Issue 03

Home Vol. III Issue 03

Editorial

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“In the emerging world of ethnic conflict and civilization clash, Western belief in the universality of Western culture suffers three problems: it is false; it is immoral; and it is dangerous . . . Imperialism is the necessary logical consequence of universalism” —— The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, p. 310.

Development is a word of change. We criticize policies and loopholes with depressing figures and tales and fail to understand the cultural flux within a tribe which involves kinship and clans in the process of development. If we think about development of tribe, it has to have a form, take shape and change a set of behavior.As Huntington aptly puts, the clashes between civilizations may not primarily be ideological or economic, but mirrors a cultural clash.

With my recent exposure to the tribes in the isolated islands of Andaman and Nicobar, glimpses of cultural clashes were observed. Perhaps the best example was of Jarawas who are compressed by their primitiveness and their desire to be contemporary. So are the changes happening among the tribes from Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh which constitutes the largest segment of tribal population in India, with some of them, their cultures are set to be extinct. For the uncountable tribal population from states of North-East India, the cultural stress has ripped open the diversities of India and the turmoil has spread even deeper with sub-tribes in the fray

In this issue of Fried Eye, we bring you tribal stories from different space and time, traditional cultures which have their own system of interpreting nature’s laws and have evolved their own system of sustaining and healing. With this issue, we have tried to understand their behaviors, their attitudes and their culture in a given set of environment. We have at best tried to feature first hand exposition and experiences by different writers who have come across them and felt them as a culture.

Happy Reading Folks!

Issue Editor- Sanzeeta

 

P.S – Due to some  unavoidable circumstances, we had a delay while publishing the issue. we regret the delay and thank you for being patient.

co-ordinator – Manipadma

Call Of The Mountains

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    Shahwar Hussain rides through the beautiful Lahaul and Spiti Valley and buys his peace with the mighty Himalayas.

    Words: Shahwar Hussain

    Pic : Incredible Spiti

    The call of the mountains is a dangerous thing….It tugs at the heart so strong that if you fail to heed it’s call, you will surely brood for a long time. You will regret the missed chance to return to the folds of the mighty mountains, breath the cold fresh wind, walk by the lakes, watch the football sized stars make holes in the black sky at night and make some more friends among the monks (they all look the same…don’t they?…For all you know, you might introduce yourself to an old friend once again!!).

    Well, the higher Himalayas have been calling me for a while now and I didn’t want the calls to get any dangerous and so I paid heed last August.

    I decided to ride to the beautiful Lahaul and Spiti valley. An overwhelming number of riders who point their front wheel beyond Manali, end up riding to the Leh region. It IS a beautiful ride indeed, through some of the world’s highest motorable roads, water crossings, snow peaks, deep gorges and with a number of pristine high altitude lakes thrown in. but of late it has become far too crowded and commercialized for my liking. Of course the tour operators, the hotels and the assorted business have to make money to survive and they are mushrooming all over Leh. I always try and avoid crowded touristy places and at this moment, Leh, certainly fits the bill of a crowded touristy place. But this is my personal point of view.

    I wanted to ride to Spiti but didn’t really want to take the additional burden of getting all the logistic right. I spent a couple of days deciding on the trip when I met an old friend Vishesh, who run his motorcycle tours in the Lahul and Spiti valley (www.incrediblespiti.com) along with Tsering Bodh and Subhansu Singh.

    Riding solo is a nice feeling as we drift with the wind without any set itinerary. But time was at a blue chip premium and I thought riding with Vishesh and his group of 4 riders would be a better idea.

    It is a good idea to start the journey from Shimla as riding from Delhi through the plains of Punjab can be a rather boring affair. We started early from Shimla and stopped at Narkhanda for breakfast. Riding in the hills invariably gives me a good appetite and after having our fill we rode on to Sarahan. This 110 km is a lovely ride on winding roads through a Deodar forest. Although we rode for about 10 hours on winding roads, it was not overtly tiresome and we spent the night at Sangla in tents at the Kinnaur Camps. Foran overwhelmingnumber of riders, it is the ride that matters and the ride is considered a success if they can enjoy a good camp fire and that is exactly what we got. And yes…we did do the touristy kind of thing too as we went to see the 900 year old Bhima Kali temple. It is amazing and we didn’t regret this touristy bit of activity one bit.

    An early morning start again as we made our way to Kalpa via Chitkul which is the last village on the Indo-Tibetian border. It is a very scenic ride from Chitkul to Kalpa and we could see the Kinnaur Kailash peak which seems to change its colour during the course of the day. The apple orchards along the way accentuates the feel good factor of the ride and the sparse traffic added to the ambiance. Vishesh had the tour nicely paced out. After the 10 hour ride the day before, it was a 4 -5 hours of easy ride and we arrived at the Apple Country hotel in much better shape.

    The next day the terrain changed quite a bit as we again rode for 10 hours from Kalpa to Tabo via Nako. At Khab before Nako, we could see the confluence of the Sutlej and the Spiti rivers and the hills became barren and brown as we entered the cold desert. The two checkpoints at Spillo and Chango didn’t take much time as we were the only “tourists” around.

    Travelling with people who knows the area has its advantages. After Kalpa, Vishesh suddenly pulled up by the side of a rather old tree and announced ‘lunch!’. I certainly didn’t see any place or anyone who would serve us lunch but as we climbed a few stone steps by the side of the tree, we saw this small dhaba and we had the most amazing paranthas ever.

    After we crossed the Sumdo checkpoint, we took a diversion on the right that took us to Gheun, whose claim to fame is the naturally preserved 600 year old mummy of a Buddhist monk that was discovered after a landslide exposed it. It is a little off the way and not too many tourist visits this area…All the better. Gheun also has an ITBP base.

    Tiger Den was our den at Tabo for the next two days as we moved in and around Tabo.

    The Tabo Monastery is a marvel indeed. The monastery was built in 996 AD and is made of straw and mud,much like the City of Bam in Iran which was destroyed by an earthquake some years back. It is a pity that we were not allowed to shoot inside the main prayer hall of the monastery but just as well. The flashlights would surely destroy the thousand year old paintings and other priceless artifacts. The monks of the monastery have an apple orchard and a sizeable amount of finance come from that.

    Do not forget to try the lovely cakes made by the small German bakery. I am a sinker for that.

    The other 1000 year old monastery is the Dhankar monastery. As we rode up, we could see it from afar and it looked like an extension of the craggy brown mountain itself. Some part of the old structure has collapsed and it has been declared as one of the most endangered monuments in the world. The new monastery built below is not a patch on the old one and I made no attempt of going in.

    Vishesh took us on a 45 minutes hike to the Dhankar lake…Like any other high altitude lakes, this one was just as beautiful. I have been to the monastery before but never heard about the lake.

    As we came down from Dhankar to the Kaza highway, we found a ropeway constructed by the locals to cross over the confluence and on to their fields.We took a ride across for a smoke and a tea with the farmer.

    After a 5 hour ride the next day, we reached Pin Valley and had a lovely home stay at Mudh. Sadly we couldn’t go to the Pin Valley National Park.

    The 2 hour ride from Pin valley to Kaza sure is breathtaking to say the least. Motorcycle is the best way to enjoy this stretch as also the way up to Kye and Kibber. The Kye Monastery is a Centre of Buddhist learning and also an Old Age Home but with a difference. The inmates at the home stay there not because they have nowhere to stay but because they want to meditate undisturbed.

    Kibber was till recently the highest motorable village in Asia and has some very good restaurant. Considering the altitude and the sparse movement of goods, the restaurants are not at all costly.

     

    On the way back, we stopped at Langza and Komic villages. You can still find fossils at Langza and it is such an amazing thing to find fossils of fish and other marine animals in the high Himalayas!! And at Komic we did nothing but sat at the edge of the mountain and saw the red big sun dip over the imposing mountain and turn the sky into a flaming red canopy.

    We climbed to Kunzumla (4551 mt) from Kaza and then came down to Chandratal. The 12 odd kilometers to the lake is very dusty with fine dusts like talcum powder and they settle everywhere on the eyelashes and eye brows, moustache and beards and make you look real funny. So we had some tea at Chandra Dhaba and off we rode through the dust.

    The authorities do not allow any vehicle till the lake now and it had done the lake a world of good. It is a 45 minutes walk till the lake from the camp site and now the bank of the lake has less of those obnoxious plastic water bottle and other waste left behind by the tourists.

    Camping out in the open was fun….I slept under a black canopy with a million stars for company;stars that seemed big and close enough to touch and woke up to an impossibly blue sky with not a speck of cloud on it.

    On the way to Manali from Chandratal, we had two big stream crossing at Batal and at Gramphu that left us wet and shivering. And if this was not enough, we got stuck at that dirty, rotten, muck filled pass called Rothang.

    After an incredible 9 days with Incredible Spiti, I suffered from a bad case of withdrawal symptoms as we hit Manali and the symptoms lasted for quite a few days.

    Now I am at peace with the mountains…until they sound the call again!!!

    Memories from the Jarawa tribal reserve

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      Baratang excited me, not really for the swamp trails and limestone caves, but for two reasons, a live mud volcano and the drive through the Jarawa Tribal Reserve. The pre-morning twilight hues were still far away, the stars were strikingly clear and sleepy trails of speedy vehicles dotted the road. After more than an hour of narrow bumpy travel from Port Blair, I was greeted by a long convoy ready to detour into the deep wild. The Great Andaman Trunk road, the artery of Andaman’s transport system passed through this very thick forest, the legal home of the Jarawas.

      Meanwhile during the long wait of nearly two hours, I obnoxiously relished the fresh air, green skylines and the rising sun which I miss in Delhi. By eight, the convey under strict vigilance of police began to crawl disappearing somewhere into the jungle. We all were given a statutory warning by securities to abide by certain rules while passing through the forest- no clicking, no shooting, and no offering food to Jarawas and no overtaking any vehicles.

      The habitation of Jarawas’ was an entity with pristine abode of untouched vegetation resembling a typical rain forest. I could not get a whiff of any existing civilization. There was no sight of any homestead and nature was untamed. But after a few miles, as the highway began to twist and turn I could get a fleeting glance of a Jarawa couple; the man held a rudimentary spear and a woman walked beside him with poise. They listlessly walked passed the convoys as if in oblivion. Their slow and slight gleam on faces looked blissful. Dressed traditionally, they walked engrossed in some sort of conversation. At a short distance away a wandering girl stood beside the road with a hand on her hip wearing a thick yellow garland customarily made from the young pale yellow leaves and as I glanced at her, she looked brilliantly yellow. The dresses worn by the couples were made of red fabric and tied as girdles. The man had a red band on his short trimmed hair. According to their tradition, Jarawas adorn themselves with shells, clay, flowers, leaves, cotton threads or wools. The women folks collect flowers, colourful leaves and make fibers from the barks which are worn as dresses. Women sometimes adorned themselves with thick garlands that usually cover their upper part of body.

       

       

      Photograph of Jarawa tribe taken from a wall picture from a museum in Port Blair.

      A few more kms away a young lonely girl walked least fearful of the thick jungles. She was young beautiful, had wide eyes and her short hair was adorned with red colored traditional band. Her brisk, sturdy steps with discontinuous gaze were hinted towards some destination nearby. Quite a distant away, two well fed toddlers played beside the road unaware of the vehicles just like any 3 years old would. Their mother on the other side of the road cautiously waved and gestured not to cross the road uttering something in short gasps.

      As we traveled through the forest, groups of Jarawas were sighted occasionally. A bunch of young Jarawa males dressed only in loose cotton shorts waved and whistled like rustic football players in wild. The young lads coming to their age carried bows and arrows moved in groups harmlessly. Some boys had painted face which almost camouflaged their facial structure. The patterns were linear, and bore criss – cross lines. Probably the designs were made with free hand. These two different groups were from different age groups. Perhaps they live in their community that way, as I read somewhere, that when boys reach the age of six, they do not share the sleeping space with their parents and stay together with other bachelors until marriage.

      By this time I had a mix feeling about the development of these aborigines. The jungle in near future will no longer protect them and sustain their bare necessities of every day requirements. The standby road rollers, some workers, the sight of policemen at some places seem to be no longer alien. The road rollers were ready for some work in progress activity. A medical ambulance strictly mentioned “On Jarawa duty” passed us. To the inhabitants of the forest, it was a regular scene and has become a part of their daily affair. Somewhere on a small hill top I could see tiny toddlers huddled up, could be a sort of crèche in a community living culture. By then, I could get an outline of this primitive tribe.

      The recent mayhem on Jarawas has pulled world wide attention on their abusiveness treatment Perhaps the Jarawas are ready to shed their old feelings and beliefs away, perhaps they want to take inquisitive plunge into the world unknown. They have become less hostile I hear, have even ventured out to the nearby settlements. But to me, the Jarawa Tribal Reserve, seems to be slowly dissipating and it’s inhabitants show signs of acculturation. Although very less and limited is known about Jarawas, their dwindling population is a matter of concern. The Census of India featured their population at 240 or could they remain contactless. As the stories of development goes on, my thought goes back to the girl whom I saw in my return journey, a young teenage girl dressed in floral yellow with a feathery glittering headgear was trying to get closer look inside the halted vans. I could see her face. She seemed to be different! 

      Weekend Jam- We can Jam!

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        How often have we lamented that today’s children lack enthusiasm and interest when it comes to our own heritage and culture; that they don’t understand folk culture, and can never appreciate the beauty of simplicity when it comes to folk music? How often have we debated and discussed at length about how our culture is dying because of modernism and westernization? And how often have we actually done something about it?

        Two people, and their modest crew based in Guwahati, have taken an initiative to remedy this very predicament. Weekend Jam, a project launched by Vikram Gogoi of iMart (a division of iLogy Services & Solutions) and Rajib Kalita of Aucto Creations, is an effort to popularize folk music as well as talented musicians of the North East Indian region by organizing “musically educative folk music focused programs” each weekend in and around the city of Guwahati. The concept is simple: find an artist or band of the classical (which includes folk) genre, find another of any different genre, bring the artists or bands together at a venue and let them jam to create and serve as a program that is “uniquely educative and entertaining” to the audience. The concert itself is divided into three slots: the first two where each band or artist perform individually and the third where both bands jam together. The outcome however, is manifold. Previously lesser known artists and bands get an opportunity and a platform to showcase their talent, people looking for entertainment find a place where they get to listen to good music and most importantly folk music is given a makeover and made more appealing to the younger crowd, ensuring the preservation and promotion of folk music in the long run, besides building up as a prominent attraction for tourists looking at understanding and learning folk music in the coming years.

        The pilot program of Weekend Jam was launched on November 20th, 2011 with a tribute to late Dr. Bhupen Hazarika where nine artists who had performed with the maestro himself sang Dr. Hazarika’s songs. This was followed by five more such concerts wherein twenty artists and bands from not only the North East region but also nationwide and even abroad participated and performed. With famous bands like “Afflatus” (all girls’ band from Shillong), “Abhaya & The Steam-injuns” (Nepal), “Guru Rewben Mashangva” (folk fusion band from Manipur), “Hasib Sepand” (folk band from Afghanistan) and “Lou Majaw and friends” (Shillong) performing alongside lesser known bands like “Trio” (classical troupe from Assam), “Blood Pressure” (Assam), “Bamboo Band” (Assam) and “Rain of Hearts” (folk rock band from Assam), it was an amalgamation of diverse genres to create something uniquely beautiful. The pilot program concluded on December 30th 2011, and was declared a raging success. The full fledged launch will take place on April 1st, 2012, and will include workshops and seminars for school students by performing artists to further enhance understanding of folk music, and also to generate more interest in the same.

        Talking to Vikram Gogoi, I asked him how it all started and what led to the birth of Weekend Jam. Having shifted base from Delhi to Guwahati in late 2010, Vikram had founded his company “i” and launched his first program called “Just Madness” for the radio channel “Ooo La La”. It was around this time when he came in contact with Mr Rajib Kalita, otherwise known as Rana in the music fraternity, while planning an event for New Year’s eve 2010. In 2011, Vikram and a few fellow musicians got together to form a fusion band called “A U M” where he filled the place of the bassist. It was while looking for gigs for the band that he realized that there was indeed no viable platform to showcase new talent in the North East. Hence germinated the intent to tap and promote hidden talent, and give such bands and artists an opportunity to showcase their abilities. Vikram ran his idea by Rajib Kalita who has been working on uplifting the musicians and artists of North East India region for over a decade. He in turn expressed his agreement, and what followed was months of planning and preparation that culminated in Weekend Jam.

        The shows in the pilot program were promoted by word of mouth only and were self-sponsored. Even though the first two concerts had less than satisfactory response, the rest of the concerts were held in front of a jam-packed audience.

         

        The essence behind Weekend Jam being fusion, I ask Vikram how it was any different from the popular Coke Studio and the more recent Dewarists. “This is not a studio program”, Vikram replies, “this is a full fledged concert where in we open the performances to public, and it doubles up as a television program”. Furthermore, Weekend Jam has a deep-rooted objective of not just uplifting folk music and musical abilities but also to create a musically inclined practical learning environment and to create career opportunities in the field of music. “The idea is to develop Guwahati as the folk musical hub of India by 2018.” Vikram says, “What Mumbai is to commercial music, Guwahati should be to folk music”. Vikram is confident that the objective is quite achievable, given that all the people involved have two things in common: a passion for music and a commitment for lifetime. They call themselves, “a bunch of lunatics just looking for the light at the end of the tunnel” in jest, but from what it looks like so far, Weekend Jam is a one of a kind initiative, and we at Fried Eye wish it all the success come April.

        You can visit the Facebook page of Weekend Jam at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Weekend-Jam/230610343678330 for updates and videos of the concerts.

        Youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/vikramgogoi?feature=mhee

        Sub National feelings

         

        As an 8 year old, I had always wondered the way buses were interrupted for security checks by soldiers while traveling from Tezpur to my hometown Dhemaji. We were stopped at least at five different locations, were escorted out of our vehicles before the vehicles were thoroughly rummaged by the soldiers in green. Little did I know then that in an sovereign country called India, we virtually lived like captives in pseudo – military rule. Those were the worst days for the people of Assam ever witnessed after the tormenting days during Maans intrusion in early 19th century.

        My grandfather, who was a freedom fighter, a true Congressman who fought for freedom of the country did not escape the torture inflicted by the military either. He was a veteran freedom fighter and was awarded by the first president of India Dr Rajendra Prasad for his commendable contribution for freedom struggle. During the army rule, my grandfather was paraded with minimum clothes in a village field in Lakhimpur along with thousand others from his village. Those were horrific stories which keep haunting me. It makes me always wonder if we did live in a country where no freedom is enjoyed. As a child I wondered as to why we celebrated the Indian Independence day? My father told me that we fought the British, forced them to leave our country and made ourselves free. But I don’t see the slightest reminiscences of being a citizen of a sovereign country.

        Those were the times when the ULFA problem in Assam had heightened. The early 1990s will always be remembered as the time of insurgent revival in North East India. However, insurgency and the feeling of separation is not new to this region. The Nagas under Phizo were the first to seek separation from India, whom they called occupiers of their land. Soon, the Mizos joined the struggle under Laldenga. In due course of time, these turmoil districts of Assam, were given statehood as a measure of appeasement, but the Naga conflict still continues. Mizoram came out form the clutches of insurgency to become the most advanced state in the North East.

        To counter the growing Assamese separatist upheaval, the Indian diplomatic think tank applied the policy of divide and rule, in similar manner the British played carrot and stick with the Indians before Independence. The policy sowed the seeds of distrust among the various tribes of Assam, leading to a vast majority of them to demand separate statehood or greater autonomy. A majority of them resorted to arms. Tribes like the Bodos, Dimasas, Karbis etc, all took to arms to fight for what they felt a sense of historic deprivation, because of the perceived big brotherly treatment by the Assamese. As a result the separatist movement of Assam went nowhere and became a colossal failure. This distrust among the various tribes in Assam can also be attributed to their alienation by the Assamese of the plains in the various social and political movements in Assam following India’s Independence. Sadly, till today no concrete measure has been taken by the Assamese intelligentsia to counter and erode the air of distrust which has plagued the region as a consequence of which possibilities of further geographic divisions is in the platter.

        But can geographic divisions create separate identities? Just like we identify ourselves as Indians, irrespective of our regional or tribal or caste identity, most of the people of North East and their antecedents identify themselves as Assamese at some point of time. Though this feeling does not still hold ground in the political circles, economically and socio-culturally, we still witness reminiscence of the greater Assamese way of life. As Sajib Baruah has put it in his path breaking book – India Against Itself, we also can call this feeling – a sense of Sub-nationhood.

        Although we may not be a nation in itself, but yes, we do qualify to be a sub-nation. In the markets of Harmutti the Arunachalees come down to buy and sell goods and vegetables, do they look a bit lesser Assamese? In Dimapur, Nongpoh and Silchar, the nodal points of commerce into Nagaland, Manipur, Meghalaya and Mizoram, people from various tribes mingle, interact and make merry. To them emotional and social bonding transcends geographical boundaries. And this feeling is not new, it has been there since a long time in history. Assamese is much more than an identity, it is a way of life. And other identities get attracted to ways of life due to various reasons like Economic, Political, Cultural, Spiritual and Social. I am speaking here, about the Spirit called Assamese, which have become a common way of life of various communities across the NE. Why they got attracted to it at different times explains the homogeneity amidst heterogeneity in this region. Even the Ahoms assumed the Assamese way of life to rule over Assam, no one imposed it upon them, nor did they impose their culture on the non-Ahoms. Thus, they brought the richness of their culture and enriched the Assamese culture by leaps and bounds. Same is with all the tribes and communities. However, I have a deep feeling that every community and tribe should try its best to keep its own traditions alive. It should not be a case of their traditions coming under siege by a stronger culture. All cultures have their own uniqueness and attractions. The primary identity of a tribe should be its own and it should try its best to retain what it possess. Then there should be a common identity for social, cultural and political reason. And in our case it has been distinctly Assamese or Axomiya.

        Will breaking Assam into many parts destroy the Assamese within us? I still talk in Assamese when I walk around in Shillong. It is also heartwarming to see a Garo talking to a Karbi in Assamese, a Naga speaking to a Mising in Assamese, a Bodo speaking to a Deori in Assamese. Behind our individualities lie a unifying factor – Assamese, an identity which all tribes and castes of this North Eastern region of India mutually agreed to, to be a part of, since last 2000 years. Can that be broken by breaking Assam geographically into several pieces? The answer is an emphatic NO.

        Traditional Assamese Jewelry by Kavita Saharia

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          Traditional Jewelry Of Assam

            Assam’s tradition of making jewelry dates back to many centuries. In medieval Assam during the reign of the Ahom dynasty the manufacture of gold ornaments was a flourishing business. Gold dust was abundantly found in the sands of different rivers of the state. Gold-washing on the banks of the Subansiri was a major profession of the Sonowal Kacharis. Subansiri which means “flow of gold” is one of the major tributaries of the Brahmaputra. In olden times the different metals and materials used for the making of ornaments were gold, silver, copper, brass, bronze, amber, rhinoceros’ horns and ivory.

          Dugdugi

          While most of the designs depict flora and fauna of the region some are inspired by elements of Assam’s culture .Each piece has a name which describes and indicates the shape and decorative work done on it .Many of the designs are exclusive to this state only.

          Royal jewelry

            Over the centuries the three major hubs of traditional jewelery making are Nagaon (Rontholi ),Jorhat (Sonarigaon) and Barpeta. There are three different ways by which the jewelery is manufactured .In first method the main jewelery frame is made with pure gold and lac is used as a filling material. The second style has the basic frame in pure silver which is further covered with handmade gold foil also known as leaf gold /pat gold. The joints are made with the help of a mixture called Pine which is a mixture of silver and copper at a proportion of 6:1 .Previously enameling on gold was mainly done at Jorhat. The enamel is mainly of three kinds, a dark blue, dark green and white .Beads or Bakhars are too used in these jewelries.

          gold foil

          Some of the most popular designs are shown here .This piece below is called Lokapar which is an ornament with two sets of twin pigeons placed back to back in gold, mina or ruby .It was originally worn by high profile dignitaries of the royal Ahom dynasty.

          lokapar

          This is Junbiri which depicts the shape of the crescent moon.The other ornaments worn on neck are Dhol Biri, Silikha Madali, Gejera, Bana, Dokmala, Kathal Kuhia Madali, Dugdugi, Sonar Har, Dhari, Biri. The named ornaments except for Japhar Madali and Gejera were worn previously by both by male and female.

          junbiri

          The ornaments such as Galakantha Chandra Har, Rupadhar, Galpata, Pechhandar, Kesuluria Har, Kautha Sobha, Gajamati har were put on as necklace by women only.

          Lokapara, Lang Keru, Thuria, Dighal keru, Bakharna Keru, Uka keru, Titakaria keru, Jangphai keru, Kanthasa, karnaphul are the names of some of the ear ornaments.

          Gam-Kharus are broad bracelets with clasps previously worn by the males only but now very popular amongst females. There were other bracelets such as Epatiabala, Dopatia bala, Muthi, Satjuri Muthi, Sonkhatowa Kharu, Rupar Kharu, Eptia magar Khatowa bala, Uka Kharu, Chheo etc. The rings of various designs were Jethineguri Angathi, Patia Angathi, Babari phulia Angathi etc.

          japi

            Presently in Assam  traditional jewelery is gaining popularity by the day and they are in very high demand now because of their aesthetic beauty and unique designs. This traditional art is attracting more youth in the state to take up jewelery-making as a profitable profession which is an encouraging sign for the economy of the state. Hope that these exquisite and unique jewelery of Assam gains popularity outside the state too and occupy a place of pride in its possessor.

           Images : clicked by Kavita Sahariya. at Mrigakshi Showroom Guwahati
          Info: post is based on conversation with Mrigakshi Bora the owner and jewelery designer at Mrigakshi.

          Nyishis- righting some wrongs.

          Some time back there were news reports about how the Great Indian Hornbill birds were facing extinction because of rampant hunting of the bird by the Nyishi tribe from Arunachal Pradesh, who hunted the bird to adorn their specially designed bamboo hat, Bopiya with the beak of the hornbill,you can say , as a part of their tradition . Activists rallied against it, lots were written and then one fine day the news item flashed, wherein it was mentioned that Hornbills now were out of danger from the Nyishis. The hunters had become the protectors and instead they had joined in a programme with the Govt. forest officials and Nature Conservation foundation to kickstart what will be now known as Hornbill nest adoption programme. Hunting had altogether stopped after they realised the importance of preserving this endangered species,shifting to fibre glass hornbill beaks instead and now they were trying to reign in deforestation as well as that too posed a threat to the hornbills. The Nyishis had cooperated in a major way to bring this positive change.

          Again sometime back they were in spotlight for the face off with Times of India for an article filed by their reporter about a negative remark about the Nyishis and there was much hulla ballo over the matter. It seemed to appear to us that the Nyishis were being focused all for the wrong reasons and that was when we decided to find out the right reasons, which were still hidden from the world.

          Coming back to the Nyishis, we were quite intrigued by the tribe and decided to delve deeper for our search for the right reasons, where our source Lovely Arunachal from facebook helped us a lot. And we were pleasantly surprised to learn some really heart warming facts about the Nyishis. What makes them stand out is their positive approach and adaptation for progress without compromising on the traditional aspect. They, unlike the bias by the general populace, are a tribe who do not hesitate to take the middle path for the benefit of the society if required as can be seen by the Hornbill issue.


          When you mention Arunachal Pradesh, the tribes that comes to one’s mind foremost are the Adis, Apatanis and also Monpas and Khamtis. Only at times have the Nyishis come to the forefront, which is surprising as they the largest tribes in Arunachal Pradesh inhabiting areas of Papum Pare, East Kameng, Lower Subansiri and parts of Subansiri in Arunachal Pradesh. Primarily farmers, they used to love hunting and fishing, but this tribe has now settled into a life of agriculture in the plains  sometime after they crossed over the mountains from the Chinese side long long back, even before the advent of Buddhism in China . Life has not been easy for the Nyishis, who are said to be of Indo mongoloid origins. It hardly is for the Hill people as their name suggests. After a period of time, when they began to face the problem of scarcity of arable land, (as they were into shifting cultivation in the mountains) they adapted to wet cultivation and settled down by the river Pakke. Unfortunately the Pakke river flooded in 2004 resulting in great loss of assets and call it a positive approach or never say die attitude,they resurrected to start afresh. Life is surely not easy because of unemployment and lack of infrastructure, but their enthusiasm towards life hasn’t paled.

          Once known for their highly traditional values which is apparent from their attire all abloom and resplendent with a splendid headgear and ornaments, and also their elaborate rituals, they have set forth towards becoming a society of progressive thinkers as can be seen by their lifestyle changes, adaptation, including education and participation in community and state development programme. You will find it interesting to know that they have a Nyishi Elite Society or NES, who are a group of dedicated and educated Nyishi people who are very much into all round development as well as education of the tribe. But whatever change they have incorporated, it has not come at the cost of traditions as is the rule . They still maintain their traditions religiously and  to give you an example we would like to share with you something we read, about the time how the village headmen had attended an official meeting with the Govt. Officials and NCF regarding the hornbill nest adoption programme attired in their traditional finery of dresses and headgear all complete with pipe and even daos (a type of dagger). After all intentions if well meant and firm can never be hampered by traditions and customs.

          Life surely is full of contrasts. There are so much contrasts and diversity in their way of life .

          Mithuns, an animal used to be an important asset for the Nyishis and sacred too and is as  important as gold is to us. They were the yardstick for economic transactions and also social status.The financial stability and social standing used to be ascertained by the number of Mithuns they used to possess. And if that gave you the impression of being caught in a time warp, then you will be surprised furthermore to know that they are considered experts in indigenous herbs and so knowledgeable are they about the significance of plant extracts and individual properties that it was written about elaborately in R P Srivastava’s article Srivastava’s traditional knowledge of Nyishi tribe of Arunachal Pradesh.

          Animist in faith, they believe themselves to be descendants of Abo Tani and hence are said to be of Tani tribe. They are known for their celebrations and festivities, Nyokum yullo being the most important. Nyokum , a festival for harvest, has been celebrated every year without fail from 24th to 26th February since 1967 – 68 in Jorum in Lower Subansiri.

          Nyishis without the mention of apo and its importance in their life will render the article incomplete. Apo is a local brew, made from either rice or millet and are used in all social gatherings and important events of lifetime.

          Women  hold an important position in the household and society. Nyishis consider their women as source of peace, progress and prosperity and hold a key status in decision making of the house.

          They have a clan system or phratry system rather than a caste or class system not ascertained by birth or occupation but based on a lineage or descent and is in no way politically or socially divisible but is present more for cooperative and cumulative social functioning .
          Interestingly they have a politico cum judicial system called Nyele to settle disputes and listen to grievances. The place where the Nyele operates is called Nyele Miram or arekh merem.

          The most heartening part is the news of the Nyishis developing their own script and language and a primer to that effect being already worked out as per last reports in their website www.nyishielitesociety.org

          The Nyishis are an open minded, frank and friendly tribe and you can visit them without any fear or inhibition for a more closer look into their society , culture and of course the beautiful and scenic landscapes of the land they live in.

          We surely have found the right reasons that we were looking for. We hope you have found too.

           

          Source and pictures- Lovely Arunachal

          www.nyishielitesociety.org

          Srivastava’s – Traditional knowledge of the Nyishis

          wikipedia

          The Warlis: Painters of life

           

          Based at a stone’s throw from the busy hustle and bustle of city life, is the small and very intriguing tribe of the Warlis. The tribe, settled in the Thane district, about 150 kms. from Mumbai, the capital of Maharashtra, has stringently over the years, maintained its rituals and customs. What is particularly interesting about the people’s customs is their affinity to nature and everything natural.
          History:
          Though there is nothing known for fact, oral tradition and stories, trace back the Warlis to nearly 3000 BCE. The tribes have been known to live in the forests, away from civilization until the British evicted them and resettled them on the fringes. Warli sects are found predominantly in Thane, Nasik and Dhule in Maharashtra, in Valsad in Gujarat and in the Union territories of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu. The Warlis speak a dialect which is a mixture of Khandesi Bhili and Marathi. The written script is usually Marathi or Gujarati.
          The Warlis, have traditionally always worshiped Nature and it is also obvious in their concepts and traditions. The Warli offspring is always advised not to harm but to live in harmony with the forces of nature.


          Culture and Paintings:

          The Warli concept of worshiping nature is also depicted in their art and paintings. The basically rudimentary paintings follow a typical style of basic geometrical elements like a circle, a triangle and a square. The circle depicts the sun and the moon, the triangle, the mountains and the trees and the square, land. The central theme of all the paintings are usually everyday activities like fishing, farming, dancing and festivals all happening around forces of nature. The characters are again depicted by geometric shapes, mostly triangles, joined mostly at the center.
          Each character depicts balance, tells stories about nature and the circle of life and preaches the existence of harmony with nature.
          The paintings are also made from everyday articles of use. The paintings are usually painted on red background with white lines. The traditional wall paintings use cow dung and earth, making up the red background. The white paint is usually made of rice paste and glue and is painted with a bamboo stick chewed into a brush. The paintings always follow the traditional rudimentary style forming a pattern.
          Even with consumerism and capitalism poaching on art and culture, the Warlis have managed to keep their art and their culture their own. With their strong beliefs about nature being the Supreme Being, the Warlis actively refuse to merge into the popular modern motto of “live and let die”. The Warli art has been much appreciated worldwide but they have always maintained their low profile, living with nature and painting it. And ideal race in a materialistic world, the Warlis, do continue to inspire many.

          Balti Paneer by Aman Kahlon

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            Recipe By Aman Kahlon

            Ingredients

            1. 250 gms fresh full cream paneer cut in cubes and soaked in milk

            2. 1 tea spoon shahi jeera

            3. 2 tablespoon oil

            4. 1/2 tsp grounded kali mirch 

            5. 1 large onions cut into rings 

            6. 1/2 large capsicum de-seeded and cut into slices

            7. 2 green chilies diagonally cut 

            8. 3-4 pinches kasoori methi 

            9. Green Corriander leaves chopped 

            10. 1/4 tsp turmeric (haldi) powder 

            11. salt to taste

            12. 4-5 tablespoons of fresh cream 

            Preparation

            1. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a kadai / frying pan

            2. Add shahi jeera and let it crackle

            3. Add onion rings , cut green chilies and slices of capsicum and sauté 

            4. Reduce heat and add kali mirch (crushed black pepper), haldi (turmeric), salt, kasoori methi 

            5. Add paneer cubes soaked in milk and mix well 

            6. Add milk (1/2 cup milk) and cook for some time till the milk dries up

            7. Add the cream and mix for 10-15  seconds 

            8. Remove from heat 

            9. Add the chopped dhaniya patta (coriander leaves) 

            10. Serve with Roti /Naan/Parantha 

            Ingredients

            Balti Paneer in making

            Balti Paneer

            Aman Kahlon, a Doctor by profession delves into intricacies of delicacy. He likes to create, experiment and innovate recipes to suit his taste-buds. He is passionate about photography and loves to own the latest gadgets.

            Pyrokinesis – A press release

            Press Release

             

             

            Guwahati based funk band Bluetooth won Pyrokinesis 2012( www.pyrokinesis2012.com ) a annual technical cum cultural fest by Assam Engineering College, while Judas Ancestry was declared runners up. The other bands who made it to final are Hysteria, Machine X, Chamber.

            Bluetooth members are:

            Pritam Kemprai(Vocals),
            Rituparna Choudhury(Guitar),
            Rishav Bhuyan(Bass),
            Biraj Baishya(Drums)

            Facebook page: www.facebook.com/bluetooththeband

            Panorama Northeast- by Geetima Baruah Sharma

            Pic credit- peperonity.com

             

            Pic credit- peperonity.com

             

            Behold the beauty of Brahmaputra, (Assam)
            Travel to Tawang for tranquility, (Arunachal)
            Look at Loktak Lake the lifeline, (Manipur)
            Cherish the charm of Cherrapunjee. (Meghalaya)
            Cemetery at capital conveys courage, (Nagaland)
            Balance on bamboos bring beams, (Mizoram)
            Princes of palaces provide pleasure, (Tripura)
            Rafting on river renders relish. (Sikkim)

            Indi- Genius

            Think Tribes, villages,  and the pictures that come to one’s mind generally are of poverty, backwardness and remote, aloof from the outer world, hard life, survival and many things to the similar effect.

             

            Well life is certainly hard, but they make it easier to some extent.

            Backward? Depends on your definition.

            The photographs below are not a show of technique , nor does it boast of photography skill, rather it attempts to share some amazing facts that reinforces the statement-Necessity is the mother of invention.

             

            Millet cultivation

             

            1944,Apatanis cultivate millet by an unusual method. They first sow seeds in a nursery bed, like rice, and then transplant it to dry ground, including bunds of the paddy fields. Here, one woman makes holes in the bund with a pole, while the other woman places the millet seedlings in them.

             

            “My home made tools and hands create more beautiful colours ” A lady weaving at home.

             

            Grind and bump of life!

             

            Formula one? or a formula that works in heavy material transportation

             

            A baby carrier.

             

            Fish traps. Working of an advanced mind.

             

            Water- a life force, a formidable life force.

            Hanging Bridge- Technological marvel?

            If those photographs intrigued you very much and if you would like to have a more detailed view then please join Lovely Arunachal in facebook. Its a vast treasure house and we are indebted to him for letting us use his resources.

             

            Folktales from Assam

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              Picture credit - Lovely Arunachal

              “Burhi Aai’r Xaadhu” (literally translated to Grandma’s Tales) is a collection of stories or folklore, that have been compiled by famous Assamese author and poet Laxminath Bezbarua. As most folktales go, before this compilation, there had been no written record of these stories. While some of the stories are more like the Assamese version of Panchatantra, with speaking animals and birds as main characters of the story, most of these are based on the life of a simple villager. The words of Laxminath Bezbarua wrap these stories up in subtle and sometimes blatant humour, which can somehow never be reflected in translation, no matter how accurate it is.

              Having been one of those fortunate ones to have heard these tales from my own grandmother, I realise just how precious those tiny fragile moments are, and how integral they are for the bonding of grandparent and grandchild. In today’s fast moving life where children are thrown into cut-throat competition from a very early age, internet and video gaming have taken the place of innocent storytelling sessions. It is indeed rare to find a child who can and more importantly, want to read books in his mother tongue. Hearing such stories from a grandparent is an even greater rarity.

              The Project Burhi Aai’r Xadhu is an effort to introduce the simple pleasures of hearing folktales from a grandmother. The stories have been retold by my own grandmother, and even though I would have loved to put up all thirty stories in the compilation, I managed to put up only seven of them due to personal constraints. Here’s hoping these stories light a spark, if not ignite a fire, of interest in these irreplaceable stories.

              Tejimola:

              Perhaps the most famous among all Burhi Aai’r Xadhu, this story is a touching story of a girl named Tejimola whose evil stepmother kills her in a fit of jealousy while Tejimola’s father is away for business as a traveling merchant. However, Tejimola takes different forms and stays alive in spirit despite her stepmother’s efforts to make her disappear forever. The story has a happy ending, where Tejimola ends up as a lotus flower in the hands of her father on his way home. With magic and emotions all packed in, this story is a fascinating narration from beginning till the end.

              Jorodgob Roja’r Upakhyan:

              This funny tale is about a foolish emperor whose skewed idea of justice leads him to decide to kill his own son. In an attempt to find a way out of this, the emperor’s shrewd minister catches hold of a fat man in the pretext of having him carry the baby prince while he was being killed. The man’s teacher in turn, being even more cunning, makes the foolish emperor kill himself by tempting him with kingship of Heaven itself. Immensely quirky and funny.

              Bandor aru Xiyal:

              This is a famous tale of a monkey and a fox who claim to be friends and yet keep trying to outwit each other. While the monkey cheats the fox out of his fair share of food taking advantage of the fact that the monkey and climb trees while the fox can’t, the fox makes the monkey attack a bee hive by telling him it is a royal drum. The greedy foolish monkey however ends up paying with his life in this story with a strong moral: Don’t cheat your friends!

              Juwai’r Xadhu:

              “Juwai” meaning son-in-law, this story is about a foolish man who goes visiting his in-laws. While confusing his own shadow to be a person, he ends up giving up all of his clothes to his own shadow to get rid of it. To add to his woes, he suffers from night-blindness which he tries to hide from his in-laws, leading to a whole lot of confusion.

              Lotkon:

              An intelligent but poor man tired of being nagged by his wife sets off on a journey to prove his worth, and with his cunning manages to fool a lot of people on his way. Starting from eating sweets in a sweet shop by fooling the shop owner’s son into believing his name to be “Makhi” (meaning housefly) to making a man run around a tree holding on to the tail of a pig, the intelligent man goes back home with riches much to the satisfaction of his wife.

              Kukurikona

              Kukurikona in Assamese means a person suffering from night blindness. Although not much different from the “Juwai’r Xadhu” this story has its own twists and turns.

              Dhura Kauri aru Tiposi

              Dhura Kauri meaning a crow and Tiposi being a pigeon, this story is a narration of how the intelligent bird escapes from the clutches of the crow using his cunning, by making the crow fly around to fetch something that ultimately leads to the crow’s death.

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