Sunday, May 24, 2020

Wisdom stories from the Western Ghats Forests - dhik balli

It was the month of July,  Heavy monsoon time in the Western Ghat forests. Eshwaranna was busy in preparing paddy field with 2 more workers in our Angadibail forest . 

I was watching them from the distance . I saw Eshwaranna coming towards me holding something in his hand. It looked like a lump of sticky soil in his hand.
He showed me this damp moist soil  and asked me  to see closely "ಅಕ್ಕ ನೋಡಿ  ಇದಕ್ಕೆ  ದಿಕ್ ಬಳ್ಳಿ ಅಂತಾರೆ   - " akka ! see it is called dhik balli."

Balli in kannada means a thin rope, a thread or a creeper .ದಿಕ್ಕು(dikku) means direction. I was expecting a green colour creeper plant which may be like a compass - showing direction. To my surprise I saw a thin white thread like thing was lying on that lump of wet soil.

Eshwaranna told me if anyone crossed over this balli / thread / creeper knowingly or unknowingly they will forget their way home. This was true for cows also. He said it is common in the village if someone loses his way home while coming from the western ghat thick forests  they tell that person that you must have crossed the dik balli. He was trying to convince me how powerful it is by telling me "while coming from our other mud house to here - to this house (2km distance ) I would lose my way and get confused if I crossed this balli" 
I told him with a smile "Ah! beautiful excuse for your forgetfulness."

However i decided to take photos of this dikballi -a strange thread kind of a 'thingy'!

I got my camera out and was focusing on this thread like thing.
To my surprise I noticed it slowly moving . I screamed "ಅಯ್ಯೋ ಈಶ್ವರಣ್ಣ ಇದು  ಬಳ್ಳಿ  ಅಲ್ಲ .. ಇದಕ್ಕೆ ಜೀವ ಇದೆ ..ನೋಡು ಅಲ್ಲಾಡ್ತಾ ಇದೆ "( Eshwaranna!this is not a creeper it has got a life ..look!how it is moving slowly and entangling itself )"

Eshwaranna looked lost . I thought Eshwaranna also was noticing this for the first time so closely in a moving state .
Yes! it was alive. It was slowly tangling and entangling it self for hours. I felt as though it was moving nowhere. It was clueless, there was no direction whereas it was named as 'direction!'. May be people also got lost like this creature when they cross over it... becoming clueless...and i was observing it with astonishment . Esharanna said it will die if soil looses its moisture. I asked him to leave it where he found it from. I wondered what kind of wormy thread like creature it must be. 

How it looks :
It was   extremely long and thread-like. It was  15 to 20 cm . The body diameter is about the width of a very thin pencil lead or a thread like . It was white in color, and frequently  twisted and coiled like a discarded thread. It looked little lifeless when the moisture was drying  on that lump of soil .It was directionless meaning it was going nowhere. But it has a name  -ದಿಕ್ ಬಳ್ಳಿ (the rope/a creeper which shows you direction ) and if you cross over this creature you will lose your direction 

Link : BuDa folklore 

Monday, September 9, 2019

We have done it all -

Two girls from Mount Carmel College,Bangalore  - Harita and Meghana!  One is known to BuDa for many years and the other was experiencing the tough life fresh.They  stayed in Angadibail forest for thirty days without internet, without electricity without shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste ,without fan  far away from comfort zone.Went back home grown ,stronger, and changed .Angadibail forest..Beera ,Rangi (you named her !) and Eshwaranna  are going to miss you girls. Thankyou ! We also thank Advithi who supported you with your project in the forest  -BuDa team    

silent nights in the forest 

Sometimes wanting to stay back,
Sometimes wanting to go home,
Sometimes wanting to feel the forest,
Sometimes wanting to feel family,
Sometimes learning,
Sometimes  pushing ourselves
I go back home GROWN, STRONGER and CHANGED .
Taking things,
Taking memories
Taking love
Love for stars,
Love for forest,
Love for nature,
Love for earth,

We both believe the poem is not enough to describe the internship in Angadibail. Probably it is just 0.01pc of our adventurous experience there. For us city girls, the time there we had was a blessing- away from home, packed off in and around the small house amidst the lush green forest. 

While we woke up to screaming alarm clocks here in Benguluru, the horseflies annoyingly buzzed and woke us up every single day without fail! Walks with our ‘Beerappa Swamy’ to get milk was what we loved to do- first thing in the morning.

Eshwaranna teaching us how to arrange paddy hay 

Kutri- stocking paddy hey for the cows

our cooking routine 

Harvesting ground nuts 

From experiencing night forest walks to eating jackfruit papads, from learning constellations from Miya Bhai to suspecting a cat to be a leopard in the dark, from building mud walls to helping Eshwarnna prepare for the monsoons, from walking in search of network to call home to walking to a far neighbor’s house to see election results, from doing coconut harvest to ‘weightlifting those sacs’, from surviving the nights on solar lanterns to waiting for the first rain of the monsoons, from fighting paddy allergy to having full-moon light dinners, from cooking on fire to eating charred food, from waiting for guests for the kokum harvest to craving for the silence of the forest each night, from mixing kokum preserve in the hot sun to drinking lemon grass tambuli- WE HAVE DONE IT ALL!!

Eshwaranna explaning Mann  kaayi -a medicinal mud ball he found in the monsoon 
Advithi helping us in illustrating summer medicinal plants of Angadibail 

Our internship was to document ‘Summer medicinal plants of Angadibail’. That we would say was just less than half of the things we did there. From enjoying every meal to learning the value of food- we learnt it all. The ride was super bumpy filled with lots and lots of new things that we learnt. Realizing the forest has treasures at each step we take, understanding the medicinal value of ‘weeds’, listening to calls of various animals to going to have a hot water bath every night after a long day’s work- the experiences have made us more stronger, responsible, confident, humble, calmer and most importantly turned us into fighters- we are ready now to take upon any challenge we face!

Kokom harvest festival

We are forever indebted to the organization and everyone who help us survive those tremendous thirty days


Thursday, September 5, 2019

Roti, Kapada aur Makaan - what else? Mungaaru -2019

A beautiful note by our Mungaaru participant: Pallavi Raut 
Photos: BuDa Folklore 

A trip that reminded me about what are the basic necessities and how we take some of the luxuries for granted.
A trip that brought me down to earth literally! 

A weekend with team ~~BuDa folklore is a true digital detoxifier. 
Clean air, ample fresh water, good food(yummy too!), clothes - muddy from hard work(and play), a cozy house and a community of people with a similar mindset! What else does one need!
No electricity, no gas, no mobile network!!!! But so much fun!

An experience all urbanites, ever digitally connected but rarely actually connecting, must experience.
One'll have a two-way realization.

First is that a human being really has very few needs(not wants!). We're unnecessarily adding on too many things to our lives and becoming hooked onto them as we go higher up economically. And while adding this we're leaving behind sensitivity, self-reliance, empathy,  awareness of the neighborhood, physically hard-working capability, ability to appreciate simple pleasures and a whole lot of garbage.

Secondly, one gets to learn about the day to day difficulties faced by our rural counterparts. 

Where there is fresh air, there's also smoke from cooking and heating water with wood. 
The tremendous amount of work involved for growing grain of rice(The event, 'Mungaru', is all about paddy plantation). 

The distances one has to go for buying basic things or reaching basic facilities if living on the farm.(Forget about Big Basket, Swiggy and Amazon!!). 
Grinding in millstone instead of a mixer in case of no electricity. 

Exposure to only one community leading to a more judgemental society in some cases.
There are pros and cons for everything. Finding a balance is key.  Asking young men and women in villages not to go to cities is not fair, they too should get a chance to taste economic freedom and luxury and different cultures but not at the cost of forgetting the roots like what has happened to a lot of us. 

Such drops of efforts like the one being done by Buda may go a long way in bringing some of the urban folks, who are done breathing smoke and waiting long hours in front of red light, back to villages with new energy, ecological awareness and ideas that will help fuse the gap between urban and rural. Especially if the ideas are executed with local people's trust and by making use of their expertise, skill and knowledge.

The highlight of the event for me was seeing a teenager find it more meaningful to celebrate her 16th birthday with a group of strangers far away from family and friends just to be able to sow some paddy and hear some folktales and be in midst of mother nature.

Thanks, team Buda folklore for giving me a heartwarming and eye-opening experience!

Mungaru acknowledgments

Thanks, Sumeru for insisting I go. Thanks to Sara for introducing all of us to BuDa folklore and Savitha akka.

Thanks, Vinay and Mihir for making this happen and enjoying this as much ( or more)!

Thanks, Savitha akka for such a wonderful idea to give us this exposure and experience. May your organization grow and have a wide reach!

Thanks, Shanti amma for your passion to learn, document and share local and folk traditions, stories, recipes, medicines.. the list is endless...!!!

Thanks, Gowri Akka and Shalini Akka for giving us wonderful food sitting in front of that smoke all 3 days!

Thanks to Pranav for hot water and all the volunteering!!

Thanks to Madhavi and Joel for salads and juices and for serving and so much of fun singing and talking!

Thanks to Atmeeya and Uday for so many trips to get vegetables and to drop and pick up and for kabaddi!

Thanks to Ishwar Anna, Gopi akka, Padmavati akka and nuggli akka for teaching us baby steps in paddy farming and for making our stay authentic with folk songs and stories!

Thanks to Pavan, Anu, Om, Shakthi, Anish, Sharad, Chhavi, Prakash, Pradeep, Pankaj, Yogi, , Bhavna, Mithali, Aastha, Abhimanyu,Divya, Elbin, Aditi, Pratyush, Meenakshi, Purushi, Jyothi,Prarthana from aravani project.
Thanks also to cat( rangi) and the dog(beera) for adding to the eclectic mix!

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

The story of a waste disposal tradition - maari hore

 When you travel in the car on the highways of the Western Ghats and Coasts of Karnataka you may suddenly notice these strange pile of disposals just beside the road... These are not ordinary garbage disposals. It has got a cultural history and interesting rituals and belief followed by locals.

Near Sagar western ghat highway 2019 June 

Near Sirsi highway  -July 2019 
This waste bundle is called 'Maari hore" (ಮಾರಿ ಹೊರೆ )in Kannada. 'Maari' is the folk  Goddess/Deity of misfortunes and epidemics diseases., who is worshiped to seek her blessings for prevention of diseases like smallpox, cholera, plague and also natural calamities. The word ‘Maari’ refers to contagious diseases in Kannada. It appears that originally the concept of Maari worship was conceived to drive out epidemic diseases.

The symbolic extradition of Maari, the epidemics, still prevalent along the Western Ghats and coasts of Karnataka. 

The villagers of the next village used to carry the disposals on their head after conducting Poojas (ಉಡಿ ) extradite the idol and the bundles to the outskirts of their village. And this chain continues along with the villages until the bundle reaches the sea or a river 

 No festivals are celebrated by the village in which Gadimaari is placed. While lifting the garbage (maari), salt packets offered to get rid of minor diseases and piled up by devotees around the year are also cleared. 

She is also known adugoolajji (ಅಡುಗೂಲಜ್ಜಿ )or gadi maari (ಗಡಿಮಾರಿ)

Gadi maari :

Near Sagar highway july2019

Gadi Maari is always kept at the boundary of the village (Gadi means boundary and maari is the goddess of the epidemic ) As time passes the village grows beyond the border but the tradition retains the jurisdiction.

The image above shows rural custom of leaving the idol of Gadi Maari at the outer boundary of the village after due worship. 

The photos were captured in a different year mostly on the highways of Sirsi, Siddapur, Yellapur, Ankola, Kumta, Honnavar, Sagar, Shivamogga.

 What is this Maari hore ( waste disposal bundle )contains? 

The entire dump is called maari hore. Interestingly earlier these garbage bundles (maari hore) contained all eco-friendly discarded broken household items. Mostly it contained broken woven cane baskets, broken woven cane cradles, rice winnowing flat basket) brooms, broken earthen pots, waste cloths and loads of salt packets .. Deities also offered coins, green bangles, coconut as UDI


Recent maarihore contains mostly plastic waste ..Recently vehicles are hired to lift the Maarihore when it reaches to the towns and they describe the reason that Maarihore becomes a huge pile when it is almost reaching its destination.

Photo :Nandan Aigal

Photo: Nanadan Aigal

 The maari hore is also evolving ..earlier it was just a bundle of eco-friendly disposals. Now we can see the wooden statue of the female goddess and a male god along with disposal   ..there is a big wooden toy cart also be offered as an imaginary goods carrier ..  

Near Sagar high way June 2019
Sirsi highway july 2019
The concept of maari hore is a great example of effective waste disposal management. The waste travels from village to village until it reaches the sea or a river. unfortunately now maaarihore is no more eco-friendly garbage bundle contains all kind of plastics .. but the rituals and faith continue 

Aug 2016 ankola,achave 

Photos: BuDa Folklore 

Thanks to Nandan Aigal
 Ankola culture history and ecology. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Harvesting Kokum through Uttara Kannada

_Vaishnavi Prabhu 

As an attempt to keep my feet off my home city of Delhi and close to the nature, I found myself Wooffing in the lush hues of green and brown and yellow in the Angadibail Forest of Uttar Kannada. With birds chirping through a silence so subtle, a local lady helped me to the Angadibail home of Buda Folklore where I was to volunteer for their upcoming Kokum Harvest Festival. And Kokum did I harvest, climbing those slender trees like my pre-evolution monkeys. Big red fruits, some sweet, some sour all from trees to baskets to the processing units that were men and ladies and kids; separating the peel, juicing the pulp, collecting the seeds, all in all where nothing goes to waste.

Want some? by Buda Folklore

“Come with an open mind and you shall find the learning you are looking for,” said Dr. Savita Uday or Savitakki, as I like to call her, when I expressed my desire to work at her farm a few weeks into April. And learning did I receive, learning packed with laughter; with stories and skills from the native Halakki and Siddi tribes; with dance and healthy food; good bamboo music to suit every taste and butterflies flying in my face.


The first morning of the festival was Savitakki waking us girls with her musical “hey girls, we need some help”. The previous night, Harita and I had retired to one of the Machans, where this wonderful platform under a Fig tree became our bed under the starry forest night. With this began a day of the festival days where I was entrusted with the morning herbal tea for the Buda community while the new friends Harita and Atmeeya sang along taking turns sweeping and mopping.
Kokum, which until now was only an appetizing squash for me, turns out, is an all rounder fruit finding its uses in medicines and cosmetics too. While on one hand we got to relish the refreshing cardamom flavored Kokum Sherbat and spicy Kokum rassam, on the other we had our lovely Gopi akka (a Siddi) let us grind boiled Kokum seeds from the year before. The de-husked and ground seeds were later boiled to make kokum butter, a very important ingredient in Atmeeya’s organic soaps. And these soaps I can swear by them to trash all my Nivea and Dove products, for they moisturize as they bathe, and their scents are meant to waft off you throughout the day.

Gopi Akka with some fresh Kokum Butter by Buda Folklore

Riding through the bumpy forest on a Bolero Pickup we’d go to harvest a lot of the day. With Eeshwaranna, the arms of Buda, climbing the topmost branches, it literally rained Kokums. But to Savitakki’s expectations, this year’s was a scant produce with Kokum barely ripening, growing to the size of green apples even. All thanks to the climate change.
The baskets filled with the fruit nevertheless had our hands full and separating the fruit parts where the good peels went into making fruit preserve and not so good to dry in the sun. The seeds were to be under the sun too till they became dry enough for butter making. So yeah, nothing went to waste, not even the stem heads for they too found their place in the soil under the banana trees.
While Kokum harvesting and processing marked the lengths of our days, the afternoons relaxed into lazy naps and board games that Advitee had hand stitched into beautiful cloth patterns. The evenings had Anvay and I walk to meet the neighbors and bring home another round of milk, sharing our set philosophies and debating over worldly politics on the way. We’d come back to find the Buda community engaged in making baskets out of tree vines, or crowns out of mango leaves.

One of these evenings, to my pleasure, turned out to be a Siddi dance lesson where Raghavendra and Mahabaleshwar anna sang and performed their native Konkani songs ‘Muiyan cha Kottaw’ and ‘Miya Gailo Mumbaik’. The Dholak that they played to set the beat right had us all dance our souls out with the wildest expressions brimming off our faces. Prabodha who turned out to be the best performer, rolling on the floor even, had Padmavati Akka laugh her heart out. And Padmavati Akka, what a brilliant storyteller she is!
A Halakki granny, Padmavati Akka in her blouse-less wraparound of a saree and yellow and black and white beads trailing around her neck, one night sat with her lantern lit face under the starlit sky. She took the stage which was to later become our bed, walking us through the stories of ‘Vakkal Gowda’ and ‘Devvad Kathe’. To the least knowledge of Kannada that I have, Padmavati akka’s expression and gestures became a resting reliance. Such a performer, I swear! I have never seen anyone enjoy their own act so much. She just couldn’t stop laughing while telling us Devvad Kathe, this funny fable about a son’s dance with the demons. While Harita’s translation helped us understand what was being told, a bigger thanks goes to the performance itself for it had no language barring the flow.

Padmavati Akka by Buda Folklore

To relish the native flavors, we had homely meals of beaten red rice, new rassams every night and curry mixes and sabzis with a dessert of Kadabu or ragi barfis to top with. Thanks to Soumya akka for all her kitchen wonders of taste and aroma and Uday uncle for his score of pickles and chutneys. That Lemon and Chilly Pickle stood out to be my personal favorite.
Burping our guts to relive the tastes we edged towards the nights which had us race or call dibs on any of the two Machaans. Some would peacefully settle for the attic and Veranda or they’d settle for the platform under the sky. And under the sky did I sleep for most of the nights, sometimes confusing fireflies for shooting stars, on others fireflies for predator's eyes.
The diversity of cultures, energies and philosophies that the festival brought together wafted in the breeze of the Angdibail Forest through the day. While it taught me everything from the values of the beloved fruit to the lost art of basket weaving and all the dancing and singing that came with it, it incited in me an inclination towards working in a community. No meal can taste better than the one that is touched by the hands of all the people who are later going to eat it. Such solidarity and harmony seems lost in the home city with cellphones taking space on the dining tables and with one or two designated members of the family arranging the food for all. Here, with no connectivity with the outside world, a diverse lot of like minded people came together, and singing the best of Rafi and Kishore, cooked for one another. This for me was the best family I’ve ever been a part of.

One Big Fat Happy Family and some Skinny People by Lakshmi Arvind

The farmhouse of Angdibail – its comfortable attic and homely kitchen; the dining area with a view of the farm and ‘Moti Gudda’ in the distance; the pets, Beera and Bella; and the constant chimes of everything that decorated it – had through the week-long festival seen a worldly share of ideas and appetite. From experimenting with Kokum’s culinary abilities, to dancing with the Siddis; night walks in the forest and predicting rain, we all ecstatically edged towards the end of the festival. And soon, with the participants leaving, the days of the festival that had the forest echo with laughter and joy ascended to the music of the chirps and rustles of the forest, once again.
And so came the last night of the calm and it brought with it light drizzles which had all who remained running around to save the produce from the year’s harvest and processing. Marking a brilliant end to the bustle in the calm, the rain went away soon after. And soon after came the moon lurking out of the skies and it lulled the forest good night.


Wisdom stories from the Western Ghats Forests - dhik balli

It was the month of July,  Heavy monsoon time in the Western Ghat forests. Eshwaranna was busy in preparing paddy field with 2 more workers...