Saturday, 17 September 2016

Bastar tribal life in 1970s

Bastar is today more widely known for the wrong reasons: the extremist violence that at times disrupts life in that part of India. But in the 1970s Bastar was a much happier place, with its large population of the Muria and Maria tribals and their associated Bhattra, Poroja, Ghasia, Gharwa and Lohar friends. They were quite content to till their small pieces of land in between the hills and forests, or to go hunting, or gathering forest produce in the jungles surrounding their villages. It was no doubt hard work; but they had their seasonal fairs and festivals in honour of the village gods or singing and dancing at marriages in the village. It was a simple, at times harsh, but overall an acceptable way of life.
A reading of "The Tribal World of Verrier Elwin" and other books on Bastar and on tribal life triggered  an interest to see this part of India that was then hardly known and was not visited by any one other than for purely official work. After two visits in 1970 and 1972 that sort of whetted the appetite but brought little more, the visit in 1973 coincided with one of the spring festivals. Given below are two pictures taken at this festival called a "marhai". That was when a gathering of the local gods takes place.

The top picture depicts "Bison-horn" Maria ( so- called because they usually wear headgear made with bison horns) at the festival. They carried long drums that had a decidedly low, throbbing tone. The lower picture shows the Muria tribals with their god "Anga" made of dark-coloured logs decorated with silver strips and peacock   feathers. During the festival "Anga" used to come "alive" and drive those bearing the god on their shoulders to run hither and thither scattering the crowds.
Does "Anga" still come "alive" nowadays?

No comments:

Post a Comment