Saturday, August 21, 2010

Folk art- shedi kale

Shedi Kale: Folk art from the river bank


Shedi Kale is a folk art practiced by the Gamokkalu/patgararu community in Uttara kannada district of Karnataka. Gamokkalu from coastal Karnataka, who lives in the bank of the Sharavati river uses naturally/locally available wet clay paste (sheadi-the thin paste of white clay) to draw the strokes. Shedi is available in nature in the local areas. Sankrati is the ideal time to collect the clay. They also prepare natural black colour by using raagi and burnt dry coconut.

The lines and patterns on these paintings each symbolize an aspect of nature or depict the religious, social agricultural practices of the community. The drawing has been seen on the walls, floors, doorframes, doorsteps and in front of tulsi katte .

Natures brush

The main feature of shedi’s motif is 3, 4, or 5 strokes with a special hand made natural brush called gerke or jaali sippe. It has got 3 or 4 teeth made from betel nut’s outer husk.(see picture).It would help to draw 2 or 5 lines /strokes or curves at a time.


This art takes place in marriages and festivals.

In the marriage ceremony kalasada shedi, petge shedi, hasagara have got the symbolic aspects of rituals . “hasgara”is drawn on the wall where the bridegroom seated

,Kalasada shedi is drawn in the place where the kalasada gindi is kept. Thus Shedi has got symbolic and ritualistic values.It communicated through art expression!!

Their motifs are mainly of lines strokes and curves. They rarely use human motifs.

 The motifs has name according to the occasion and events. Singara represents the betel nuts flower which is the integral part of their life.

 Mat weaving is interlingual part of  gamokklu community . It represented in kadki shedi which shows the weaving pattern.

Hanmakka -our master artisan and resource person has been sharing her indigenous knowledge  with  more than 1000 students /participants every year.Her creativity expands from folk art to mat weaving to folk literature.She she could sing  tribal Ramayana and Mahabharata songs throughout the day.We have been  35 years long relationship with her.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Forest food

That was the time there was only water and rest of the earth had only forest.
The ancient man who has lived on nothing but what the land provides. Uncultivated or volunteer greens are nothing new in our culture. It's always there. The whole notion of 'weed' doesn't really exist. Earth was providing plenty of it in the form of medicinal herbs, greens, shoots, fruits, berries, roots mushrooms. Man developed the knowledge and skill to make do with what the earth has been given.

Knowledge of non-domesticated food resources is part of traditional and tacit ecological knowledge, and is largely transmitted through socialization within cultural and household contexts.

I was surprised when I met series of friends who had never actually eaten uncultivated or volunteer greens.

So this is a small initiative to upgrading the way we relate to our planet.

Who are the resource people?
When I realised there are plenty of greens which we can eat. The next question was
Whom do I ask? Is there a book/guide to recognize these plants? How to learn about these plants?
The local villagers who have lived on nothing but what the land provides, and they are still here. They have developed the knowledge and skill to make do with what they have been given. I realized there is a block to find potential sources of knowledge and i should examine it.

We have virtually disconnected ourselves from the land  around us and all of the valuable gifts it contains
Unfortunately the knowledge hasn’t been passed on to the next generation and soon this knowledge will be nowhere.

The need:

The knowledge on wild plant foods is in danger of getting lost as habits, value systems and the natural environment change. To preserve this knowledge, which potentially is highly valuable for future generations, it needs to be documented systematically and made to be part of our diet.

Changing human lifestyle and taste, negligence of potential sources of knowledge, availability of foods in the market and development of transport systems are factors which lead people, specially the younger generation, to use more ready made fast foods.

Thus, the use of uncultivated foods is likely to decrease in the future, and important factors contributing to livelihood, culture and tradition are threatened to be lost

The Fact:

• The diversity of uncultivated plant species, their occurrence and relationship with cultivated species, and their use by humans have rarely been studied systematically

• The value and potential of uncultivated foods in the food security and nutrition of rural people is also neglected in agricultural and environmental programs

The value

• Millions of years of evolution have endowed these wild plants with the high concentrations of the vitamins, minerals, and fiber that they (and we) need to survive, plus way more flavor than their water-bloated commercial counterparts, which we usually breed for size alone.

• Wild foods are safer and more natural than supermarket food. Our ancestors survived by foraging for tens of thousands of years, whereas junk food has been killing us for less than a century, and genetically altered food is an even newer experiment.

• It’s fun and easy to learn to recognize and use wild plants. And it’s exciting and empowering to add wild plants to your meals while saving money, getting better acquainted with your bio me, and improving your health.

• It adds diversity and excitement to our diet


Uncultivated plant species used for consumption at times of food shortage, have the potential to become valuable staple foods and important alternatives to the usual food crops cultivated by farmers.

The option to improve food production through exploiting the potential of uncultivated food plants might be a sustainable, cheap and local alternative for decreasing the food shortage problem. At the same time, development of use of uncultivated food plants might contribute to biodiversity.. Without the understanding of the complimentary between staple crop foods and uncultivated food intake, agricultural planning will continue to be dominated by few major crops to the exclusion of such diverse and important resources. However, additional investigations on the use and availability of uncultivated plants in different regions are needed.

The initiative:
You will meet women like Puttamma around you who have lived on nothing but what the land provides. They have developed the knowledge and skill to make do with what they have been given.

My dream is to document 100 kinds of edible greens.(Puttamma says there are noorodu jaati soppu )I am optimistic about it. In one place (that too in Bangalore)( near Kaggalipura (Kanakpura road,Bangalore) where puttaamma (a soppu seller) usually collects her greens).

Puttamma learnt about soppu from Munitayamma 30 years back. She is in this job since then .Puttamma is 60 years old now. Her daughter is working in a Garment factory and son is a driver. Sadly next generation knows nothing about this knowledge.

GoLi soppu:
Thick leaves ,,small yellow flowers ..mild sour taste.. grows well near water bodies..spreads close to the ground.Puttamma says there are two kinds of goni /goLi soppu small and big.It can be seen malnaad region and wet lands in all the seasons. I saw them growing in my lay out and  in the corners of footpaths in busy streets like koramangala in Bangalore.
You can gow them in your kitchen garden through cuttings .

Goli soppina saaru
  • ingredients:1bunch of goli soppu,1/2 cup grated coconut,6 red chillies,1/2 tea spoon coriander seeds, 1/4 tea spoon cumin seeds, 1no. clove, 4 garlic,1/4 cup tur dal, tamarind,salt
  • method:cook the greens with dal.stair fry all the ingredients grind with coconut, mix the masala with cooked daal and soppu. add salt tamarind juice and jaggary(optional) season with garlic.
Goli soppina sharakali:
  • Ingredients:1bunch of goli soppu,5-6 green chillies, 6 cloves garlic, 2-3 i lemon salt
  • Method: boil the soppu with green chillies and salt. grind into smooth paste. seson with garlic and jeera.  goes well with hot rice or chapathi
Goli soppina raita/mosaru bajji

Ingredients:1bunch of goli soppu,1/4 cup grated coconut,1/4 cup curd
For seasoning:2-3 red chillies, 1/4 tea spoon udad dal, mustard seed,
Method:  Chop the greens, boil with  salt and little water.. grind  the coconut into smooth paste.Mix with greens.Add curd. seson with red chillies, udad dal, mustard seed


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Kriti Kamotra- Innovation For Living: Trip To Honnavar

Kriti Kamotra- Innovation For Living: Trip To Honnavar: "The four day trip to Honnavar was an unforgettable experience.The small place Honnavar is surrounded with many small islands. Each island ha..."

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Golden Beach,

Tribes of Uttara Kannada-The Halakki Tribe

If we follow the rough, narrow by lanes of  National Highway 17 of Uttara Kannada district, the rough road never seems to end. Amongst the furrows beside the road where areca nut, coconut trees and plantains grow, we can spot earthen houses with thatched roof. The front yards are daubed clean with cow dung, a sacred house for Tulasi, a ‘jagali’ to sit down while having the ritual betel leaves and arecanuts, a fine chicken coop made of packed earth on arecanut poles, hens clucking around in the yard…this is Haalakki Koppa.

An old man pounding betel leaves and arecanuts, the woman peeping from the cowshed with lots of black, yellow and blue beaded necklaces, when you go near them and speak an emanating feeling of warmth only felt in the family, their natural hospitality - asking their guests to sit on a mattress..these are the Haalakki people.
Although only a few kilometers away from the National Highway, the  Haalakki people have remained unique, aloof from the civilized world.


Haalakki Vokkaligas can be seen on both sides of National Highway 17 that passes through Karwar, Ankola, Kumata, Gokarna and Honnavar talluqs of Uttara Kannada district and the parts of land touching the waters of Arabian sea.
There are many remnants of ancient society indicating that there was independent, self-rule. The underlying system of their society is very different. The whole population of the Haalakki tribe has been divided into 7 regions. The religious rituals are bound by these regions. The seven regions are Chandaavara, Gokarna, Kadavaada, Ankola, Nushi Kote, Kumbaara Gadde and Haritte Seemey.
A group of Haalakki huts is called ‘Koppa’. Many Koppas together form a seemey. Each Koppa has a Gowda and a Budavantha and a Kolkaara to assist him. Leader of the Seemey is called Arasu or Gowda. The power is hereditary. If  the judgement pronounced by the Gowda of Koppa is contested, leader of Seemey makes the judgement.

Haalakki Woman: 

Haalakki women have maintained their own culture, although in contact with the main civilization. They continue to astonish cultural thinkers amidst all the modernity.
Their backs are dark coloured, always exposed to the sun, their shiny black hair is well oiled and combed, ‘abbalige’ or ‘muthumallige’ flowers adorn their heads, black beaded necklaces are worn from neck to shoulder, a german silver ‘Halkadi’ or  ‘bandhi’ made of thick metal plating, 4-5 worn out brass shoulderbands shiny and golden, glass bangles in the left hand and bangles made of german silver or some cheap metal on the right hand, (It is unknown as to why they believe glass bangles should not be worn on the hand that gives food to their husband.), saree worn in a special way without a blouse.. all these are the specialties of Haalakki women. 

Regional differences in the same tribe

Careful observation shows a marked difference in  behaviour, dressing, jewellery, way of looking at life, personality and many other things among Halakki women from one place to the other.
Haalakki women of Ankola are jovial talkers. They can happily spill out hundreds of songs  in an effortless manner. Only the Haalakki women of Ankola can sing and dance“Thaarley Thaarley..” a rain dance.
Haalakki women of Honnavara are soft natured. They speak only when it is required. Their songs have a soft quality and are sung in a low-pitched voice. SurprisinglyThey do not know to dance ‘Thaarley’. 
Haalakki women of Ankola wear short black beaded necklaces around their neck.
Haalkki women of Honnavara wear long yellow,and black beaded necklaces.  They wear glass bangles only on the left hand. The kind of brass shoulderbands worn by these women are not seen among the Haalakki women of Ankola.
Haalakki women of Ankola wear their sarees short,like a skirt  unlike the Haalkki women of Honnavara who wear their sarees long . It looks beautiful when the folds tucked to side of their  waists, and they  sway while they carry their bundles of firewood  on their heads.The reasons for such difference among Haalakki women of Ankola and Honnavara are yet to be found. Their harvest dances too exhibit a lot of regional difference. There are notable differences in the harvest dancing style, costume, songs, singing, literature etc. from region to region.
Probably, these races found it difficult to communicate after migrating to different regions because of hills, mountains, rivers and forests. Tribal castes could not mingle with each other since status-based caste resrictions were tighter in the olden days..hence these differences in behaviour, clothing etc. remained intact.
Haalakkis of Honnavara interacted with soft natured Havyaka Brahmin women. At the same time, Haalakki women of Ankola interacted with Naadavaru who were basically Kshathriyas. This too might have influenced their personalities and behaviour. 

Tribal Ramayana and  Mahabharatha –Pandavara kami-Seethekami.

When Haalakki women sing the stories of Ramayana and Mahabharatha, a new world opens up. They call Mahabharatha as Pandavara kami and Ramayana as Seethekami. According to their songs, it was not Rama but Lakshmana who won Seetha!! Lakshmana did not break any bough to win Seetha. Instead, he kills a crow (kaa mandala kaage) that hindered king Janaka’s meditation. These songs of tribal Ramayana contain wonderful imagery like that of  a cobweb in the throat of Lakshmana who does not touch food or water for his elder brother. In Seethe kami, Seetha’s personality is more important than Rama. This is much longer than Pandavara Kami and has to be sung the whole night.. but people who can sing Kamis elaborately are not available.Sometimes i feel Ramayana and Mahabharatha were born amongst such people. The stories are so original and you began to think when Rama become godly figure ..

Sukri ,Nugli ,Padmavathi who are associated with buDa folklore since many years  as resource persons.They can sing for days and nights together. These women are not just singers, they know many herbal medicines.If you go for a walk with Sukrajji there is a story to tell for each and every plant you meet on the way .Each plant will be identified .Padmavathi is a very spontaneous singer and narrates the stories  so well .

Name and origin of Haalakki Vokkaligas:

There are no concrete evidences regarding the origins of Haalakki Vokkaligas. However, Dr. R.N. Nayak, who has worked extensively regarding the folk culture of Uttara Kannada gives the following reasons as to why it can be assumed they originate from Andhra:
1.They are the staunch followers of Thirupathi Thimmappa.
2. Their songs often mention eastern sea.
3. Telugu word ‘haalika’ is very much similar to Halakki.
4. The pronunciation differences in their language such as Na-na, La-la, sa-cha are similar to that inTelugu.
The language of Halakki people is Achchagannada. They are the devotees of Thirupathi Thimmappa. Every house compulsorily has a Tulasimane. It is a curious fact as to how these Halakkis, inhabitants of west coast became devotees of eastern Thirupathi Thimmappa. Hi Chi Boralingaiah suggests that the Halakki Vokkaligas, Gondas, Gamokkalus and Kare Vokkaligas who earlier used to worship gods such as Byate Beera, Masthi and Chowdi  must have come under the influence of Vaishanavism during a special time period.
When their traditional rituals and devotional practices are observed, matriarchal culture stands out. Forest plants, animals, hills and brooks are symbols of their clans, which suggests a matriarchal society and that they originated from the forests. Now, they have forgotten the names of their ancient clans.(§½UÀ¼À?)
Folk scholar Dr. N.R. Nayak says that this group entered Uttara Kannada from Goa’s direction, stayed in Baithkola of Karavara in the beginning. Halakki people recognize a hill of this region as their tribe’s village. 


In the beginning, Halakki Vokkaligas stayed like Thodas of Nilagiri near the foothills and depended on Kumbri system of agriculture. When British government banned Kumbri agriculture, they gradually migrated to riverbanks, seashores, flatlands and started working for landlords. Many of them, even today, work on Geni basis. Some own pieces of land after ‘tiller is the owner’ legislation was passed. After hunting was declared illegal, they are dependant upon agriculture for their livelihood.
They have a middle position between forest and the city. Their symbolic hunt once a year and their prayer-appeal to Byate Beera suggests their strong ancient connection with the forest and their cheerful harvesting festival suggests that they gradually turned to agriculture. 

Haalakki Harvest Dancing

Suggi Dance 

Some 50 years ago, during the full moon annual harvesting, whole village used to participate in preparing the harvest gear called Suggithurayi and  Kunchas. The whole village used to enjoy during the festival as a community. Even the village head Gowda used to touch the feet of Suggi Makkalu – the harvest dancers. The whole harvest dancing team – Suggi mela – used to consider themselves as one family. A remnant of tribal life can be seen here. 

Singing gumte pada at salikeri
There is a need focus on this and study the idea of a strong social system behind tribal rituals in depth.Halakkis, who were originally hunters, used the skin of monitor lizard for their unique drum ‘Gumte’, an instrument used during harvesting festival dance. As hunting is illegal now, many new instruments have come to existence. 

Gumte-the earthen musical instrument of Halakki tribe
The lack of peacock feathers used in Kunchas, bendu – a thing used in thurayis, and monitor lizard skin for drums has played an important part in bringing about a change in the costumes of Suggi Kunitha – harvest dancing. 

The name Halakki:

As to how they got their name Halakki is yet to be decided. According to one of their legends – 
Shiva was ploughing the field. Once, Parvathi tripped and fell down while she was carrying food for Shiva. Rice and milk fell on the mud. She made one male and one female doll out of that mud and returned home. Shiva left ploughing and was coming back searching for Parvathi. He saw the dolls. When he touched them, they came to life. The dolls said, we came to life because you touched us, now what we should do for a living. Shiva said you were born when I was ploughing the field so you continue my work. Therefore, agriculture became the main work for Halakkis. As they were born out of a mixture of rice and milk, they got the name Halakki.
According to the Mumbai Gazeteer, they got the name Halakki because they grew rice as white as milk.
There are many stories available in the harvest songs (suggi haadu) and Gumate padas regarding their name and birth. 

Racial background of Halakkis of Uttara Kannada district:

The upper part of Karnataka ghats existed before Konkan belt. Parashurama, who owned the land that came to existence due to sea corrosion, gave this ancient Haiga country to Nagara(Naga) and Muchchi tribes to rule. Later, this was taken by Mogeras and Holeyas.(untouchables)
Hence, there were only non-brahmins such as holeyas and bedas living..later Brahmins, Budhdhist and Jains came and settled in this land. There are evidences and folk legends to claim this fact.
As Uttara Kannada district is a part of land that was formed as a result of sea corrosion, it supports the fact that Haalakkis came and settled from some other place.

In the Suggi songs and Gumte padas of Halakkis, according to Madevaraya’s song, “There was a pariah(holati) woman ruling the seashore lands. This was the reason why the land obtained by Madevaraya was not strong. Hence, Madevaraya killed the pariah woman and obtained a caste each from her flesh/body parts”.(Dr.N.R.Nayak, 1989. p.54) Further, according to this song, Madevaraya forgot to create male and female of Haalakki tribe. When they appealed to him regarding their woes, Madevaraya, who was eating milk and rice during that time, made a male and female doll out of it and gave them life. He said there was no need for them to observe ‘madi-mailige’(cleanliness rituals) as they were born from milk and rice. According to this legend, all other tribes originate from the pariah woman whereas the origin of Halakkis is portrayed to be different. However, strong evidence regarding the origins of Halakkis is yet to be obtained.

-Dr. Savita Uday   

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Historical island Haigunda

Exploring historical island Haigunda

When our family friend G.U. Bhat told me to visit Haigunda .I went with least expectation. But amazingly Haigunda opened a new chapter for our culture travelers. To study the legends and local version is entirely different. Higunda has been included in our cultural study tour.

The island haigunda

The riverside island of Haigunda is located in the middle of the river Sharavati in Uttara kannada Haigunda Island is about 20 kilometers upstream of the Arabian Sea. A further 25 km upstream are the Gersoppa Falls, the highest waterfall in India (253 m).

The Sharavathi river that we need to cross at Haigunda

A statue of a large yaksha (divine figure) was found in a sacred grove on the island. the local name for this statue is bobriya The statue (1.69 m high) has been dated to the 4th century AD. The yaksha images signified strength and protection in ancient times and this larger than life image must have been venerated by sailors and merchants on Haigunda island. It is situated in sacred forest. The forest belongs to a Gamokkalu community

Archaeological deposits of the Early Historic - Historic period (2nd-3rd - 5th century AD) were observed on top of a hillock at Haigunda Island. Unfortunately the bricks from the past (2nd-3rd - 5th century AD) is used for constructing bathrooms cowsheds by local residence with ignorance of the historical value

The local people version is that these bricks were used for yajna (homa kunda) in 3rd century of Kadamba dynasty .It is said that the founder of Kadamba dynasty Mayuravarma brought the first Havayaka Brahmin family here to perform yaga from Ahischatra . The name Haigunda came from higa-havayaka Haiganadu etc. Havyaka Brahmins also called Haiga in this region

Exploring the island -a beautiful experience

Besides the yaksha statue, there is an image of Vishnu flanked by two Buddha images on the outskirts of Haigunda Village

The Vishnu image can be attributed a date of 5th-6th century AD and the Buddha figures seem to be of a later date, about 8th century AD.

Local people recoganise this place as "kep naagara"

                                                         Artifacts found while digging.

Shivalinga carved in stone lie scattered in the fields on Haigunda Island. These could be dated between 4th - 8th centuries AD.

                            The beautiful view of Sharavati from the top hill of haigunda is breathtaking

                                There is British inspection Bungalow on top of this hill is in a ruin state.

             Walking in the paddy field and sugarcane farm in Haigunda (Haigunda is famous for molasses.)

If i dont mention the name Krshav Hegde a teacher,and a trusty of the Haigunda temple its a  incomplete write up. Keshv Hegde always welcomed us with great help and hospitality  of serving food ,organizing guide and  a boatman,shelter in the temple, and a fresh water..without him this trip is not easy to make it .

Boat ride in Sharavati River a historical river route from Haigunda to Honnavar
This year Buda took initiative to map the forgotten route of sharavati river .Once it was a busy river route in Portuguese time. Its a life time retreat to the nature lovers traveling in a boat for 1 and 1/2hours watching the since beauty of river side .

An  Italian world traveler, Pietro Della Valle took similar travel in the Sharavati River on 14th October, 1622 and has left behind very interesting account of his journey. River Sharavati is also known as "Baraganga" or "Gerusoppa River." Pietro Della Valle claims that in his life he never undertook such a delightful sailboat ride that took him from Honavar to Gerusoppa, covering a distance of eighteen miles. "High rise mountain peaks, low laying valleys, are all covered with lush greenery and extremely pleasant to look at. The trees are tall and densely grown. Rice cultivated land is interwoven with flower bearing trees and their shadows in the river, give an impression to the passerby that the nature is extending them a warm welcome….

Traditional Baskets and other weaving crafts with natural fibers in Uttara Kannada-western Ghat region

  While  weaving craft with natural fibers  is one of the widest spread crafts in the history of any human civilization, it is hard to say j...