April 2010


Table of Contents

From our Ashakulam Digital Community Archive

From our Seraikella Digital Community Archive

From our Jenu Kuruba Digital Community Archive


Encyclopaedia Indica

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Gives to NFSC

You can donate online to strengthen the National Folklore Support Centre.

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Events Calendar:

April 26

The lecture “rivalry and harmony: negotiating relations in myth and ritual”

Lecture by Kirsten Schier
at 6 p.m.

April 21

Contemporary World Cinema (CWC) along with NFSC will screen the film ‘The secret in their eyes’ (Juan Jose Campanella/Argentina/2009/Col/120 min), 6 p.m.

April 22

CWC along with NFSC will screen the film ‘Coco before channel‘ (Anne Fontaine/France/2009/Col/110 mins), 6 p.m.

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NFSC Portal for Journals:

We have uploaded a collection of articles by Prof S. Carlos on NFSC Books and Monographs titled ‘Collected Articles on South-Indian Folklore’. This is our second collection on NFSC Books and Monographs. The first book to be uploaded was Prof Simon Charsley’s ‘Madiga and Dalit’. As you all must be aware that this service was launched as there is no existing software to help authors and scholars to publish their books and monographs on-line. Keeping with our tradition for innovation, we have customized the open journal system to do the same. You too can send in your proposals to muthu@indianfolklore.org.

The 9th issue of Indian Folklore Research Journal is out and has been uploaded on our Journal Portal. Full archives of the Indian Folklore Research Journal and Indian Folklife are available on the Journal Portal.

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Volunteer at NFSC:

We invite volunteers who can contribute online or at the Centre. Online volunteers can help with our website and wiki as contributors or editors. Volunteering at the Centre would involve helping organise programmes or workshops in colleges, schools or corporate houses. Those interested in volunteering can register online here or send in profile, bio-data, letter of interest, areas of work and experience and commitment of time to the address provided below.

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Dear Friends,

A cheery hello to all of you from National Folklore Support Centre!

As the temperatures rise up in namma Chennai, we have revved up our activities at the National Folklore Support Centre (NFSC). In fact we have a very exciting news to share with you all. Thanks to the assistance and encouragement of Tom Davenport of Folkstreams, Steve Knoblock (who actually walked us through the whole process) and YouTube’s Obadiah Greenberg, our YouTube account has been upgraded. US-based Non-Profit Organization Folkstreams is a national preserve of documentary films about American roots and cultures. The website is streamed with essays about the traditions and filmmaking. The site includes transcriptions, study and teaching guides, suggested readings, and links to related websites. While earleir we could only upload 10 min trailers of our documentaries, now we can upload the entire documentary. We are in the process of uploading our entire repertoire. You will soon be able to view all of our films on-line on YouTube. We have a very action-packed summer to look forward to. And now for a bird’s eye view of the Digital Community Archives that are being funded by the Tata Education Trust.

From our Ashakulam Digital Archive:

We had a meeting with eminent linguist Prof. G. Srinivasa Varma at our Chennai office to finalize the plans to make a dictionary for Vaagri-boli. The dictionary will be the first of its kind.

Even though Vaagri-boli is considered a dialect of Gujarati, we feel that the Vaagri-boli spoken in Tamil Nadu should be considered a separate language in its own right. The syntax, grammar, lexical structure and grammatical structure are different because of the heavy borrowing from other south-Indian languages and Marathi. This could also be attributed to their route of migration. Another unique thing about Vaagri-boli is that like south-Indian languages, it too has three genders – male, female and neuter – for describing objects. Further, a lot of new words have been added due to new occupations, new lifestyles, new modes of living and new material culture.

We had mentioned in last month’s newsletter about NFSC’s plans for the Ashakulam Digital Community Archive to document the medicinal plants and related knowledge of the Narikurava community from various settlements in different parts of Tamil Nadu. The first leg of this mammoth project has been kicked off by our collaborator Bakthavatsala Bharathi’s and Program Officer Aakaash Nair’s visit to a Narikurava settlement in Thirupattur. The medicinal knowledge of this settlement has been documented. Close to 51 medicinal plants have been identified and documented. Says Aakaash, ‘We have managed to record over three hours of video interviews of Narikurava medicinal experts and herb peddlers.’ This is just the beginning though, they will be visiting various other settlements all over Tamil Nadu.

From our Seraikella Digital Community Archive:

As was the case with the Ashakulam community archive, we have initiated a means to hand over the management of the Seraikella archive to the community. The archive is now monitored by the Archive Management Committee (AMC). Under our guidance, our collaborator Guru Tapan Kumar Pattanaik (seen in the picture) has formed a committee comprising of various gurus and exponents of Chhau. The AMC at Seraikella consists of Shyama Toda Nanda, Nathu Mahoto (musicians), Sushanto Kumar Mohapatra (mask maker), Brajendra Kumar Pattanaik (dance guru), Nalini Kanth Sathpathy, Bhago Sagar Singh (Dainik News), Kanhai Lal Maharana (mask maker). The committee meets every week on Saturday to discuss the ongoing work in our archive and gives recommendations for improving the work.

As part of civic engagement, several public programs were conducted at the Seraikella community archive. Students from the Government Chhau Academy enthusiastically participated in these programs. Topics related to Seraikella Chhau and its association with rituals is in particular a crowd-puller. Photographs and videos of an important component of the Chaitra Parva festival — Mansa Puja, worshiping their goddess at Maa Mangla ghat, was shown to the students. This was followed by an interactive session. In the next session, an informal quiz-like event was held where the photographs of old gurus and various compositions were shown to the students and then they were asked to identify them!! Based on this impromptu quiz session, students held discussions with Nathu Mahatao, a renowned Chhau musician. All the programs, by virtue of being interactive, served as a platform to clear the misconceptions about Seraikella Chhau.

The month of April is an important month for our Seraikella DCA. Chaitra Parva festival starts on 4 April and ends on 14 April. The Chhau dance festival which accompanies Chaitra Parva will be from 11-13 April. Our field workers have already left for Seraikella to document the Chaitra Parva Chhau festival. This time around they will be documenting the festival being celebrated in villages around Seraikella. They will also be training the new field assistants in video documenting, photography and in the software used in the documentation process. They will also be analyzing the material collected for the Seraikella Chhau book.

Program Officer Shanitini Sarah and Research Fellow Aruvi have made a documentary called ‘Lasya’ about women in Chhau. We have also uploaded photographs from our field workers last visit to Seraikella on our Wiki. You can view pictures on mask-making, musical instruments associated with Chhau and of course, the various movements in Seraikella Chhau here.

From our Jenu Kuruba Digital Community Archive:

Following the field visit from our Research Assistants to our Jenu Kuruba Digital Community Archive, the place has been abuzz with activity.

After the documentation of over 50 plants collected and filmed at the archive premises, Balle haadi and Metikuppe forest, the focus shifted to developing the medicinal garden at the archive. More than 34 varieties of medicinal plants were planted at the garden. In addition, a person has been put in charge of the maintenance of the garden. The medicinal plant was inaugurated by Prof. Peter Claus and the Art management course from Dakhshinachitra, Chennai. In the next phase, the fieldworkers will be be documenting and collecting the Jenukurubar’s various preparations of medicines. Research Assistants M. Dhivya and Manivannan have made a documentary titled ‘Medicinal Knowledge of the Jenu Kurubas’.

The Bhimankolli Mahadeshwara Jaathra festival has also been documented. The Jaathra is an annual cart festival celebrated by numerous tribes of the area. Madheswara, the God of downtrodden and poor is worshiped during this festival.

NFSC News:

Our director M.D. Muthukumaraswamy has been invited to participate in the conference ‘Cultural Histories of Meditation: Practice and Interpretation in a Global Context’, which will take place at Halvorsbole Conference Centre, near Oslo, Norway 12-16 May, 2010. The conference is being organized by the Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages, Oslo, norway. He will be speaking about ‘Vedic chanting as householder’s meditation practice in the Tamil Shaiva Siddhanta tradition’. The Institute feels that his contribution will be of great interest both to the field of Indian religious studies and to the field of meditation in a global context, since Tamil tradition is too seldom brought into the picture when Indian meditative traditions are discussed.

We also heard an interesting lecture at the Indian School of Folklore on ‘Travelling Rituals: The Vedic Sacrifice (yajna) in New Public Spheres’ by Silke Bechler. Bechler is a PhD-student at the Graduate Programme for Transcultural Studies, where she is working on her project in association to the Cluster’s research project Religion on Stage: Traditional South Asian Performances in New Public Spheres and Media at the Karl Jaspers Centre, Heidelberg. Among her research interests are traditional and modern ritual practices in India and Nepal, healing and possession practices, performance studies, and Hindu-nationalism. The lecture was followed by a lively discussion.

We also had an interesting ‘performance project’ directed by Parnab Mukerjee in association with the Prakriti Foundation. Dedicated to the centenary of the Hind Swaraj, ‘Unbound’ is based on the Swaraj writings of Mahatma Gandhi and J.C. Kumarappa. It also incorporated other writings such as E.M.S. Namboodiripad’s ‘Mahatma and his Ism’, ‘Social Justice: Identity Politics’ by Nancy Fraser, B.R. Ambedkar’s ‘Budha or Karl Marx’ Clifford Bob’s ‘Dalit Rights are Human Rights’ and writings and sayings of Srimad Rajchandra.

Encyclopaedia Indica:

Encylcopaedia Indica will soon be coming with an interactive website. Plans are afoot to make the website more reader- and kid-friendly.

In the meantime M.D. Muthukumaraswamy’s
is slowly but steadily building up a formidable collection of folktales. This weeks offering is Stories of the first Hummingbird. You can also find out “Why the tail of the Fox has a white tip”, “How the Quail became a Snipe” and “Why the serpent sheds its skin.”

We will be back next month with more updates from our archives and more exciting news. We will also update you about the work going on at the other archives which are funded by the Ford Foundation.

- Subhashini Sen

Programme Officer (Publications and Communication) NFSC

National Folklore Support Centre (NFSC) is a non-governmental, non-profit organisation, registered in Chennai, dedicated to the promotion of Indian folklore research, education, training, networking, and publications. The aim of the Centre is to integrate scholarship with activism, aesthetic appreciation with community development, comparative folklore studies with cultural diversities and identities, dissemination of information with multi-disciplinary dialogues, folklore fieldwork with developmental issues, folklore advocacy with public programming events and digital technology with applications to voice the cultures of the marginalised and historically disadvantaged communities. Folklore is a tradition based on any expressive behaviour that brings a group together, creates a convention and commits it to cultural memory. NFSC aims to achieve its goals through cooperative and experimental activities at various levels. NFSC is supported by grants from the Ford Foundation and the Tata Education Trust.

The NFSC is a member of the Credibility Alliance. For information on the NFSC Board of Trustees, Staff, Annual Audit Reports and details of programme development, click here. To unsubscribe from this newsletter, mail info@indianfolklore.org. You can also give feedback, suggestions or criticism at info@indianfolklore.org NFSC, 508, Fifth Floor, ‘Kaveri Complex’, 96, Mahatma Gandhi Road, Nungambakkam, Chennai 600 034, Tamilnadu, India
Phone: 044-28229192, 044-42138410, 044-28212706


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