Sunday, December 2, 2012

Kala Ashram in Adilabad recently celebrated Ravindra Sharma's 'sasthipurthi', 6oth birthday, and honoured some of the folk artists and craftspersons with whom he has been closely involved for most of his life. The 3 day event was an aesthetic feast, and there should be some photographs posted soon on internet.

Here are a couple of paragraphs from an article about him:

The diversity of the historical folk culture of Adilabad, with its different roles and relationships is unimaginable to our modernized, sanitized and homogenized minds.  Besides the forest dwelling adivasi and the cultivators there are the artists, the entertainers, the story tellers, bards and musicians, the magicians, healers, priests, and scholars, the makers, weavers of cotton and wool and tassar, stonemasons, potters, carvers of wooden deities, metalsmiths and brass casters, toy-makers, bamboo specialists, toddy tappers, oil pressers, the service jatis[1], the herders of cows and sheep, those who travel for most of the year but who have a home here nonetheless, and the nomads, passing through on annual migrations.  The various strands of these peoples’ ways, customs and occupations are at the same time distinctly separate and yet intimately connected with each other, forming an intricate tapestry of local society and tradition.
We spent hours and days listening to Sharmaji[also known as Guruji]'s recreation of the past.  The village day was defined by the visits of the sanchar jatis, the itinerants, beginning before daybreak with the budubudukalodu, whose songs drove away evil spirits, the balasantodu with conch and bell, and the gosamolu, a huband and wife playing an ektara.  There were people with skills such as water divining, general entertainers and educators, and story-tellers of particular communities, the bhikshavruthi, who were each attached to a specific jati the as oral historians for that jati, and were supported by their patrons.  Each community, the weavers, the potters, the Manevarlu, the Golla shepherds, has its own story-tellers who trace the history of the jati back to link it up to Puranic times, and each story is told with the help of a patt, and sometimes also with separate painted wooden figures.  These histories connect the past to the present in a continuous thread.  The weaving caste of the Padmasalis traces its origins through Markandeya to Bhavanarushi, their deity, clothes maker to the gods.  From these beginning the stories are updated to today, and tell where the current generation of Padmashalis has migrated to, who has married whom, and the names of the newborn children.  This relationship between the story tellers and the weavers amplifies the role of bhiksha in our samaj, far from the pattern of dependency and condescension connoted by the words begging and beggars.
There is mobility too among the samaaj. Weaving is taken up by the ‘netagani’, ‘non-weavers’, when it pays, dropped in favour of other work when it is not remunerative. 
Guruji’s involvement with the samaaj in and around Adilabad has been focused on the jatis who made up the largest part of the samaaj, who took pride in their particular and specific skills, who had lateral and interdependent relations among themselves, far from the European picture of a rigid,  hierarchic Indian society. Guruji has shared the lives of many of them, travelling through the forests with parrot-catchers, attending the ten day wedding celebrations of the Mathurias and the jatras[2] where the metal casting Ohtaris sell their craft.  He has learnt wax wire casting from the Ojhas and taught them how to make larger objects in their own technique. He has taught art in a tribal school for ten years, teaching Kolam boys the techniques of the artist, first how to draw, then to paint, and later modeling  in matti, wax-wire brass casting and other local craft techniques to express their own unique inner world.

[1] Jati: occupational grouping
[2] Jatra: journey, usually pilgrimage

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