The living wisdom -Sukrajji
Sukri Bommu Gowda -fondly I call her Sukrajji. who always scolded me when I don’t comb my hair. She had every right to do so as she is from my grandparent’s village and seen me when I was a child. She would sit me down and apply oil and braid my thin hair and tie the end with banana fiber.
She told me many stories ...... She told me a story of Sita (seete kami) and how Laxman wins Sita by killing the wild crow (ಕಾಮಂಡಲ ಕಾಗೆ )...She said It is not Rama‘s story ....It is Sita’s story .. many myths were broken.... She had a story for every plant. She sang songs of the soil and simplicity......She lives with a song in her heart. .She is spontaneous , she is confident, She is simple, she is the living wisdom of the tribe And now she has been selected for India's fourth highest civilian honour-Padmashree.
The Valley School ,Bangalore in 2006
I fondly remember her stories of the 5 magical stones, princes with golden hair, the stone crab who turns into princess. I was more inclined to her epic stories and songs of Ramayana and Mahabharata .How the tree frog turned into Mandodhari and became Ravana’s wife, how Laxman wins Seetha and not Rama , are made me wonder the rich oral heritage of Sukrjji and the Halakki tribe
Three generations of relationship with Sukrajji is very special for us in many ways. Sukarjji belongs to my father’s village called Badgeri in Ankola . She would come to our house often. ...This is totally different journey for me with Sukrajji. This gave me deep insight of her life experiences and it is privilege to share with you here
she says stories about how pandavas brought agriculture in this western ghat region ..She says by breaking boulders and hard rocks, they made a way to water to flow and they dug wells to feed banana plantations.On her walk sukrajji recognises many plants which are associated with Pandavas and she gives interesting stories for these plants.
She recognises many plants and flowers from the western ghats with pandavas identity. panadavara baalE,(ಪಾಂಡವರ ಬಾಳೆ ) pandavara harige ,(ಪಾಂಡವರ ಹರಿಗೆ ) pandavra pachche, (ಪಾಂಡವರ ಪಚ್ಚೆ )pandavara tulasi ,(ಪಾಂಡವರ ತುಳಸಿ ). She says when pandavas went for vanavasa all these plants followed them. How interesting !!
|Oxtail orchid (Seete dande )source:internet|
|Oxtail orchid (Droupadi dande )source:internet |
I remember when I spotted fox tail orchid in the forest Sukrajji told me this is called seete dande(ಸೀತೆ ದಂಡೆ ) there is one more of this kind that is called droupadi dande.(ದ್ರೌಪದಿ ದಂಡೆ ) She explained the difference beautifully .Though they look the same seete dande (ಸೀತೆ ದಂಡೆ )is more beautiful with longer fall and more densely covered with flowers compare to droupadi dande (ದ್ರೌಪದಿ ದಂಡೆ ). droupadi's garland is really small and the flowers are not closely held
Sukrajji has a story for this. Draupadi had five husbands so she never got time to string flowers elaborately So her mala is done in a hurried manner so they are small and with scattered flowers. But seete had lot of time to string the flowers. So she made her dande /garland longer and densely tied with more flowers . The stories from the tribe is always weaved with close observation and deeper connection with the nature (photos of fox tail orchid is from the internet )
|Ambu goli |
Ambu goli the name itself describe the grass .ambu ಅಂಬು means arrow in kannada . The flowering shoots of this grass looks like an arrow. and Sukrjji warns “don’t think this grass is innocent ..take care of your langotis (ಕಚ್ಚೆ) and sarees when you go near to them. I like the way how she personifies the plants into character. She smiles and says they will hang on you ( to your cloths )and they reach your village and your home too. She describes the character of this grass beautifully by saying “ ಬಣ್ಣ ತೊಟ್ಟವರನ್ನೂ ಬಿಡ ಚಿನ್ನ ತೊಟ್ಟವರನ್ನು ಬಿಡ -it won’t discriminate poor or rich ,well dressed or poorly dressed it will hang on you ) This kind of depth can come only when you have the deep connection with the nature and the close observation and little bit of creativity and humour
|photo source: internet|
gubbi hullu ಗುಬ್ಬಿ ಹುಲ್ಲು –Gubbi in Kannada is Sparrow-and the grass has got something to do with sparrows . Sukrajji smiles and says this grass grows for the sparrows and not for us !! The sparrow will build its nest only from this grass.
Sukrajji’s wisdom of ecology has not came from the school or a book this came from the ages of observation ,deep connection with the nature and passed from generations. Now unfortunately The huge gap got created for new generation .The real life experience to virtual experience
“ kuttaade kittade kattidre choodade ..(ಕುಟ್ಟಾಡೆ ಕಿಟ್ಟಾಡೆ ಕಟ್ಟಿದ್ರೆ ಚೂಡಾದೆ ) ”Shukajji are you singing or asking me a riddle? when I asked sukrajji ,she laughed and handed over a bunch of grass to me and said this is the name of this grass. Learning will be so interesting with Sukrajji
She has many stories around plants and places which can become a local encyclopedia
The local diversity in the form of rich oral heritage is getting lost. What we are going to lose is enormous. Each region has its own local wisdom ,its own culture weaved with its ecosystem. May be each region had Sukrajji whom we never recognised .
Sukrajji is recognised as a singer or an activist in the main stream world. She is the one who brought into the light -the halakki tribe . The existence of Halakii tribe came into light only because of Sukrajji
Unfortunately no one recognised Sukrajji as a treasure trove of flora and fauna of Uttara Kannada . Her stories, songs, proverbs, anecdotes related to plant wisdom is nowhere documented. Her interpretations about the tribe and the origins are not documented. Her version of Ramayana and Mahabharata was never heard.
With her age her voice is slowly deteriorating. She is not able to recall her lost songs and stories like earlier. Slowly the wisdom of this tribe of this region is fade away with the time and Sukrajji’s shaky voice will say what we really lost.
The information about most of the plants collected by mother with Sukrajji . I added my experience. I acknowledge my mother and thanks to my mother who took me the road less traveled with Sukrajji .