Video | Marriage customs of the Santals: A large mural created by village artists to express their cultural identity – West Bengal

Sanyasi-Mural-booklet-2015---04-Marriage

Marriage Reception

A Santal marriage takes five days and involves various, often complex, rituals. On the day of the Gidi-chumara (Marriage Reception) the women arrive to bless the bride and groom with grass and grains of rice which are kept in a basket. The high wooden turmeric crusher called akhur (on the right) indicates that tumeric powder is used to soak the wedding dress in turmeric water to clean it and purify it ritually. The clothes of bride and groom are being tied together as a sign of their oneness.

The centre of the courtyard where some of the marriage rituals take place is called Mandwa. There, a branch of the Mahua, the blackberry, the mango or the Sal tree is planted. It is believed that benevolent spirits dwell in these trees. Two earthen pots are placed on either side of the branch. These pots are filled with water and carried along by two unmarried girls of the village. They are meant to remind the bride of her friendship with the village people. A man is playing the marriage drum, behind him is a man with an ordinary drum.

Source: Santals Celebrate the Seasons published by Ashadullapur Gramin Silpa & Sastha Bidhan Kendra and Ghosaldanga Bishnubati Adibasi Trust © 2014

Learn more about this unique project, view the entire series of photographs or download the eBook here: Six Murals by Sanyasi Lohar and his team >

All contents are being published with an understanding that the respective copyright owners have agreed to the license terms explained in the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. This means that no commercial use or modification of such content is permissible without written consent by their respective copyright holders.

Santal marriage known as ‘Hor bapla’ in Santali is the most complex social and religious ceremony of the Santals. It begins in the month of Falgun and continues upto Josthi (March to June). Marriage for Santals is not only the communion of two individuals but also the occasion to strengthen the kinship relationship of two families and their villagers. Following are some forms of marriages practiced in Santal parganas, northern part of West Bengal, Assam, Nepal and Bangladesh with little changes according to the practices of the villages. | Learn more >>

Source: “Towa Dare – O my beloved mother II Marriage song”
URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RnAWF6TKIWs
Date Visited: 25 September 2022

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To locate the Museum of Santal Culture in Bishnubati village (near Santiniketan) on the map seen below, open by clicking on the left button:

Posted in Adivasi / Adibasi, Community facilities, Crafts and visual arts, Cultural heritage, Customs, Eastern region – Eastern Zonal Council, Education and literacy, Literature and bibliographies, Museum collections - India, Music and dance, Names and communities, Organizations, Photos and slideshows, Quotes, Revival of traditions, Santal Parganas, Santali language and literature, Seasons and festivals, Storytelling, Tagore and rural culture, Tourism, Trees, Video resources - external, Women | Tagged | Comments Off on Video | Marriage customs of the Santals: A large mural created by village artists to express their cultural identity – West Bengal

Marlavai Training Centre – model for present day education of tribal people – Andhra Pradesh

Marlavai village in Jainoor mandal of Adilabad district was not this sleepy when Austrian anthropologist Christoph von Furer-Haimendorf was at work during the decade of 1940.

He had launched his pioneering experiment in education of tribal people at this village.

This experiment, christened Gond Education Scheme in Adilabad district, was the first concrete step in tribal education in the then State of Hyderabad in 1943.

The scheme eventually became the model on which the present day education of tribal people in Andhra Pradesh is designed.

Literacy is indispensable as the first step towards enabling tribal people to operate within the orbit of advanced communities,” the legendary researcher notes in his book ‘Tribes of India – The Struggle for Survival’.

He founded the Marlavai Training Centre (MTC) to produce teachers who can teach in Gondi dialect and others to work in Revenue and Forest Departments.

The MTC had a humble beginning with just five semi-literate Gonds as students. They underwent training as per the Gondi primers and readers composed in Devanagari script by Prof. Haimendorf himself.

In 1946, the government opened 30 primary schools where the teachers from MTC began teaching. In another three years, the number of primary schools reached 90, signifying the success of the Gond Education Scheme. […]

The Centre also produced five village officers, one Revenue inspector, five clerks and seven forest guards. […]

The excellent progress came to a naught in later years which became a cause of worry for Haimendorf. He makes a mention of this in ‘Tribes of India’ apparently piqued at the negative development as Marlavai produced only 11 literates until 1979 though the first primary school was started here in 1945.

Source: “Education of tribal people goes downhill” by S. Harpal Singh, The Hindu, Andhra Pradesh, 25 February 2012
Address : http://www.thehindu.com/news/states/andhra-pradesh/article2929315.ece
Date Visited: Mon Mar 05 2012 19:40:49 GMT+0100 (CET)

[Bold typeface added above for emphasis]

Brought up in a system in which all communications are by word of mouth, and hence used to trusting verbal statements, tribal populations get confused by constant reference to documents and written rules, which increasingly determine all aspects of rural life.

Tribes of India: The Struggle for Survival >>
Austrian anthropologist’s ashes entombed in A.P. village
S. Harpal Singh
MARLAVAI (A.P.):, FEBRUARY 26, 2012
The anthropologist had lived in the village to study the problems of aboriginal tribe | More >>

A review of our educational and training policy is desperately needed to educate tribals, the backward classes and the poor by  Neeru Nanda, Last Updated: Sunday 07 June 2015

[…] The ground reality of the average elementary school in rural, tribal and backward areas is grim. A close look at a case study of a tribal district in Andhra Pradesh can help us understand the problem. 

The Andhra experience

The state of education in the Adilabad district of Andhra Pradesh, 30 years after Independence, offers a unique message. The state government has made commendable efforts to educate Gonds by setting up ashrams (boarding schools). Investment has also been very high. In 1979, Purer Haimendorf – who has written the book, “Tribes of India” – did a survey of all the tribal areas in Andhra Pradesh. […]

What is to be done? 

Education for tribal people and remote rural areas will really start looking up when the National Council for Teachers Education and CBSE work out a vocational training course of two years duration, so as to qualify young persons to teach in elementary schools after the plus two exam (12th grade). […]

The 50th year of independence is for us a year of soul-searching and serious evaluation. There is still a great deal to be done for the poorest of the poor whom Mahatma Gandhi never lost sight of, for whom, in fact he wanted the whole structure of government to be tailored. Though we are nowhere near that ideal, significant numbers of educationists, managers and bureaucrats have already moved ahead on new paths in this direction in alliance with dedicated NGOs. The time has come to break out of the colonial mindset and to think, not radically, but pragmatically, to plan with passion and to dare to deviate. 

The author is Education Secretary, National Capital Territory of Delhi

Source: Educating the underprivileged
URL: https://www.downtoearth.org.in/coverage/educating-the-underprivileged-22238
Date visited: 14 September 2019

Learn more about tribal communities and education in Andhra Pradesh >>

Tribal communities of Bastar District

Baiga | Bhatra | Dhruva | Gond | Halba | Madia | Maria | Muria

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Posted in De- and re-tribalisation, Education and literacy, Figures, census and other statistics, Gandhian social movement, Government of India, History, Languages and linguistic heritage, Literature and bibliographies, Modernity, Names and communities, Organizations, Photos and slideshows, Press snippets, Women | Tagged | Comments Off on Marlavai Training Centre – model for present day education of tribal people – Andhra Pradesh

Sharing valuable rice varieties with farmers: Biodiversity for the sake of “vital nutrients and the ability to withstand flood, drought, salinity or pest infestations” – Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Odisha Maharashtra & West Bengal

https://www.scientificamerican.com/magazine/sa/2019/10-01/

IN BRIEF

India originally possessed some 110,000 landraces of rice with diverse and valuable properties. These include enrichment in vital nutrients and the ability to withstand flood, drought, salinity or pest infestations. The Green Revolution covered fields with a few high-yielding varieties, so that roughly 90 percent of the landraces vanished from farmers’ collections.

High-yielding varieties require expensive inputs. They perform abysmally on marginal farms or in adverse environmental conditions, forcing poor farmers into debt.

Collecting, regenerating, documenting the traits of and sharing with farmers the remaining landraces, to restore some of the lost biodiversity of rice, is the author’s life mission.

One scorching summer day in 1991, having spent hours surveying the biodiversity of sacred groves in southern West Bengal, India, I approached Raghu Murmu’s hut to rest. Raghu, a young man of the Santal tribe, sat me under the shade of a huge mango tree while his daughter fetched me cold water and sweets made from rice. As I was relishing these, I noticed that Raghu’s pregnant wife was drinking a reddish liquid. Raghu explained that it was the starch drained from cooked Bhutmuri rice—meaning “ghost’s head” rice, perhaps because of its dark hull. It “restores blood in women who become deficient in blood during pregnancy and after childbirth,” he said. I gathered that this starch is believed to cure peripartum anemia in women. Another rice variety, Paramai-sal, meaning “longevity rice,” promotes healthy growth in children, Raghu added.

As I would subsequently establish, Bhutmuri is one of several varieties of indigenous rice in South Asia that are rich in iron, and it also contains certain B vitamins. And Paramaisal rice has high levels of antioxidants, micronutrients and labile starch, which can be converted rapidly to energy. At the time, however, such uncommon rice varieties, with their evocative names and folk medicinal uses, were new to me. When I returned home to Kolkata, I conducted a literature survey on the genetic diversity of Indian rice and realized that I had been lucky to encounter Raghu. Farmers like him, who grow indigenous rice and appreciate its value, are as endangered as the varieties themselves.

In the years since, I have become familiar with a cornucopia of native rice varieties (also called landraces) that possess astonishingly useful and diverse properties. Some can withstand flood, drought, salinity or pest attacks; others are enriched in valuable vitamins or minerals; and yet others are endowed with an enticing color, taste or aroma that has given them special roles in religious ceremonies. Collecting, regenerating and sharing with farmers these exceedingly rare but valuable varieties has become my life’s mission. […]

SAVING FARMERS

Given the failure of modern agricultural research to provide marginal farmers with any reliable germ lines of rice, a large collection of folk rice varieties, with their fine-tuned adaptations to adverse conditions, is our best bet. Convinced by the superior yield stability of the landraces, more than 2,000 farmers in Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Karnataka, Kerala and Maharashtra have adopted several folk rice varieties from Vrihi and abandoned cultivation of HYVs.

When Cyclone Aila hit the Sundarbans coast of West Bengal and Bangladesh in May 2009, it killed almost 350 people and destroyed the homes of more than a million. A storm surge inundated fields with seawater and left them salinated—which meant that quite apart from the immediate devastation, the food security of the region was likely to suffer long-term damage. We distributed a small amount of seeds from the Vrihi seed bank’s repertoire of traditional salinity-tolerant landraces, such as Lal Getu, Nona bokra and Talmugur, among a few farmers on island villages of the Sundarbans. These were the only rice varieties that yielded a sizable amount of grain on the salinated farms in that disastrous season. Similarly, in 1999 several folk varieties such as Jabra, Rani kajal and Lakshmi dighal ensured rice production for southern Bengal farmers after a flash flood of the Hugli River. In 2010 Bhutmuri, Kalo gorah, Kelas and Rangi rescued many indigenous farmers in the western district of Puruliya when delayed arrival of monsoon rains caused a severe drought.

Such disasters prove, time and again, that the long-term sustainability of rice farming depends crucially on the restoration of traditional farming practices based on biodiversity and use of the full diversity of crop varieties that have survived the onslaught of industrial farming.

Debal Deb is founder of the Basudha rice conservation farm and Vrihi seed distribution center in Kerandiguda and founder and chair of the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Barrackpore, all in India.

Source: Debal Deb: “Restoring Rice Biodiversity”, Scientific American, October 2019
URL: https://www.scientificamerican.com/magazine/sa/2019/10-01/
Date visited: 3 December 2019

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Find up-to-date information provided by, for and about Indian authors, researchers, officials, and educatorsMore search options >>
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Basudha Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies

Explore the Link between Biological and Cultural Diversity

Basudha (= ‘Earth Mother’ in Bengali) is a 1.7 acre farmland, on rent in a tribal village, surrounded by forests and hills in Bissam Cuttack block, Rayagada district of southern Odisha. A small farm house can accommodate visiting activists, research students and farmers.

Basudha farm was established in early 2001 in Bankura district of West Bengal initially as a field station of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies, and registered as an independent Trust body, which is currently comprised by Dr. Debal Deb, Mr. Avik Saha, Mr. Tathagata Banerjee, Dr. Mita Dutta and Mr. Debdulal Bhattacharjee, and as Trustees.

Source: Basudha
URL: https://cintdis.org/basudha/
Date visited: 3 December 2019

“Tribal languages are a treasure trove of knowledge about a region’s flora, fauna and medicinal plants. Usually, this information is passed from generation to generation. However, when a language declines, that knowledge system is completely gone.” – Ayesha Kidwai (Centre for Linguistics, School of Language, Literature and Culture Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi) quoted by Abhijit Mohanty in “Seven decades after independence, many tribal languages in India face extinction threat” | Learn more about the work done by the People’s Linguistic Survey of India and endangered languages worldwide >>

“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 (The Hindu) | Learn more about the role of tribal communities in fostering biodiversity, ethnobotany and cultural diversity | Success stories | Tribal identity >>

“I think that by retaining one’s childhood love of such things as trees, fishes, butterflies and … toads, one makes a peaceful and decent future a little more probable, and that by preaching the doctrine that nothing is to be admired except steel and concrete, one merely makes it a little surer that human beings will have no outlet for their surplus energy except in hatred and leader worship.” – George Orwell | Learn more: Childhood | Customs | Games and leisure time | Literature – fiction | Storytelling >>

“The theoretical debate on caste among social scientists has receded into the background in recent years. [C]aste 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.” – Harald Tambs-Lyche (Professor Emeritus, Université de Picardie, Amiens) in “Caste: History and the Present” (Academia Letters) | Learn more: Accountability | Democracy | Education and literacy >>

“If we take action, the right action – as the report [on Biological Diversity] proposes – we can transition to a sustainable planet.” […] Many good things are happening around the world and these should be celebrated and encouraged […] We have to act now. It is not too late. Otherwise, our children and grandchildren will curse us because we will leave behind a polluted, degraded and unhealthy planet.” – Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, executive secretary, UN Convention on Biological Diversity

“Extinction: Urgent change needed to save species, says UN”
BBC News, 15 September 2020 >>
“Extinction: Urgent change needed to save species, says UN”
Watch the video on BBC News | More about Biodiversity in India >>

Photo and video recommendation: a voice from rural India worth being heard

Whether you plan a visit or seek to learn more about India’s rural life – perhaps inspired by the Gandhian social movement or Rabindranath Tagore – explore “a living journal, a breathing archive” in the Adivasi category of PARI: the People’s Archive of Rural India initiated by distinguished photo journalist-turned-activist P. Sainath, continually enriched by stories from all over India.

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Posted in Assimilation, Biodiversity, Customs, Eastern region – Eastern Zonal Council, Ecology and environment, Economy and development, Education and literacy, Ethnobotany and ethnomedicine, Figures, census and other statistics, Health and nutrition, Modernity, Names and communities, Nature and wildlife, Organizations, Press snippets, Quotes, Resources, Success story, Women | Tagged | Comments Off on Sharing valuable rice varieties with farmers: Biodiversity for the sake of “vital nutrients and the ability to withstand flood, drought, salinity or pest infestations” – Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Odisha Maharashtra & West Bengal

Garo Drums: Symbols associated with specific regions and social occasions – Meghalaya, Assam, Tripura, Nagaland, West Bengal & Bangladesh

Photos @ Don Bosco Centre for Indigenous Cultures
To view and learn more visit its Musical Instruments Gallery >>
More about Meghalaya >>

Garos are a tribal group from Meghalaya, predominantly residing in the Garo Hills region. Though found in the three (now five) Garo Hills districts, they also reside in the adjoining states of Assam, Tripura, Nagaland, and West Bengal in the Indian Union and across the political divide in the northern districts of Bangladesh.

Traditionally the Garos are agriculturists, and therefore much of their livelihood and religion revolved around it. Thus, various music (songs/incantations/ballads/prayers etc) forms a part and parcel of their livelihood. Additionally, various musical instruments are used not only as accompaniment to these songs and incantations, but also as symbols to various social occasion.

The Garos have a wide range of drums ranging from 4 feet 3 inches in length to the tiniest which is about 5 inch in length. They prefer the gambil (b. Careya arborica) wood for the frames of the drums. The wood is hollowed through with a sharp tool called batra which is made by the local blacksmith. However the construction of the drum is purely done by the Garos themselves. The drums are usually hung from the neck and played by both hands while dancing, and at times, they are placed on the ground and played while sitting.

There are different types of drums, the three major categories being the following: (a) Dama: This is the ceremonial drum used in different ceremonies and festive occasions. (b) Dama dalsang/ Kodoreng/ Nagra: It is a large drum consisting of an earthen pot covered with skin. This will be detailed in the final report. (c) Kram: This is the sacred drum. It has two other similar ones attached to it known as kram nadik and bitchimani bisa. Except for the nagra, kram, nadik and bitchimani bisa, all the other drums are kept in the bachelor’s dormitory (nokpante).

The Garos have different styles of playing the drum depending on the area they come from. They also have different players such as a single lead drummer called dadigipa, one accompanist or second drummer known as rikkakgipa and any number of bass drummers known as onlgrimgipa.

Source: National List for Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH), Ministry of Culture, Government of India
URL: http://www.indiaculture.nic.in/national-list-intangible-cultural-heritage-ich
Date visited: 5 October 2020

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Learn more about India’s eight North Eastern states: The “Seven Sister States” & Sikkim

  1. Arunachal Pradesh
  2. Assam
  3. Manipur
  4. Meghalaya
  5. Mizoram
  6. Nagaland
  7. Tripura
  8. Sikkim

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Find publications on this and related topics

“The great diversity of music in India is a direct manifestation of the diversity and fragmentation of the population in terms of race, religion, language, and other aspects of culture. […] The songs vary in detail, not only from one region to another, but also within a region among the different strata of society.” – NA Jairazbhoy in “Tribal, Folk and Devotional Music” >>

State, Capital & Ethnographic museum

Find up-to-date information provided by, for and about Indian authors, researchers, officials, and educatorsMore search options >>
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Posted in Crafts and visual arts, Customs, Economy and development, Government of India, Music and dance, Musicology, Names and communities, Performing arts, Quotes, Revival of traditions, Seven Sister States & Sikkim – North Eastern Council, Social conventions | Tagged | Comments Off on Garo Drums: Symbols associated with specific regions and social occasions – Meghalaya, Assam, Tripura, Nagaland, West Bengal & Bangladesh

Tip | Which are India’s endangered languages? (interactive map)

Tip: click on any red marker for details on endangered languages in a particular region of India. This map is bound to be incomplete as recent surveys in-depth studies on this subject have revealed. 

Note: toggle to normal view (from reader view) should the interactive map not be displayed by your tablet, smartphone or pc browser.

For more details (some with hyperlinks), click on the map button seen on the left top; scroll and click on one of the markers for information of special interest. | Explore India’s tribal cultural heritage with the help of another interactive map >>

“To be taught in a language other than one’s own has a negative effect on learning. [Starting a child’s education in the mother tongue] allows teachers and students to interact naturally and negotiate meanings together, creating participatory learning environments that are conducive to cognitive as well as linguistic development.”- UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report 2016 quoted “Why is India obsessed with English-medium education – when it goes against scientific consensus?” by Shoaib Daniyal (Scroll.in 6 August 2020 | Learn more >>

Table of the number of endangered languages with the states that they are spoken in according to India Today | Learn more >>

Indian states No. of languages Endangered Languages
Andaman and Nicobar Islands 11 Great Andamanese, Jarawa, Lamongse, Luro, Muot, Onge, Pu, Sanenyo, Sentilese, Shompen and Takahanyilang
Manipur 7 Aimol, Aka, Koiren, Lamgang, Langrong, Purum and Tarao
Himachal Pradesh 4 Baghati, Handuri, Pangvali and Sirmaudi
Odisha 3 Manda, Parji and Pengo
Karnataka 2 Koraga and Kuruba
Andhra Pradesh 2 Gadaba and Naiki
Tamil Nadu 2 Kota and Toda
Arunachal Pradesh 2 Mra and Na
Assam 2 Tai Nora and Tai Rong
Uttarakhand 1 Bangani
Jharkhand 1 Birhor
Maharashtra 1 Nihali
Meghalaya 1 Ruga
West Bengal 1 Toto

The Central Institute of Indian Languages, Mysore, has been working for the protection and preservation of endangered languages in India under a central scheme […]

Central Institute of Indian Languages (Official website): https://www.ciil.org

Source: International Mother Language Day: 42 Indian languages heading towards extinction, India Today, 21 February 2018
URL: https://www.indiatoday.in/education-today/gk-current-affairs/story/international-mother-language-day-42-indian-languages-heading-towards-extinction-1174384-2018-02-21
Date visited: 21 July 2020

[T]he Constitution gives equal respect to all communities, sects, lingual and ethnic groups, etc. The Constitution guarantees to all citizens freedom of speech (Article 19), freedom of religion (Article 25), equality (Articles 14 to 17), liberty (Article 21), etc.

Supreme Court judgment quoted by The Hindu in
India, largely a country of immigrants” >>

Learn more about “The world’s largest democracy“, its Constitution and Supreme Court and linguistic heritage, and why Democracy depends on Accountability in the face of Modernity and Globalization >>

India’s endangered languages

“Kolami, Koya, Gondi, Kuvi, Kui, Yerukala, Savara, Parji, Kupia. Do these names ring a bell? No, right? They are all native tribal tongues that have immensely contributed to enrich the language and culture of Telugu people. But these languages are dying due to a plethora of reasons — lack of practice, absence of education, poverty-stricken state of the speakers. The UNESCO lists 191 languages of India as endangered. And as Eduardo Hughes Galeano, the literary giant of the Latin America puts it, “Every two weeks, a language dies. The world is diminished when it loses its human sayings, just as when it loses its diversity of plants and beasts.”

 

Source: Times of India (Feb 21, 2017
URL: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/hyderabad/the-dying-tongues-of-telangana-and-andhra/articleshow/57253816.cms

One language dies every 14 days. By the next century nearly half of the ~7,000 languages spoken on Earth will likely disappear. But what is lost when a language falls silent? […]

Concluding his ambitious marathon Peoples’ Linguistic Survey of India (PLSI) which took four years of field work preceded by nearly 15 years of conceptualization and planning, Prof Ganesh Devy, the Sahitya Akademi award winner, literary critic and founder of the Tribal Academy at Tejgadh declares that out of 1,600-odd languages listed in the 1961 survey of India, they have been able to trace not more than 850 languages during their survey. The survey was initiated by Vadodara-based Bhasha Research and Publication Centre founded by Prof Devy.


Source: “The fight for survival: language and identity” by Association for Language Learning (Derby, UK)
URL: https://www.all-languages.org.uk/features/fight-survival-language-identity/
Date Visited: 24 September 2022

Learn more about India’s endangered languages >>

Find up-to-date information provided by, for and about Indian authors, researchers, officials, and educatorsMore search options >>
Search tips: in the search field seen here, type the name of any tribal (Adivasi) community, region, state or language; add keywords of special interest (childhood, language, sacred grove, tribal education, women); consider rights to which Scheduled Tribes are entitled (FRA Forest Rights Act, protection from illegal mining, UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, right to education, Universal Declaration of Human Rights); specify any other issue or news item you want to learn more about (biodiversity, climate change, ecology, economic development, ethnobotany, ethnomedicine, global warming, health, nutrition and malnutrition, rural poverty)

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