A LOOK INTO THE ORIGIN, CULTURE, LIFESTYLE AND THE UNIQUE ‘MASK DANCE’ ACUMEN OF THE KOKNA TRIBE OF GUJARAT

Gujarat is a land where hundreds of different tribes have come and established themselves with their culture and lifestyle. As a famous Gujarati saying goes, these tribes have settled here just like the sugar settles within a bowl of milk! It has always been interesting to know more about different people, their cultures and traditions. The anthropologists who have studied various tribes of Gujarat, say that the tribe named ‘Kokna’ is worth to make a note of, among others. Also known by alternative names like Kokni, Kukni or Kukna, the tribe is considered a scheduled one.

KOKNA CONNECTIONS

Most of the tribes that have settled in Gujarat, just like the Kokna, belong to the Neolithic era. It is believed that the hermitic people of Egypt were the ancestors of the Kokna tribe and the stories of their existence date back to the prehistoric times. Kokna used a square stone pillar with half moon shaped top for capital punishment, resembling a pillar in the Egyptian pyramids. This practice confirms the belief.

However, the name Kokna is derived from the word ‘Kankan’, that is an armlet worn by the tribe. Some people, on the other hand, believe that the name comes as they migrated to Gujarat from some part of Konkan in the olden times, which is the western coastal belt of Maharashtra. The area between the coastal line and the Sahyadris was the original abode of the Kokna tribal community.

THE KOKNA SETTLEMENTS

In Gujarat, the Kokna tribe is concentrated at Dharampur, Vansda, Valsad and the Dangs.

Some researchers mention that it is from the ancestral, ancient speeches of the Kokna that the origin of the contemporary Kokni language has actually taken shape. This is their native language, a dialect of Marathi. But they also speak Hindi and Gujarati.

The Kokna community is divided into ‘kuls’ or clans. Monogamous, they have a strong sense of united families and community. However, with the modernization and occupational mobility, the concept of nuclear families is fast moving into all the tribes. But, when outside their village, they move in groups.

LIFESTYLE

Kokna tribe can easily be distinguished from other Gujarati tribes. It has an unique attire. The women of this community wear saree and ‘fadki’. They cut the saree into two halves. The upper half is called fadki and the lower part of the body is covered by the saree. Sometimes they also use blouse or lehenga along with the fadki. The males get into a Khadi headdress, jacket, coat and langot with gold rings in the ears. The langot is an essential sign of their culture.

The Kokna women are very fond of ornaments made of white metal, lead and iron or silver. They use the traditional necklaces and other ornaments even today. They also wear flowers and tattoos.

Another major attraction of the Kokna tribe is their houses. The walls are built with mud and whitewashed. The roof comprises of thatched grass and the houses have no windows. Pucca houses are rare.

THE CULTURAL ESSENCE

The most splendid part of the Kokna tribe is that they celebrate all the major festivals of the Indian Territory, only after adding their own fervor and ritualistic elements. They enjoy Shivratri, Dushera, Navratri and Diwali. But the most exciting among the others is the ‘Bhavada’. This is celebrated at the completion of the harvesting season. The Kokna tribes worship Goddess Kali and before harvesting, worship of Gram Devi is celebrated with festivity and jubilance.

The tribe is considered very religious and worships animals like crocodile and tiger.

WOOD CARVING AND THE MASK DANCE

Bhavada is more special because of its artistic zeal and acumen. The Kokna tribe shapes up masks for this festival which houses the Bhavada Dance. The mask dance is held across a number of villages and only at nights in the summer. Each village has a different set of masks, and sometimes masks are even loaned to villages if they can’t afford to have their own.

The masks are carved out of single pieces of soft wood and then decorated with bamboo strips and colored papers. Bright red, yellow and green in color, they depict Gods and Goddesses like Panch Pandava, Ravana, Ganesh and tribal deities like Kaloba, Mhasoba and Rangatai. Facial expressions, eyebrows, moustaches, cheeks, nose etc. are nicely emphasized in these woodcarvings. Particular families are privileged to do a particular kind of mask. The male members of the family are expected to paint and decorate the mask. Masks may also be made out of cow dung, clay, rice-husks and paper. Every dancer enacts steps typical of the character whose mask he wears, as he dances to the tune of musical instruments like the Sur, Kahali and Sambal.

The art of mimic along with tribal dances still survives in Gujarat. During Holi, Kokna dramatic groups, sometimes using masks, perform in villages with young boys playing female roles laced with wit and humor. Songs of Mahabharata and Ramayana epics are sung to music.

Apart from masks, Kokna tribes are known for their artistic wooden tobacco containers. They are either carved out of wood or made by joining pieces of wood together. A thick coat of lead is applied over the container and then beautiful designs are carved on it. Sometimes, these containers are made into animal shapes like peacock, peahen etc. Apart from wood, these are also made from tough-skinned fruits or seeds.

ALL INCLUSIVE

Gujarat is rich, truly vibrant – be it in terms of economy, development or heritage. All we need to do is move forward in the direction of inclusive growth. Let us look behind the masks, remove our mask of perceptions and grow hand-in-hand!

Read original article at: http://epaper.namoleague.com/EpaperArticle.aspx?title=Behind%20The%20Masks_602

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s