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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Cultural treasure of Worli Tribe of Maharashtra

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Warlis are tribal people inhabiting north-western coast of Maharashtra state of India. According to some environmentalists – the Warli tribe basically belongs to the foothills of Sahyadris. It is found inhabiting Thane districts, and can be seen living in small clusters of huts known as Padas. The Padas are houses that have single doors and no windows.

According to other records and census of 1991, there are about 73.18 lakh nomadic tribes in Maharashtra. These include Bhil, Gond-Madia, Katkari, Koli, Oraon, and Warli. These are spread over in large areas, mainly on hilltops. Most of these tribes live in groups moving from place to place in search of job and livelihood. However worlis have been reported to live on permanent houses. These are Indian scheduled tribe mostly living in Talukas of Thane, Nasik and Dhule districts of Maharashtra, Valsad district of Gujarat, the union territories of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu. They have their own beliefs, life, customs and traditions, which is the part of the Composite Hindu Culture. The Warlis speak an unwritten warli language which belongs to the southern zone of the Indo-Aryan languages, mingling Sanskrit, Marathi and Gujarati words. The word Warli is derived from warla, meaning "piece of land" or "field".

Today the Warli tribe is internationally known for its wall paintings and fables. In a book entitled the Painted World of the Warlis (authored by Yashodhara Dalmia) it has been mentioned that the tradition of Warli tribe is as old as 2500 or 3000B.C. The Warli Paintings were traditionally done by women alone until the late 1960.But in the 1970’s a man named Jivya Soma Mashe started Warli painting as routine practice and gained national as well as international fame for the traditional artwork.

A WARLI PAINTING is usually a combination of circle, triangle, and square. The circle represents the sun or the moon; the triangle represents trees or mountains; and square represents sacred enclosures or a piece of land. Human or animal bodies are painted by joining triangles at their tips. This shows the balance of the universe.

A Worli Painting

The Worli Circle

Warlis are worshippers of Mother Nature. Their religious philosophy reveals that destruction and death faced by human beings is because of disrespect they have shown to the Mother Earth. They worship the Goddess of Creative Energy- the Corn Goddess, and the Goddess of Trees and Plants; to appease the Mother Nature.

Warlis have a deep sense of respect and care to the Wildlife. They worship Vaghadeo or Vyaghra as a supreme God. They consider the tiger as symbol of life and regeneration, and offer a part of their harvest to it. ”The Tiger is regarded as the harbinger of fertility and Warli couples dress in the colour of the tiger- yellow and red shawls- when visiting the temple of Palghata, the Goddess of Marriage. According to one of several Warli Fables- if the Goddess were pleased, she would bless the couple a child; or else the shawls would transform into tigers and consume the pair. Warli paintings depict the tiger as a part of their daily life, often walking through or sitting in the village. Here is another Warli Fable for you -

“In ancient time when the man decided to start agriculture by gradually shifting from hunting and food- gathering, he approached different creatures for a grain of paddy to plant, but in vain. The rat came to his rescue and gave him a seed from its own savings. The man then cultivated paddy and made good harvests. In reciprocation to the help of rat the man promised him a fixed quota of paddy from paddy field each time it harvests. So, when the rat takes some paddy from the field, in the understanding of this community, it does not amount to stealing but it is the fulfillment of the promise made by the man to repay the debt it owed to rat from ancient time.” The moral of the story: the human being should not only think about its own living but also for all the other living creatures, and they have to live in harmony with each other.

The Worli Painting showing Nature

A Worli Painting (study the philosophy hidden inside)

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