A Study on the Biates Community with special reference to Material Culture and Performing Folk Arts.
The Biates are an indigenous ethnic minority hill people in North East India.
Linguistically. they belong to the Tibcto-Burrnan family Kuki-Chin group. They have a distinct dialect. culture. customs and traditions of their Kangkalans; dung also popularly known as Kopili flows through the heart of the Biarc Area dividing the area and people into two – with one half into the state of Meghalaya (Saipung Area in the south eastern region of Jaintia hills District) and the other half into Assam (Kharthong Area in N.C Hills District presently Dirna Hasao District). They arc also known as the Hadem‘ by the Pnars or Khasi in Mcghalaya. While in N.CHills. Assam the Dimasas call them Bedem) Thc Biates with other bigger cognate communities like the Rangkho]s and the Khelmas (Sakaehep) are together known as /)akhinsc? by the Dimasa l leramba Raja. The Biates are also known as Bele-l by CA. Soppitt. Assistant-Commissioner or Beleh) by J. Shakcspcar.
The word ‘Biate comes from tw o words ‘Bia and Te.’ ‘Bia meaning to speak propose for marriage/ to worship and ‘Te ‘ is a suffix denoting small or little while in Mizo it denotes plurality the word . Biate could mean supplicants. petitioners and worshippers.” There is a narrative behind this that in a village there was a girl \\ ho had a relationship with a large snake. When her rather carne to know this, he killed his daughter and from her womb many snakes came out. The rather could kill all the snakes but one, which escaped and entered a hole. The snake grew up and demanded animals and eventually human beings to be fed. The villagers had no other choice but to meet the snake’s demand and to of the human sacrifices because of their inability to kill it. Later on the villagers wen: known as Rul-biate (rill mean ing snake and biate meaning worshippcrs) or snake worshipers even though in the real sense they never worshiped the snake but out of tear would appease it.
The Biates are one of the minority communities in Meghalaya. from the study of the social folk customs of the Biates, one could reasonably prove correct what B. Pakcm has mentioned “that unique feature in the social system is the prevailing form of matriliny-cum- patriliny” and “as well as in between a matriarchal and patriarchal ‘ system in a society .. ‘ Therefore, the Biates may be considered a link between patriliny and matriliny based on the grounds mentioned above. This may also support the oral narratives describing the Biates and Pnar/Khasi who have been living together in Tripura. and in the plains or Badarpur and Silchar since the 8th and loth Century. Later on the Pnar/Khasi settled in Ratacherra. Umkiang
A Biate saying, ‘thing lung Ilia ntiriam in chang rungin ei nuam a. ei ei te he i vang te ‘ (i f we can make a human out of the stones and trees, why not our niece and nephew), which imply that if by natnlut, a person who does not have even a drop of Biate blood could become one why would not our own). The saying is a claim put forth by the puhei (maternal relatives or uncles) in order to bring the children into the fold of Biate. Possibly this could have led into another form of matriliny in the society practiced since long.
Taking a note of the above social folk custom, tentative research questions could be put forward as below:
1. How there is the system of matriliny-cum-patriliny and matriarchal and patriarchal
among the Bietes?
2. How could the material cultures of the Biates be preserved?
3. HO\v performing folk arts of the Biates in Meghalaya arc still seen when the
community no longer observes festival and ceremonies.
The research and documentation methods that I seek to follow to collect the data would be both primary and secondary so as to know whether the community accepts and agrees what it has been collected and printed. I would also take up non-participants observation and interview method to gather maximum data. Tape recorder. still and video camera will also be used to capture the pictures. dance movements. songs and music beats of the community.
The study would not be authentic and loyal without the approval and consent of the community. Sometime community and scholars’ views vary that reason. if the work is undertaken in collaboration with the community elder/ artist it ensures positive results both for publication and preserving the culture.
Tentative Monthly Work plan:
April 2012: Pilot survey of the Biates areas in Meghalaya.
May 2012: Drafting ofthe pilot survey for pre-field preparation.
June 2012: Field work to collect data.
July 2012: consulting with the community elder regarding the data collected from the field work.
August and September 2012: Collected data during the last field work will be transcript and
document since the weather will not be suitable to conduct field work.
October 2012: Another field work.
November 2012: Drafting or the data.
December 2012: Organise field work to document maximum performances.
January to March 2013: Final editing and proofreading of the project and if necessary
revisits the field for the final feet back of the data.
Globalization tends to wipe out traditional thought: value systems arc frowned upon and arc bcing misinterpreted as nonsensical, and to a certain extent even considered superstitious or evil in a religious sense. With every passing of the older generation much traditional knowledge and practices have bcen irretrievably lost. .Just as the physical environment which encloses all life forms is never static. its dynamism has led to the evolution of new lite tC)I’IllS. The old forms gradually succumb to death with only the fossilized remains of a Jew. It is imperative to revive this traditional knowledge and wisdom. be it ecological, medicinal. social or cultural. One should therefore strike a balance between the old and the new by re-reading or re-Iooking. acculturation or revitalization, and channel them into everyday lire or the community for sustainable development. This could perhaps be a worth while exercise and this is what we called folklore.
The expected outcome or project will also render to showcase the Hiates community whose culture and tradition are in the verge or extinct. and documenting it will provide another platform to exist their culture. Through which students can also get opportunity to study about this community culture in the future.
Hareh, Ilarniet. ‘Meghalava,’ North-Eastern India News and l-eatures Service, Shillong.
l.alsirn. Ramdina. ‘Tribes of N.C. l Iills. Assam,’ published b) North Cachar Ililis
Soppitt. CA. A Short Account ofthe Kuki-Lushai Tribes 011 the North-East Frontier ..
published b) I-‘IRMA KLM Private l.td on behalf of Tribal Research Institute. Aiza« l. 1976.
Lt. Colonel J. Shakcspcar. ‘The Lushei Kuki Clans Part Ii. . Tribal research Institute. Aizawl.
I’hiaite. l.alsanglorna. An Evaluation of Christian vlissions /11//)([(‘1 011 the Biate of ASSail/
and Meghalavu ‘. Un-published Master of’ Theology lhesis. Serampore University College.
Pakern, 13. “The Biates” in Sebastian Karotcmprcl (cd), The Northeast Tribes of lndia.
published by Centre for indigenous Cultures. Shillong. 1998.
The tradition of Nagara Nam: a performing Art form of lower Assam.
TATA FELLOWSHIPS IN FOLKLORE
MISS SUBHABRITA GHOSH.
DEPARTi“,fENT OF FOLKLORE RESEARCH
1) Detailed work plan for one year, field work documentation:
Assam and Nagara Nam Jadukar Sri Ramcharan Bharali as project collaborator.
Detailed month wise work plan:
|Nov||Dee’||Jan’||Feb||Mar’||April’ 13||May’ 13||June’||July’||Aug’||
2) (a) Project – scholarly and technical ability to undertake the project:
Undergoing MPhil in Folklore with genuine interest to make some contribution to this traditional art, I
strongly believe that I’m capable of fulfilling the objective of Tata Fellowship Programme. Besides this my network and ground level contacts will also help to portray the true picture of ‘Nagara Nam’ art and its current status in Assam. Given a chance I will try my level best to document a piece of work for the upliftment of this forgotten art, which can also be used as future evidence of ‘Nagara Nam’.
b) Why this project requires fellowship support?
The Nagara Nam art form has direct or indirect influence on the socioeconomic aspect. Its performance has deep culture and spiritual significance. It has become an essential part of folk culture with great contribution to the age old religious faiths in Assamese society. My aim of the project is to cover the following:
Identification of performing aspects, musical instruments, rules, regulations, place and time of performance etc.To record the socio-culture trend reflected in the art form of Assamese for coming generation.To find out the role ofNagara Nam as a folk media.To find out its impact on various socio-economic aspects.To gather information about the contribution of religious, social, cultural aspects in the Assamese Hindu community.
I believe that this traditional art should get more light in the context of folk culture of Assam. Even being an integral part of Assamese culture very few attempts had been made due to lack of proper financial and motivational support. I strongly feel that ‘Tata Fellowship Programme on Folklore’ with their active support and core beliefs can definitely help to create some sorts awareness about this ancient art effectively.
c) What are the expected output and impact of your project?
As the Nagara Nam institution is turning to be an obsolete art, I believe my research and documentation if preserved properly could be a written evidence for future studies.
3) Supporting material to show experience in undertaking this research and documentation
4) Valid Email ID:firstname.lastname@example.org
The specific cultural tradition of the community elder/artist I seek to Research and document:
For this project I would like to work with Sri Rancharan Bharali, the key performer of Nagara Nam, tradition in Assam. Because of his dedication and expertise in the field of Nagara Nam performance, has been awarded the “Surya’ title. The artist has devoted his enter life for the preservation and development his Sri Ramcharan Bharali, a ‘Pathak’ of Nagara of the Nagara Nam troupe performed a number of Nagara Nam pala best on epic, Puran, mythological them.
The Research questions those are central of my project:
• What is the identification of specific cultural tradition of ‘Nagara Nam’?
What is ‘Nagara Nam’?
What is the history and origin of ‘Nagara Nam’?
What are the various styles of performance?
What are moods and timings of the performance?
What is the necessity of the study?
• What is the importance of the study to identify Assamese Toots and heritage’?
How it depicts our mythology, Puran, Epics through folksongs?
How it carries a niche folk tradition of Assam?
What are the identifications of flag bearer of this traditional art?
How can we translate it essence to the new generation?
of Nagara. It is called as Nagara Nam institution. As per the classification of musical instruments it can be included into the Abanadhya Badya.
How do we seek to follow the research and documentations methodology?
In social sciences, different methods are used by the different researchers to carry out the research work. As folklore is a social science, I’m also planning to conduct both primary and secondary data collections to find out the genuine and relevant information. The proposed study will be based on the data collection from the primary and secondary sources and different methods are used for collecting data.
Primary Sources: For primary data I’ll be focusing mainly on viz. Interview, questionnaire and observations including ‘participant observation’. Besides this secondary data sources and supporting facts, figures from books, research paper, magazine, images will be also an integral part of the research methodology.
We’ll also emphasize on collaborative Studies:
THE FOLK MUSIC AND DANCE
PERFORMANCE OF TIW A COMMUNITY OF
NORTH EAST INDIA
A Proposal for Tata Fellowships in Folklore 2012-2013
Pallavi Dutta (MPhil Student)
Department of Folklore Research,
Guwahati 781014, Assam.
Tiwa or Lalung is a culturally rich tribal community inhabiting the States of Assam and Meghalaya of North East India. They are recognized as a Scheduled Tribe within the State of Assam.
Tiwa community has a mythological and historical origin and migration. Indigenous narratives give various accounts on the migration of the Tiwas to their present habitat. Some of them claim that [iwa people are a group of Tibbeto Burmese tribe. They came down through the course of Brahmaputra and settled in some parts of Assam, from this first adobe they were pushed to the present area of habitation by other tribes probably in Kamata period. Some others tell that the Tiwas had to flee the oppression of the Dimasa king. The Buranjis recount the meeting of
Assamese soldiers with “people of the margins”(datiyaliya) and the settlement of 12 families of Lalung and Mikir. i.e. Tiwas and Karbis, in the plains in the 17th century. Tiwa people are closely associated with the principality of Gobha. Gobha raja belongs to a Tiwa clan and his territory covers more or less the Tiwa cultural realm.
A striking peculiarity of the Tiwa is their division into two sub-groups, which displaying very
contrasted cultural features.
I. Hill Tiwa and
II. Plains Tiwa.
The Hill Tiwas live in the westernmost areas of Karbi-Anglong (Assam) as well as in the
ortheastem corner of Ri-Bhoi district (Meghalaya). They speak a Tibeto-Burman language of
the Bodo-Garo group. They are divided into a dozen of clans recognized by specific names
which they use as patronymics. Their descent system can be said to be ambilineal. In most cases,
the husband goes to live in her wife’s family settlement (matrilocality), and their children are
included in their mother’s clan. However, in about 30% of unions, the woman comes to live with
her husband. In this case, children take the name of their father. This trend is on the rise under
the in fl uence of neighbouring populations who are mostly patrilineal. About the half of Hill
Tiwas follow their “traditional” religion. It is based on the worship of local deities. The other half
has been converted to Christianity since the 1950s.
Plains Tiwas live on the flat lands of the Assam, mostly in Morigaon Nagaon Kamrup districts
and the vast majority speaks Assamese as their mother tongue, Tiwa language being still spoken
on the foothills and in rare villages of the plains. Their descent system is definitely patrilineal.
Their patronymics does not consist in their clan’s names but in common Assamese names instead
(mostly Pator and Bordoloi). Their religion share many elements with Assamese Hinduism, but
The 200 I Census reports 171 000 “Lalungs”: this figure comprises only the Plains Tiwas. Tiwas
are recognized as a Scheduled Tribe in Assam excluding the Autonomous districts. As they
became a Scheduled Tribe after the 200 I Census, the Hill Tiwas were not taken into account.
Their population may be estimated around 10 000. The total number of Tiwa speakers amounts
only to 26481 (Census of India).
The role of king (Raja) is very strong among the Tiwas from the ancient time to till now. Their
social life is still governed by the king mostly in Gova Rajya (the Tiwa populated areas of Assam
and vleghalaya are known as Gova Rajya; which means Gova kingdom). The king of Gova
Rajy a is known as Gova Raja and it is belief that the king is possessed by the deity for what he is
called as “Deuraja”. There are mainly three branches of Gova kingdom, each of them consisting
by few numbers of kings for their specific areas and role.
2) Pasuraja and
The brannch Saturaja is consisting of seven numbers of kings; “satu’ means “seven” and “raja”
means “king”. The branch of Pasuraja is consisting of five numbers of kings; here “pasu’ means
“five” and “raja” means “king”. The another branch of Gova kingdom including Gova Raja is
know n as Datiyaliyaraja which is consisting of seven numbers of kings. Under the supreme
power of Gova Raja (king), the subordinate kings are called as Koratalia Raja (the subordinate
kings of Gova Raja are known as “Koratolia Raja) and the commander of Gova King is called as
The folk culture and tradition of Tiwa community
The Tiwa or Lalung is culturally very rich people. They love and respect their king and they
obey the verdict of the king as he is on the supreme in Tiwa administration. The Gova Raja have
been continuing a healthy and cordial relationship with Jayantia king and Ahom king from the
ancient time to till today. Jonbil Mela (jonbil fair CLII.” festival) is one of the important examples of it. It is a fair cum festival: which most important significant is its barter system between the
hill people and the people of plains. Many group of tribes like Khasi, Jayantia, Tiwa, Rabha Boro
etc are participated in Jonbil Mela. The Jonbil Mela is held at Jagiroad of Morigaon district of
Assam in every year during the Magh Bihu (a festival of Assam which the mid of January). The
unit) in diversity is reflect in this Jonbil Mela among the tribes of Assam. The Jonbil is a
combination of two words; jon and bil and the meaning of these two words accordingly moon
and pond. There are three most common sayings behind the name of Jonbil.
- It is believed that this Jonbil fair cum festival is held on the bank of a pond where the
ancient Gova Raja seen the reflection of the crescent moon on the water of the pond.
‘) According to some people the shape of this pond is like a crescent moon
- Another saying regarding the Jonbil is that Jonbil fair cum festival is named after the king
Community fishing is one of the important significance during the Jonbil fair cum festival. The
people participate in the community fishing with their beautiful folk songs. On the last day of
Jonbil. people have feast and the next day morning they set their temporary huts on fire. The
various dance forms and songs are performed by the tribes during the Jonbil festival.
Most of the Tiwa songs and dances are performed in their some specific worship and festivals
period like Bihu, Barat Utsav and Jonbil Mela. There are some examples of folk songs and
dances of the Tiwa are mentioning bellow:
In the present time, the Tiwa Folk songs and music are getting immense popularity in Assam.
The beauty of its lyrics and the rhythm of the Tiwa musical instruments are giving a new picture
in the field of folk performances of North East India. One of the Assamese news channels known
as DY 365 recently organised and telecasted a program namely as DY Medley, where the Tiwa
folk songs and music have became the most popular among the people of North East India for its
marvelous beauty of lyric and music.
These research questions central to my project are mainly as follows
1) What are the significances of the various dances and songs of the Tiwa community?
- What are the beliefs related to the Tiwa folk dances and songs?
- What are the changes and contemporary forms of the Tiwa folk dances and songs?
- What is the impact of mass media in the field of folk dances and songs ofTiwa?
- What are the other influencing sources of Tiwa folk dances and songs in the present
My research of this project will be based mainly on Field work. The field work for this research
will be carried on Jagiroad of Morigaon district, Nagaon, Karnrup and Westernmost areas of
Karbi-Anglong (Assam) and Northeastern corner of Ri-Bhoi district (Meghalaya).
Interview: The interviews will be based on the different level of persons who belong to the Tiwa
community. In this case the key informant and performer Shri adiram Deuri will lead the future
course of the data collection through interview. This will be followed by individual interviews
with other community performers, both males and females.
Observation: The folk songs and dance performances of the Tiwa community will be observed
in the selected study areas as mentioned above. While observing the musical performances like
folk songs and dances, the musical instruments of the community and the mode of the playing
the instruments also will be observed and documented.
Documer.tation: For an effective video and audio documentation, video/digital camera and tap
recorders will be used in this research as well as the paper documentation.
Secondary sources: The study of books, journals and internet surfing will be helped in this
stud. as secondary sources of data collection.
The monthly work plan for this research as follows
I. Library work (in first one month e.i. in November, 2012, Field study like interviews, observation, documentation (audio/video) etc of the dance music of Lankhan Fuja and Barat Utsav (in the last days of the month of ovember and December. 2012).
Tribal Folklore: Studying and preserving the oral traditions of the Gamokkalu Tribe of Uttara Kannada.
Studying and preserving the oral traditions of the Gamokkalu Tribe of Uttara Kannada.
I) Introduction to the Project:
The verbal arts are handed over from one generation to the next–largely rich in their authenticity and expression. This oral heritage is the essential source of an identity, deeply rooted in the past; however this heritage is rapidly replaced by a standardized monoculture, fostered by socio-economic changes, urbanisation, and globalisation.
My project revolves around the oral epic song Mahabharata and other ritualistic songs sung by the elder artisan Hanmi which depicts the cultural aspects of the Gamokkalu tribe. I would like to do an in depth study of the Mahabharata characters under the socio-cultural background of the tribe. Through these epic songs I am going to observe and document their social, cultural and tribe-specific issues that have not been documented.
My research and documentation will include their art forms, craft, festivals, cuisine, games and toys, religion, costumes, occupations, and their way of life as presented by Gamokkalu tribe’s oral heritage.
I am especially keen on studying the socio-cultural changes as it relates to the status of women through the portrayal of female characters in the tribal Mahabharata.
I also plan to observe the ethno-linguistic diversity in their dialects and usage of words, which can be a rich source for a folklore dictionary.
II) Meet the community—Gamokkalu tribe of Uttar Kannada:
The Gamokkalu tribe lives along the river bank of Sharavati and Gangavali in Honnavar and Kumta taluk and one of the many tribes or ethnic groups indigenous to the region that have a deep connection to their land. The Gamokkalu tribe is the first community to introduce indigenous paddy (kagga species) cultivation in the gajani soil (unconsolidated silt clay for agriculture).
Specific features of this tribal community:
1 Clan or Family: The Gamokkalu tribe is a Totemic culture–an animal, a plant, or a natural object serves as the symbol of the clan or family. In addition, they were traditionally a matriarchal society in which the children carry their mother’s family name (kula chinne)–baLi or buDa . They were prohibited from marrying within the same kula or bali. However, the matrilineal system is disappearing from their society.
2 Culture and practices: The tribe originally followed non-Vedic traditions. They celebrated the phases of life (marriage, pregnancy, birth, puberty) and festivals with specific rituals and traditions similar to Dravidian culture. However, they are now following Vedic traditions in their rituals and ceremonies and priests have taken the prominence in performing religious rituals.
3 Folk Gods: Worshipping mainly nature Gods and other regional Gods instead of Vedic Gods. They worship nature Gods in the form of hulidevru (Tiger God) ,kep nagara (snake God), Masti, amma, choudi, jataga, maari ,beera, bommyya, etc. The ancient forms of Siva or Shaivism can be seen in the Gods that they worship.
4. Folk art: Hasagara or shedi kele is the ritualistic folk art of the region. The lines and patterns of shedi kale paintings symbolize an aspect of nature or depict the religious, social or agricultural practices of the community. Unfortunately, this folk art is disappearing.
1 Festivals: The Gamokkalu’s celebrate various festivals that are geographical and agricultural-specific. for example kadra hasta, ganti hunnime, aliyana amavaasye, gadi pooje, jatagana habba, bandi habba, hole habba, borajji habba, and balindrana habba.
2 Linguistic/dialect: Gamokkalu tribe have their own unique dialect belonging to the Dravidian language family. The dialect is similar to Kannada and use the Kannada script.
3 Way of life: The tribes are closely connected to nature and respectful of their environment in all aspects. They live a sustainable life that includes agriculture, fishing, boating, and weaving (mats and baskets). Women have equal status in the society and are hardworking and determined.
III) Meet Hanmi—the collaborator, tribe elder and master artisan
Hanmi Kshetra Gowda is 75 years old and belongs to a tribe called Gamokkalu, from Allanki, a village on the banks of river Sharavathi, district Honnavar in Karnataka. Hanmi was born to Narayana Nagappa Gowda and Ganapi. She studied till class four and can read and write. Hanmi married Kshetra Gowda from Malkod and lived in a two-storied house name Bhavanti mane with 60 other family members. Hanmi lost her husband 15 years ago and now lives with one of her sons. She has five sons and one daughter—they are all married and settled.
Now, Hanmi is a respected community elder and a master artisan. Hanmi is the one of the few artists who has mastered oral epic songs and is an expert in other verbal art specific to her Gamokkalu community. Even without a major formal education, Hanmi is nevertheless a passionate scholar. Her passion is to spread and preserve the knowledge and skills of the Gamokkalu tribe; to make the youth of the community proud of their heritage; and to have outsiders appreciate her culture. She has been a scholar, an educator and a great resource person for many years. She continues to work as a master artisan for a study programme in folk art of the Gamokkalu people.
Unfortunately, Hanmi is also the only person in her community who can sing the entire Mahabharata; and although she is a strong septuagenarian, her voice quality is deteriorating and Hanmi finds it difficult to sing continuously. There is an urgent need to document the oral traditions of this tribe—specifically Hanmi’s voice, songs, her tunes while maintaining its original context so it can be preserved for future generations
For more information about Hanmi and her oral heritage please refer
IV) Meet Savita Uday, Ph.D.—the scholar/fellowship applicant
I am an educator, folklorist and a founding director of Buda Folklore. I have been doing extensive field work on various tribes of Uttara Kannada region for the last two decades. My PhD thesis was on “prasadhana kale”–costumes, ornaments and cosmetics on four tribes of Uttara Kannada region. The thesis gives a different perspective of tribal heritage and the same was recognised with a gold medal.
In addition to the above, I have recently been working on Kareokkalu tribe and the culture of this region to be compiled as a 250 paged book, with photographs and to be released January 2013. Highlighted in this publication are the Folk Gods of this region and interesting findings such the initial forms and concept of Shaivism and Shiva. Research also includes the changes and adaptation from Dravidian culture to Vedic culture. This will be the first time that research and documentation through intensive field work has been done on Kareokkalu tribe.
Documentation of Hanmi’s tribe is of great magnitude and requires extensive field work. Due to years of association with this community, I understand the Gamokkalu dialect; I am sensitive to their culture; and have a long association with Hanmi. I believe I have the ability, the skills, knowledge and background to this study.
I am proficient with the computer; I can make small documentaries and Power Point presentations. I have a blog that I regularly update (buda-honnavar.blogspot.in) and I maintain a website. Please refer to my website buda.org.in. I am not a professional photographer; however I have the basic knowledge and can take relevant photographs for documentation purpose.
V) Collaborative Undertaking with Hanmi:
- My family and I have had a long association with Hanmi. My parents started documenting the folklore of this region since 1967 and I have been interacting with this tribe since my childhood.
- Since I am comfortable with the dialect of this tribe and familiar with culture and customs, I will be able to interpret the songs without losing the context. Familiarity to the local dialect of this tribe is the main advantage while documenting the rich oral tradition of this magnitude.
EXPERIENCE in the field of Folklore:
Folklore in Uttar Kannada
- Building on a relationship with the local communities started four decades back with my parents, and I continue to examine ways of providing alternative livelihood programmes. Also, I provide support and promote the community so they can continue to be resources themselves. I developed various study programmes to promote folklore and bring awareness among urban students. I also started working in unison with the indigenous communities and sourced many talents as resource persons in the learning centre. My concept of ‘live and learn program’ will not only directly benefit the community but will also assist in funding research and documentation of folklore of this region.`
- In addition to the above, I have recently been working on Kareokkalu tribe and the culture of this region to be compiled as a 250 paged book, with photographs and to be released January 2013. Highlighted in this publication are the Folk Gods of this region and interesting findings such the initial forms and concept of Shaivism and Shiva. Research also includes the changes and adaptation from Dravidian culture to Vedic culture. This will be the first time that research and documentation through intensive field work has been done on Kareokkalu tribe.
- Founder director at BuDa folklore
- I started a completely self-sustainable organization called BuDa-folklore by offering the Live and Learn Folklore-Honnavar programs, to create a learning community that explores folklore knowledge and its application in contemporary situation. Working with the community on creating greater awareness, pride, a sense of identity linked to their cultural heritage and indigenous traditions, resulting in a strong sense of participation and ownership in the development process of the region and continuation of folklore.
- Buda Folklore is the outcome of three decades of intense fieldwork and research related to folk culture. Started with an aim to understand and record native knowledge, oral tradition and folk culture in and around Uttara Kannada district; the organization has emerged as a focal point for study and research of folk heritage with a vast database on various tribes and indigenous communities of Uttara kannada region in Karnataka.
- I design study tour programmes for schools and colleges along the sea route, forest route and the river route to study the connection between the land and the indigenous people. It aims to create a forum where the students can discuss and explore themselves the cultural heritage, environment, craft, food, music, dance and folk art and the state of indigenous communities.
EXPERIENCE in the field of Education:
- I worked as a teacher in the following schools:
- Eklavya School, Ahmedabad
- Prakriya Green Wisdom School, Bangalore
- The Valley School. (K.F.I), Bangalore
- Folklore University—Gotgodi, Hubli, curriculum development for folk and tribal medicine diploma course
- Programme Coordinator for educational institutions–Janapada Loka, Ramnagar, Bangalore
Publications and Research Paper:
- Study of women costumes, ornaments and cosmetics of indigenous communities of Uttara kannada -book published by Hampi University
- Uttara kannada jilleya budakattugalalli-Prasadhana kale ( Costumes and ornaments of Uttara Kannada tribes)–Book published by Karnataka University, Dharwad
- Malenadina Udupugalu (Costumes of Malnad and Coorg region tribes)—Research paper
- Folk Medicinal Practitioner’s Meet. 2009 Project(Kaigal Education and Environment Programme K FI and Department of Folklore and Tribal Studies, Dravidian University ) documentation of a folk healer form kare okkalu tribe of uttara kannada
- Janapada sahitya sammelana Mandya (Karnataka University)2009 Presented and submitted a research paper on traditional way of body enhancement and body decoration (anga sanskara and angalankara)
- Participated and contributed in folklore dictionary project (janapada nighantu yojane) from Janapada Academy –Bangalore led by Goruru Channappa – in the year 2010
- Traditional food habits relevance to today’s child -Research article
VI) Research question central to this tribal project:
I would like to observe, to record and to document Gamokkalu tribe’s oral tradition of the epic Mahabharata. In doing so, I will also study:
- The cultural heritage and folklore of the Gamokkalu tribe through their oral traditions and verbal art;
- Their version of the Mahabharata as depicted in their culture and tradition; and
- • How their life and literature (oral tradition) are intervened together. Sources: The epic songs -tribal Mahabharata sung by the artisan Hanmi Other oral traditions of artisan Hanmi’s that I would like to document
- Narrative songs,
- Folk songs related to rituals, festivals,
- Folk songs related to different phases of life (birth puberty, marriage, pregnancy, etc )
- Other songs like river songs, harvesting songs
Following Cultural and folklore aspects are also observed while collecting the songs:
- To observe social, cultural and other issues that was never documented
- To observe how the life, art forms, celebrations of life, interweaved into a beautiful songs
- To observe the socio cultural changes
- To observe the status of women through the female characters of tribal Mahabharata
- To observe ethno-linguistic diversity.
- Documenting the dialects and usage of word which can be a rich source for folklore dictionary
VII) Methodology and Output:
Working on a project in 2 phases-
1 Collecting Data ( 6 to 7 months )
2 Working on final products (4 to 5 months)
1. Collecting Data (6 to 7 months)
- Audio Recording: the entire epic songs which are in 15 episodes. ( 5 months)
- Writing into script: the entire epic songs. To transcribe the audio document into a written document I may hire locals to write it into script. I will be correcting it at the final stage of each episode.
- Field visits/site specific: through notes, interviewing the elders (audio recording) and video recording the life of the Gamokkalu tribe.
- To investigate site-specific work that engages with local communities or the natural environment
- To observe certain practices, beliefs, values and norms of behaviour which are site specific
- Field Visit: Spending time with Gamokkalu tribe families. I may want to spend time with few families to see their everyday life, the relationships, the celebrations, festivals, ceremonies, art craft, traditional games and toys, the food habits etc.
2. Working on final products (4 to 5 months)
- Fine tuning and editing the audio with professional help.
- Editing the collected data it includes the elaborate summary of the epic songs, the depiction of Gamokkalu tribe culture, analysing the characters, interpretations and conclusions.
- Editing the video recording for Documentary film ?
Final Output in 3 products:
- Digital audio recording of entire epic professionally
- Written documentation—an interpretation of the songs summarizing how these stories are intertwined in their culture; analysing the characters through sociocultural set up of the community etc. Documenting the dialects and usage of word which can be a rich source for folklore dictionary
- Documentary Film —1 hour documentary show casing the culture through epic songs. It will be site-specific work that engages with local communities and the natural environment of this region.
VIII) Monthly Work Plan:
A monthly field work plan for a period of one year starting from November 2012 to October 2013.
IX) The impact of the project
- There is no authentic documentation of the tribal lives, history and cultural heritage through their oral traditions. The tribe members are not technically or financially able to document these themselves.
- The documentation can be a resource for the Government and NGOs for further studies on tribal issues and implementing heritage schemes.
- The life of the Gamokkalu tribe, the culture, the festivals, the emotions of the tribe is depicted beautifully through the characters of Mahabharata. Future generations will have a more authentic view of Gamokkalu history, culture, and society.
- Such oral heritage documentation is an urgent need because they are in danger of disappearance for various reasons such as rapid socio-economic changes, urbanization, globalization, etc. The cultural practices related to these songs are not at all in practiced by the new generation.
- This collaborative work with Hanmi will be a new opening for the younger generation of this region to look, value and admire their rich cultural heritage. The younger generations among the tribes are drifting towards modernization and this kind of effort may reinforce the tradition and cultural heritage of the tribes.
- There is urgent need to document not only the literature but the way they sing, the tunes and the contexts are also important to preserve for the next generation.
X) Why this project requires the fellowship:
? Time is running out
There is an urgent need to document not only the oral literature of this tribe but it is equally important to document the way they sing, the tunes and the contexts to understand the culture and tradition of this tribe. This will be a treasure trove for the next generation.
? The holistic approach:
Hanmi is becoming old and losing her voice every year. Though we are trying to write down all her songs into script form, it is a very slow process; and it’s not a complete document. In order to complete this documentation, we need to digitalise audio recording, create a video documentary, and document literature which is not possible without a team, financial support and accountability. This fellowship will give us the opportunity to provide a holistic view of verbal art.
? Hanmi deserves this fellowship
We need to honour this senior artisan, Hanmi, who has lived a simple life, but has valued her rich culture. Hanmi never got financial support for her multiple talents and skills except a small honorary fee from the students who visited her during study programme organised by Budafolklore.
? We are dedicated folklorists
My entire family is dedicated to folklore documentation of this region. My parents Dr N.R.Naik and Shanthi Nayak have been documenting folk culture and heritage of Uttara Kannada region for the last 45 years and published 80 books related to folklore in Kannada.
Uttara Kannada region is rich in folklore. The halakkis, gamokkalu, siddis, goulis, gondas, kareokkalu, halleru, ageraru are each tribes with their own rich folklore. We have enormous fieldwork materials that need to be digitalised.
XI) How the documentation can be used in teaching programmes.
- It can be a resource book for History and Culture Studies including Anthropology
- Innovative ways of visualising cultural and linguistic diversity
- Folk vocabulary-Documenting the dialects and usage of word which can be a rich source for folklore dictionary
- Bringing the characters alive through pictorial documentation
- Bringing the past to life and studying socio-cultural changes
- Comparative study of tribal Mahabharata with respect to conventional Mahabharata
- Studying the cultural objects which was depicted in the song
The Style of Learning and Performance of
the Folk Music Tradition
A proposal for a Research and Documentation Project Submitted to National Folklore Support Centre’s Tata Fellowships in Folklore
The Style of Learning and Performance of the Folk Music TraditionMuttumViliyum.
MuttumViliyum is a lesser known music tradition in/of Kerala.Cheenimuttu is another term to refer the same music. It is a folk instrument music ensemble. Musicians of this particular performance are belongs to Muslim(Mappila) community. This kind of instrumentation can beexperienced only in Malappuram, Palakkad, Trichur and Kozhikode districts of kerala.
This instrument music ensemble is meanttoenchant a crowd.But conventionally it may not be performed everywhere. In the traditional manner, there are only two performing contexts: 1. as a part of `Nercha‘(the annual festival held in some importanttombs of muslim saintsdevoted by Sunni Muslims), 2.as a part of marriage ceremony of sunnimuslims.Nowadaysthis music couldn’t be seen in a marriage occasion, but rarely be performed beyond its primary contexts.
In the nameMuttumViliyum, `Muttu’ means the drum beat and `Vili’ means playing a tune in any wind instrument. In the term `Cheenimuttu’Cheeni means the particular wind instrument which played by a Cheenimuttu(Muttumviliyum)artist. So both the terms stands to refer the two acts(playing a wind instrument and beating the drums) of the particular music genre denoted by them.
Three Musical instruments together create the whole music called MutuumViliyum: 1)Cheeni/koyal, a wind instrument similar to Shehnai. 2)`Murasu’ a small cylindrical drum with an8 inch circumferenceand one and a half feet of height. 3) `Otta’ a big cylindrical drum with a 12 inch circumferenceand two feet of height. Both drums have skins in either sides, but drummers use only one side to produce the tones.
MuttumViliyum is performed only by men. Usually there will be four members in a band- three men to play koyal, Murasu, and Otta and one as standby.But olden days this music ensemble consists of one `koyal’, double `Murasu’, double `Otta’, and single cymbal made out of bronze called `Elathalam’. This kind of doubling of drums and the accompaniment of an additional instrument (`Elathalam’) had given an extra power to the total performance.And it suggests the need of at least six members for a troupe. At that time more learned musicians were engaged in Muttum Viliyum. But at present nearly fifteen artists only there
There are traditional compositions to be played in Muttumviliyum.Five decadesback, only these traditional compositions were played. Then, after the popularization of `mappliapattu’ (a song genre which emerge from muslim tradition), MuttumViliyum artists themselves adapt the `mappilapattu’-songs to their performance.In this kind of adaptation vocal renderings of mappilapattu replicated by the wind instrument `koyal’. And they started improvising the drumbeats as matched to the new songs. Listeners enjoyed the change and eventually these newly adapted songs as well as film songs acquired prominence and former type of muttumviliyumhad become lesser important.
Many books and articles on culture and performing arts of muslims of kerala had been published. But the references of Muttum Viliyum is significantly rare. While other Muslim folk expressions got better space in the publications about the folkarts of Kerala, this particular performance had neverbeen recorded well.
Not only most of the people of keralawere uninformed of this musical expression but many Kerala muslims also unaware about this art.
This research propose to explore what was the tunes and rhythms which played in MuttumViliyum. This research seeks what is the nature of the Informal music learning process for this particular performance– how much informal/formal it is. This research try to find what was and what is the conditions of MuttumViliyum performance.
Research and documentation methods
This methodology is designed to: 1) an examination of the performance practice of the folk music form MuttumViliyum; 2) detailed documentation of each tunes and rhythms played in it; 3) find out and record the details of existing as well as late musicians in the field; 4) find how musicians view their music and their interactions with audience; 5) record Interactions among a master and a learner which make possible the passing of tradition (documenting the teaching-learning context) 6) observewhether different performance contexts effects the music production differently. 7)understandthe changes occurred in MuttumViliyum performance.
In order to research and document these areas, this research will principally utilize these five techniques: 1) Interviews with musicians and audience members; 2) Participant-observation; 3) audio-video documentation of performances as well as teaching-learning contexts 4)Analysis of performance practice in different venues; and 5) study of existing printed materials.
Since the performers are lesser in number it is possible to interview each one individually. Each interviews should be recorded in audio and written format. Questioner method will be adapted for this kind of interview.
At the same time, to get a closer view, this research/documentation will focus on a single troupe with three to four members. Hear the researcher will be a participant observer. Both passive participation and active participationwill be practiced alternatively. In passive participation, researcher acts as a spectator or observer and taking notes and marking his observations. In active participation researcher attempts to become a member of the group by seeking to adopt music skills of the group. In this levelalso field note and diary will be maintained. In both active as well as passive participant phases data should be kept in field notes, field diary, and in audio/video files.
Audio and video documentation will be an integral part of this research. Hence it is difficult to document and describe a form of music without audio-video recordings. Each tunes and rhythms, which played in MuttumViliyum, will be documented in its details. Teaching-learning process will be documented with its contexts and teaching & learning methods. Different performances also will be documented withaudio-video devices.
Various books, articles, journalistic writings, and program notices/brochures will be used to collect secondary data.
Importance of the collaborative undertaking between the researcher and the folk artist.
Through this collaboration, researcher can have a better rapport with the artists. As a learner he can be a member of a performing group. So he can build a better knowledge in the art and of the process of transmission of the art.
For the artist-collaborator, this is an opportunity to record his tradition in its details.
Monthly field work plan
(From November 2012 to October 2013.)
- November 2012: Pilot study include some informal interviews and study of literature.
- December 2012: Preparation of questioner;documentation of performance in `ParmbanpalliNercha’ festival at Kozhikode;study of literature continues.
- January 2013: Interviews with artists;Documentation of performance in `PutiyangadiNercha’ festival at Tirur;study of literature continues.
- February 2013: Active participant observations by attempting to adopt music skills as a learner from a MuttumViliyum Performer, and video recording of the training process as well as the tunes and rhythms of MuttumViliyum;Interviews with artists;Documentation of performance in `KondottyParammalNercha’ festival.
- March 2013: Interviews with artists; active participant observation as a learner and video documentation of training process as well as the tunes and rhythms of MuttumViliyum;Documentation of performance in `KondottyNercha’ festival.
- April 2013: Interviews with artists, Documentation ofperformance as the part of `Otamala’ pilgrimage; active participant observation as a learner and video documentation of training process as well as the tunes and rhythms of MuttumViliyum.
- May 2013: Documentation ofperformance in Vengad&Puliyatti`Nercha’ festival; active participant observation as a learner and video documentation of training process as well as the tunes and rhythms of MuttumViliyum.
- June 2013: Documentation of the individual styles of playing of various musicians; active participant observation as a learner and video documentation of training process as well as the tunes and rhythms of MuttumViliyum.
- July 2013: Documentation of the individual styles of playing of various musicians;active participant observation as a learner and video documentation of training process as well as the tunes and rhythms of MuttumViliyum.
- August 2013: Documentation of the individual styles of playing of various musicians; writing of the first draft of the project report.Editing and arranging the audio-video materials.
- September 2013:writing of the first draft of the project report continues. Editing and arranging the audio-video materials.
- October 2013: Preparation of Cultural map and Calendar, writing of the final draft of project report.
The proposed output and impact of the project
- Archival data: Hours of audio and video recordings of a tradition which may come to an end due to the lack of performers. The data will be useful to folklorists, ethnomusicologist, musicians who seek new stiles and tunes, and music lowers.
- Video tutorial or Video-workshop: Documented video of each tunes and rhythms as well as teaching-learning process will be used as a study material for a music student, to observe and learn the particular music without the help of a definite teacher.
- Cultural map &Calendar: A map with marking of the sites of the artists and the predictable annual events which accommodate the performance; a calendar which suggest the time, event, and locations of the performance. This kind of a map and calendarwill be useful to researchers, music enthusiasts, and tourists.
- Publication:Articles on different aspects of MuttumViliyum.
- Create an awareness: By acknowledging a folk music expression and recording the details of it,more attention, awareness and appreciation can be drawn towards it.
Title of the project : Documentation of the folklore of Mavilan Tribe of Kannur districts of Kerala
Location of the tribal habitat :,Puthusserikotta Colony, Eruvessi panchayath, Kannur District, Kerala
Name of the research scholar : Lillykutty Abraham
Name and address of the
Community elder : Mr. Raman Avidath,
Name and address of the
Collaborator : Mr. Edakkalath Goplakrishnan
Priority areas : Folklore of Mavilan tribe
Priority sub-themes :
- Folk music
- Indigenous Knowledge Systems
- Traditional medicine
Every tribal community is rapt with traditional knowledge and rich oral heritage that are transmissible yet unknown to the world outside of their habitat. The few remaining elders of each tribal community are the repositories of their legends, music, oral history, proverbs, jokes, popular beliefs, fairy tales, stories, tall tales, and customs that are the traditions of their culture. Unless an ethnographer doesn’t record this rich heritage the key to their ethnic life will be lost forever. Ethnographic methods employed would prevent this tragedy and open the horizon for anthropologists, sociologists, etc. For the mavilan community too the case is not different.
The specific cultural tradition of the community elder of Mavilan Tribe
Mavilan is a tribal community that inhabit Kannur and Kasaragod districts of North Kerala. Majority of them lived in high land areas of these districts. In the past, they lived as food gatherers and hunters and later they became shifting cultivators. During early twentieth century, the system of agriculture serfdom existed in these areas. Their landlord had possessed the ownership of the land. The mavilan followed a traditional way of agricultural techniques. They had variety of songs and tales as a means to preserve their indigenous knowledge. As they lived close to the land, their folklore include the traditional agricultural practices, preservation of nature, myths, legends, importance of morality for a well-knit social life, socio-religious customs, etc. Since they depended on forest and its produce, they had a very rich indigenous medicinal knowledge too. The name, H. A. Stuart writes, is said to be derived from Mavilan, a medicinal herb.
Nowadays, mavilan community is alienated from their own farming methods due to the non availability of land. They were forced to stop their indigenous agriculture practices and follow the mono crop cultivation akin to that of the non-tribal people who settled in their habitats and took over the forestland.
At present among the mavilan community, a few are marginal farmers and majority of them work as agricultural labourers and wage labourers.
Among the mavilan community of Eruvessy Panchayath of Kannur Distict of Kerala, an elder, Mr. Raman Avidath, is the sole repository of their traditional knowledge. He practices indigenous medicines, incantations and invocations to cure illness and he is a store- house of their stories, chants, and songs. As their life style has changed considerably, the younger generation hasn’t learnt any of these. Hence, the need to preserve them lest they should disappear as and when this elder takes leave.
The research questions
i. Documentation of the rich cultural tradition of the Mavilan tribe for the ensuing generations to refer and follow
ii. Dissemination of their culture, knowledge systems and traditional medicinal practices to the rest of the world
Research and documentation methods
i. Video tape and document the oral tradition through Personal interview and discussion with the elder, Mr. Raman Avidath.
ii. Interpretation of the meaning of the folklore collected with the help of his son, Mr. Gopalakrishnan, as collaborator.
iii. Videotape the tribal socio religious customs during their performance
iv. Transcribe, transliterate and translate the oral literature into English
Monthly fieldwork plan
November and December 2012
- Cull out information about the mavilans settled at Puthusserikotta Colony, of Eruvessy Panchayath, Kannur district, Kerala
- Meet experts who have done some studies on this or similar topic
- Visit libraries to collect materials related to mavilans
- Write down a brief history of their present habitat
- Analyze the geographic terrain, climate, habitat
- Plan the research methods
- Prepare questionnaire
- Prepare interview schedule
February, March, April, and May 2013
- Direct documentation
- Video tape the interviews with Mr.Raman Avidath
- folktales-explanatory/etiological narrations
- folk songs (including the myths, legends etc)
- performing arts and religious rituals
- medicinal knowledge
- Video tape the interviews with Mr.Raman Avidath
June, July and August 2013
- Secondary research and analysis
- Transcribe the videotaped material
- Direct documentation
- Video tape the interviews with Mr.Raman Avidath
- sacred chants
- riddles and proverbs
- Video tape the interviews with Mr.Raman Avidath
- Secondary research and analysis
- Transcribe the videotaped material
- Submit the documented folklore to NFSC
Description of important points
The community elder/artist, I seek to research and document, is Mr. Raman Avidath of the Mavilan Colony of Eruvessy Panchayath in Kannur District of Kerala. He is above 90. He practices indigenous medicine, used to perform their tradional ritual called theyyam. He is sought after by people to heal their sick from epilepsy, stomach trouble, headache, snakebite etc. He also performs rituals in the temple on special occasions. He performs the rituals in their Traditional temple kottam, which is part of their habitat.
Mr. Raman Avidath knows variety of songs, tales, riddles, proverbs, rituals and herbal medicines. This knowledge is not recorded or handed over to anyone else. Although he is willing to teach the younger generation, no one else seems to be interested in their own cultural heritage. Hence, the need to record this endangered indigenous knowledge for future reference.
Since he officiates at temples and other formal functions, his availability has to be taken into consideration. His partial deafness is another important matter, which requires extra effort and the assistance of his sons or grandchildren. All of his sons are wage earners and labourers. All of them work hard to meet both ends. My collaborator and his son, Mr.Gopalakrishnan is working in Vimal Jyothi Engineering College, Chempery, Kannur, as security personnel. When he is at home, he takes up other works as well. His availability is another point to consider in my planning.
Another important factor is the changing seasons of Kerala. During the monsoon when it rains heavily, it is difficult to do the recording. I have selected the months accordingly as much as possible. However, the pattern of rain cannot be predicted as years go by.
The proposed output and impact of the project
- Availability of folklore of Mavilan Tribe in Audio/Video and print form
- Dissemination of the indigenous knowledge for future reference
- Permanent source of information for Mavilan community to refer back and hand over to the younger generation
- Resource material for academic courses on folklore, oral literature and cultural studies as these folklore opens a door to the cultural and oral traditions of Mavilan community.
The mavilan community needs to be supported to safe guard their endangered cultural tradition. I submit this project proposal with the faith that the noble venture by NFSC through Tata Fellowships in Folklore from Sir Dorabji Tata and Allied Trusts would be of great help both to the mavilan community and the intelligentsia at large.
Description of the project
This project aims to document the folklore tradition of the mavilan community of Kannur district of Kerala. This community has a very rich folklore tradition which is endangered. Hence, it is necessary to preserve this cultural heritage before they cease to exist. As the lifestyle of this people has undergone tremendous change, I feel it is our responsibility to contribute to help them preserve their roots.
I am a post graduate in MA English. At present I am interested in the oral literature of tribal people. I have already contacted the mavilans and recorded some of the songs and stories with the minimum facilities available.
This project requires fellowship as it is a demanding task to visit this community, which is about 13 kms away from my residence, to record and document the folklore. The requirements are given below:
- Hiring personnel to assist in recording the interviews
- Bearing the transportation expenses to access their habitat
- proper equipments like video camera, computer etc
- The elder has to be rewarded for rendering his time and above all his willingness to share this rich tradition
- My collaborators need to be rewarded as well, when they spend their invaluable time for this purpose.
The expected output and impact of the project
- Availability of folklore of Mavilan Tribe in Audio/Video and print form
- Propagation of the indigenous knowledge for future reference
- Permanent source of information for Mavilan community to refer and hand over to the younger generation
- Appreciation and interest for their cultural heritage for mavilans themselves
Archiving Performances of Kondhei Nacho.
The aim of the project is to create an audio visual archive of Folk Puppetry Theatre performances of Odisha, make an informative database of the artists available, their repertoire and the style of puppetry that they practice.
Sri Maguni Charan Kuanr reputed, veteran puppeteer and a specialist on Rod Puppetry (‘Kathi Kondhei’) from Keonjhar district of Orissa will be associated with the project as an artist collaborator/guide/’sutradhar’.
Project proposed by :
Project Collaborator :
Sri Maguni Charan Kuanr
Veteran puppeteer, expert in Rod Puppetry (Kathi Kondhai) Odisha Sangeet Natak Academy award winner 1982-83 Kendujhargarh, Odisha Odisha can be seen as a magical playground of puppets.
There are four kinds of techniques used for puppet theatre which is prevalent India, viz. Glove puppetry, String puppetry, Rod puppetry and Shadow or Leather puppetry. In Odisha all of these techniques are common as well as a wide variety of their sub forms are found. Most of the artists performing puppetry were from the Jhara fishermen community or Hatua community, both considered belonging to the lower castes. Traditionally the performers used to travel with their family members, perform at one village, halt for the night and carrying on to the next. Sometimes they performed with a glove puppet in one hand and playing dhol/drums with the other. Orissa has its own share of a couple of forms of Ramayana and four Mahabharata. Viswanath Khuntia’s Vichitra Ramayan and the improvised ballads of Mahabharata mostly form the literature base of folk art forms like Pala and Daskathia which influences the puppetry forms greatly.
The performances are not only based on the epics and Harivamsha but also on social satires and dances. For example, in the puppetry dance of Kela Keluni, the puppeteers construct about 4 ft high model characters, based on a snake charmer and his wife, a lion and a lioness and the like.
The amusement lies in the skillful performance of the puppeteer and his story telling ability. The attraction of the puppets is their simplicity.
Though the Ravanachchaya performance is based on the hugely popular epic of Ramayana, which people have read, seen on television numerous times, still whenever the performances happens they do not cease to amuse/entertain. The shadow formed by primitive leather cutouts of the characters leaves most of the drama to the viewer’s imagination and he is enthralled by the drama unfolding in front of him.
For puppeteers like Sri Maguni Kuanr puppetry does not only mean the performance. Being an ace wood craftsman himself, he creates his own puppets from wood, makes clothes for them, paints, makes the backdrop where the performance is going to take place, writes the piece of drama to be performed, memorizes them, sings and performs.
The art form does not depend on new technological breakthroughs in projection and sound techniques as the production cost is kept at bare minimal but it is adorned with its own share of indigenous technical innovations.
Puppetry as a theatre form was very popular with the patronage of the kings of Kendujhargarh (Keonjhar ), Mayurbhanj, etc., today the performances are rare.
Relavance of the project:
Odisha especially is a state where many outstanding puppeteers have performed over the years.
In some remote villages, puppetry is a form of amusement during the fairs, but otherwise it is a rare occurrence. The puppeteers also have taken up other means to sustain their family. For example Sri Maguni Kuanr is also known for his carpentry skills. His talent for sculpting is best seen in the Kali idol that he is making in his locality.
Other puppeteer theatre groups in Bhanjanagar of Ganjam District have grocery shops or own bike repairing garages. Only during the festival season do they plunge themselves into puppetry, breathing a life into the puppets who for most of the year lie closed in a box… and there are hundreds of them.
Times have changed, mode of entertainment has changed for the masses. It’s an irreversible process. There are a few books on the history and tradition of puppetry in Odisha. The lucid writings of Gauranga Charan Das a scholar on the subject give the reader a vivid idea about the history and ethnography of the cultural practice. Through his efforts, a museum devoted to puppetry is going to be made in Pallahara near Kendujhargarh. Sri Das has been performing as well as teaching puppetry.
But there still remains a huge need for audio visual material of puppetry performances, both as training material for interested learners and also as reference material for future studies.
The aim of the project will be to create this audio visual resource by comprehensive video recording of the performances of various artists from all over Odisha both public performances during fairs,etc. and controlled training videos .
In today’s age the youth should see puppetry as an alternative career option, to have innovative new performances with contemporary stories.
Sri Maguni Kuanr our artist collaborator and resource person will guide us through the process helping us to understand the intricacies of the performances, the innovations and the challenges. I am privileged to have Sri Maguni with his solid fifty years of experience and expertise in the field as the ‘Sutradhar’ for the project. Sri Kuanr can elucidate on the change in materials that have been used in the puppetry for the last fifty years, i.e the technical advancement and also the change in aesthetics that it must have brought in. A small interview and performance of Sri Kuanr is compiled in the video submitted.
I have studied film making as my post graduation in the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune with cinematography as my specialization. I wish to make a small stage or performing space for the puppeteers for the video recording. I hope my knowledge of photography and lighting will come in handy during the process. Having a keen interest in different forms of puppetry and with the guidance of Sri Maguni Kuanr we will be able to build a comprehensive audio visual archive.
The Fellowship will ensure a professional, dedicated academic collaboration between Sri Maguni Kuanr and myself. With the financial support we will at least be able to bear the cost of travel of the artists’ and a small remuneration for their performance.
Phase 1 : First Six months
The festival months when the puppeteers are most active are from November to April. Various performances in villages, towns, fairs, festivals will be captured in verite style.
A database of artists with the help of Sri Kuanr and sri Gauranga Charan Das will be made. Artists will be contact and their public performances will be captured.
Some artist will be selected for the next phase of the work.
Phase 2 : Next six months
The selected artists will be called (about ten) to a makeshift studio/ performance stage/ shooting arrangement near Sri Maguni Kuanr’s residence. Their performances would be shot in detail. The materials used and the entire process pre shoot will be recorded. A brief interview of the artists about them and their art will be made.
All the performances in Sri Maguni Kuanr’s repertoire will be covered in detail.
Very few people perform Ravanchchaya or shadow puppetry today. The puppets are small cutout pieces of leather very intricately designed. A detailed training video of the performances will be recorded.
HD video clips of the artists’ performances and interviews in (1920X1080 lines) PAL and 16 bit 48 KHz audio.
Contacts: Sri Maguni Charan Kuanr
Purana Bajar, Kendujhargarh, Odisha. Ph: +91 8895975444.
79, MIG II, Kanan Vihar Ph 2, Bhubaneswar Odisha Ph: +91 93731 99047
+91 98531 58011 Email : email@example.com Skype Id : lahiri.indraneel
1. Research project proposal :
Crossing the Bridge: Baul & Beyond
An attempt to understand Baul philosophy from the prespective of a Classical dancer:
A project that aims to unveil the dualistic meaning behind the lyrics of Bauls of Bengal aims to undertake this project more a threefold angle. Oft researched and very often collaborated with, Baul music is probably one of those folk arts that raises maximum curiosity. Saints or musicians? Artists or philosophers? Their music eludes all. A class of musicians who have spread themselves over Bangladesh, Nadia and Birbhum they are a class whose religion is neither Hindoo nor Muslim and at times both. A lineage that includes mythical names like Lalan Fakir and poet Jaydev it is their philosophy of body politics and the double edged beauty of their lyrics that attracted me most. A line referring the wheels of cycle actually may mean the man and woman harnessed together to move in life. The only parallel that comes to my mind is the western Romantic poet Blake whose lyrics evoked the same romanticism and mysticism that is etched in the songs of the Baul Fakirs.
The project aims to:
- To document the songs of three sects of Bauls coming from the three geographical locales: Bandladesh, Nadia and Birbhum. The docementation will not just be a mere documentation in terms of lyrics but through this particular documentation I will try to mitigate their exodus to different areas and their historical point of origin. The lyrics will also be re-read to offer a kind of interpretation of the lyrics.
- To understand the “Sahajiya Cult” as they are known. What is their philosophy? What is their faith and practice?
- To understand how the practicing Bauls understand their body. A philosophy that revolves round their body the Bauls express their music through lyrics that often refer to the physical body couched in mystique words. They also often talk about the man-woman relationship as a parallel to the relation between God and His devotee. Their music is expressed in circular gyres with a rhythmic pattern that also talk about union. So the project will aim to decode this understanding of body.
- It will be an interaction between a classical artist (myself) and the folk artists to see whether it is possible to create a medium of exchange and create an hour long presentation which will be a collaborative project of the medium of classical dance and folk music for an hour.
The project will be inclusive of research to be presented in three parts:
- A book on the history and the lyrics of the Baul sect
- An audio-visual documentation of the entire twelve month interaction with the different folk artists of this particular sect
- An hour long evening presentation(if possible) with live dance and music.
3. Collaborator’s bio-data:
Kartick Das Baul is a renowned Baul singer from Gushkara, Shantiniketan in West Bengal. He is a well established performer who has worked with various world music organizations in Japan ,Berlin and the U.S for their festivals .
Kartick was also an integral part of the presentation of Dehotawtto and Fakiri songs at the World Sacred Music Festival in Berlin in December,2003. He runs his own Ashram in Ghuskara, Birbhum which serves as a database and networking centre for Baul music and its philosophy. A storehouse of knowledge Kartick Das is a performer par excellence and yet a practitioner of the philosophy that Sahajiya cult preaches
4. Detailed work plan for one year:
5-6 meetings with Kartick Das in his ashram in Birbhum to understand the principles of Baul sect all of which will be documented audio-visually. The discussions will also be presented at the end of the project in the book format.
Month II & III:
Sourcing songs with Kartick Das. Documenting it as he sings audio-visually as well as writing down the lyrics. Month III falls on January where a huge fair is held in Kenduli, a small village in Birbhum where all the Baul sects come and meet. I will be meeting different bauls and recording them as they sing as well pen down different lyrics so that I can present an unrecorded set of Baul songs from different cults.
Month IV & V:
A journey to Nadia to document the Baul sect there and interpreting the difference in treatment in terms of lyrics, music, culture and understanding the philosophy from the Birbhum Bauls though the root is the same.
Month VI, VII:
Might involve a journey to Bangladesh to document the Baul sect there especially the women Baul singers. A cult which has looked at body from a different prespective, broken boundaries, how has the women negotiated their identity within that cult
Month VIII & IX:
Writing out all the material collected over 6 months and also editing the audio-visual documentary. Translating the songs in English for a wider reading audience.
Month X & XI:
Reharsing with Krtick Das to create an evening of Bharatnatyam and Baul music of one and half hour. In this process select and create a class of Baul singers and train them to interpret the Carnatic music system especially in terms of popular rhythmic cycles like “Adi” (a cycle of four) or Khanda Chapu (cycle of five). Since they have a rhythm instrument called “Ektara” so it will be an interesting project to see how these artists respond to the classical talam system.
Presenting a final evening of the end product as well as printing the final reading matter.
Description of the project:
The project “Across the Bridge: Baul & Beyond” aims to create a language to understand the Baul sect which so far has been interpreted only as an additional glamour tool to various fusion projects. The reading material will provide a glimpse to the rich literature hidden in their lyrics unread so far only to be enjoyed for the beauty of the sheer poetry. The audio-visual recording will offer a glimpse to the life of the Baul tradition and their interpretation of rhythm. The final two month workshop will offer them an understanding of music unexplored to the Bauls before.
My scholarly and technical ability to undertake your project.
Enclosed hereby is a letter of recommendation from the famous musician-composer of Bengal, Mr. Mainak Nagchowdhury with whom I had worked on a similar project where the Jhoomor musicians had come together with Western musicians to create a new language of music. So my experience in that particular workshop will lend me a hand this time also.
Similarly, along with my guru Padmashri Smt. Chitra Visweswaran of Chennai I have worked with the Kuttapattraiyas to understand how the folk artists use their body to various rhythm cycles as I have interacted with various scroll painters of Bengal when I had presented a paper “Jaydev and Beyond” in a Sahitya Akademi seminar in Gurudas College, Kolkata in 2011, February.
Besides these experiences, I am myself a classical dancer trained by Smt. Visweswaran. Being an artist myself I hope to have enough sensibility to understand the artistic nuances I am planning to document through this project. I am also a Phd scholar in English literature (researching on “Gender and the body of an Indian classical dancer” on which I have earlier completed an MPhil from Calcutta University, 2005-2007) and have published articles in scholarly journals as well as presented papers in National UGC seminars. So the technical knowledge required to translate and document the lyrics of Baul music I presume to have with me.
Why this project requires the fellowship support?
- The support of this project will bring an age old tradition of Bengal to light. Baul tradition has always been looked at from a point of curiosity but never have been documented for their lyrics which I feel will provide a study of the socio-political dynamics of how a marginalised group use language to express their sentiment but hidden from the civilised understanding of the society.
- This project involves a study of three sects of Baul as well as an audio-visual documentation which requires the fellowship support financially.
- And most importantly post-documentation it will be stored with the Centre for the use of the posterity a result a personal project cannot hope to have.
The expected output and impact of your project
The expected impact is far reaching. The lyrics will help us to decode the language of an entire sect and understand a philosophy. It will help the posterity to understand the philosophy of a sect who have always remained a mystical curiosity.
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