Posts Tagged ‘Tribe’

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

AMID ALL OTHER GLORY, GUJARAT POSSESSES GREAT PRIDE IN BEING HOME TO DIFFERENT TRIBES – ONE SUCH IS THE MEGHWALS (HARIJANS).

Gujarat is a land that has absorbed lakhs of people, thousands of cultures and hundreds of communities into itself. It is a treasure to learn about all these. All have different religions, lifestyles, costumes, traditions, cultures, beliefs; yet they stay under one state as a family! There are about 290 distinct communities in Gujarat. And interestingly, as many as 206 of these are immigrants from neighboring Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh & Maharashtra – and even overseas! One such known tribe of Gujarat is the Meghwals – who came originally from Marwar in Rajasthan to Sindh in Pakistan in the 17th century, and then on to Kutch in 1971 after the Indo -Pak war. At present, its national population is nearly 4 lakhs. Of which, sizeable population is inhabited in the District of Kutch and large numbers of people are found in Saurashtra, Jamnagar and Ahmedabad districts of Gujarat.

PEOPLE OF GOD: HARIJANS

Meghwals were named Harijans by Mahatma Gandhi. Hari means God and Jan meaning people; they are God’s own people. The term Meghwal, also called Meghwar, is derived from the Sanskrit words megh that means clouds and rain; and war means prayers. Meghwar thus means people who pray for the rains.

A story goes that once a great ancestor of the Meghwals was not allowed to bathe in a nearby pond. Then the Brahmins had predicted a famine in Junagadh for twelve successive years. This ancestor climbed to the top of Mount Girnar convincing people that he would come down only when his beard will be submerged in the rainwater. Soon, the clouds started pouring so much that there was a fear of the entire place being flooded. The then ruler of Junagadh urged the ancestor to stop the rain and offered a vessel filled by the rainwater to submerge his beard. Hence the name Meghwal was born.

It is also believed that the the Meghwals are descendents of the Khod community of Rajputs in Rajasthan. An old man belonging to this community once removed a dead calf, as no one from a lower caste was available. People mocked at him and he was termed as impure. Meghwal means abrasht (impure) according to this belief.

LIFESTYLE AND CUSTOMS

Meghwals live in groups in the outskirts of villages. Classified as ‘Scheduled Caste’, they lived a humble life for centuries. Gradually, they have improved their lifestyles. They are peace loving and believe in humanity. They live mostly in small settlements of round, mud-brick huts painted on the outside with colorful geometric designs and decorated with detailed mirror inlays. Known as weavers of wool and cotton, their women do exquisite embroidery and patchwork. Leather embroidery is another of their specialties. Also, Meghwals are into agricultural labor, weaving Khadi and woodcarving.

Even today, women do not enjoy an equal or high status in the Meghwal society. She has no rights in inheritance and her life is often confined to the household. They however engage in embroidery and other such arts during their leisure time. They also play an important role in social, religious and ritual activities of the community. Meghwals have a social evil in the form of a system called ‘ex-communication’ of persons they do not like. This is practiced even in the cases of trivial matters. This further increases the social hardships for their women.

Marriages are arranged through negotiation between the families before puberty. Polygamy is allowed but polyandry is not practiced among the Meghwals. The marriage fire is fed with ghee or oil, betel nuts, corn and red Kanku powder. The couple walks four times round this light.

ELABORATED ORNAMENTS

Meghwal women are known for their colorful and exuberantly detailed costumes and jewellery. Married women wear an elaborate gold nose ring called ‘Velado.’ It is a sign of marriage and worn only on special occasions. Some nose rings are so heavy that the weight of it is suspended by a beaded chain, which is connected to her hair. Whereas unmarried girls wear three beads drop earrings in upper ear and a necklace with silver leaf-shaped pendant. Neckpieces can weigh up to three kilograms.

Meghwals’ work is distinguished by their primary use of red, which comes from a local pigment produced from crushed insects.

GOD FOR THE GOD’S OWN PEOPLE

Meghwals are Hindu by caste, though little is known about the history of their religion. They are believed to worship Lord Ganesha by preference. There are traces that the community believes in Lord Shiva, some say they worship King Bali as their God and pray for his return. Some follow ‘Pir Pithoro’ and worship his shrine near Pithoro village. Daily offerings are made by Meghwals to Chamunda mata in the village temples. Bankar mata is worshiped at weddings. They also worship Yakshas, Sitalamata or the Goddess of Smallpox and Kshetrapal snake God.

There is a belief that Baba Ramdevji is their chief deity and the Meghwals worship him during the vedwa punam (in August-September). Meghwal religious leader Swami Gokuldas claims that Ramdevji was himself a Meghwal, in his 1982 book Meghwal Itehas, which constructs a history of the Meghwal community in an attempt to gain respect and improve their social status.
The worships and the Gods differ as per the habitats of the Meghwals.

THE SCENARIO TODAY

Gone are the days of untouchables. Meghwals today have witnessed a qualitative and progressive change. Efforts are made to mobilize them and reconstruct their culture, literature and history so that they can claim for their identities.

Gujarat, no doubt, is a significant confluence point for different races and people. The social set up is such that the customs and lifestyles of different tribes are welcomed. Meghwals are one of these – it is a charm to the eyes and pride to the knowledge of the beholder to learn more about this rich and varied heritage of Gujarat.

Read original article at: http://epaper.namoleague.com/EpaperArticle.aspx?title=PEOPLE%20OF%20GOD,%20IN%20THE%20LAND%20OF%20GOD:%20MEGHWALS%20IN%20GUJARAT_484