Tribal Memory, Folklore and Hindu Epic Narratives: Papers presented for “Tribes In Transition-II: Reaffirming Indigenous Identity Through Narrative” (National Conference) – New Delhi

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PLENARY SESSION Chaired by: Prof. M. Asaduddin, Dean, Faculty of Humanities & Languages, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi

Paper Presenters: Dr. Athikho Kaisii (JMI, Delhi), Dr. Pravin Kumar (IGNTU, Amarkantak), Dr Ananya Barua (Hindu College, Delhi). Dr. Saroj Kumar Mahananda (JMI, Delhi) and Norkey Wangmu Yolmo (Sikkim University, Gangtok).

The session began with Prof. M. Asaduddin welcoming everyone in the conference Hall. He is the award-winning translator of Saadat Hasan Manto and Ismat Chugtai, and also the Dean of the School of Humanities and Languages, JMI. He is the recipient of Katha Translation Award 1991 & 1992, the Dr. AK Ramanujan Award 1993, the Sahitya Akademi Award 2004 and the Crossword Book Award 2013. He reminded the participants to look at things in continuity from the Inaugural session so as to provide a comprehensive and in-depth perspective. He further briefly summarised Prof. Virginius Xaxa’s speech and added how there has been a constant tussle between the people from the hills and the plains, and that the narrative of victimhood needs to be looked at from various critical perspective. He then reiterated how such a Conference becomes an excellent forum to discuss things in different perspectives and provide a balanced view. Lastly, he formally invited the first speaker Athiko Kaisii to begin with the session.

Athikho Kaisii, began his paper “Oral Literature and Memory: A Study of Tribal Folklore”, by posing pertinent questions on the idea of Literature, Orature and Text. He focused on the issue of narrative and debates, asking whether orature is contrary to literature, and whether literature pre-existed text. He highlighted how oral literature does not depend upon authorship but on interpretation and oral translation. Kaisii further stressed on the role of memory in tribal literature due to the non-availability of printed text. This memory is preserved in the form of songs, dances, riddles, adages, yells and cries etc. shared and transferred by a number of people providing a kaleidoscopic view of shared knowledge. Kaisii further delved into the history and various definitions of the term Folklore. He particularly discussed two tribes of Manipur – the Maos and the Poumais; further giving insights into their rites and rituals. He concluded his paper by discussing how these folksongs and dances became the medium of cultural transmission.

Pravin Kumar started his presentation on “Depiction of Life Values in Tribal Literature” by highlighting how Adivasi Sahitya is oral and that for them the terms chalna and bolna in Hindi is equivalent to ‘dance’ and ‘song’ respectively. He further defined the term Adivasi as Manusya or human beings and stressed how one should be looked at as human beings first and then other identities can be attached later. Kumar recited various poems and established how Adivasi Sahitya talks primarily of humanity. Social identity is enforced upon us automatically, he said. He further discussed the idea of JalJungle and Jameen, and emphasised how when these three are destroyed in the name of globalisation, the core construction of Adivasi culture and language is also destroyed. He ended his presentation by focussing on the need to include tribal literature and language in the school curriculum, especially in higher education.

Ananya Barua spoke about the various forms of the Hindu epic, Ramayana, in her paper “The Karbi Ramayana in Assam and its Modern Re-telling in Documentary Film”. According to her, the Ramayana exists in various cultures and in different languages in Assam, Manipur, Mizoram and other various parts of the North-East. Rama and Lakshman exist as Rawa and Khena in Mizo folk songs, thus reminding us of the deep impact of the Ramayana in North-East culture. She further gave a detailed account of the tribal group Karbis and how they migrated to Assam. She mentioned how the Karbi film, Sabin Alun, is a living oral tradition of the animalistic tribal society of the Karbis of Assam and examined their oral singing traditions in its multi-layers. She ended the presentation by concluding that Karbi women have taken up the Sita myth and appropriated it as their own to give women a voice.

Saroj Kumar Mahananda began the presentation on “The Familiar Case of the Nishad [Nishada, Sanskrit Niṣāda, “tribal, hunter, mountaineer, degraded person outcast”] in the Mahabharata: An Alternate Reading” by reminding everyone that to make sense of the present, one must revisit the past. And this could be done by revisiting the narratives through different times – mythology, colonial and post-colonial. He questioned the term identity and asked how is it made, for whom and for what purpose? He stated that there is a need of an alternate reading of the past. 

Abhishek Pundir, his co-presenter, then continued to throw light on the case of the Nishads who figure in the Hindu epic, Mahabharata. He started with the dictionary definitions of the term “tribe” and how the Nishads were variously known as Savar/ Shabar/Sahara or Bhil [see also Sabar / Saharia]. He recounted various incidents and scenes from the epics and the issue of Brahmanical appropriation and sanskritization of various Nishad icons. He provided enlightening insights into the politics of representation and its ramifications in modern India by quoting the Census Reports in different years. He ended the presentation by asking pertinent questions such as: “Was Eklavya [Ekalavya] liable for guru-dakshina even though he was rejected as a student?

Norkey Wangmu Yolmo began her presentation on “Yolmo Funeral at Homeland and Abroad” by asking the question: Who are the Yolmos? She stated that Yolmo is a place in the North-Eastern part of Nepal and presents the history of the Yolmo community briefly. She described the distinct Yolmo cultural practices and traditions, distinguishing them from other Tibeto-Buddhist communities. Particular focus was given to the funeral procession of the Yolmos which follows the rules and rituals of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. She further discussed the importance of the chant “Mani Chhepa”, a mantra-dance ritual chanted in the funeral, which ironically also served as entertainment. Due to lack of education and opportunities, the Yolmo tribe has slowly started migrating to India. As a result of this, there have been ruptures in the sacred cultural traditions. New altered customs were brought in, replacing or adjusting the old ones. She ended by saying that every individual must move forward by moving a little backward, to preserve the rich traditions of the past, which would otherwise be lost forever with the passing of the older generation.

After the reading of the papers, the house was opened for questions and comments. A number of perspectives emerged in the general discussion. A participant questioned Athikho Kaisii whether scientific knowledge can be imparted with the help of folklore. He raised the question of the local versus universal knowledge. Another participant asked Ananya Barua whether the need of the hour is to look at these myths from counter-discursive points of view. One participant disagreed with Pravin Kumar and said Adivasis should focus on their native rights rather than human rights, as argued by Pravin Kumar in his presentation. Another participant asked Athikho Kaisii whether the tribal songs and dances are available in a documented format and Athikho replied in the affirmative.

In the concluding remarks, the Chair, Prof. M. Asaduddin summarised the session and gave his brief but expert insight into each paper presented. He agreed how the possibilities of alternate readings to these myths revitalises the discipline and opens the discussions even further. Lastly, he thanked all presenters and participants and invited them for lunch outside.
(Student Rapporteur: Ms. Sarika Chhetry)

Objectives of the conference:
While grappling with the issues of tribal and indigenous identity, culture, history and narrative, the Conference will address relevant questions such as: What is the outcome of the interface between oral tradition and modernity? What is ‘tribal imagination’? What is the tribal sense of history? How can tribal oral traditions be preserved in the digital age? How does contemporary tribal literature compare/ contrast with the traditional genres? Why do tribal and indigenous narratives suffer from low visibility within mainstream academia? What is the significance of tribal and indigenous characters in mainstream narratives? How does the perspective of the ‘outsider’ differ from that of the ‘insider’? Finally, the Conference will try to connect with grassroots workers and activists working on problems of healthcare, education, employment and human trafficking among the tribal and indigenous communities of India.

[Bold typeface added above for emphasis]

Courtesy Dr. Ivy Hansdak, Assistant Professor, Department of English, Jamia Millia Islamia University New Delhi (email 4 October 2017)

Source: Report for the ICSSR-sponsored Two-Day National Conference Tribes In Transition-II: Reaffirming Indigenous Identity Through Narrative organised by The Department of English & Outreach Programme Jamia Millia Islamia (New Delhi, 27-28 February 2017)

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“Remote tribal memory of Indus civilization”: Bridging the gap in space and time with the Dravidian hypothesis – Tamil Nadu

REMNANTS OF DRAVIDIAN NAME HERITAGE IN INDUS VALLEY AND BEYOND

Balakrishnan, R.

The “Dravidian hypothesis” is considered the most plausible of all the prevailing theories on the language of Indus Valley Civilization (IVC). Again, in the context of tracing the origins of Dravidians there are suggestions that connect the Dravidian speakers of Southern India to the geographical regions west and North West of India. However, the ‘vast gap in space and time’ has been the inhibiting factor in suggesting any direct linkage. Scholars in the past have used the place names as ‘one more potential sources of clues’ to identifying the language of the IVC.

Against this backdrop, this paper furnishes an extensive Onomastics evidence to suggest a ‘Dravidian connection’ to the areas where the IVC once flourished and the regions much beyond that, covering the modern Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan. The paper lists numerous instances of identical place names found in the above countries and in Southern States of India. With a view to bridge the ‘gap in space and time’ the paper further makes a comparative study of toponymic , anthroponymic designations attested in the Cankam texts and the toponymic corpuses of the above countries. The study reveals that the toponymic corpuses of the countries under reference contain place names that show remarkable oneness with the place names, geographical feature names, tribe names, clan names and names of kings and chieftains attested in Cankam texts. The study also identifies some of the unique and crucial names attested in Cankam texts but not in vogue in Tamilnadu and locates those names in the place name corpus of the above countries under reference.

The paper seeks to suggest that the Onomastic corpus of Cankam texts contain inputs that reflect some remote ‘tribal memory’ of Indus or even pre-Indus vintage and that the place name corpuses of the above countries have still preserved some of the Dravidian remnants as a ‘fossilized representation of an immemorial past.’

For this study, this researcher has used GIS (Geographical Information System) tools to analyze a data base of 1.26 million place names of India and the other countries under reference. The paper offers supportive evidence in the form of Tables of place names with geo-coordinates and Maps.

Source:  http://www.thehindu.com/multimedia/archive/00151/WCTC_Souvenir_-_Par_151107a.pdf | Read or download this article in the backup file (PDF, 1,2 MB)
Date Visited: 16 April 2012

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Posted in Anthropology, History, Languages and linguistic heritage, Literature and bibliographies, Quotes, Southern region – Southern Zonal Council | Comments Off on “Remote tribal memory of Indus civilization”: Bridging the gap in space and time with the Dravidian hypothesis – Tamil Nadu

Oral Literature and Memory: A Study of Tribal Folklore: Papers presented for “Tribes In Transition-II: Reaffirming Indigenous Identity Through Narrative” (National Conference) – New Delhi

Abstract 5: Oral Literature and Memory: A Study of Tribal Folklore

Paper presented for “Tribes In Transition-II: Reaffirming Indigenous Identity Through Narrative” (National Conference) – New Delhi

ATHIKO KAISII

Centre for Culture, Media & Governance, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi

KEYWORDS: FOLKLORE, INTERPRETATION, MEMORY, TRADITION, IDENTITY

Oral literature does not stress authorship but the focus is on interpretation. It is collectively owned by the community and every member has the right and authority to interpret and translate as per one’s ability and genius to the best to make it accurate and appropriate. Since the literature is not preserved/stored in the form of text and print, interpreting and translating from memory that has been handed down from generation to another is the only way to obtain accuracy. The interpretation is essentially based on memory as there is no written text to depend. Memory plays a significant role in unfolding and revealing the tribal literature. Looking back the memory is the source to resolve the differences while interpreting. 

Folklore in the form of adages, sayings, riddles, dances, songs, festivals and feasts, agricultural practices, handicrafts, woodcrafts, carpentry works, yells, steps and cries, knowledge and skill of constructing house, terrace field, bridge, caring and nursing of sickness and diseases, believes, worldviews and cosmos or anything that one can name of constitute oral literature, which is passing and communicating through oral mode. So, folklore is anything that includes traditional art, literature, knowledge and practice, which are disseminated through oral and behavioural mode of everyday life. Every community and group possessed a shared tradition and culture, which is central to its identity that differentiates from those does not belonged to it, is the folklore of the community. The folklorist work’s merely reflects everyday life of the tribal community. The paper while intending to focus the understanding of literature from the broader perspective, will tries to investigate how memory unveiled and unfolded the body of tribal literature through folklore. 

BIONOTE: Dr. Athikho Kaisii is currently employed as Assistant Professor at the Centre for Culture, Media & Governance, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. He may be contacted at the email ID: akasmao@gmail.com

Source: Book of Abstracts for the ICSSR-sponsored Two-Day National Conference Tribes In Transition-II: Reaffirming Indigenous Identity Through Narrative organised by The Department of English & Outreach Programme Jamia Millia Islamia (New Delhi, 27-28 February 2017)

Courtesy: Convener Dr. Ivy Imogene Hansdak

Emerging globalized world is partly responsible for undervaluing the philosophy and traditions of the traditional community. This process led them to undergo cultural crisis and philosophical stigma. The outcome is the polarisation of human society and civilization into culture and uncultured, democratic and undemocratic, civilized and uncivilized, and so forth. It functions within the calculate strategy of the dominant ideologies so as to perpetuate hegemonic domination. The edited volume Tribal Philosophy and Culture: Mao Naga of North-East seeks to emphasize on relook the vitality of cultural practices and traditions to face the onslaught of this phenomenon. The study of oppositional yet phenomenal relationship of philosophy and culture will not only define the identity of a community but also may suggest alternative means when the world community at large is undergoing huge “value crisis.” While keeping this interacted liaison in mind, the edited volume, with articles from scholars across disciplines attempted to address certain topical issues from the insider perspective. The articles ranges from dwelling philosophical world of myths and narratives, social and political issues, media and education, women’s issues and their role in peace building, stretching to ecology and environmental issues. Overall, the book reflects the dynamic aspects of understanding and interpreting the cultural practices of the Mao community.

Athikho Kaisii (b. 1975) hailed from Charanghomei (Shajouba) has completed his doctorial degree in 2005 in the Centre for Study of Social systems, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. To his credit, he has published few articles in journals and in an edited volume. In the fast meditated age, issues concerning with justice, governance and youth are some of the areas of his interest. Presently, he is teaching as an Assistant Professor in the Centre for Culture, Media and Governance, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.

Source: Publisher’s discription: “Tribal Philosophy and Culture: Mao Naga of North-East”, Mittal Publications
URL: https://mittalbooks.com/products/tribal-philosophy-and-culture
Date Visited: 23 June 2022

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Posted in Community facilities, Crafts and visual arts, Customs, Democracy, Education and literacy, Games and leisure time, Globalization, Homes and utensils, Literature - fiction, Literature and bibliographies, Misconceptions, Organizations, Performing arts, Quotes, Resources, Revival of traditions, Seasons and festivals, Seven Sister States & Sikkim – North Eastern Council, Storytelling, Tribal identity, Worship and rituals | Tagged | Comments Off on Oral Literature and Memory: A Study of Tribal Folklore: Papers presented for “Tribes In Transition-II: Reaffirming Indigenous Identity Through Narrative” (National Conference) – New Delhi

Towards better and healthier education for all tribal children: Pioneering ‘bag- free schools’ in Wayanad – Kerala

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

Kozhikode: A school in Wayanad, where majority of students hail from tribal and other economically weaker sections, has set a model by doing away with school bags. While lugging heavy school bags has been a daily burden to students elsewhere, the pupils of Serve India Adivasi Lower Primary School (SALPS), Thariode go to school with just a notebook in hand. […]

The school authorities decided to bid adieu to bags after finding that they were causing hardships and even health issues to students.

SALPS was declared a ‘bag- free school’ last week by adopting a very simple and ingenious method. The school authorities provided an extra set of textbooks to all the students, which they keep at home.

Also, the teachers and the PTA raised money to buy shelves in all classrooms, for students to keep their textbooks and notebooks along with their pencil boxes, lunch plates etc. The school authorities also provided free pencil boxes to all students to be kept inside their classrooms.  […]  

Source: “Here is how a Wayanad school dumped school bags”, Times of India 3 February 2019
URL: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/67823049.cms
Date accessed: 5 January 2019

“Cover Your Country” by PARI: Rural people speak about their lives through photos, narratives, film, and audio materials >>

Video | “I saw women working 90 per cent of the time. They did backbreaking jobs for which you need an erect spine,” says P. Sainath in Visible Work, Invisible Women: Bricks, coal and stone | RuralIndiaOnline.org >>

Find up-to-date information provided by, for and about Indian authors, researchers, officials, and educators
Search tips: in the search field seen here, type the name of any tribal (Adivasi) community, region, state or language; add (copy-paste) keywords of special interest (childhood tribal education language sacred grove women); specify any issue you want to learn more about (biodiversity ecology ethnobotany health nutrition poverty), including rights to which Scheduled Tribes are entitled (Forest Rights Act Protection from illegal mining UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) | More search options >>

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Posted in Childhood and children, Education and literacy, Organizations, Press snippets, Southern region – Southern Zonal Council, Success story, Wayanad | Comments Off on Towards better and healthier education for all tribal children: Pioneering ‘bag- free schools’ in Wayanad – Kerala

eJournal | “Where the mind is without fear”: Tagore, Gitanjali and the Nobel Prize

Source: “Tagore, Gitanjali and the Nobel Prize” by Nilanjan Banerjee in
India Perspectives (24 No. 2/2010) | More about Tagore and rural education >>
Freedom: Accountability, Democracy, Education & Rights of Indigenous Peoples >>

Where the mind is without fear (Bengali: চিত্ত যেথা ভয়শূন্য, romanized: Chitto Jetha Bhoyshunno, is a poem written by 1913 Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore before India’s independence. It represents Tagore’s vision of a new and awakened India. The original poem was published in 1910 and was included in the 1910 collection Gitanjali and, in Tagore’s own translation, in its 1912 English edition. Where the mind is without fear is the 35th poem of Gitanjali, and one of Tagore’s most anthologised poems. […]

Source: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabindranath_Tagore
Date visited: 29 September 2020

In his play Muktadhara (The Waterfall), Tagore robustly employs this element of freedom. The play relates the story of an exploited people and their eventual release from it. [Today, when] tribal populations across India are being uprooted with impudence Tagore’s message of freedom, in all its shades, is of utmost relevance.

Bhaswati Ghosh in Freedom in Tagore’s Plays | Learn more >>

Amnesty International says it has been forced to halt its India operations due to “reprisals” from the government. […]

Amnesty’s announcement comes amid growing concern over the state of free speech in India. The development, activists say, could dent India’s long-standing reputation of being a thriving democracy. “India does not stand in good company with these moves it is making. We operate in over 70 countries, and the only other country previously that we had been forced to shut operations in was Russia in 2016,” says Mr Khosla. “I hope people around the world sit up and take notice. We are doing this with a very heavy heart, and a deep sense of anguish and grief.”

Source: “Amnesty International to halt India operations” by Yogita Limaye
(BBC News Mumbai, 30 September 2020)
URL: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-54277329
Date visited: 30 September 2020

Society as such has no ulterior purpose. It is an end in itself. It is a spontaneous self-expression of man as a social being. It is natural regulation of human relationships, so that men can develop ideals of life in cooperation with one another.

Rabindranath Tagore quoted in Santiniketan: Birth of Another Cultural Space by Pulak Dutta (Santiniketan, 2015) p. 42 [from The English Writings of Rabindranath Tagore, Vol. II, Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi, 2004, p. 421] | Free download of Santiniketan: Birth of Another Cultural Space >>

[Bold typeface added above for emphasis]

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.

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Search tips: in the search field seen here, type the name of any tribal (Adivasi) community, region, state or language; add (copy-paste) keywords of special interest (childhood tribal education language sacred grove women); specify any issue you want to learn more about (biodiversity ecology ethnobotany health nutrition poverty), including rights to which Scheduled Tribes are entitled (Forest Rights Act Protection from illegal mining UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) | More search options >>

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“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 >>

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Posted in Accountability, Democracy, eBook eJournal ePaper, Education and literacy, Press snippets, Quotes, Tagore and rural culture | Comments Off on eJournal | “Where the mind is without fear”: Tagore, Gitanjali and the Nobel Prize