Exemplary speeches and jargon-ridden lectures on tribal issues, their development, integration and autonomy would hardly make a popular discourse. But when Prof Jayadhir Tirumala Rao gets into the roots of primitive tribes — their music, art and culture which are on the verge of extinction — it’s easy to decipher the language. A handful of people would swarm around and lend their ears.
A professor from Telugu University, Jayadhir has been researching and reviving the art and culture of Adivasis for the past 35 years. This poet and historian also had his share of tales from the chapters of Telangana freedom struggle. Like most of the unpleasant stories during the lockdown, the tales of Adivasis in Telangana’s hinterland too are mired in despair and gloom.
And Jayadhir is just a call away for assisting them in whichever way possible. “The scare of the virus sounded the death knell in jungles. No natural calamity lasted more than a week. Thoti community suffered the brunt of the lockdown because none was allowed to attend the funeral of Gonds as their livelihood depends on folk performances. They perform rituals during funerals, marriages and other events. Artistes from as many as 50 communities who play various musical instruments remained without work during the lockdown,” shares the retired professor.
Elaborating further, he said, “Kinnera performers from Dakkali community usually play for Madhiga community (Dalits). They wander village after village playing and singing ballads. So I have organised video calls and made them perform for those who live in the city. And I was able to help them through sessions listening to their performances online. Thus, we were able to assist them financially.”
After the lockdown eased, Jayadhir along with his 20-member team, went to Chenchus to help them with daily essentials. “They are sancharis (wanderers) so we were able to help them financially. But for those whom we couldn’t reach, we had organised online performances and live music concerts. We paid them through online transactions. Not every tribal is educated but their younger generation is aware of the outside world and internet banking. That way, it helped them,” he says.
Jayadhir and his team has hired Dokra artistes from Adilabad to make Rs 2 lakh worth artefacts and instruments. “Teachers Thodasam Devrao and Arka Manik Rao from Indravelli village have been helping out Ojha community to market their products to the outer world. Ojhas are the sub-tribes of Gonds, who are involved in Dokra work. But our orders haven’t yet received because of the recent incessant rains. Technique of lost-wax casting need natural heat. Rains have delayed the work,” he adds.
Dokra meta casting is a peculiar work which demands hardwork and patience. Ojhas usually sell their pieces in Gond Gudems and local markets. Some of them are used in the rituals of Nagoba jatara.
Also to his credit, Jayadhir and team restored as many as 1.2 lakh palm leaves and paper manuscripts. “All belong to a period anywhere between 200 and 400 years ago, and are native to Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. They are most important to understand the socio-political and religious details of India. There is a 600-year-old mutt in Kesavapatnam in Karimnagar district from where we have secured themanuscripts. Later, we digitised and returned the originals to them,” he concludes.
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