Indigenous Knowledge Systems of the Rabha community: Protecting elephants – Assam

Rabhas are among the nine plan tribe and fourteen hill tribes of Assam. The Rabhas belong to the Indo-Mongoloid group of people and have similarities with other members of Bodo group such as Garos, Kachari, Mech, Koch, Hajong and others.

The Rabha community have a rich, multi-faceted and distinct culture of their own. The agricultural practices, food habit and belief systems of the Rabhas reflect a conglomeration of features from both the Aryan and Mongoloid culture. The Rabha society is matriarchal. The village economy is based on agriculture and both men and women work in the fields. The  women love to wear colorful clothes that they weave themselves and they wear a lot of beads and silver ornaments. The Rabhas celebrate three main festivals and also observe Farkanti in remembrance of the dead kings of their clan. In the various festivals, both men and women sing and dance to the local instruments like the karra, flute and singa. The Rabhas are nonvegetarians and rice is their staple food.They brew a local beer called junga, which is consumed, not only is religious festivals, death, birth and marriage but also on a daily basis. The Rabhas prepare as many as ten different varieties of beer. This is one of the characteristics that distinguish the Rabhas from other tribes of the region.

The traditional economy of the Rabhas in general, is based on agriculture, forest based activities and weaving. In the past, the Rabhas used to practice shifting cultivation. They continued to cultivate the land with Gogo or bill-hook. Later they took up the job of settled cultivation and started cultivation with plough. Besides cultivation, hunting was also an old practice of Rabha people. Weaving was a traditional occupation of the Rabha women.

The Rabhas have a rich tradition of festivals. The festivals or ceremonies can be classified into seasonal and religious. Rabha people traditionally practice a few animistic rituals. However, today they more often follow a faith, which is a blend of some Hindu and a few animistic rituals. There are considerable differences in ritual practices among forest Rabhas who still live in the forest villages and the Rabhas that live in the villages as cultivators. The forest Rabhas follow traditional animistic practices tinged with some rituals of mainstream Hinduism. On the other hand village Rabhas have merged with local Hindus as far as their religious practices are concerned. […]

The research questions of the Proposed Study:

I) The cultural tradition of the community elder/artist I seek to study and document is specifically related to sub them of Indigenous Knowledge Systems. The main set of research questions central to my proposed project includes i)What is the place of Elephant in folk culture of Rabha society?

ii) How the traditional systems of Rabha to protect elephants?

iii) What are the traditional knowledge of Rabha community about management and catching of elephants?

iv) How the ethno medicinal knowledge help Rabha mahuts to keep their elephants healthy?

Source: Elephants in Ethnicity and Folklore of Rabha tribes of Assam | Tata Fellowships in Folklore
Address: http://indianfolklore.org/TataFellowships/?p=736
Date Visited: Sun Sep 11 2016 11:49:42 GMT+0200 (CEST)

[Bold typeface added above for emphasis]

Research the above issues with the help of Shodhganga: A reservoir of theses from universities all over India, made available under Open Access >>

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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