Monday, 27 June 2016
पुस्तक परिचय - Selected Writings of Verrier Elwin
There was once a very ugly girl belonging to the KuttiaKond tribe in Odisha. No one was willing to marry her. She did her best to get a husband but no one wanted her. In despair she went to the Creator and begged to be allowed to die, and to return in her next birth as something which all men would love. He granted her request and after her death caused a tobacco plant to grow out of her despised body. And so the girl whom nobody wanted is now the desire of the entire world.
This and so many more anecdotes deep rooted in the tribal civilizations of India, in cultures covered in a blanket of myths and uncertainties, would have been long forgotten if not for one man. Verrier Elwin came to India in 1927 as a missionary in Christ SevaSangh. Rather than choosing a secured life at Oxford, Elwin allied with Mahatma Gandhi and in 1932, with his lifelong companion Mr. ShamraoHiwale chose to live and work among hill tribes of central India.
Verrier Elwin has more than 19 books written on the life and culture of tribals scattered all across India. From the plateau of Chhattisgad to the hills of the North East Frontier and from the Maikal Hills of the Gonds, Baigas, Agarias, Dhobas, Pardhans and Bharias to the far stretched Niyamgirimountains of the KuttiaKonds, the Bison – Horn Marias, Murias& the Bondos. The Oxford University Press has done an amazing job of compiling the best essays from these books and has published a memoir of this great “Philanthropologist”
The Elwins were Christian Missionaries. While the father had gone to Africa for the spreading the religion, Verrier finished his studies at Oxford and joined as a lecturer there. The first extract of the book is taken from “The Leaves from the Jungle” and provides an account of the factors that led Elwin to leave Oxford and choose his vocation for life. “I was filled with a desire to do something to make reparations for what my country and my class had done to India” he says.
What follows is what India should be in constant debt to this guy. “The Tribal World of Verrier Elwin” so immaculately describes the life, the traditions and the cultures of the various tribes of Central India. What is astounding to read is that how one man’s quest to discover Man as human being, whatever his color or creed be has led to unveiling before the world the great civilizations of India’s tribal communities. Labeled as Criminals by the Company Governments Tribes Act of 1871, the indigenous people were already a forgotten issue in the Indian politics and Society. Under the influence of Mahatma Gandhi and guidance by Jamnalal Bajaj and ThakkarBappa, Elwin single handedly carried out the seemingly impossible task of gaining back the sympathy and respectability for the tribes with unparalleled dedication. The extract seeps through the numerous unique traditions of various tribes of Central India, focuses on their dances and songs and is filled with beautiful illustrations of the tribal ornaments, weapons and drapery.
“The Murias and their Ghotul” is undoubtedly the best chapter in the book. It describes the socio-political and economical organization in the Murias tracing the origins of Phratry (divisions) and the clans. It is both fascinating and intriguing to read about the various versions of a single story about the God Lingo that varies in every Phratry and clan also. Elwin seamlessly describes the origins and stories relating to the specific Totems of the clans as well. Elwin writes about An Evening he spent in a MuriaGhotul to witness the remarkable customs of the chelik (eligible boy) and motiari (eligible girl) of the akomama clans. The routine of singing, dancing, playing, story-telling is followed by the intimate combing and massage of the chelik by the motiari. The details with which Elwin has pointed out the differences in this custom and the Ghotul rules in various clans is both a indicator of his keen observation and his deep empathy for the indigenous people. Interesting further are his descriptions of the Belosa, Siledar, Kotwar and the Sirdarwho run and maintain the machinery of the Ghotul.
Chapter on “Maria Murder and Suicide” tries to focus on the handling of clan rule breaches and delivery of justice. The Murias being strict in the maintaining the order in the clan and the Ghotul, breaching the rules would in most cases led to capital punishment. Even laziness and slackness were very severely regarded. The bully as well as the coward were equally disliked.
“The Religion of an Indian Tribe” describes aptly the religious and spiritual system of the tribes. The Buyya is the priest, the Kuranmaran is the shaman or the medicine man, the Idaimaran is the assistant to the shaman while the Siggamaran looks after the funerals. Elwin not only traces the origin of these complex words but also describes in apt details with examples and illustrations the complexities of Death rituals and concepts of life after death in various clans.
“The Folk Songs” and “The Myths” of tribals offer a collection of various songs and anecdotes. The book in the end has chapters on the life of tribals in the scenic North East Frontier where Elwin finally settled. It is mesmerizing to see how one man can overcome caste, religion, culture, color and achieve so much.
Elwin makes us realize that every Man deserves respect and credibility. At a time when it was or in some cases still now when it is considered unusual and retrograde to go and work lest live among tribals, Elwin opines so correctly “It was far more eccentric to live in the noise, the dirt and disturbance of town, to waste one’s time in clubs, courts or golf course. To go to a village to find a cause that is worth living for, to escape from the infantile gossip and the tedious recreations of civilization may be unusual, but I do not think there is anything especially eccentric about it.”
Elwin’s humanitarian attitude, his strong philosophical backing and his Gandhian outlook coupled with the most beautiful combination of Romanticism and Modernism in his writings makes the book a must read for all and especially those who are willing to try and contribute what they can for the Tribals.
Sometimes people wrote about the sacrifice I made in going into tribal India. But that is certainly not a virtue I can claim. What sacrifice could there possibly be in living in the beauty of the Saora hills or in the heart warming atmosphere of Patangarh? There has never been a moment of sacrifice in my life; for everything I have given I have been repaid tenfold – Verrier Elwin
HrishikeshMunshi (NIRMAN 6),
(वैभव आगवणे (निर्माण२) याने वेरियर एल्विन यांच्याच Leaves from the jungle: Life in a Gond village या पुस्तकाचा करून दिलेला परिचय इथे वाचा- http://simollanghan.blogspot.in/2012/12/blog-post_4.html )
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