Agyaatvaas

2014

 

Archival Project : Artist In Residence at Sankalp, Mamoni, Rajasthan.

 

Songs, stories and folklores of the Sahariya tribe from Southern Rajasthan, India. 

 


The Sanskrit term ‘Agyaatvaas’ translates to exile, and perhaps is the only word that can somehow be used to describe the life of ‘Sahariyas’ – the jungle dwellers of Rajasthan. Sahariyas are an ancient indigenous tribal community, mostly found in the South-eastern part of Rajasthan in Kota, Dungarpur and Sawai Madhopur. There aren’t any genuine historical records of the tribe and its culture, although they are believed to be one of the earliest tribes to settle in Rajasthan. A deeper understanding of their ways educates the outsider to their rich and harmonious traditions of existence, which for centuries had been dependent on forests for everything. The Sahariyas are also Rajasthan’s poorest and the most suffering tribal community. Struggling to sustain themselves on deteriorating forests over time, a majority of Sahariya families have been forced to vacate the forests and lands of their ancestors, either by the government acts, or by powerful land-grabbers some of whom till very recently, have practiced bonded labour, taking advantage of their vulnerability and unawareness. A lot of those who’ve survived that onslaught, have been working as migrant labourers across various places in India. As for possessions, all they have are stories, which they can only narrate or sing. This project, aimed at archiving those voices in their raw-most form, was documented and recorded over a period of 8 months at the Sankalp campus for tribes, in the village of Mamoni in the Kishanganj district. After the project’s completion, the songs were physically distributed among the tribes and aired on a community radio station for the many villages and hamlets of the region.