Cultural Mapping of the Warli community

The Dahanu Chapter undertook a study to document the Intangible cultural heritage of the tribal people of Warli in order to identify the exact nature of the linkages between the tribal cultures with the surrounding environment. Under the supervision of the chapter convenor Phiroza Tafti, the project unfolded with rich research inputs by Pallavi Ganju. The Warli are a tribe spread over Bombay, Nashik and Palghar Districts of Maharashtra and the Dangs and Valsad districts of Gujarat. The project explored different cultural aspects of the Warli community of the Palghar district in Maharashtra with the three-fold objectives being: to identify the different aspects of the traditional knowledge of the Warli people; to map the folklores, dance forms and art of the community and to assess the rapidly disappearing traditional knowledge in the community and the mode of transmission of the knowledge from one generation to the next. Through interaction with artists and other members of the community, the project explored the habitation, dress, food, marriage rituals and natural resources of the community, besides their traditional dances like Shimga, Ranodi, Usalya, Ogalia, etc; Music and Musical instruments; religion including gods like Waghya dev, Narandev, Hirva, Himay and so on, beliefs like Sanvari, Cheda and ceremonies like Zoli, Kaj and so on; folklore like Mahadev and Ganga Gouri, Crab and his wife and so on; songs and typical visual arts depicting nature, women , children, animal and other motifs. This cultural mapping was important and urgent in today’s scenario. External influences and urbanization of areas which the Warlis have inhabited for centuries are aiding the rapid disappearance of the traditional knowledge systems. Access to this community to gather information for this cultural mapping exercise, has been a very satisfying experience and an eye opener to the simplistic lifestyle of the Warli people surrounded by communities that have almost succumbed to consumerism. The natural resources and wildlife of the region influence their culture in terms of artwork, musical instruments and folktales which form part of their quotidian life. However, the diminishing appreciation of the traditional cultural values of the Warlis by the younger generation of the community has pushed their culture on the verge of extinction. Hence the present project, by documenting the culture of the Warli people, seeks to foreground a negotiation between development and traditional knowledge. Through this study, strategies have been evolved providing a variety of options that can enhance the economic situation of this community as well as preserve their Intangible Culture pitting it against the urban cultural homogenization.

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