HYDERABAD: Protection of the indigenous Adivasi culture and traditions isn’t just mere talk for the few, who have realised that the very identity and constitutional protections guaranteed to the tribes would be threatened, if their way of life, especially their folklore, is not preserved and promoted to be passed on for generations.
Kondru Sudharani and her husband Veeraswamy have been on a mission since 2018 to preserve and promote the ancient folklore of the Koya tribes living in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. They train the youth in several art forms by the indigenous group such as the Koya Rela, Koya Doli, Koya Kolatam and Koya Kommu.
“Though these art forms are still practised in the forest areas, those living in plain areas are getting influenced by modern music and dances were feeling shy in performing traditional dances like Rela during family and religious events, which have been part of our lives for ages. We knew that something had to be done to save the folk art forms, so we started training them by creating interest in the folklore,” Sudharani tells Express.
Containing myriad emotions
Rela song and dances have their roots in the forest-dwelling lives of tribals for ages. These are the songs and dances performed during every step of a wedding, whether it is getting the bride and groom for the celestial event, or while handing over the bride to the groom’s family. These songs are filled with emotion, romance, fun, sarcasm and sometimes anger as well.
“When Koya men return from hunting, they first blow a horn from the periphery of the village and send a person to inform the women that their hunt was successful. Then women go to receive the men by singing and dancing, praising them for their valour. However, if the men fail to capture something, they sing songs that hold the men responsible for failing to hunt. So, Rela folklore expresses different emotions of the tribals,” says Veeraswamy, who has been working as the curator of the tribal museum in Bhadrachalam.
Whether it is bhumi puja just before the onset of monsoons, or any tribal festivities, Rela and other folklore form an integral part of any celebration.
Recognition of efforts
The couple has identified youth below 25 years of age from Dummugudem, Dammapeta, Aswaraopet, Bhadrachalam, Ellandhu, Manuguru and Cherla mandals in Telangana, and Chintur, Kunavaram, VR Puram, Yetapaka and Kukunoor mandals in Andhra and started their training.
Till now, 13 teams have been formed to perform Rela and other folklore at events being organised in those tribal areas. Adivasi youth have actively been participating as troupes in various cultural events being organised not only in Telangana and AP, but also in Karnataka and New Delhi. Rela dance was one of the attractions in the National Cultural Festival recently organised in Hyderabad.
The Kondru couple, along with their network of tribal leaders and activists, has also been organising a weekly event on Saturdays called ‘Swara Manjari,’ a virtual cultural event, where youth from nine Adivasi communities in Telangana get together to perform their folklore. The videos are uploaded on YouTube to help tribals learn these art forms.
Looking at the effort being put in by the couple and their network, ITDA Bhadrachalam also set up an art school in the Bhadrachalam ITDA office last week. Teams specialised in Koya folklore would be stationed here and they would go to gurukuls and other government schools in tribal areas, teaching the Adivasi children these traditional art forms every week.