) fixed to a single handle. To hold this in front of any one represents offering the royal status.

11. puujaari                 : the priest who belongs to toddy drawer (biruva) community.

12. sutye                      : rice and coconut kept on a plantain leaf as the offering to the deity in the auspicious ceremonies.

13. tiri/siri                   : the tender fronds of coconut tree. This is used as the decorating material in the spirit worship of Tulunad.

14. umbali/umboli       : The land granted without rent for the performance of certain services.


Savita Uday Report

Excerpts from February 2013 report

This month I documented the entire process of ritual art form Hasagara with my collaborator Hanmi . I invited Hanmi to document her special folk art called Hasagara drawn only in marriage ceremony. The motifs are driven from the nature and the daily life .This particular art form-hasagara has got great community aspects .The rituals ,the stories regarding the art form has got the great cultural values .This art form has been  depicted in their oral epic song Mahabharata

I attended folklore seminar with the collaboration of Janapada academy, Bangalore and introduced Oral song epic Mahabharata of different tribes and communities from Uttara Kannada with my collaborator Hanmi .I interacted with two more singers with Hanmi and helped Hanmi to decorate the stage with her folk art . The rituals ,the stories regarding the art form has got the great cultural values .This art form has been depicted in their oral epic song Mahabharata.The seminar on tribal Mahabharata in different tribes and communities in this region helped me to make a comparative study.




Lilly Kutty Abraham Report

Excerpts from December 2012 report

History of Puthusserikotta

The present settlement of Mavilan community has been the land belonging to the wife of Edakalath Kunjikannan Nambiar. The Mavilans came to this place in 1957.  Edakalath Kunjikannan Nambiar was the land lord in that area. The settlement consists of 4.30 acres of land. There are 12 families in this settlement. All the families are related to each other. They came to Puthusserikotta colony from Karimbankandi, another settlement. Edakkalath Kunjikannan Nambiar wanted his tenants to remain closer to his house, so that when he calls ‘Rama’ ,Raman should respond and be at his beck and call. As they belonged to Scheduled caste they had no right to own land of their own. Now the situation has changed and they own the land.

Excerpts from January 2013 report

Visit to Kuniyampusha settlement


We decided to go to Kuniyampuzha settlement in the morning of 6th and again to go at night to shoot the Theyyam. Theyyam would be held on the 22nd and 23rd of ‘Dhanu’, the Malayalam month, i.e, the 6th and 7th of January. Theyyam is a popular ritual dance in North Malabar. This centuries’ old ritual performance is a unique combination of dance, music and religious worship. It reflects the main features of a traditional tribal culture dating back to the early days of dravidian influence. After a period of intense preparation involving abstinence, fasting, prayer and solitary confinement the performer dons the costume of the deity he is representing. During the performance he identifies himself with the deity and receives homage from the worshippers who revere him as such. in this elevated state he is presumed to have supernatural powers. He speaks, moves, heals and blesses his devotees as coming from a divine source. No two Theyyams are alike. The facial painting and make up are unique to each Theyyam.

Mavilans also have a ritual dance. My collaborator, Raman Avidath used to be a Theyyam

performer. As he is old, and it is quite expensive to perform such rituals it is not held in their

settlement. Therefore, I have visited other settlements to collect this art form.

Visit to Kuniyampuzha settlement

In the morning Gopalakrishnan informed that there would be a Theyyam at noon. So, I along with Gopalakrishnan, and the cameraman Vijesh Cherian, reached Kuniyampuzha settlement around 11.30 am. I met some of the performers and committee members and interviewed them. I collected information about the Theyyams going to be performed in that ‘ kavu’ (temple-sacred grove) During the two days Nagakanni theyyam,Veerabhadran theyyam, Padaveeran Theyyam, and Nattutheyyam will be performed. In between the Theyyam there will be thottams performed.

Nagakanni Theyyam

The Nagakanni Theyyam started at 1.30 pm. This theyyam is performed during the day. It is

performed as gratitude to favours received, specially protection from snakebite.

Nagakanyaka is also a goddess of fertility.The place where the Kavu is situated was the dwelling place of serpants. Later on it became the settlement of Mavilan community.

Nagakanyaka is the incarnation of Karippal Nagam. According to Raghu, the performer of theis

Theyyam ( I interviewed him at night when other theyyams were going on), the goddess

Nagakannyaka is looking for a direction. The song sung during the performance vividly narrates

it.if she turns to the North, she would be called Vadakkothi; and if she turns to the West, she would be afflicted with the smell of the fish as the sea is in the West. So, the ideal place is the South. A particular place in South is kept sacred for the nagakanyaka. During the second lap of the ritual the Theyyam performs around this sacred place.

In the beginning of the theyyam Sarppakettu is placed on the head of the theyyam. It resembles the hood of the snake. Towards the end of the first half of the performance, the sarppakettu is removed. Then a sacred pot is placed on the head of the theyyam.

The prasadam offered during this Theyyam is newly prepared rice and coconut. It is called ‘vithum thengem’. At the end of the ritual dance, after the decorations are removed, both the performer and Komaram eats the prasadam prepared in order to break the fast.

Kuniyampuzha Veerabhadran Theyyam

In the evening theyyam began around 7pm. The first theyyam was Veerabhadran. Veerabhadran has three forms: Puthiya daivam, Veerambinaru and Veerabhadran.

The myth behind Veerabhadran theyyam:

Dakshan, through his Thapas, has Sakti as his daughter. He and Shiva are enemies. Dakhan wants his daughter Sati to be married. Sati falls in love with Shiv. But Shiv did not reciprocate her love. Brahma wants Sati to marry Shiva as he knows that Sati or Parwati is the reincarnation of goddess Sakti. She needs to marry Shiva to complement the power of Shiv. When the swayamvar of Sati was going on Shiv reached there. And Sati garlanded him. Dakshan became furious and sent both of them away from there. So both of them went ot Kailasam. Dakshan wants to retaliate by humiliating Shiv. He wanted to conduct a grand yagam. He invited everyone else from the three worlds except Shiv and Parwati. Parwati went to the yagshala without telling her husband. As she was entering the yagashala Dakshan humiliated and sent her away. Feeling very upset Sati made a pyre and sacrificed herself. Knowing about it Shiva became ferocious. He started Shiva Thandavam. During the thandavam from his Jada Veerabhadran or Veer puthran was born. Shiva entrusted him with the mission of stopping the yagam and killing Dakshan. Veerabhadran destroyed everything at the yagshala and killed Dakshan. Mavilans believe that the Shivv Shakhi is embodied in them. According to Sri. Kannan Kavumbai, Veerabhadran entrusted this puja to the Mavilans to be carried forward.

There are three parts of Veerabhadran Theyyam. The first one, Puthiyadaivam, is considered the oldest of the three. It is Shiva Shakti or the embodiment of Lord Shiva. The second one,

Veerambinaru is the embodiment of Shiva before the Daksha yagam;and the third one,

Veerabhadran is the Veera Puthran born from the Jada of Shiva.

Padaveeran Thottam

Padaveeran Thottam started at 4.50am.

Thottam is performed without much decorative costume or make up. The performer stands in front of the Kavu after wearing the Kanimundu or thr particular loin cloth and headdress. He has no face painting or Mukhthezhuthu. The sandal or ash given from devathastan is applied on his forehead and chest. Thattam means praise. According to Dr. Gundert, the verb ‘thottuka’ in Malayalam means to create. Both the theyyam performer and Thottam performer praises the god and also invokes the presence of god into the body of their body. Through the medium of thottam the invisible power of Theyyam becomes visible.

This ritual is performed in remembrance of a war fought between Mannnappan and the Kudaku warriors.

Mannappan was the son of Parakkayillathu Chakki and Melthaliyillathu Kumaran of Mangadu of

Thaliparamba of Kannur District. Being very naughty he left his family in anger and travelled towards Kudaku along with his friends. He had taken his bow and arrow along with him. But on the way he was betrayed by his friends. He was left alone. As he was very adventurous, he proceeded. He crossed the seven mountains all by himself and reached his uncle’s at Kathivanoor in Kudaku. He was well received in uncle’s family. He went about doing oil business. As he went around all the twelve mountains of Kudaku, where he met Chemmarathi, fell in love with her and married her. His uncle and family cooperated with him. After the marriage he stayed in Chemmarathi’s house. The haughty Chemmarathi used to quarrel with him frequently. One day, the Kudaku warriors challenged Mannappan. Chemmarathi asked him to go immediately to prove the strength of Malayathan. Mannappan left the house without even completing his food. Chemmarathi saw him off with strong words. as he was leavung his forehead hit on the front portion of the house and blood came out. It was a bad omen. Mannappan fought with the warriors of Kudaku and won successfully. When he was returning he realized that he had lost his ring. He knew that Cemmarathi would taunt him if he lost it. So he went back to the battle field. The Kudaku warriors taking advantage of this situation surrounded him and killed him. When Chemmarathi heard about it she repented.

Mannappan’s funeral rite was on. His uncle’s son Annukan lighted the pyre. Chemmarathi reached there. It was noon. She told all those who gathered there that a star has appeared in the sky at mid day. While everyone looked up she jumped into the pyre and killed herself.

When Annukan was taking bath after the funeral rights, Mannappan appeared to him. He became numb with fear. Annukan informed others that Mannappan is united with god and he has to be made into theyyam. He is known as Kathivanoor Veeran .According to Mavilans, Padaveeran is the same Theyyam as Mannappan.

Aeakura Chamundi is another name for Nattutheyyam. Arakura Chamundi Kalasam was performed after Veerabhadran Theyyam. It began at 3.20 am. Kalasam is toddy pots. Toddy pots are filled and kept decorated with tender coconut leaves. There is a Kalasa Thara specially prepared for the kalasam. The rituals are carried around this Kalasa thara. There is also Kuruthi, which is the chicken sacrifice . The performer cuts the throat of the chicken symbolically with a sacred Kathi or knife used on the occasion. This ritual is performed in commemoration of Asura Vadham.

Kuniyampuzha- Padaveeran Theyyam

The committee members informed us that it would take almost four hours to begin the next

theyyam. So we decided to go back and come. But when we were away they started the theyyam.

Kuniyampuzha- Nattutheyyam

Nattutheyyam started at 10.33am. The thottam of this theyyam was performed earlier during the night as arakura chamundi kalasam. Nattutheyyam got over by 11.15 am. Nattutheyyam thottam by the same theyyam performer was recorded at Valliyadu.

I had planned to shoot the theyyam at Edakkulam In Chengalai Panchayath of Kannur District.

But Gopalakrishnan informed me that there won’t be much to record as the involvement of

Mavilan community is not much outstanding and instead he proposed another Mavilan settlement,Valliyattu, where theyyam would be performed on the 25th of this month.

Theyyam at Edakkulam

I along with the camera man reached Edakkulam Shree Puthiyabhagavathi kshetram- temple, at

6.40 am. Edakkulam is part of Chengalai panchayath of Kannur district of Kerala and is 13 kms away from my residence. When we reached the location Puthiyabhagavathi theyyam was going on. After some time Vishnu murthi theyyam also started. Both of them together performed the rest of the rituals. Puthiyabhagavathi theyyam is performed by Peruvannan and Vishnu murthi theyyam is performed by Malayar.The mavilans assists at the theyyam performance at Edakkulam. Traditionally, it was they who prepared the firewood, collected the chickens for sacrifice, cleaned the vessels used during theyyam, cleaned the lamps etc. This practice is carried on. It is the nephew of my collaborator, who takes the lead role. Mr. Raman Avidath, being the community elder is present during the whole ceremony.



Visit to Puthusserikotta settlement

I visited Puthusserikotta settlement around 12.15, during my break time from the college. But the elder was sleeping. So I went back and retuned around 3pm. I recorded the song Kuttithatha.

I visited to Puthusserikotta settlement again and met the community elder cum collaborator, Mr.Raman Avidath, and recorded the song Muthappankotta.

Theyyam at Valliyadu Sree Daivathar Kariyabhagavathi Devastanam

I along with Gopalakrishnan and Cameraman,Vijesh Cherian reached Valliyadu Sree Daivathar Kariyabhagavathi Devastanam by 6.45pm. It is about 5kms from my residence.By 7.40pm Daivathar theyyam started .The myth behind this theyyam performance is the commemoration of the protection experiencedby the people during the shifting cultivation. A leopard used to disturb the crops and people. So Lord Shiva incarnated as Daivathar to save people from the leopard. He appears as a hunter God.He hunted and over-powered the leopard. Though leopard is a cruel animal they address it as Pulikidavu. In the songs it is mentioned as Pulikidavu. The theyyam has bow and arrow in his hand. During the performance he blesses people with the bow and arrow. Daivathar comes from Kudaku to Paithalmala and from there to Kamblari or Valliyadu. By 8.40 another headdress was placed on the performer. and he continued the performance. It is called ‘Kolathinmel Kolam’. It got over by 9pm

Theyyam at Valliyadu

Valliyadu is under Sreekandapuram panchayath. I visited the place around 4 pm. I met Sree

Kannan Kavumpai, the performer of Nattutheyyam. He advised me to reach by 8 pm.

Kuttichathan Theyyam

Kuttichathan theyyam started at 6 am.The myth behind this theyyam According to Gopi whom I interviewed: Kuttichathan reached a place called Irikkur, grazing his cattle. He was a small boy. He came to some muslim household and asked for fire to light his bidi. But the people were astonished as he was too young and they laughed at him. They threw the left-over milk on his face to tease him. They also incurred his wrath through many other actions. He was chased away from there. Kuttichathan became furious. The whole town of Irikkur started to burn. For three days and three nights it kept burning. Finally, the people called an astrologer. Their place latter asked them whether anyone had come to their place on previous days. The people told him that a boy was there and when he asked for fire to light his bidi, they chased him. Then the jyothsyan revealed that it was Kuttichathan who hadcome to their place. All the people were called and they prayed. So the town that burnt for three days and three nights stopped burning. It was restored to the normal state. Kuttichathan is placenear Mamanikkunnu Bhagavathi Khethram, near to Irikkur in Kannur District. The myth behind Kuttichathan from the book ‘Theyyam’ by Dr. M.V. Vishnunamboothiri:

When Lord Shiva and Parwati were living as Valluavar Kuttichathan was born.He had flower on his head, third eye, and white marks on his black body. Kalakadu Namboothiri though married had no children. He started Thapas. Lord Shiva appeared to him and gave him Kuttichathan who was their son. So Kuttichathan grew up in Kalikattu Illam. He started his education at the age of seven. One day when his guru went for bath he took his book and started to read. When the guru returned he caned him. Instead of crying he started to laugh. He beheaded his guru to take revenge. Later on he was entrusted with grazing the cattle. When he came back after grazing the cattle he was not given milk in the ‘kindi’. There was some dispute between both of them. the next day he killed an ox and drank its blood. Kalakattachan not seeing the ox in the stable woke up Kuttichathan who was sleeping among the grass and tied him up and thrashed him. Kuttichan realized that Kalakattamma must be behind this. So he stoned at her, when she was drawing water from the well. Kalakattachan tied him up and cut his head. Still nothing happened to Kuttichathan. He appeared in the West and shouted aloud. At the end they decided to make a yagam. He brought magicians and cut Kuttichathan into 390 pieces. From the sacrificial fire 390 Kuttichathans appeared .He started to dance and burnt 44 illams.

Kuttichathan started to going around to see the world. Later on he burnt Irikkur town.

Nattu theyyam Thottam

Before Theyyam, there is another ritual called Thottam. Nattu theyyam is also called Arakura


Kariya bhagavathi Theyyam

Kariya bhagavathi Theyyam started around 7.00am.

The myth according to Gopi ( whom I interviewed):

The people on earth were in great suffering as they were inflicted with an epidemic- vasoori. From the heavens the godde was sent to the earth along with a handful of turmeric powder , a piece of red silk, and a weapon. She came to the earth, crossing the 14 seas reached a place called Ezhimala. From there she went to Madayikkavu. In Madayikkavu is the mother of all goddesses. From there she moved on to Vadakunnil Appan, who is Lord Shiva. Then she proceeded to Kamblari, ( closer to the place where the theyyam is held), met the people, and entered an ancestral home. Then she met Erumpala Karthavu, the Janmi of Mavilans. The Mavilans are supposed to give paddy to the Janmi. But the Mavilans have Paddy and no coconut. (A particular place is kept apart by the Mavilans for the Janmi. During the performance the theyyam approaches this place to pay obeisance) As she was coming she met Theeyan, a toddy tapper, as it is his clan’s occupation. So he gives toddy for the theyyam. Then she reached Kamblari, sprinkled the turmeric powder, and got rid of the epidemic.


February 2013 report

Payyavur Oottumaholtsavam(Festival)

As part of Payyavur Oottu maholsavam the Mavilans have a role in it. Mavilans take the offering to the temple of Lord Shiva before the ulsavam begins.So I decided to visit the temple during the festival. I, along with the cameraman reached Kakkattakavu Palliyara by 5.15 pm. When we reached the location preparations were going on to carry the offerings to the temple at Payyavur. It is an old structure of a Kavu in the field of some one. According to Mavilans, it was they who found the goddess in that place. Later on it was taken up by other castes like Nair, Nambyar and Namboothiri . Every year they gather at this Kavu on the day of Sankranthi. (Makaram 30th is the day of Sankramam) for taking the offering to the Temple. Mavilans from different settlements gather here. There were people from Ettupara, Vathilmada,Kattikandam, Areekamala, etc. According to them it is only after they reach the offering to the temple that the ulsavam will begin. There is a particular place kept apart for Mavilans, almost towards the outer premises of the temple.

The offerings they take (raw tender jackfruit, tender banana bunch, and tender coconuts ) will be used in preparing food in the temple.

Payyavur Ulsavam (festival)

I interviewed Sri.Kunjiraman who came to take part in the ulsavam, at Payyavur temple premises. According to him, the Idol of Shiv linga was discovered by the Mavilans when they came hunting. While the Mavilans were hunting they sat in a place to rest. Before leaving the place they wanted to sharpen their arrow and rubbed it against a stone nearby. To their surprise blood oozed out from the stone. They realized that it was the statue of Lord Shiva and it was Shiva linga. So the offering that they bring to the temple is as an expiation for this disreputable act. Therefore every year on the day of KUMBHAM sankranthi( the union of Makaram and Kumbham, – fist half of February) these offerings are brought to the Shiva Temple at the sart of the 13 day- long festval. This is a significant element of the festival. While I was talking to him another person standing by, and belonging to another community, narrated to me that the myth is that when the mavilans were doing punam kothu or shifting cultivation they sharpened their sickle against a stone which started bleeding eventually.

Accoring to the same person, the idol is not a created one, it is swayambhootham or revealed by itself.


The items taken for Kazhcha or offering are: tender coconuts, banana bunches, and raw tender jack fruit.These items would be offered at a place specially kept apart in the temple premises.

Around 6 pm the procession began from Kakattakavu palliyara. Only men are allowed to enter the sanctuary of this Kavu. All the men carrying the offerings lined up. Mavilans move in front of the procession with their Komaram and Thiyan at the back. The presence of Thiyan is must in this ritual. The procession accompanied with the beating of drums.

We accompanied the procession to a small distance and then we proceeded to the temple. The Kavu is almost 1 km away from the temple. We reached the temple and asked the Devaswam Board office permission to shoot the rituals. Permission was granted and I was denied permission to enter the inside premises of the temple. So I sent the camera man inside to cover the area. Meanwhile I interviewed the people around to gather information.

The procession reached the temple premises around 6.45 pm. The Mavilans entered the premises and kept the offerings in the space provided while the Komaram went inside. All the others went back. There was a large crowd of people.

Interview at Payyavur

I interviewed Vinesh, another devotee who had come to take part in the festival. According to him, this place was not called Payyavur. It was called Vygadur. Later on it became Payyavur. From Vayathur, when Lord Shiva had the war with Arjun he kept his foot backwards. So this is that foot here in Payyavur. The Lord here was called Vygadurappan.

Interview with Vellachi

While the preparations were on I met the wife of late komaram and interviewed her.

According to her, It is the ‘stanam’ of Pashassi bhagavathi. When the Oottultsavam of her father, Achan-Lord Shiva, begins she has to be chained and confined lest she might eat anyone who come across to her, especially women. If anything goes wrong with the rituals the goddess would be angry and she would be thirsty. So before Payyavur Ultsavam begins she is enchained in the Kavu at Kakkattukavu Palliyara, near Karimbamkandi. After the Ulsavam is over she would be set free.

I got the song of muthala theyyam recorded from my collaborator. This song is sung during the theyyam which I shall be recording on 30th March at Kamblari settlement.

Visit to Puthusserikotta settlement

I talked with my collaborator to collect information about Payyavur Oottulsavam. Both he and his wife furnished the information.

According to them when the Mavilans went for hunting they sharpened the knife on a stone and the stone tarted to bleed. When they enquired it was found that it was Vayathur karyar. So the one who found this stanam is the Komaram. vayathur karyar asked him to offer jackfruit, banana and tender coconut as offering to god. From there Koamaram went to Kudaku and asked the people to offfer rice for the festival of Vayathur Karyar. He went to Kurumathur to ask people to offer readymade leaves of coconut for making a panthal on festival days, and Koonathu for butter milk.

Thus before the festival begins on the previous day of Makaram 30th the people from Kudaku reaches with rice on the back of oxen and offers there. On the 30th the Mavilans take the offering to the temple, the abode of Vayathurappan or Lord Shiva.

According to Raman Avidath the place from where they begin the procession is the stanam of Vayathur Karyar as well. Pazhassi Bhagavathi is taken away from there and enchained on a jack tree before the ulsavam begins. If she sees fair body or women she will eat them up. After the festival would be over she would be released and brought back. Only after the chickens would be sacrificed in Kolakkara she would be set free and brought back. All these rituals are performed by a Koaram.

Excerpts from March 2013 report

I visited Puthusserikotta settlement on 09/03/2013 to record folk songs according to my calendar. I reached Puthusserikotta at 10.30 am. I spent time talking and discussing with them till 12. 15 PM .My collaborator Raman Avidath sang the song ‘Karimpuli Kannan’ .This song is sung during wedding ceremony when the members of bridegroom’s group travel to the bride’s house. After reaching the house also they sing. Marriages used to be festivals for the entire village. During the whole night they used to keep singing. This song deals with the theme of Karimpuli Kannan’s Marriage with Valliadu Devi.

I reached Puthusserikotta settlement on 11/03/2013 at 10.45 am and returned by 12.10.My collaborator sang a theyyam song that is sung during the preparation for theyyam. Before theyyam begins the performer has to get his face painted. This is called ‘Mukhathezhuthu’. The song called ‘Parashuram ‘ is sung in the aniyara as the artist gets ready.

The nest day,I recorded the song of an elephant from my collaborator. This song narrates how an elephant becomes violent and Chandu tames the elephant. He receives reward from the king. The king  presents him with half of his kingdom and his daughter as wife.

I also recorded the song of Kuttithatha the same day.

I recorded the songs of Veerabhadran theyyam. There are three parts of Veerabhadran theyyam. These songs are sung when the theyyam is being performed. Veerambinar theyyam song was recorded that day.This theyyam is performed as fulfillment of the vow for getting offspring.

The song of Karanavar theyyam was recorded. This Kolam is performed after the death of a male person in the family. In this ritual, the deceased person’s figure is personified ,because the soul has left the body and is wandering in the forest and  it has to be brought back. They believe that the soul is brought back through this ritual.

I recorded a song of nattutheyyam. This song is sung during the mukhathezhuthu i.e. painting of the face before the theyyam.

On 30/03/2013, I visited Kamblari, another settlement of Mavilans situated in Sreekandapuram panchayath of Kannur district.The theyyam was performed in the ancestral home of Perunchilli tharavadu and is observed every year. We obtained permission to video tape the performance beforehand.I along with the cameraman reached the location by 9 am as they had informed me that the theyyam would begin at 10am. But when we reached they had just begun the preparations. So we had to wait. Meanwhile I interviewed some people of authority and collected data. I was able to observe all the preparations right from the beginning. We were able to record thottam and theyyam. Muthala theyyam which was supposed to begin at 10 am stared at 2 pm.

We reached Kamblari by 5.30 am. Kadothi theyyam was going on. After that Alada Bhagavathi started. We recorded both and left the settlement by 8 am as it was the day of Easter.


Excerpts from April 2013 report

I, along with Mr. Amudhan and Karthik visited Puthusserikotta settlement on 2nd April. We spent time getting to know the people. While Mr. Amuthan was video recording the life of the people I collected relevant data.

We also met a man who had a musical instrument which he had made with available materials.

On the same day at night we visited Nediyanga, three kilometers away from my residence to record Velattam as Mr. amudhan wanted to see a performance live. Vellattam is the second stage of theyyam, first being thottam. If the thottam is long Vellattam is not performed before theyyam. Vellattam is almost similar to theyyam. It can be called a small theyyam. Vellattam performer has almost similar make up. It was performed in a family as an offering for the blessing received. We recorded vellattam and left by 10 pm.

On 3rd April, we reached Puthusserikotta settlement by 6 am to record house hold activities of the settlement. We saw their kottam(place of worship) and the sacred objects that they have preserved in the kottam. We also visited the kotta from where the place name originated i.e Puthusserikotta. It is no more a kotta, but a grove where some dense trees grow. It is because this kotta was there that the place got the name Puthusserikotta.

There was Muthala theyyam performed as part of their offering of Avidath ancestral houseon 7th April. Some rituals were held in their kottam. My collaborator was the one who presided over the rituals. He sang the theyyam song, while his nephew performed the muthala theyyam. It was moving to hear him pray to the god that they cannot afford to have all the theyyams and to be pleased with them with whatever they offer. There was kalasam and theyyam.

I visited Puthusserikotta settlement and recorded the folksong of Mundola; and folk tales of Edo Urakka, and other two folktales. Edo urakka, explains how the bird that chirps in the same way came to being.

I recorded the folksong of Sitakalipattu and kalakettu. In Sitakalipattu they dance while singing about Sita. Kalaket is a ritual in which the performer disguises like kala or ox and goes from house to house singing and dancing. This ritual is no more held.


I visited Puthusserikotta settlement on 30th April and recorded the folktale of Chakkarapunnan, and washer man and the folktale of Marakottum pattu. Marakkottum pattu has the theme of Paithalmala, a tourist centre nearby. This song is sung in between the theyyams when there is a Theyyam festival.








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