At the epic, ‘Janjaatiya Sanghralaya’ or Tribal Museum located in Bhopal, the world of indigenous tribes is depicted with much authentic skill and finesse.
Inaugurated last year by the Honorable President of India- Shri Pranab Mukherjee, the museum showcases historical and cultural narratives depicting different facets of tribes inhabiting the state of Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh.
An amalgamation of anthropological provenance and sociological relevance of different cultures, customs and rituals of indigenous peoples such as the Gonds, Bharias, Korku, Sahariya, Bhil, Baiga and Kol– the museum is a rich repository of traditional aesthetics and artworks.
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Sculpted and styled by artists and craftsmen, hailing from remote corners of the state like Jhabua, Dindori, Alirajpur and other districts, the museum is nothing short of a ‘communication tool’ disseminating beliefs and traditions of the indigenous people.
Adivasis of the state, themselves, have exhibited their historical and mythological narratives, beliefs, colorful wedding customs, farming practices, and rituals while preserving and depicting the rich cultural capital of central India at the museum, here.
This aspect about the museum’s concept and creation- is a classic example of ‘participatory planning’ – a concept dominating the development discourses in public policy today.
The ‘Hamlet’: A gallery of homes
Showcasing homes of tribes – Gond, Korku, Bhil, Saharaiya etc, this section of the gallery retains the authenticity, and richness of adivasi tradition, while highlighting their dependence on natural resources. At the outset, houses have been made of mud, dung, hay, dry foliage, bamboo, and other grasses with a portrayal of essential supplements such as earthenware, charpoys, and agricultural tools used by tribal farmers.
Red and white wall paintings – essential patterns of communication painted with chuna, red earth and color is one of the many recreational methods of décor, during festivals and other auspicious occasions. The same methodology to communicate adivasi ethnic narratives and cultural stories has been utilized, thereby preserving the authentic designs, and richness of natural aesthetics emanating from different corners of the state.
A stroll through the arcade is nothing short of walking through an entire hamlet inhabiting different communities, disseminating imperatives of social cohesion- prevalent and homogenous in rural hamlets. These hutments narrate the origins, historic importance and evolution of different tribes, and their habitations– for instance, the Baiga Mangaroti Ghar near forests, Gond Ghar, Bhil houses, importance of a courtyard or ‘Angan’ at the Sahariya home, etc. (See pictures)
Celebrating Cultural Diversity
The next section at the museum celebrates the different traditions associated with weddings, and festivals of these communities. The sanctity and sacredness attached to natural resources – forests, flowers, leaves and farms with sculptures of men and women have been brought to life by artists. Significance of a ‘vivah mandap’ at the centre, musical instruments like Dholak and Damru hanging from the revered banyan, and relevance of other rituals, have been told colorfully. (See pictures). Additionally, the mythical relevance of bamboo originating from the story of ‘Baasin Kanya’ is told with much fervor and beauty, highlighting the social, traditional and economic importance of forest resources such as bamboo in shaping rural livelihoods.
‘Devlok’ or the house of gods is one of the most fascinating portions of the gallery. The entire spectrum of different myths and beliefs associated with customs of worshipping mother earth, mountains, rivers, etc. have been recreated. A huge banyan tree at one corner, different kinds of terracotta artefacts painted with white and red are realistic creations, here at the Devlok.
Chattisgarh, is featured as the guest state here at the museum. Celebrating indigenous cultures of natives of Bastar region, artists have put together a huge Dussera pavilion, with metal works from Bastar featuring different community traditions prevalent in the state. The ancient educational system of ‘Ghotul’, along with the story and evolution of pottery as an art with its contemporary relevance in Bastar, have been showcased.
Evolution of Games
Different methods of recreation with games like Ghoda Badam Shahi, traditional ‘Tug of War’ have been showcased here in the ‘Rakku Games’ gallery with little sculptures of men, women and children. The section underscores the usage of natural materials for fun and leisurely pursuits. Portrayal of ‘Chaupat’ with stones and pebbles, ‘Poshampa’ with abundant Palash, Mahua or Gulmohur trees, ‘Ghar Ghar’ with the use of mud, and scenes from other day to day recreational activities have been depicted meticulously by using the art of sculpting and painting.
Generating Knowledge Capital
The occasion of ‘International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples’ is celebrated annually (August 9th) at the museum thus highlighting the museum’s objective of preserving heritage and generating awareness about indigenous tribes of the state. Towards this mission, the state department of culture organizes painting and folk-art exhibitions, music and dance exhibitions/concerts, lectures, pottery and crafts workshops at the museum, thus recognizing hidden talents of artists and craftsmen by encouraging them to participate in these events from time to time. Additionally, the department of culture encourages artists from several parts of the state to train urban youth, women and children, and to simultaneously showcase their indigenous talents. For more details on monthly events, one can access information at- http://mptribalmuseum.com/events.html.
Chinhari: The Museum shop
‘Chinhari’- a retail outlet for handicraft connoisseurs, exhibits a collection of exquisite artefacts from Annuppur, Dindori and other districts of the state. Traditional works by artisans like authentic bastar handicrafts and metal art, bamboo furnishings, miniature paintings and colorful papier mache artworks, made by tribal artists from Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh are available for sale at the shop.
How to Reach
The Museum is located at Shyamala Hills, next to Manav Sanghralaya in Bhopal. The entry fee is Rs 10 for Indian visitors, with an additional charge of Rs 50 for photography enthusiasts (without flash and tripod!).
Views expressed in the article are personal