Tag Archives: Research Proposal

Folklore and Folk life of the Chiru of Manipur

FOLKLORE AND FOLK LIFE OF THE CHIRUS OF MANIPUR

INTRODUCTION

The Chirus constitute a small group of tribal population of Manipur. According to 2001 census, there are 5487 souls sparsely spread into eight districts and twelve villages in toto. In spite of the changes, they have cultural integrity. Still now, they organise cultural functions to register their cultural past as the tradition carriers are still living. They speak a Kuki Chin language and have a rich folklore. It can be surmised that their folklore and folklife can throw a light on the early forms of control of man with education, religious beliefs and administration rolled into one with a unique tradition of their own, viz Khangsen.

Trait: They have myths and legends related with origin, migration, etc. Khangsen is a centre of learning skills of all kinds, general administration, military, art and craft, ethico-moral principles, religious beliefs, etc. Seerin – a village court, hall and a premise of elders’ council is also used as a dormitory type training centre, i.e., Khangsen. Khangsen is their school and university and kept sacred for them. Promises are made in its name where god is attached. Stages are made in their training for every three years. For the females, no dormitory is found and there maturity is marked by the hairstyle worn by them.

Khullakpa and Khunpu look after their village and their portfolio includes religious rites and rituals, water supply and sanitation, roads and construction works, and foreign or external affairs, etc., Sangroko is a ritual performed for abundant production of rice. Phaipho Su is especially performed by Khullakpa in the month of January. Lambaka ritual and festival is organized with the erection of stone and it lasts for 3-5 days. Mi-michin is observed with the erection of pole with light on the top of it. Khangsen youth carry elders on palanquin to mark respect on the occasion. In addition to these calendaric rituals, they have unique rites de passage .

 There are seven clans or family groups and each of these has a particular norm and customary behaviour in connection with rites de passage. There are a number of dances and songs specific for each ritual and festive occasion. They use musical instruments, viz., Salangdar, Saki, Khong, rosem, etc. Dances are broadly classified as Remlam Rikithang and Lambalek. Of the songs sung in connecton with rituals and dances, Renleilambaka, Lamla, Chenthila and Roko mark their creativity. Their proverbial songs and also the work songs are of a special nature in tune and rhythm. There are also clan specific dances.

Their art and craft, dresses and costume are remarkable and they are made for special and general uses. they have folktale narrative sessions especially in Khangsen. Thirsee, the blacksmith, Cheksana, the two brothers are interesting tales for them.

They also do fishing and horticulture as their main occupation in addition to agriculture and hoe is their main instrument for centuries. Ploughing and mechanised agriculture is not known to them. Their rich tradition speaks volumes on the early concept of God, society and administration.

 II. Central Question

The central question ofthe research and documentation is the problem of education, village administration, and religion rolled into one in Seerin and Khangsen. It highlights the question of early concept of God, state, education and Control of man.

III. Methodological issue

Structured and non-structured interview, reproducing performances and episodes with organised festive occasions shall be made in addition to observation and videography.

IV. Collborative Undertaking

a)     Cultural gap, ingroup-outgroup complex, ethnicity and conflict groups shall be taken care of in the collaboration.

b)   Sincerity, openess and respect of folk life shall be the values sans political ideological scenario in the community.

  • Work plan
  • April – Method & review of works related with it.
  • May – Procurement/acquisition of materials, kits, etc. for research & documentation
  • June – Interview with different strata of people for smoothfunctioning e.g. village administrative heads, clans, womensociety, etc to create understanding and awareness. Meeting cultural and tradition careers.
  • July – -do-
  • August- Organising festivals through community elder and leaders and videography
  • Nov. – Group episodes connected with beliefs and rituals
  • Dec. – Khangsen and Seer-in reconstruction and reproduction for documentation – videography
  • Jan – Documentation of other episodes
  • Feb. – Final interview in group sessions.
  • March – Report preparation and submission

VI. Impact

This research and documentation will highlight on the issue of important theories on the origin of state and religion. It will give examples of social need and practices in response to it in the folk-life and whether education, god & religion was a social need. How society needed to control man and how was the strategic response shall be utilised in the university level of education and research.

Moreover this work will be useful in the study of-

i) History of education
ii) History of state and religion
iii) Control and management of the society and man.

Report

The work shall consist of the following chapters:

1.  Introduction
2.  Myth, Legend and Tales
3.  Rites de passage
4. Calendaric Festivals and Rituals
5. Khangsen
6.  Dances, Songs
7. Art and Crafts, dresses and costume
8. Conclusion

Bibliography

1.      Administrative Report, Manipur, 1918-1
2. A Census ofIndia 2001, Series 15, Manipur Primary Census, abstract, Directorate of Census  Operations, Manipur
3.      Brown R.                    “Statistical Account ofManipur” , Calcutta-I 873
4.      Grierson G.A          : “Linguistic Survey ofIndia”, Vol III Part I BIll Calcutta. 1908.
5.      Hastings James      : “Encyclopaedia of Religion & Ethics”, VolVIIIIIX
6.      Hodson T.C.            : “The Naga Tribes of Manipur” , Me. Millan & Co, London, 1911
7.      Damant G.H.           : “Contribution to the Ethnography and History of Manipur”, Jr. of the    Asiatic Society of Bengal, Vol XXVII, 1877
8.      Pemberton R.B.         “Report on the Eastern Frontier of British India”, Govt. of Assam 1835.

Behdeifikhlam Festival

Behdeifikhlam Festival

 The cultural tradition of the community elder that I seek to research and document is the “Behdeifikhlam Festival”. Behdeifikhlam is one of the most important religious festivals amongst the Pnar (Jaintia Community of Meghalaya) who believe in their indigenous religion handed down by their forefather as revealed by the Almighty God.
The “Behdeifikhlam” means driving away the plagues, devils and all kind of evil spirit with prayer to all mighty God to shower in peace and security of life, for blessing, for rich harvest, for prosperity in business and other profession.

The festival of Behdeifikhlam is being observed and performed along with the performance of other religious rites and offering, sacrifices, affirmation, thanksgiving, prayer, cheering and rejoicing accompanied with beating of drum, piping (bhuri) with bugles, tambourine or cymbal and dancing. The dance and other performance culminate at Aitnar sacred pool where thousands of people coming from far and near and even from aboard watching and witnessing the colorful events till the struggle for the foothold on the khnong and immersion of “Raths” was over.

In Jowai town, the headquarter of the Ri Khad-Ar Dolloi now known as Jaintia hills Districts this festival is held every year in the month of July after the sowing season. The celebration dance continue for four days i.e from a weekday known as ‘Pynsifi’ and closes on ‘Mushai’ say after the ‘Musiang’ market day.

For the observance and celebration of this festival many kinds of rites and sacrifices are offered before the day and month preceding the  celebration of Behdeifikhlam. Some kinds of sacrifices are also offered during the Behdeifikhlam itself.

The Bchdeifikhlam and other religious rites traditionally being performed and conduct by the Langdohs, male priest and female priest and the daloi as the religious head, pator, Sangot and other religious Elder under the purview and patronage of the Seifiraij Jowai.

 

Research questions that are central to the project:

1. What is the significance that it holds for the believers?

  1. How this festival survived even with the changing times and how it
    adapt with the present situation?

3. What is the centrality of the festival?

4. How the outcome of this project could help teaching programs?

The research and documentation methods that I seek to follow will consist of a few things like data collection which is of utmost importance before going into the field so as to know and be prepared beforehand what to expect and look for at the field. Note taking will also be a part of the entire process. Interviews both before going to the field and during the fieldwork. And finally documentation of both audio and visual and still documentation.

My collaboration with Mr. Pariat will be of very great significance since Mr. Pariat himself is very well informed about this research topic and he himself has done a lot of work on this particular topic. Mr. Pariat still follows the indigenous faith of “Niam Tre” so he will be able to provide me with the most genuine information about the Behdeifikhlam festival which is of utmost importance for this research process. Mr Pariat himself is also a writer and researcher and his writings are mostly about his own culture. So I personally believe that I will greatly benefit from this collaboration with him and I hopefully believe that a successful result will come out from this collaboration between me and Mr. Pariat which will be seen in the final product of this research work.

A monthly work plan for a period of one year starting from April 2012 to March 2013 is as follows:

April-May: Data collection

June: Pre- field preparations, pre-field interviews with the informants

July-August        : Fieldwork

September- December: The project will be analyzed and prepared

January- March: The project will be edited and finalized during this period

This project is a small effort to show about the cultural traditions of the Pnars of Meghalaya. This research topic may have been a subject of study in classrooms for the students of folklore but it is purely only in the book form. The audiovisual documentation of this cultural tradition will somehow bring to life what have been read only through books. This method will also generate a lot of interest among the students and it might even make them to want to learn more about it. Visual presentation of the documentation act as an additional technique in the teaching process and this can be useful not only for the students of folklore but all the students in schools and colleges as well.

Biates Community: Material Culture and Performing Folk Arts.

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.

 References

Hareh, Ilarniet. ‘Meghalava,’ North-Eastern India News and l-eatures Service, Shillong.
1974.

l.alsirn. Ramdina. ‘Tribes of N.C. l Iills. Assam,’ published b) North Cachar Ililis
Autonomous Council.

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.
1975.

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.
2005.

Pakern, 13. “The Biates” in Sebastian Karotcmprcl (cd), The Northeast Tribes of lndia.
published by Centre for indigenous Cultures. Shillong. 1998.

 

 

Jaintia Theatre: The Bamphalar


Jaintia Theatre: The Bamphalar
State: MeghalayaIntroduction

The Khasi-Jairitias are an ethnically and culturally distinctive group of people in the North Eastern part of India. Based on their strong oral tradition, it was said that they descended from ‘U Khadynru Wasa’ or the Sixteen Huts, which were originally from heaven. Since the Fifteenth Century the Jairitias had a separate political entity and was known as the Land of the Twelve Tribal Chiefs with a king who could knit all of them together. They were also culturally different from their Khasi counterpart. Today, the term Jairitia is used to denote a group of people mainly inhabiting Jaintia Hills District of Meghalaya, and belong to the following subgroups, the Bhois, the Biates, the Hadems, the Lalungs, the Pnars and the Wars. Jowai is the capital of the Jairitia Hills district.

Beginnings of Theatre in Jaintia and Khasi Hills

Folks say that the theatre in Jowai is about four to five generations old and were much influenced by Bengal in the pre- Independence era. Previously .Jalfitlapur was the capital of the ancient kingdom which comprises the Jairitia and the Khasi Hills along with the plains of Jairitia. The people from Jowai had long standing contacts with Bengal through .lalntlapur which had long lasting effects on their cultural life. They picked up their arts and skill along the way. When the Jaintias migrated to Shillong (Capital of Meghalaya) they occupied an area called Qualapaty and brought with them the arts and skills they had picked along the plains thoroughfare. So in Shillong also there was the longpiah Club, the Loomkhyrwiang Club and the Chilliang Raij Club, all of which were the counterparts and extensions of the respective clubs by the same name at Jowai.

However, according to Lakhon Shullai, one of the founding members and the President of the longpiah club, theatrical performances started only after the Seng Khasi, a socio-cultural organization of the Khasis looking after the cultural religious or social interest of the Khasi established in November 23, 1899. The Seng Khasi right away started promoting the art of the theatre.

Not to confuse priorities, however, some Seng Khasi Leaders established a separate Club for the purpose of promoting the performing arts and called it Khasi Native Club, which is the immediate forerunner of the Shillong Panora Club (SPC). In due time the Seng Khasi felt the need for a permanent hall and it was established in 1899 on the Mawkhar Road. The pioneering work was done by magnates like Chandra Nath Roy, Hormu Roy Diengdoh, Hazam Kishore Singh and Mohan Massar. Ka Seng Khasi employed local talents to prepare the stage, the scenery and other props etc.

There was also, Ka Sein .Jalfitla Socio-Cultural Organisation which took care of both music and the theatre. This organization is reported to have been the first to stage U Kiang Nangbah in Shillong. However, clubs in Jowai did not barter away their distinct identities for these outside influences. They kept one and allowed the other and these theatrical Clubs vied with one another for excellence.

Bamphalar-a Cultural Tradition of the Jaintia’s

In spring, after the sowing season there used to be at Jowai a custom called Bamphalar. It is a common meal organized outdoors once a year by the locality. At the end of the day, after the meal, there used to be entertainments at the Yungwalieh (Community Hall) of the locality. Originally, there used to be only dances and songs. Today, the same Bamphalar is organized by the Tpep Pale Club, Dulong Club, Panaliar Club, longpiah Club, Loomiongkjam Club, Luoomkhyrwiang Club and the Chilliang Raij Club and the community is featured with a string of theatrical performances which culminates in the community meal, irrespective of their social or economic status.

It involves a long process where, a month or two before the Bamphalar, local playwrights submit their plays. The officials of the Clubs decide on the suitable play(s). A Director in each of these clubs, is then appointed who, selects the actors from within his locality. The community cum theatrical fiesta of the year then gets underway. The seven Clubs fix the date of the performances on different days, for nearly two months, during the weekends and even on certain market days.

Objectives of the cultural tradition

Upon close scrutiny of the Bamphalar a number of objectives seem to emerge.

  1. At the surface level, the festival is held solely for the purpose of bringing people
    together.

    1. It must be mentioned that the Jaintia society follow a number of traditional laws which prohibit not only marriage within the same clan but also marriage with a paternal uncle or aunt. Incestuous marriage is also not tolerated. Those guilty of such acts were ostracized from the society. Such rigidity brings about division in the society. Such man- made taboos disappear during the Bamphalar. Thus Bamphalar plays a therapeutic role in nursing the broken hearts of a community. People accept each other unconditionally as the law of man takes a back seat. The only thing that matters is that, they are all children of U Tre Kirot
      or God.
    2. The Jairitias are very rich in their creative ability, and with a booming film industry in the region, the playwrights sell their plays and actors sign up in a movie. Therefore it is fair to say that talent exploitation and creating job opportunities becomes another objective of the Bamphalar.
    3. Though people donate freely towards the meal, the theatre is actually not for free. Seat Tickets have a price and are often sold out. The proceeds are then utilized for the community feast itself or for the maintenance of the Yungwalieh(community hall), and other needs.
    4. The Bamphalar is also more importantly organized for the preservation of the rich oral tradition of the region. Mythological figures, folk tales and historical figures come to life on the stage. People see and remember the bygone tales and legends and therefore keep them alive for posterity.
    5. The exposition of the culture and tradition during Bamphalar is a reminder to the community about their rich heritage. The importance of Culture and Tradition is re-emphasized.
    6. The plays do not portray only conflicts in society but also ‘suggests’ ways and means of conflict resolution as well.
    7. Most of the plays are intentionally didactic and designed to create awareness about the perennial war between good and evil. Apart from entertainment, the Bamphalar has also been a tool for Constructive Criticism and Introspection.

The Aesthetic Appeal of the Bamphalar.

The Bamphalar is a social event which begins with the Chaad Sukra then continues with series of theatrical shows organized by at least Seven Clubs of Jowai town, and culminates in the community feast in the respective locality .. The soul of the Bamphalar resides in the string of theatrical fiesta which continue for two months. This is how the word ‘Bamphalar’ has almost come to be a synonym for the word ‘theatre’.

In all the plays emphasis is given to the development of the intellectual, moral, emotional, and aesthetic faculties of the community members. In the month of March or so, the activity begins. The Club members call a meeting at the ‘Yungwalieh’ (Community Hall) inviting any member of the respective community for scripts. The budding playwrights immerse themselves in this activity and submit the written script to their own Club. The office bearers will then select the best, based on important tenets like inculcating positive values, ideals, being socially relevant, upholding the honour, dignity and preservation of the cultural heritage.

The act of confining it to people of the same locality or Club, affirms that, for the Jairitias, ‘Charity does begin at home’. Any man in the street that may have been invisible gets the opportunity to join the mainstream. Even playwrights get the necessary exposure for the booming film industry which is right around the corner.

The beauty of the Bamphalar springs from the concept that everyone is given equal opportunity to succeed. Whether members were institutionally educated or not, has nothing to do with it. Only the God- given talent is enough for any person to climb the ladder of success.

The fact that at the end of the two month long performances, people sit and enjoy their meal together ‘as one’ ,- irrespective of their deeds or misdeeds, or the social and economic position, speak volumes about how the Bamphalar becomes a powerful Equalizer. It makes one realize that the law of man ‘maybe’ quite different from the Rule of God or Tre-Kirot, and that man need not necessarily have the last word.

Conclusion

The attempt to preserve Culture and Tradition, through Bamphalar, deserves adulation. It categorically states that we can discover God, Love, and Life in the midst of society. The Bamphalar therefore speaks to us so that we should not be just a leaf, which is blown away in different directions, because it has no roots. It joins together all members of the community under one roof in order to reconnect and spread the message of love and goodwill. In fact, once in a year, we should take time and realize the presence of a Higher Being who loves us all unconditionally.

Apart from being a representation of amusement and entertainment, the Bamphalar has other objectives which serve to promote healthy relationships and also preserve the rich culture and heritage of the people. There have been a number of developments today which are both positive and negative yet life is, no doubt, reflected in the beautiful fabric of a theatre, in this case the Bamphalar, which is open to change.

Works cited:

a.    Roy U Hipshon: A Collection of Essays in Khasi Religion: 1979 Edited and published by
U Hipshon Roy.

  1. Rymbai R.T. : Khasi Heritage, a collection of Essays on Khasi Religion and Culture
    “Behdeinkhlam”, Edited and Published by U Hipshon Roy, Ri Khasi Press.
  2. Kharkrang Roland SOB: Theatre- Art and Life
  3. Lamare Shobham N: The Jaintias- Studies in Society and Change, Published by

Regency Publications, New Delhi, 2005.

  1. Choudhury J. N: The Khasi Canvas, Published by Srimati Jaya Choudhury, 1978.
  2. Sumer S. Q.:”Ki Jaintia ha ka Rke Rweit Bamphalar nachwa wei katni”.
  3. Passah Sajeki: “Bamphalar, the theatrical traditions of the Jaintias”.
  4. Sen Sou men Khasi-Jaintia folklore: context, discourse and History; narratives as
    designer texts:
  5. Rynjah Tngensngi: Ka History ka Ri Khasi-Jaintia (1562-1826) Part-II Vol. I, 2000.

Acknowledgements:

  1. Mr. P.R Kyndiah (Shillong) for the informational interview.
    1. Mr. S Q Sumer (Jowai) for valuable inputs on Bamphalar.
    2. Mr. Marding Passah (Jowai)
    3. Dr. Paitbha Syngkon (Jowai)
    4. Sajeki Passah (Shillong)

f. Wansalan E. Dhar (Jowai)

  1. Mr. Shaimon Pyrbot (Jowai)
  2. Dr. Omarlin Kyndiah (Shillong)
  3. Mr. Jopshwa Kynjiii, Asst Cultural Secretary, Sein Raij, Jowai for ‘Lapakhot Scenes’.
  4. Fr. Joseph Puthenpurakal SOB, Director- Don Bosco Centre for Indigenous Cultures
    (DBCIC), Mawlai, Shillong.
  5. Library Staff, Lady Keane College, Shillong.

 

Traditional Theatre of Rabhas

Traditional Theatre of Rabhas Introduction

Rabha is one of the Schedule tribes living mainly in Assam and West Bengal.Linguistically the Rabha belongs to the Indo Mongoloid group of people.According to F. Buchanan and Hamilton, the aspects of socio-religious and material life of the Rabhas have similarities with those of the pani koch ‘. E. Dalton .on the other hand, argues that the Rabhas and the Hajongs are the branches of Kachari race and connected with the Garo.2 According to B.H. Hodgson the Rabhas belong to the Great Bodo or Mech.3 The Rabhas of West Bengal and Assam generally speak the local Bengali and Assamese dialects. The Rabhas who live in the forest villages have retained their original Rabha dialect to a great extent.

There are II sub-groups In Rabha tribe namely Maitoria.Hana.Dahori. PatiRabha, Sunga, Rangdani, Bitola, Kosa,Totala,Mohadi and Dumesha.Presently among II sub classes Rabha language is spoken by very few tribes belonging to Kosa,Maitoria and Rangdania groups. There are 112424 people who speak Rabha,comprising of 1115,554 rural people and 870 urban people.The economy of the village is chiefly agragrian and both men and women of Rabha tribe are engaged in cultivation.

A Brief Description about Traditional Theatre of Rabhas:

The tradition of Rabha dramatic performances and their artists have been practising since earliest times. Generally the traditional theatre of Rabha consist of storytelling, ritual singing, dancing etc. These traditional theaters are mostly related with the rituals, festival and occassional. It has seen close relation as well as affinities with music and dance. In the traditional theatre of Rabhas there are ample use of conventional symbolic objects, masks, costumes special area for playing and conventional stylized action. These are primarily recognized as a play activity and therefore is closely related to game, dance and ritual.Though the performers of these theaters are the members of the same community and known to most of the audiences they are not general people during the performance.

The most important traditional theatre of the Rabhas are associated with the mare puja. In this regard,Birendranath Datta says-Mare performance have much in common with the important folk drama form:there is a leading singer(mul or gital) who carries a whisk.There are number of assistants(pail or paila) who provides both the chronic support and the musical accompaniment.And there is also the provision of breaks(bhangi) for dramatic dialouges between the leader and assistant.” Indeed,tradition of worshipping Mare p~ja,i.e.,the worship of the snake goddess Manasa amomg the Rabha society is said to have close realtion with rnagico-religious beliefs and practice. Several stories connected with Beula and Lakhindhar is depicted beutifully.This is perfomed religious rites with dancing and singing of the oja pali and Deoudhoni or doudini. In Mere puja, the deities are propitiated with the ritual dance and drama. The deoudhoni is the key dancer. As soon as the priest or oja chants the mantra, she starts dancing rhythmic dances. The deoudhoni moves in a circular way round the altar where deities are positioned. The oja and the deouri and the elderly members of the village follow her dancing and making hand gestures.

There are varieties of dances performed by the deoudhoni during the worship. It is interesting to note here that in the midst of performing mare worship, the male performers make comic gestures and actions while the players of musical instruments play traditional musical instruments like Karra, flute and singra.

The Bhari gan is another folk theatre of Rabha community. The Bhari-gan plays derive their themes from the epics. There is a tradition of using heavy wooden mask by many characters in the Bhari plays. Some characters like Rama, Laksahmana, and Sita are customarily not supposed to wear masks whereas in case of such characters as Ravana, Hanuman and Jambuyan masks are essential.

 

The Rabhas celebrate the Hachang festival in the month of Jeth. Hachang is an innovation of the goddess Baikho. In reality it is a combination of various deities. The worship is associated with animal sacrifices. During the performance of this worship, the performer chants and acts various kinds of art forms which can be the part of theatre.

The Frantkanti is the death rite of the Rabhas. This rite continues for seven days and equal number of nights. Eating and drinking usually continues during this period. Similarly dance, song and storytelling are also essential in all days of the festival.

Another traditional drama is called basiya or bahi biya.It is performed just after the mamage ceremony. It starts through the story telling and marry making with the musical instruments.

There is a tradition of performing girkay in the Rabha community on the full moon night of Bahag (mid April).Rabha youths perform this .Hamjar is a festival celebrated them before beginning farming on their lands. Singing and dancing are an integral part of Rabha culture. As the information furnished,there are also some folk drama associated with these festival and
dances.

Besides these,there is a tradition of Rabha community that men and women dance and sing accompanied by the musical instruments like the Karra,fluete and singra.Frankanti fusakay,hamjar fusakay etc. during the different festivals and occassions.

Aim and Objective of the Proposed Study

Rabhas are very rich in the arts form of traditional theatre. There are many traditional drama that are performed in the Rabha community during the different occasion and religious festival. Though there are lots of traditional theatrical arts forms in the Rabha community which are still lying in the village. No collaborative work has been taken and done on this topic. No written source is available. What, why, how, when and where these drama are performed will be the main aim of the study. The socio-religious significance of these theatres will be tried to analyze in this proposed work. The task of documentation and exploration on theatrical elements of Rabha community is highly appreciable.

Due to impact of modernization and westernization most of the elements are now on the verge of extinction. On the other hand the performers of the community are dying day by day.

Therefore, the main objectives of study are – (i) to acquire first hand idea about the Rabha traditional theatre, (ii) to observe the performance of different occasion, (iii) to identify the special functions and (iv) cultural significances of the traditional drama. Thereafter, preservation and documentation will be done.

Methodology of the Study

Rabha is not my community. So it will be difficult to study on the performance of traditional drama. I will have to personally attend in many of the theatrical performances. In this regard, collect the preliminary idea about the drama is the first hand to run the project work . There is no much published work in respect of Rabha traditional theatre. ‘Before we proceed to make successful to collect the data on the proposed project, the following preliminary steps will be undertaken:

1. Pilot survey is the first approach of any research .So it should be taken to acquire preliminary
idea in the proposed project.

2. After the pilot survey, rapport establishment will be my 2nd necessary step to make success the
project. Therefore, it will be done with the help of the community artist.

Method of Data Collection

Generally there are only two types of data collection – Primary and Secondary. There are other methods of the field study-

(a)        Interview

(b)       Observation and

(c)        Participant observation

Interview and observation methods are mostly used by the field workers but my field works three methods will be applicable in the proposed study. The interview method will be utilized to unearth the authenticity of the tradition as well as to collect the traditional theatrical elements from the different people of the different areas with the expert community artist. Digital camera, Note Book etc. will be used during the field study.

Importance of Collaborative Undertaking

Collaboration is defined as “working jointly on an activity or project.” 5 From this we can learn that collaborative working is the act of people working together toward common goals. The community artist is not only the bearer of tradition but also the carrier of the artistic tradition of the society. Being a very important person, he has to take dynamic role in their respective society. It is hoped that the artist can guide in right direction to the non community scholar who have no idea or knowledge on the traditional theater of Rabhas. Collection and documentation on any folklore materials is not easy task whereas it is very difficult to do for the other community. In this connection collaborative work can be applied. Collaborative undertaking is one kind of ,team work and it is also the best means of studying and collecting the data. During the field work, the non community scholar faces lots of problem such as language, communication etc.where he fails to collect the authentic materials but it becomes easy through the expert artist of the community. Even the scholar can exchange their feeling, thought, idea and knowledge with him in the collection, preparation and finalization of the report of the project. Even collaborative undertaking will increase energy and save time . Therefore, to collect the authentic data on the proposed study will be helpful and fruitful only with the active guidance of the expert artist of community.

Sukracharja Rabha

He is a well known artist of Rabha community. He is the co-ordinator of Badungduppa Kalakendra,a socio-cultural society situated at Srirampur village,Goalpara district,Assam.Basically he is modem dramatist. He was a recipient of Bismilla Khan Yuba Purushkar, 2009,(Sangit Natak Academy), Aditya Bikram Birla Kala Kiran Puruskar, 2010 (for outstanding performance in the field of theatre),Sangit Kala Kendra Mumbai, Pratima Pandey award, 2012, Assam.

Though Sukracharja is known as modem dramatist he borrowed lots of folk elements like tunes, costumes, verbal arts and performing folk arts and infused with the modernized elements to innovate his theatrical form.

Monthly work plan

1. In the month of April and May, field work will be done on Mare gan at Bamunigaon near
Chaigaon in natural contact.

2. In the month of June, transcription and editing of the materials collected from the mare gan
will be done so far.

3. Library work and drafting the report on mare and performers will be done in the month of July
and August

4. Between the months of September, October and November, the’ Bharigan, and other
performance is held in Dhupdhara area of Karnrup district. So, the field work will be done with
the help, guidance of the community artist in natural contact.

5. In the month of Seminar or workshop involving the community performers will be arranged in
the month of January.

6. Interaction between the folk and modem drama will be discussed with the community artist

7. Preparation of the final report

8. Finalization and submission of the project report

Proposed outcome

Community participation from vanous tribes and non-tribes is one of remarkable achievements expected during the performance. Generally, the mere gan is performed by Rabha community. As the artist furnished, both Rabha and Bodo community participate in the mare gan in Bamunigaon near Chaigaon area of Kamrup district. In some places of Karnrup,mare gan or puja is celebrated as community festival. Some people observe it individually. Through the mare gan, cultural relation between the Bodo and Rabha can be explored in a meaningful way and collaborative nature of community performance can be explored in a more meaningful way.

Educative value

As documentation is an attempt at preservation, conservation in any event which can be applied in teaching. Documentation ensures accountability, facilitates the co-ordination of care between providers and for service improvement. Through the documentation of the theatrical elements of Rabha community it can be studied and analysed in the near future. For example, if the theatrical performance of mare gan or puja, bharigan etc. and tales of Ramayan.Mahabharat is preserved as well as archived in the library, it will be great source for the next generation.

In mare gan, both male and female show dramatic performance on the basis of the story of Beula and Lakhindhar. Through the story of Beula and Lakhindhar people can learn the evil consequences of pride and prejudices in one’s life. People can learn to keep away themselves from his influence of the pride and prejudices and thus they can socialize themselves. It is a sort of great teaching to the people. It can be observed through the character of Beola Lakhindhar in mare gan that moral and spiritual teaching can be imparted to the younger generation. Further the theatrical element teaches illiterate people and little children how to act and how to live and how to behave. Through tradition of Frankanti, how the Rabha community tries to display and keep their culture are clearly reflected through their performance. The performer tries to describe the story in simple language so as to understand easily.

Generally tales, myths and legends, proverbs and riddles are told and songs and lullabies are sung for the ethical, moral and character development of individual. Similarly the traditional theatre of Rabha has strong educative role. Through the celebration of these festival people can learn about the moral code of the society and they can also develop their faith in religious beliefs of the society. So, it can be said that in these festivals and celebrations has been playing important role in imparting knowledge to the rural people.

 

Specific traditions of PutulaNaach followed by Assam Puppet Theater

Introduction:

Puppetry as a Performing Arts of Assam has faced many ups and downs in its journey so far. At the initial stage of its inception, the religious and mythological themes attracted huge number of audience and puppet shows became a very popular entertainment medium. But these hand held small-scale figures lost its charm with the advent of new media.

The String Puppets of Assam are known as Putula-Naach, Putula-Bhaona and Putula Bhaoriya. However some contemporary troupes also use the term Putula- Theatre- which is a popular folk entertainment medium in the plains of Assam. Narayan Deka is one such puppeteer who is into this art form since 1985. Initially he was associated with the Brahymaman Theater (Mobile Theater) but gradually started disliking it because of the intervention from cine artist of the Assarnese Film Industries. “With actors stepping into the dimensions of stage, mobile theater lost its rustic touch and traditional appeal”, says Deka.

Narayan Deka started his career as a background musician In ‘Guru Shankar Putula Theater’ owned by Late Shivaram Das. Deka gradually started developing interest in the art form, so his owner friend taught him the entire nuances of Puppetry. With strong dedication and hardship, he established ‘Assam Puppet Theater’ in 1985 and on 18thFebruary 1986, Deka organized his maiden show at Bansigopal Namghar on the theme ‘Shakuntala’. He got his theater registered under Assam Natya Society in the year 1988.

Deka’s repertoire comprises of shows from mythological tales, popular legends, historical episodes, social issues, old classics and even adaptation from famous novels. ‘Tejimala’ ,’Sati-Joymati’, ‘Behula Lakhinder’, ‘Sabitri-Satyaban’, ‘Lav-Kush’, ‘Ahom Krishi’, ‘Purbanchalar Mati’, ‘Kargil Juddho’, ‘Probashilo’, ‘Anamoy Senduriya Baat’ are some of his selected plays.

The main focus of the study is to evaluate the reasons for which puppetry, once a popular performing art form of the region had to wane and how globalization helped our contemporary Puppet theatre groups to revive this art form to save it from extinction. As my data is necessarily primary- due to the nature and scope of the study, I have adapted my research tools adequately to suit my material in so far as they provide relevant information in collecting data from the field. To establish the conceptual bases of my argument, I would use tools made available by existing framework and analyze them to make significant evaluation.

Puppetry is a projected play. It needs its own language and animation to come to life and transmit its message. “Puppetry has everything,” says Narayan Deka, a major force in keeping the tradition of string puppetry alive in Assam. “You need voice, you need acting, you need music and dance, you need expressions, you need emotions, characters, and a good script. A good mixture of all these components makes puppetry.” And this is the reason why true puppetry requires a lot of practice. “Puppeteers must not only be talented performers, technicians and artists but also good story tellers as well”-says Deka. A perfect coordination is the most vital element of puppetry.

Research Questions:

The aims and objectives of the study are enumerated below:-

  1. To study the inception of Puppetry as a folk art form.
  2. Review the waning of Puppetry as an art form.
  3. To study the influence of the participatory nature ofPutula Naach.
  4. To find out the techniques and contents of Putula Naach.
  5. To find out the symbiotic relationship between popular culture and folk media.
  6. To study its importance as a communication tool.
  7. Evaluate the role Putula Naach plays in social change and how it is used as a Uses
    and Gratification approach.

Research Strategy:

For gathering information’s on the inception of Puppetry as an art form I would try to make use of the Historical-Geographical Theory (Finnish School) of Folklore Research developed by Karle Krohn, C.W.Von Sydow and Axel Olrik. According to this theory, a rigorous methodology is developed to reconstruct, the original forms of the tales or other folklore items, by a scientific method, and the probable routes they might have travelled.

To evaluate the participatory nature of Puppetry the ‘audience’ as a concept will be studied in details. Through audience research] would try to answer my questions on the role of puppetry as a communication tool, as a catalyst for social change and how the audience uses it as a uses and gratification approach.

Current Status of the Research:

From all available accounts it is clear that apart from string-puppet no other forms of puppetry like shadow-puppets, rod-puppets, hand or glove-puppets ever existed in Assam. However experts believe that water-puppetry existed in Assam long before Sankardeva’s birth but it got its due recognition only during his time. He in a way was the pioneer in developing the tradition which is now the national heritage of countries like Vietnam and Cambodia.

“To make this art form survive in this part of the region we are innovating new forms like string puppetry is replaced by rod puppets to give it a new flavor”, says Bani Kanta Barman- a famous puppeteer of Assam. Not only in form the transition can also be seen in terms of theme selection, costume, language, music, lighting and not to forget the performing arena. ‘Sabitri-Satyaban’ is now replaced by ‘Notun Suraj’ – a play on modern lifestyle. Similarly ‘Phulan -Devi’ has taken over ‘Behula-Lakhinder’. ‘Soriyahar Oulite’ a play on witch-craft, a burning issue hovering Assam these days also finds a place in puppet theatre.

The traditional musical instruments like taal (cymbals), khol (drum) have been replaced by microphones, drum-sets. Air-conditioned halls, public halls are the new venues in lieu of the open air stages. Petromax, flood lights, carbide gas lamps and electric lights have taken over the ariya (torches). Though small, but the overall effect created by these modern instruments, lighting and not to forget the sophisticated arena have by far brought in delightful departures from conventional forms and practices.

Significance of the Proposed Research:

Folklore and Media both deal with communication and therefore are connected with each other in far more complex ways than those simple oppositional categories. The Indian society is a complex social system with different caste, classes, creeds and tribes. The high rate of illiteracy added to the inadequacies of mass media to reach almost 80% of people who resides in village. In spite of the national literacy missions and campaigns, over 350 million people are still illiterate. To them mass media is seen to be too glamorous, impersonal and unbelievable in the context of their lived experience.

In spite of being an old and a popular art form, puppetry in the modern scenario is fast loosing its fervor. Even for the puppeteers what initially was a passion has now become just a means of livelihood. In the words of Martin Esslin – “In an age where, the world is flooded by a deluge of cheap commercially motivated material on television, the live theatre, the guardian of and individuality of cultures, threatened by this avalanche of homogenized triviality and become more vital to the continued richness and variety of human culture than ever before in the history of mankind” (Canplay, Vol-6, N02, April 1989). As Narayan Deka- a consummate artist of puppet theatre and a resident of Makhibaha, Nalbari says, “though I have been at it for the last 27 years, the going has not been smooth at all.” It is not only the verdict of Deka, many opine the same views as they think that modern media is fast eroding away these kinds of art forms. So through my study I would like to contribute whatever I can in reviving this art form.

Schedule of the Proposed Work:

Puppet performance in Assam starts after Bishwakarma Puja, towards the end of September and continues till Bohag Bihu i.e the month of April, the Assamese New Year. The shows are organized religiously during the festive season because of the optimum audience participation at that time frame. A gap of around four months is seen because of the inclement weather condition at that period in Assam. So keeping the objectives of the study in mind the ethnographic data collection shall be done accordingly. For data collection, some elements of quantitative methods, use of folk art to promote their products: the LG advertisements where glove puppets were used; Life Insurance Corporation of India uses puppetry to arouse the . interest of rural folk in Bank Savings and Insurance policies. Doordarshan also uses folk media as a tool in their educational programme titled Gali Gali Sim Simsponsored by NCERT. Narayan Deka also highlights many instances where religious themes, when imparted by means of puppetry got a positive response from the students at the grass root level as they could easily associate themselves with it because of its local flavor. Deka himself organized puppet shows on AIDS awareness at the Nalbari Raas Mahotsav held in the month of November,2011 in collaboration with the AIDS Control Society. Ms Zebin Hazarika, who is also an event manager recently organized a campaign for an NGO called Gold making use of Putula Naach in disseminating information on Pulse Polio Programme at Guwahati under the guidance of Dr. Rajiv Sharma.

Dr. Birendra Nath Dutta says, “Earlier the content of the puppet shows were spontaneous but now to compete and survive in the competitive world improvisations are made and informative messages as subject matter are taken into considerations.” The modern media is not solely responsible for the gradual decline in Puppet performances, we should rather blame ourselves for it. Thanks to the improvisation being adopted by the puppeteers, this folk art form has successfully survived its dwindling fate. Because I believe, to save puppetry from becoming a ‘museum piece’ more needs to be done for its promotion with responsibility and clear objectives.

 

Folktales of Simte Tribe

 Sir,

With reference to your Advertisement published in The Sangai Express on 11 Jan., 2012, I would like to apply for the research fellowship programme on Folklore for 2012-2013.

Sir, as the folktales of Simte tribe have not been documented yet so far as my knowledge is concerned, I would like to work on the Simte folktales under your financial support. My research experience and curriculum vitae are furnished with the application.

I do hope that you would kindly consider my humble proposal for the said project. I assure you my full commitment and dedication to the work if given the chance.

My particulars and documents are enclosed.

Yours faithfully,

~~

Ms. Zothanchhmgi Khiangte

Proposal

India had a great tradition of studying folklore. She can boast of folkloris excellence in the Kathasaritsagar, the Panchatantra or the Jataka. But folklore studies in modem India began with the coming of the British. All kinds of cultural studies, including Sanskritic and ethnographic ones formed an important discipline known as Indology. Folktales and folk songs form an important part of oral literature. The  major forms of oral narrative genre are myth, fairy tale or marchen, romantic
tale or novella, religious tale, trickster tale, legend, animal tale, anecdote, joke, numbskull tale, etc.

Although a good number of folklore collection has been done on the Indian folklife, the folklore collection of the North East tribes of India is comparatively insignificant. A large number of folk narratives of these tribes are still left to be documented even though remarkable works have been done by pioneering folklorists like SoumenSen, Desmond Kharmawphlang,TemsulaAo andLaltluanglianaKhiangte. A proper documentation of these folktales can add to the literature and art of India. The world and variety of these folktales are so enormous that one discovers their neglect with a sense of pure shame. These folktales have such profound influence on the communities that one realizes that literature is not only something which is written, but also something that is oral and verbal. We cannot afford to remain mute spectators of their gradual decline as they must be preserved to posterity. They are rapidly being forgotten, lost beyond recovery, owing to the passing away of the old folks, whose memories were so well stored with these old tales that they could spend hour after hour, night after night repeating them to apt listeners seated by the hearth.

Folklore as an area of serious inquiry began with the study of oral narratives but the early folklorists were mainly concerned in the search for similarities in the narratives of various related cultures in order to reconstruct a hypothetical “Ur- forms” or the “original” types of a tale. This Finnish historio geographical method did not give importance to record information about the context, the performer’s distinctive stylistic features or the informant information. However, from the middle of the zo” century, ethnopoetics which was developed initially through the analysis of Native American narrative, has been applied to a variety of other oral traditions and its influence has been felt in North East India and have been deployed by many scholars, Ethnopoetics as a term was coined by Jerome Rothenberg in 1968 and its development was largely pioneered by Dell Hymes and Dennis Tedlock. Tedlock defines ethnopoetics as a decentered poetics, an attempt to hear and read the narratives of distant others, outside the western tradition.

Folk tales and folk songs always had a special status in the lives of the tribal people of the north-east India as in all the tribal communities elsewhere in the world. Everyone, from the youngest child to the oldest person, was expected to listen and be able to recall or tell a portion of, if only a small detail from, a narrative account or story. Thus the oral tradition was a communal process.

The existential identity of the Nagas, Mizos, Khasis or Simtes is immersed in their mythical lore- how they originated, the location of their origin and how they migrated to their present location etc. The Simtes believe that they have come out of a cave or hole called Khul. In the Naga myth, the people are said to have emerged out of rocks at an ancient site called Lungterok whereas the Khasis are said to have descended from the sky with the help of a golden ladder or a rope. Although there is no concrete “historical” support for these myths, these myths have nevertheless been accepted by the people as their traditional history.

In the oral tradition, stories are the heart of culture. Oral traditions tend to store traditional history by associating particular stories with particular places, which therefore are very much a part of the “text” of the story. The folktales of a people tell the history of the people, the test of its validity not being the accuracy of the recounted events when taken literally, but whether a particular reconstruction is culturally valid and accurate. So long as the society accepts the mythic and legendary elements either literally or symbolically, it must be accepted as a valid reconstruction of the past, no matter what literally impossible or fantastic beings or events it incorporates. The concept of traditional history is more than just an intellectual curiosity or scholastic construct. For the indigenous peoples of the north-east India, history is a culturally and socially agreed-upon account of the past. It is what the elders and those with authority to speak have recounted as what happened. Their account presents the truth of the matter, a truth that may on occasion contradict what seem to be the facts as a result of which we call their history myth. As it were, in such societies, there is no clear distinction between myth, legend and history.

For those without writing, knowledge was transmitted from generation to ‘ generation through oral narratives.Foltales and folksongs were, as it were, the keys to reconstructing the past. They give a vivid picture of not only their history but also about their social set-up, their perception of life, their ideals and their philosophy. Their stories of the past cannot be rubbished as maladroit myths concocted by some uncivilized savages who had no system of writing. Oral narratives reproduce the cultural knowledge necessary to sustain the community across the generations and serve as a means of establishing a tribe’s  identity.

 

The cultures of north-east India are facing tremendous challenges from modernization and globalization. Modernisation refers to a global process of cultural and socioeconomic change whereby developing societies seek to acquire characterisics of industrially “advanced” societies. Modernisation and economic globalization has greatly affected the indigenous peoples worldwide.
Throughout North-east India, we are witnessing the widespread removal of traditional activities and the family-community setting, all part of the process of globalization.

R. Radhakrishnan maintains, ” Globality and globalization are the Darwinian manifesto of the survival of the fittest, the strong nations will survive”naturally”, for it is their destiny to survive, whereas weak nations will inevitably be weeded out because of their unsatisfactory performance as nation- states.”1t has also created what the anthropologist Paul Magnarella calls a new “culture of discontent” among the people.

The fast-paced urbanization and modernization seems to have engulfed in its stride, the tribal societies and their set of values held so dearly. Western culture has become the sine qua non of the civilized world under the umbrella of globalization. Every educated person seems to discard everything which is not approved and recommended by an appropriate authority in the west, be it his dress code, attitude, mind-set or religious belief. Kailash C.Baral maintains, “In the context of the tribes of Northeast, it is feared that globalization may bring in large-scale commodification of their cultures and would erase their unique identities that are so far consolidated mostly on the premise of ethnic difference.

The western concept of individuality is a counterpoint to the tribal concept of family for whom the clan is but an extended family. The present generation of tribal society, with a foot in both worlds, is in a state of perplexity. It is here that folktales come into relevance. The folktales identify the people,

offering a vivid picture of their intrinsic values and their view of life. They give an insight into the tribe’s history. Jan Vansina in his book, Oral Tradition has said that among the peoples without writing, oral tradition forms the main available source for a reconstruction of the past.

The Simtes: The Simtes are one of the ethnic groups in India. They are mainly concentrated in the Southern parts of the State of Manipur. A significant number are also settled in neighbouring areas of Mizoram, Nagaland and Assam. There are also Simte, known by the name of Ngaihtes, in Chin State in Myanmar. Simte is one of the Kuki-Chin clans. The term ‘Simte’ literally means ‘People of the South’, ‘Sim’-South and ‘Te’- People. They have mostly settled in the Thanlon sub-division of Churachandpur and also in other parts of Churachandpur district.

Languages: Most of the Simte people spoke Khuangnung which is commonly known as Simte language. According to the 2001 census, Simte population was 11,065 which is about 1.5% of the total Scheduled Tribe population of Manipur.

As other oral societies, the Simtes have fascinating myths and tales which shape the world view of the people. The folklore of the Simtes has not yet received any intellectual treatment nor have the folktales been documented yet. So documenting their folktales will go a long way in preserving the cultural traditions and beliefs of the people thus preserving their identity for posterity.

Among the tribal communities world-wide, folktales form part of the tribe’s cultural heritage. In an attempt to point out the deep significance that storytelling has in an Apache society, Keith H. Basso has written” Western Apache storytelling… holds that oral narratives have the power to establish

 

What is important in the Collaborative undertaking:

(1) There should be minimum problem in Language Communication between
_ me and my collaborator.

(2)Folklore performance of the artist along with the ‘text’ should be noted with great care.

(3) Suitable work schedule should be planned.

(4) The collaborator should be made aware of my requirements.
(5) Proper documenting tools during field work.

Proposed outcome of the research:

This research is expected to contribute to the study of not only the literature and culture of the people, but also to a better understanding of the people. The study may also be used as a primary source for future research on the subject in university levels.

 

A monthly work plan for a period of one year from April 2012 to March
2013:

  • The First month- April: Preliminary Round
  • The Second Month- May: Survey/ Field work
  • The Third Month- June: Interaction
  • The Fourth Month-July: Collection of Data
  • The Fifth Month-August: Collection of Data
  • The Sixth Month- September: Documentation / Audio Visual
  • The Seventh Month- October: Analysing the Data and Assessing the
    Materials
  • The Eight Month- November: Writing
  • The Ninth Month- December: writing
    The Tenth Month- January: Writing
  • The Eleventh Month- February: -Review of the work
    The Twelfth Month- March: Submission

 

The tradition of Nagara Nam: a performing Art form of lower Assam

The tradition of Nagara Nam: a performing Art form of lower Assam.

Submitted for

TATA FELLOWSHIPS IN FOLKLORE
2012-2013

SUBMITTED BY

MISS SUBHABRITA GHOSH.

DEPARTi,fENT OF FOLKLORE RESEARCH
GAUHATI UNIVERSITY

 

   1)            Detailed work plan for one year, field work documentation:

For this research work on Nagara Nam, I have selected the place Kumar; Kata, Nalbari, (Photo-I)
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’

Sep

Oct’13

Month

’12 12 13 ’13 13

13 13 13

’13

  Library work Pilot Primary

data

Data

Secondary Video

and

Data editing Final

report

  and

Collection. Collection Research audio

and

Preparation

&

Project theoretical Survey

and

Half

and

Data

documentation analysis, submission

  studies

Yearly

Collection

Report

Submission

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
project:

4) Valid Email ID:ghoshsubharita.ghosh@gmail.com

 

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 proposed project will try to document the basic style of Nagara Nam performance as demonstrated by Sri Ramcharan Bharali and his troupe (photo-2) along with various musical instruments like Nagara, Kurkuri, Juri and Bhartal will be observed and documented.

 

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?

Research Methodology:

Nagara Nam (Photo-3): The Nagara Nam art form is one of the ancient, traditional and religious institutions of Assam. The Nagarais the main instrument of this art form and according to the name

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:

For ground level reality studies and in-depth primary research collaborative studies with key persons of the respective art is vital. Here the idea is to conduct a detail analysis, with an active support from renowned Nagara Nam artist Sri Ramcharan Bharali (Pathak) is performing a pala with his troupe.

An Analysis of the Lok Utsav Kathas of Jharkhand

An Analysis of the Lok Utsav Kathas of
Jharkhand

 

Synopsis

The specific cultural tradition that I seek to

Rresearch and Document: A festival is an important aspect of the intangible cultural heritage which is closely associated with the human culture and is transmitted from generation to generation. Throughout the year the human being is busy in different activities. Therefore, to get leisure from the tedious life, man celebrates various festivals in different periods which are mainly associated with their day to day activities. As most of the rural folks are dependent upon the agricultural activities, their festivals are also associated with the agricultural work which falls within their agricultural cycle.

The major folk festivals of the tribals of Jharkhand include Aghan Sankranti,Bandana, Chaitra Sankranti, Desh Sikar, Gram Puja, Jantal,Jitia, Karam, Rohin, Sarhul, Shiva Gajan shikar khel, Manda puja, Karma, Soharai, Dumba Yatra etc. The ideology behind the concept of festivals is very ancient. It constitutes a form of folk religion which developed parallel to the mainstream sacrificial and ascetic practices attested in Sanskrit texts. These practices were transmitted orally over generations. The celebration and observance of a festival is believed to help in attainment of both Bhukti (objects or worldly enjoyment) and Mukti (destruction of sins and final release). Observance of festivals involves partial or complete fasting, ritual worship of a deity and the recitation or hearing of the relevant story or the ‘Katha’. These ‘Kathas are also referred to as Lok Utsav ‘Kathas .Narration of the Katha includes a systematic recitation with exposition. Although the noun Katha is often understood to mean simply ‘story’, this English translation tends to overly nominalise a word that retains a strong sense of its verb root. In the Indian context, a story is first and foremost something that is ‘told’, and the Sanskrit root ‘Kam’; from which the noun is derived means “to converse with, tell, relate, narrate, speak about, explain” Hence, the term Katha can thus be better understood as ‘telling’ or narration. A dialogical milieu is thus fundamental to performance of the Katha. To tell a storyimplies that there must be someone to hear it, and in the ancient performance traditions the role of the hearer (Shrota) is participatory rather than passive. Exposition of the Katha is a pan-Indian phenomenon .The three components of the genre are: the text or the Katha, the storyteller and the listener. Instructions for a festival usually require that the Katha be recited to someone, and only when the story has been told can the requirements of the celebration be considered to be fully met.

The narratological technique of the Kathas is a mix of fairy tale and fable. Dr. Jasbir Jain considers the Kathas to be – “social pacifiers”. Susan Wadley describes them as – “transformers of destiny”. The concept of Karma is invariably related to all major events of life in the Indian philosophy. Observation of a festival it is often believed, can overrule Karma: where in all sins are washed away/evil deeds forgiven and destiny altered. Observation of festivals and recitation of Kathas essentially strengthen faith in the Almighty. This in turn checks devotees from committing further sins and instils in them the spirit of universal brotherhood. The paraphernalia associated with the observation is a complete family enterprise. The youngsters join the ritual and participate in the execution in form of a support system. On conclusion of a festive event the elders of the family bless the youngsters for successful accomplishment.  The entire exercise binds the family into one closely knit unit.

  • The Research questions that are central to my project

The proposed study shall focus on the l.ok Utsavkathas of ‘Jharkhand and the  stories associated with the major festivals .The tribals of Jharkhand observe  Phagua, Sarhul, Manda Parva, Dhan Buni, Rog Khedna, Asadhi Puja, Sawan Puja,  Bahura, Kadleta, Bhelwa Pharek, Chand Barek, Karma Puja, Nava Khani, Jitia,  Sohrai, Dev lJthaan, Khalihaan Puja, Khalihan lJthana, Aghani Puja, Surjahi, Magh  Manana, Deshuli, Jani Shikar, Bhai Bheek, Paito Sarna, Sarna Puja, Phagun Puja, Jadkor Puja, Lamlamna Puja, Kuti Dahan Puja, Karam Phagun Puja, Podda Bagde  Seed Puja, Chua or Dadi or Kua Puja, Joddem Maha Puja, Khet Puja, Magh Bonga  Puja, Muchri Bonga Puja, Sakrat Bonga etc. Each of these is performed with full  devotion by the tribes and the performance is considered incomplete without the  recitation of the relevant kathas.The research will attempt to compile the kathas of  the major festivals namely Jitia,Sohrai, Phagun Tyohar, Karma, Sarhul, Manda puja.

1. Describe your project and your scholarly and technical ability to undertake your
project.

I am a journalist. I have a flair for writing and I can handle a camera with ease. I have a scholarly bent of mind and I have presented papers in National and International seminars. My research project will throw light on the Lokutsav Kathas of Jharkhand. The tribal  population of Jharkhand observes many festivals and each one of them is performed with full  devotion by the tribes. The performance of these festivals is considered incomplete without  the recitation of the relevant kathas.

2. Why do you think this project requires the fellowship support?

The research project will require financial support to cover the expenses of the equipment, materials, communication which includes telephone and postage, travel expenses and other  indirect costs. I will need some financial assistance to accomplish this project with ease.

3. What is the expected output of your project?

An analysis of the folk festivals and the relevant kat has will bring us closer to the marginalized tribal population of the state. We will gain an understanding of their customs and their culture. We will also get a glimpse of their web of philosophies, values and morals.

A Monthly Work Plan for a Period of One Year

The data related to the folk festivals and the associated folklores will be collected by using different anthropological techniques and methods. Emphasis will be given to open-ended schedule, interviews and participation observation. The data will be mainly collected from the elderly members of the studied community. According to the requirement of the present work, the photographic, audio graphic and video graphic documentations will be used to highlight the different aspects of intangible culture of the various festivals and the associated folklores.

  • November 2012: Field work and data collection of Sohrai with the help ofinterviews and questionnaire.
  • December 2012: Compilation of collected data and materials.
  • January 2013: Fieldwork and data collection of Sankranti Puja.
  • February 2013: Compilation and Conclusion Report of the above.
  • March 2013: Field work and data collection of Phagun Tyohar with the help of interviews and questionnaire.
  • April 2013: Compilation and conclusion report of the above.
  • May 2013: Field work and data collection of Sarhul Puja with the help of interviews and questionnaire.
  • June 2013: Compilation and conclusion report of the above.
  • July 2013: Field work and data collection of Karma Puja with the help o finterviews and questionnaire.
  • August 2013: Compilation and Conclusion Report of the Project.
  • September 2013: Field work and data collection of Jitia with the help of interviews and questionnaire.
  • October 2013: Compilation of collected data and materials. Final compilation of collected data and report preparation according to National Folklore Support (entre.