Examples of innate intelligence, even “innovation at its best”: Meetings with a Warli village blacksmith, the tailor, the cattle-rearer, the hunter-gatherer, the farmer, the fisherman, and an expert who treats poison bites – Maharashtra

Photo © The Better India >>

Gangadharan Menon, The Better India, April 10, 2014 | To view more photos and read the full article, click here >>

Did my car slow down on its own near a house made of karvi sticks? Or did the muscle memory of my legs press on the brake ever so lightly? Whatever be the case, I had halted at the house of Anusuyabai, my host in the adivasi village of Walvanda. […]

But what amazed me was that none of the implements that were being used here were ‘bought’. They were all made by them. And necessity being the mother of invention, you could see innovation at its best. So there were separate baskets made of bamboo in two unique shapes. One for catching fish, and another strange-looking one for catching crabs! Then for trapping raptors, they had a quiver that had the resin of the mahua tree. This resin would be applied on short bamboo sticks and then laid out on a straw mat in a haphazard way around the bait. The unsuspecting bird would land on the sticky sticks to lift off its prey and would get stuck on them, never to fly free again.

Village Walvanda

An example of their innate intelligence was seen when my wife got a bee sting. When Waman, our guide, saw her hand swelling up, in one swift move he pulled out the tiny sting. Then he went into the nearby forest from where he plucked the leaves of two local plants: Burada and Tarota. He squeezed out the juice of the leaves and applied it on the sting. And hey presto, in minutes the inflammation was gone! […]

When we took part in various village activities, in different houses, it dawned on me that despite not having a caste division (they were all Warlis here), there was a clear division of labour. So there was the village blacksmith, the tailor, the cattle-rearer, the hunter-gatherer, the farmer, the fisherman, and even an expert who had the perfect antidote for treating poison bites.  […]

In one of the typical Warli houses, the walls were made of Karvi sticks tied together and the roof was made of tiles. This house was much cooler than the concrete structures nearby which were like ovens. But somehow such simple houses were being looked down upon and were being replaced with modern monstrosities. So much for ‘progress’.

Source: You’ve Seen Warli Paintings Before. Now Get Ready To Visit The Warli Tribe & Listen To Their Music. – The Better India

Address: https://www.thebetterindia.com/9921/walvanda-tribal-art-music-culture-travel-maharashtra/

Date Visited: 29 March 2020

“Tribal men and women mix freely, but with respect for each other [but] caste Hindu society in India is so convinced of its own superiority that it never stops to consider the nature of social organisation among tribal people. In fact it is one of the signs of the ‘educated’ barbarian of today that he cannot appreciate the qualities of people in any way different from himself – in looks or clothes, customs or rituals.” – Guest Column in India Today >>

Image © The Hindu for “The Adivasi in the mirror: The lynching of Madhu in Kerala must shock our conscience into recognising the dispossession of India’s tribals” by Nissim Mannathukkaren >>

Casteism is the investment in keeping the hierarchy as it is in order to maintain your own ranking, advantage, privilege, or to elevate yourself above others or keep others beneath you …. For this reason, many people—including those we might see as good and kind people—could be casteist, meaning invested in keeping the hierarchy as it is or content to do nothing to change it, but not racist in the classical sense, not active and openly hateful of this or that group.” | Learn more about India’s caste system and the effects of “casteism” on tribal communities >>

“The notion of ‘mainstreaming’ needs to be challenged not just because Adivasi culture is being crushed, but also because Adivasi values and ways of life offer insights that the ‘mainstream’ needs. If we are to halt the destruction of ecosystems, we need to understand how closely biodiversity and cultural diversity are intertwined. Perhaps it is time to reverse the gaze and begin to learn afresh from Adivasis.” – Felix Padel & Malvika Gupta in “Are mega residential schools wiping out India’s Adivasi culture?” (The Hindu, 13 February 2021) | More about the role of tribal communities in preserving India’s biodiversity and ethnobotany >>


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