Understanding the lifestyle, rituals and social customs of seven indigenous tribes: “India’s first live tribal museum” – Madhya Pradesh Tribal Museum

Photo © Tribal Museum Bhopal | Official YouTube channel >>

As per the last news reports, India’s first live Tribal Museum has registered a marked increase in tourist footfall this year. And if data is to be analysed, the footfall of domestic and international tourists has considerably increased since it has been inaugurated on a year-on-year basis. | Read the full report on Times Travel >>

[…] the curator of the museum said that the museum’s liveliness was one of the major reasons for attracting visitors. […]

This place is an ode to the tribal art and culture of the region. The folklores, lifestyle, rituals and social customs of all seven indigenous tribes of MP―the Gonds, Bhils, Bharias, Sahariya, Korku, Kol, and Baiga are showcased in the museum through a repository of traditional art.  […]

As you step in to these galleries, the exhibits are displayed in such a manner that you feel you are entering right into the heart of their homes and lives.

How to reach MP’s Tribal Museum?
The nearest bus stop is Depot Chouraha near Shastri Nagar. The Tribal Museum is around 800 m from the bus depot.

Source: All that you need to know about India’s first ever Tribal Museum, Times Travel, 9 August 2018
URL: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/travel/things-to-do/all-that-you-need-to-know-about-indias-first-ever-tribal-museum/as65339347.cms
Date visited: 10 October 2018

This extremely well-done museum is dedicated to the tribal people who make up over 10 million of the population of the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. Opened in 2013, this is not a storehouse of dead objects. Created with the labours of a thousand tribal artistes arriving in batches, from every part of the state, recasting myth and life in amazing visuals, out of traditional materials like wood, iron, jute, mud, clay, straw, hemp and leaves, as well as canvas, acrylic and glass.

Source: 10 Museums Of Bhopal
URL: http://www.bhopale.com/place/10-museums-of-bhopal
Date visited: 10 October 2018

The Tribal museum in Bhopal is very thoughtfully planned and the entire campus is theme based right from its entrance. Every art work has some meaning  to it which is beautifully depicted but difficult to deipher without basic knowledge of the tribes. Best way to understand is ask for a copy of their colorfull brochure which describes meaning of all the major artifact in Hindi. […]

The well planned campus is divided into 6 galleries depicting Cultural Diversity, Tribal Life, Tribal Art, Tribal Mythology, Tribals of Chattisgarh and Tribal Games. It also has Art Exibition Gallery and Open Air Theatre. All the artfacts in Galleries are majorly taken from 7 major and most important tribes of state namely Gond, Bheel, Korku, Kol, Bharia, Baiga and Saharia.

Address Madhya Pradesh Tribal Museum Shyamala Hills, Bhopal 462002, Madhya Pradesh, INDIA Phone: +91 755 2661948, 2661640

Email: [email protected]

Website: https://mptribalmuseum.com 

Source: Tribal Museum Bhopal by Rajnish Khare
URL: https://bhopal.info/explore/museums/tribal-museum/
Date visited: 25 December 2018

The Madhya Pradesh government aims to take the tribal painting market beyond Rs 100 crore per year. The current market for MP’s tribal paintings is of Rs 10 crore. So far, only paintings by the Gond tribe are famous in the country and abroad. However, from now on, paintings and artwork by the Bhil, Baiga and Saheria tribes would also get government support.

MP Handicrafts and Handloom commissioner Rajeev Sharma said, “Besides being sold within the country, Gond paintings of MP are sold in Japan, China, Germany and England. There is a wide scope to market tribal paintings. While Bhils are good painters, people from Baiga tribe get their entire body painted. Saharia and Kol tribes are proficient in wall painting. The government would guide them to paint, keeping in mind the commercial value and will provide all requisite support — from canvas to market exposure. We aim to grow the tribal painting market to Rs 100 crore.” […]

Handicrafts and Handloom Corporation employees visited all 20 tribal districts in the state, including Mandala, Dindori, Balaghat, Shahdol, Jhabua, Alirajpur, Barwani, Dhar, Khargone, Khandwa, Burhanpur, Ratlam, Hoshangabad, Betul, Sidhi, Seoni, Chhindwara and Sheopur and discovered that there are at least 40 different types of art work and products that tribals make, but are not marketed. The idea to sell their paintings also came during the same exercise. […]

At least 13,000 handicraft units are working in the state. The Handloom Development Corporation is collaborating with Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Chhattisgarh to sell its products in other states. Besides, it is in the process of setting up handicraft villages in national parks of the state, including Kanha, Bandhavgarh and Pench, to target foreign tourists in particular. […]

The total population of MP is 7.26 crore [72,6 million]. Of this, the Scheduled Tribe comprises 1.53 crore people [15,3 million], which is 21 per cent of the total state population. It is the highest tribal population in the country. Officials said the government plans to provide exposure to their talent.

Source: “Madhya Pradesh government to promote artwork of all tribes, eyes Rs 100 crore revenue” by Ankur Sirothia, Times of India, 16 October 2019
URL: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bhopal/madhya-pradesh-government-to-promote-artwork-of-all-tribes-eyes-rs-100-crore-revenue/articleshow/71611674.cms
Date Visited: 31 January 2022

[Bold typeface added above for emphasis]

Photo © Indian Express
More about the Bhil and Bhilala communities >>
Pithora arts and crafts | Textile >>

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[*] Some clarifications on caste-related issues by reputed scholars

Understanding “caste” in the context of Indian democracy: The “Poona Pact of 1932”
“Mahatma Gandhi and BR Ambedkar differed over how to address caste inequities through the electoral system. Their exchanges led to the Poona Pact of 1932, which shaped the reservation system in India’s electoral politics. […]
Two prominent figures who have significantly contributed to this discourse are Mahatma Gandhi, Father of the Nation, and Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, Father of the Constitution. The two stalwarts of Indian politics, while revered equally by the public, had contrasting views on the caste system. Their subsequent debates have shaped the course of Indian society and politics. While Gandhi denounced untouchability, he did not condemn the varna system, a social hierarchy based on occupation, for most of his life. He believed in reforming the caste system through the abolition of untouchability and by giving equal status to each occupation. On the other hand, BR Ambedkar, a Dalit himself, argued that the caste system disorganised and ‘demoralised Hindu society, reducing it to a collection of castes’. […] 
And yet, despite their differences, they developed an understanding to work for the betterment of the marginalised.” – Rishabh Sharma in “How Ambedkar and Gandhi’s contrasting views paved way for caste reservation” (India Today, 6 October 2023)
URL: https://www.indiatoday.in/history-of-it/story/ambedkar-gandhi-caste-system-poona-pact-1932-reservation-2445208-2023-10-06

~ ~ ~

“That upper caste groups should declare themselves to be OBCs [Other Backward Castes] and want to avail of the reservation policy is a pandering to caste politics of course, as also are caste vote-banks. It is partially a reflection of the insecurity that the neo-liberal market economy has created among the middle-class. Opportunities are limited, jobs are scarce and so far ‘development’ remains a slogan. There’s a lot that is being done to keep caste going in spite of saying that we are trying to erode caste. We are, of course, dodging the real issue. It’s true that there has been a great deal of exploitation of Dalit groups and OBC’s in past history; making amends or even just claiming that we are a democracy based on social justice demands far more than just reservations. The solution lies in changing the quality of life of half the Indian population by giving them their right to food, water, education, health care, employment, and social justice. This, no government so far has been willing to do, because it means a radical change in governance and its priorities.” – Romila Thapar  (Emeritus Professor of History, Jawaharlal Nehru University) interviewed by Nikhil Pandhi (Caravan Magazine, 7 October 2015)
URL: https://caravanmagazine.in/vantage/discipline-notion-particular-government-interview-romila-thapar 

~ ~ ~

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.” – Book review by Dilip Mandal for Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents (The Print, 23 August 2020)
URL: https://theprint.in/opinion/oprah-winfrey-wilkerson-caste-100-us-ceos-indians-wont-talk-about-it/487143/

~ ~ ~

“The theoretical debate on caste among social scientists has receded into the background in recent years. [However] caste is in no sense disappearing: indeed, the present wave of neo-liberal policies in India, with privatisation of enterprises and education, has strengthened the importance of caste ties, as selection to posts and educational institutions is less based on merit through examinations, and increasingly on social contact as also on corruption. There is a tendency to assume that caste is as old as Indian civilization itself, but this assumption does not fit our historical knowledge. To be precise, however, we must distinguish between social stratification in general and caste as a specific form. […]
From the early modern period till today, then, caste has been an intrinsic feature of Indian society. It has been common to refer to this as the ‘caste system’. But it is debatable whether the term ‘system’ is appropriate here, unless we simply take for granted that any society is a ‘social system’. First, and this is quite clear when we look at the history of distinct castes, the ‘system’ and the place various groups occupy within it have been constantly changing. Second, no hierarchical order of castes has ever been universally accepted […] but what is certain is that there is no consensus on a single hierarchical order.” – Harald Tambs-Lyche (Professor Emeritus, Université de Picardie, Amiens) in “Caste: History and the Present” (Academia Letters, Article 1311, 2021), pp. 1-2
URL: https://www.academia.edu/49963457

~ ~ ~

“There is a need for intercultural education. We all need to work together to bridge these divides not only between religions and castes but also regions. It is not correct to think that one part is better than the other. Some of the limitations of India as a whole are due to our common heritage, say the one that has restricted women from having a flourishing life for themselves.” – Prof. V. Santhakumar (Azim Premji University) in “On the so called North-South Divide in India” (personal blog post in Economics in Action, 13 April 2024)
URL: https://vsanthakumar.wordpress.com/2024/04/13/on-the-so-called-north-south-divide-in-india/

See also



Central region – Central Zonal Council

eBooks, eJournals & reports | eLearning

Cultural heritage | Customs

Languages and linguistic heritage

List of scheduled tribes by the Commissioner of Tribal Development – Madhya Pradesh

Madhya Pradesh

Museum collections – India

Revival of traditions

Seasons and festivals

Uttar Pradesh

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