Hyderabad-based prof calls for protection of aborigine creativity

Prof. Tirumala Rao\'s 40-year collection of artefacts of tribals and nomads gives an amazing peep into the richness of a distant past

HYDERABAD: ‘A village within a village’ and ‘India within India’ can be found in the rare artefact collection of tribals and nomads at a retired professor’s personal inventory.

Prof. Jayadhir Tirumala Rao, a retired professor from Telugu University, has been working in the field of folk and tribal lore for over 40 years, during which period he collected some rare original items from tribes and communities in the remotest parts of the state and around. Today, the 74-year-old collector has over 4,000 such priceless possessions.

Having travelled to more than 2300 villages, including the borders of Maharashtra, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, home to original tribal and nomadic cultures dating back to centuries, Rao took up research work on tribal communities in 1974 during his masters’. This became a passion that has lasted around four decades of extensive exploration. He made it a lifelong mission to preserve the communities, their unique culture, heritage, dialect and language, songs and music and rituals.

Recalling his ‘collection’ journey, Rao told Deccan Chronicle, “It was very challenging to create this collection. This is not of the aristocratic kind but a reflection of the sparkling creative ingenuity of the often neglected or overlooked sections of the society. The first step towards gaining their confidence was to become one among them. As I bonded with them, they shared their stories about everything - their culture, gods, beliefs, rituals and worship practices, marriages and their way of living. From my exposure to these communities, I realized that they had their own systems and values which, though unknown to the outside world, was a world rich in art, culture and traditions”.

The septuagenarian’s collection has wide range of handmade artistic and artwork items, including original manuscripts and inscriptions, ornaments, vessels, musical instruments, decorative items and curios, idols of deities, paintings, sculptures, farming tools and utensils, pottery, human masks, cartwheels, dolls, baskets, lamps, chains, pots and many more that all are symbolic of the aborigine deftness.

The materials that were used mostly include brass, copper, bronze, mud, stone and iron, cast in myriad shapes, colours and sizes. Handicrafts were decorated with intricate paintings or carvings.

One such huge idol cast in brass, called ‘Jitki Mitki’ that Rao had collected from the border of Chhattisgarh and Telangana, was an object of worship for the tribals in that region.

Another impressive category in the collection is of oil lamps in varying shapes and sizes. Made of wood and metal, they represent different communities and their artistic expressions.

Rao has closely interacted with gonds, totis, koyas, gutthi koyas, pradhans, mauryas, bodos, chenchus and banjaras (lambadis) and lesser-known communities and sub-castes of manda hechu, bolla pujari, tera chiralavaru daccali, chindu, mastidu, runjavaru and maladasari, which are still considered untouchables.

He believes that the literature, narratives, artistic expressions and music that comes from these communities is unique and historically significant.

“The tribal and nomadic culture is on the verge of extinction as modern society considers them as outcasts. But these are the very people who are original. They need a generous helping hand from the government of the day, philanthropists, historians and people obsessed with protecting such historically relevant sections. Moreover, we also need to preserve such exemplary collections for posterity”, Rao said.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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