Resources for the classroom: Learning from and about India’s tribal communities, their culture and knowledge systems

Even though they are responsible for protecting the largest part of the global forest heritage […] a third of indigenous and community lands in 64 countries are under threat due to the lack of land tenure rights.

Pressenza Rio de Janerio in “Indigenous people are heading to CoP26: ‘There is no solution to the climate crisis, without us‘” (Down To Earth) | Forest dwellers in early India – myths and ecology in historical perspective by Romila Thapar >>
Up-to-date articles on indigenous issues by
Mongabay-India contributors >>
Mongabay-India is a nonprofit environment and conservation news platform that brings high-quality, original reports from nature’s frontline in India. We look at India’s development through the prism of environment and conservation >>

“From transforming barren lands into forests, to practicing planet-friendly organic farming in the backyards, the permaculture movement is led by youngsters who believe in reconnecting with the ancient roots and re-establishing a connect with nature.” – Babli Yadav (Mongabay-India) in India’s permaculture movement is being taken forward by young people >>

More about Biodiversity | Economy and development | Health and nutrition | Success stories | Women >>

We realise that the only way a culture gets conserved is when it is promoted. […] We have decided that as and when such information is gathered we would immediately introduce them into the curriculum at the various levels.Viswa Bharati Vidyodaya Trust © all images seen above
Posts | Adivasi Munnetra | Kaathadi >>
Kaathadi: Vidyodaya Maths and Science Resource Centre YouTube channel
(lessons for Tamil and English medium education)
To support educational projects please contact vbvtgudalur@gmail.com

Whether “tribal” is preferred over Adivasi (Adibasi) depends on local conventions, official usage and historical context; see also Classifications in different states and Who are Scheduled Tribes? >>

“Many ST seats [reserved for students from Scheduled Tribes] are not filled in professional colleges because the candidates are not found suitable.” – Santali poet, scholar and translator Ivy Imogene Hansdak in Presidential elections: An Adivasi in high office (Indian Express) >>

“We have to write our own stories, about our issues, from our own perspectives” Abhay Xaxa >>

“In India, the term ‘tribe’ has referred, since the 16th century, to groups living under ‘primitive’ and ‘barbarous’ conditions. The colonial administration used the term to distinguish peoples who were heterogeneous in physical and linguistic traits and lived under quite different demographic and ecological conditions, with varying levels of acculturation and development. In the various countries of South Asia, tribal peoples were often called by derogatory terms such as jungli (‘savage’) during the colonial period.” – Marine Carrin, General Introduction to Brill’s Encyclopedia of the Religions of the Indigenous People of South Asia >>

“[I]t is some of the basic values and ideology imbibed in the traditional tribal socio-cultural milieus that should have been emulated and promoted amongst the non-tribal mainstream, not, as has been going on, the other way round.”

Source: ’Who Is Civilised?’: In Praise of Tribal Traditions, Society, and Culture in India by Arup Maharatna (Professor, Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics, Pune), Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 40 (September 25, 2010)
URL: http://www.mainstreamweekly.net/article2337.html
Date visited: 18 January 2021

“The practice of religious rituals, ceremonies and sanctions by specific cultural groups allow such sacred landscapes to be maintained, emphasizing that humans are intrinsically part of the ecosystem. Taboos, codes and customs specific to activities and community members restrict access to most sacred groves. […] The inclusion of local people’s needs and interests in conservation planning is increasingly accepted as essential, both to promote the well-being of human populations, and to ensure that biodiversity and conservation needs are met in the long-term.” – Nazir A. Pala, Ajeet K. Neg and N.P. Todaria in “The Religious, Social and Cultural Significance of Forest Landscapes in Uttarakhand Himalaya, India” (International Journal of Conservation Science, Vol. 5, Issue 2, April-June 2014) | Sacred groves >>

“Tribal communities are a standing example of how women play a major role in preservation of eco historic cultural heritage in India.” – Mari Marcel Thekaekara (writer and Co-Founder of ACCORD-Nilgiris) | Learn more >>

Learn more about Jamini Roy | Santal music >>
View this slideshow and more: National Gallery >>
Related: Crafts and visual arts | Santiniketan | Tagore | Tribal identity >>

Multimedia and online tools

“We shall first have to give up this hubris of considering tribes backward. Every tribe has a rich and living cultural tradition and we must respect them.”

Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu on India’s Constitutional obligation to respect their cultural traditions
Gandhiji at Prayer Time, Parnakuti, Poona (1944) by Chittaprosad, the great advocate of the rights of workers and revolutionary artists. | Learn more in “Gandhi, Secularism, and Cultural Democracy” by Vinay Lal >>
Gandhian social movement | Constitution >>

“Air is free to all but if it is polluted it harms our health… Next comes water… From now on we must take up the effort to secure water. Councillors are servants of the people and we have a right to question them.” – Mohandas K. Gandhi, Ahmedabad address on 1 January 1918; quoted by his grandson, Gopalkrishna Gandhi, in “On another New Year’s Day: Mahatma Gandhi’s ‘khorak’ a 100 years ago” (The Hindu, 1 January 2018)

Topics

If contemporary India is finding it so difficult and even offensive to swallow the idea of secularism, supposing it to be a foreign import from the West that colonized the country and still colonizes our imagination, might it find some succour in the idea of ‘cultural democracy’? It is perhaps time that we started thinking about how the language of “cultural democracy” [envisaged by Gandhi] could be harnessed to furnish all Indians, and especially aggrieved Hindus, with the assurance there is another way of forging a nation without shedding the past.”

Source: Vinay Lal (Professor of History & Asian American Studies, University of California, Los Angeles UCLA) in “Gandhi, Secularism, and Cultural Democracy” (2 October 2020)
URL: https://vinaylal.wordpress.com/2020/10/02/gandhi-secularism-and-cultural-democracy/
Date visited: 4 October 2020

The Santals are one of the largest homogenous indigenous peoples group in India […] They have no temples, nor images to worship and no fixed place to worship in; no holy mountains and no sacred rivers for pilgrimages and yet they hold an unassailable religious faith which can be traced through the tradition of the creation narrative, through their festivals, their cleansing ceremonies performed during their birth, wedding, and death, and through their belief in the continuation of life after death | Santal customs >>

Video | Safe contents for educational use on many topics (music, visual arts and more)

Learn from M S Swaminathan – a world renowned scientist – how biological diversity contributes to public health, people’s livelihood and environmental security in addition to food security: his call on fellow citizens to use and share resources in a more sustainable and equitable manner; outlining the long journey from the 1992 Earth Summit to a commitment to foster inherited knowledge through India’s Biodiversity Act and Genome Saviour Award; an award intended to reward those who are “primary conservers” – guardians of biological diversity!

More about the work of his foundation which “aims to accelerate use of modern science and technology for agricultural and rural development to improve lives and livelihoods of communities.” – www.mssrf.org | Regarding the issues of food security raised above, and the nutritional value of indigenous grains, seeds and millets, read an in-depth report that concludes that “the tribal food basket has always been ­diverse and nutritious” >>

The United Nations General Assembly designates a number of “International Days” to mark important aspects of human life and history.
List of all days celebrated by the United Nations and its Specialized Agencies: International Days >>
adivasi_folio2000_index_screen
ADIVASI Download the complete Folio issue as a single file (PDF, 969 KB) >>

Note: for official figures include “scheduled tribe ST” along with a union state or region, e.g. “Chhattisgarh ST community”, “Scheduled tribe Tamil Nadu census”, “ST Kerala census”, “Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group Jharkhand”, “PVTG Rajasthan”, “Adivasi ST Kerala”, “Adibasi ST West Bengal” etc.

List of Indian periodicals and sites covered by the present Custom search engine

Suggest another Indian periodical for inclusion here >>

Disclaimer: All links and quotes found on this website are for information purposes only. We cannot assume liability for the accuracy or completeness of the information provided on the linked websites and distance ourselves from any illegal or offensive contents.

He who has not surrendered his free will and abdicated his intelligence and independent thinking, who does not blindly act on the teachings of others, who does not blindly accept anything without critically analysing and examining its veracity and usefulness, who is always prepared to protect his rights, who is not afraid of ridicule and unjust public criticism, who has a sound conscience and self-respect so as not become a tool in the hands of others, I call him a free man.

Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (who was more than the “drafter of the Constitution”), quoted by Goldy M George in Journal of People’s Studies (Volume 1, Issue 4 June 2016, Page v)

Note: in a modern educational context, we may think of any “free person” – including “free girls and boys” – as being meant by Ambedkar.

See also

West Ghats near Kanyakumari in the Tamil Nadu – Kerala border region
Photo courtesy Davidson Sargunam >>
bhimayana-front-cover-thu.jpg
Bhimayana | Navayana >>
Art by Gond artists Durgabai Vyam and Subhas Vyam

Tip: Bhimayana: Experiences of Untouchability: Critically acclaimed as “a magnificent work of breathtaking art that symbolises the soul-stirring biography of an exceptional leader” and “a must-read for every child and adult in the nation and a must-include in every school’s curriculum”. (Sowmya Sivakumar in The Hindu Literary Review) | Find a library copy on WorldCat.org | Learn more >>

“The hermitage [asrama] is set so deep in the forest that it is almost another world, enveloped in a translucent green of sun and trees. […] The asrama is at one level an intrusion into the forest by the people of the grama [village], an intrusion sought to be stemmed by those living in the forest. […] Was the threat to forest dwellers a way of preventing the illegal clearing of forests and of curbing shifting cultivation?” – Romila Thapar (Emeritus Professor of History, Jawaharlal Nehru University) in “Perceiving the Forest: Early India Studies” >>

“Every society had narratives about its past and some regarded them as history as time went on […] So your fantasy runs wild, you can concoct a utopia exactly as you want.” – Romila Thapar, during an interactive workshop on 22 August 2013 responding to a participant’s question: “Is there also the risk of creating fake history through the invention of tradition?” >>

Uravu | Tribal education and customs in Wayanad >>
Wayanad song by Kanavu music group >>

Book cover: Disaibon Hul © Adivaani.org >>
Hul (Santal rebellion 1855-1856) | Santal Parganas | Tribal freedom fighters >>
Kocharethi the Arya Woman
by Narayan >>

The slow erosion of cultural identity, the absence of agency for some sections of society, the increasing erasure of various communities from the supposed democratic space of citizenship, the questionable route ‘modernity’ and ‘development’ take, and the effects they have on men and, differently, on women are all woven into Narayan’s novel. Kocharethi calls upon us to ethically engage with it, to question our complicity in the systemic conditions that produce these lives, to reflect on our own reactions to the tale, to our expectations of the form and genre and to unlearn our frames of understanding. | Learn more >>

“The tribal world and the tribal way is complete in itself.” – Mahasweta Devi

Quoted by Gopalkrishna Gandhi in “Swearing by Mahasweta” (The Hindu, 6 August 2016)

More resources

Godna” typeface © Typecraft Initiative
More about tattoo, fashion and design >>

“It is no coincidence that where healthy Fourth World [Indigenous] nations live and prosper based on their freely chosen political, cultural, economic and social way of life the living Earth also thrives. Thus, it is no surprise that Fourth World nations occupy 80% of the world’s remaining biodiverse rainforests, plains, tundra, mountain regions, estuaries, rivers and streams, and deserts.” – Rudolph C. Rÿser (Founder, Center for World Indigenous Studies) in Biodiversity Wars: Coexistence or Biocultural Collapse in the 21st Century (2020), Chapter 1 “Original Peoples”

Decolonization of the “recolonized” and the “still colonized” must now give way to the exercise of “peoples’” rights to determine their own social, economic, political, and cultural future in accord with the international principle. | Chapter-1, Biodiversity-Wars
https://www.cwis.org/books/biodiversity-wars/
“A teacher can never truly teach unless he is still learning himself. A lamp can never light another lamp unless it continues to burn its own flame.” – Rabindranath Tagore, poet, social reformer and composer of India’s national anthem who founded Santiniketan amidst Santal communities >>

Related posts

For additional learning resources visit the website of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), “a public interest research and advocacy organisation based in New Delhi”:

Communication for Awareness
CSE’s publications and informational products have been its strength and they have always combined research and readability to get the message across.

CSE’s tools for awareness raising are periodicals, publications, films/short spots, briefing papers, exhibitions, posters and other products. CSE’s informational products reach people in more diverse ways such as features service, website and e-news bulletins. […]

Source: About CSE
URL: https://www.cseindia.org
Date Visited: 10 July 2022

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