Begin typing your search above and press return to search.

Project documents life of Rabhas

By Staff reporter

GUWAHATI, June 3 � A pioneering project has recently brought alive the rich culture of the Rabhas, including a range of artifacts not well known beyond the community. It is expected that the documentation will help establish the unique artistic sensibility of the Rabhas when the findings make their way to the public domain.

Spread over more than two years, the project to document the material, social and spiritual life of the Rabha's was carried out in the western parts of Assam by the Guwahati-based Vivekananda Kendra Institute of Culture, Guwahati. It has culminated in a body of information that would recognise the Rabhas as �a vibrant cultural entity.�

Dr Pradip Sarma of VKIC, who headed the research and documentation project told The Assam Tribune, �The Rabhas are not immune to the process of modernisation. But while some facets of their culture have changed, there are signs of continuity with the past.�

Among the changes is a gradual shift from some old traditions which entailed sacrifice of animals to placate a deity. Today, many Rabha rituals are observed where such sacrifices are not mandatory. Another change has been seen in the manner in which many traditional healing practices have been replaced by reliance on modern medicine.

While some practices have seen change, others have been able to stand the test of time. According to Dr Sarma, �The Rabhas have been greatly successful in preserving a variety of handicrafts by retaining the skills and knowledge to produce those� the wide array of flutes itself is something amazing� he noted.

The documentation was able to list several types of flutes and wind instruments which reveal the artisan�s knowledge about various materials and their acoustic properties. There is even a wind instrument similar to a ball with holes which a performer can play by expelling air through the nose.

Even as new materials come to be used by the Rabhas, cane and bamboo continue to be popular when it comes to creating their artifacts. Different types of bamboo and cane are used to produce items, some of which have water resistant properties. �A striking feature of Rabha bamboo and cane products is the blend of functionality and aesthetics,� Dr Sarma said.

Handloom and textiles, the project found, was one area where the Rabha weavers showed rare imagination. Many of the handicrafts have red as the dominant colour, on which geometric and floral patterns are made. Even though primary colours are frequently used, the end product never appears garish.

The project found that there used to be a tradition of using herbal colours in handloom products. But with easy availability of other dyes, the organic ones are gradually falling out of favour among some producers.

Those who carried out the project believe that the findings place the Rabhas in a position that commands respect because of their enriching identity which, in turn, could encourage cultural tourism centering on the community.

Next Story
Similar Posts
Project documents life of Rabhas

GUWAHATI, June 3 � A pioneering project has recently brought alive the rich culture of the Rabhas, including a range of artifacts not well known beyond the community. It is expected that the documentation will help establish the unique artistic sensibility of the Rabhas when the findings make their way to the public domain.

Spread over more than two years, the project to document the material, social and spiritual life of the Rabha's was carried out in the western parts of Assam by the Guwahati-based Vivekananda Kendra Institute of Culture, Guwahati. It has culminated in a body of information that would recognise the Rabhas as �a vibrant cultural entity.�

Dr Pradip Sarma of VKIC, who headed the research and documentation project told The Assam Tribune, �The Rabhas are not immune to the process of modernisation. But while some facets of their culture have changed, there are signs of continuity with the past.�

Among the changes is a gradual shift from some old traditions which entailed sacrifice of animals to placate a deity. Today, many Rabha rituals are observed where such sacrifices are not mandatory. Another change has been seen in the manner in which many traditional healing practices have been replaced by reliance on modern medicine.

While some practices have seen change, others have been able to stand the test of time. According to Dr Sarma, �The Rabhas have been greatly successful in preserving a variety of handicrafts by retaining the skills and knowledge to produce those� the wide array of flutes itself is something amazing� he noted.

The documentation was able to list several types of flutes and wind instruments which reveal the artisan�s knowledge about various materials and their acoustic properties. There is even a wind instrument similar to a ball with holes which a performer can play by expelling air through the nose.

Even as new materials come to be used by the Rabhas, cane and bamboo continue to be popular when it comes to creating their artifacts. Different types of bamboo and cane are used to produce items, some of which have water resistant properties. �A striking feature of Rabha bamboo and cane products is the blend of functionality and aesthetics,� Dr Sarma said.

Handloom and textiles, the project found, was one area where the Rabha weavers showed rare imagination. Many of the handicrafts have red as the dominant colour, on which geometric and floral patterns are made. Even though primary colours are frequently used, the end product never appears garish.

The project found that there used to be a tradition of using herbal colours in handloom products. But with easy availability of other dyes, the organic ones are gradually falling out of favour among some producers.

Those who carried out the project believe that the findings place the Rabhas in a position that commands respect because of their enriching identity which, in turn, could encourage cultural tourism centering on the community.