Rajasthan’s indigenous communities highlighted at virtual event

The rich heritage of the indigenous communities of Rajasthan, including the celebrated Langa-Manganiyar folk artistes, were highlighted on Monday at a virtual event on safeguarding the intangible cultural heritage and diverse cultural traditions organised from Jodhpur’s Moklawas village, where a Thar desert museum has been established.

The two-day event marked the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. Academicians, cultural activists and experts on tribal culture called for the recognition and preservation of socio-cultural practices of indigenous people through community-based and government initiatives.

Urgent action was needed to preserve cultural identities before the heritage became extinct, said experts. Activities such as storytelling, performing arts and crafts and the showcasing of traditional skills were taken up during the event.

Noted cultural activist Ganesh N. Devy, known for the People’s Linguistic Survey of India and the Adivasi Academy created by him, said the preservation of oral traditions would help promote intellectual pursuits and answer the questions of human endeavour, sociology and politics. The vast oral traditions could throw light on the indigenous heritage across the country, he said.

Other participants threw light on the languages of the nomadic tribes of Rajasthan and the musical traditions of both the professional and non-professional communities, while pointing out that only a few of the cultural resources in the State had been recognised and explored.

Community efforts

Kuldeep Kothari of Jodhpur’s Rupayan Sansthan said the Langa-Manganiyar folk artistes of western Rajasthan, struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic, were being helped through community efforts and a social media campaign titled ‘Maru Mani’ (jewels of desert). The support extended to them would help preserve the heritage of traditional music and dance forms of the Thar desert, he said.

The Rupayan Sansthan, which established the ‘Arna Jharna’ desert museum in Moklawas, has also opened a folk music school for training young underprivileged boys from the Langa community. Langas and Manganiyars are hereditary professional Muslim musicians residing mostly in Jaisalmer and Barmer districts. The pandemic has stopped their global performances and has posed a challenge to the survival of the popular art form.

In addition to Rupayan Sansthan, other institutions that collaborated in the organisation of the event include UNESCO, Lok Samvad Sansthan, Archives & Research Centre for Ethnomusicology, International Centre for Inclusive Cultural Leadership and the Centre for Intangible Heritage Studies.

The speakers included Madan Meena of the Adivasi Academy; Sachidanand Joshi, Member Secretary, Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts; Mo Diener from Switzerland; Shubha Chaudhuri of the American Institute of Indian Studies; and Anand Krishnan Plappally of the Indian Institute of Technology, Jodhpur.

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