Dr. Chaurasia PDF Print E-mail

We met Dr. Chaurasia enroute to Amarkantak. Apart from his private practice, he treats the occupants of Baiga villages in the vicinity. National Geographic Society (NGS) funded his research about the Baigas.

 

Student: Do they make their own yarn?

Dr. Chaurasia: No, they buy the yarn and the threads. Pradhan is responsible for overall information of the world. Ramayan and Mahabharata tales are explained by them. The Pradhans were very fond of their Kings. Like in the Ramayan, he came to the city and saw Ram Leela. The next time he saw Mahabharata being enacted. Then he would return home and would make his own tale based on the two. This is over 200 years old. He made Lakshman the hero of the Ramayana and made Bhim the hero of Mahabharata. So in their Ramayana there is Bhim too. Their Ramayana is completely different. In their story Rama, Sita, Lakshman and Bhim are all together in the same story. They are all doing the same thing.

Student: So do the communities live together.

Dr. Chaurasia: Yes, they live together but the Baigas have a different way of living. Palika will stillstay in a Gond Village, a Pradhan will stay with a Palika. All their villages are in the dense forests.

Student: So they do not have a need to come out of the forest.

Dr. Chaurasia: Well now, they have started coming out of the forests into the cities.

Student: How do you understand their language?

Dr. Chaurasia: There is a bit of Dravidian in their language. Their language is called Baigani. The Gond language is Gond itself. The languages from the neighboring Chattisgarh and Bundelkhand have all mixed with the languages here. The earlier Gond language which used to be spoken was near Ramnagar in around 15 20 villages.

Student: And is this just 1 single language?

Dr. Chaurasia: There are different languages. They speak Hindi too. All the languages are mixed. If you go to Bhada region, there is an influence of Chattisgargh. If you go towards Mandla, you will see the influence of Bundelkhand.

Student: Where does the tribal belt extend along the banks of the River Narmada?

Dr. Chaurasia: From Amarkantak all the way down.

Student: The River flows through the forests. So is there any effect of the river on the lives of these people? Do they have a river culture?

Dr. Chaurasia: Yes they sing Dombulias. There is still work to be done. We were thinking of compiling all the folk songs which these communities sing of the Narmada River. We will be using the tribal people itself to sing the songs for us.

Student: So what are their festivals?

Dr. Chaurasia: All their festivals are connected with nature. They are deeply connected with nature. For example a good harvest is a cause to celebrate. We celebrate Dusshera. The meaning behind this word is that after the monsoon, there is greenery everywhere in all the 10 directions. Their entire life is spent in songs.

Student: Do they paint or any such fine arts?

Dr. Chaurasia: No, not much. The Baigas make masks made of wood. They wear that and dance during ceremonies.

Student: Any reason to wear the masks?

Dr. Chaurasia: It is possible that since they believe in the supernatural. It may be a way of showing respect or out of fear. Dagarchak is around 30 kilometers away from here and it is densely forested. It has a proper road. Due to the natural beauty a lot of visitors come here at such places. And this has had a direct impact on the people here. Now they demand money even to take a photograph. We have instilled this habit in them. But the people living in the remote interiors are still very nice and simple folk.

Student: What is their system of marriage?

Dr. Chaurasia: It is through love marriage. I had conducted communal marriage recently with 25 couples tying the knot. It happens every year in their village. They do not have much importance for mandaps and such. In the Baiga Community there is no social corruption. It is one of the most clean and pure communities in the entire Indian sub continent. Earlier it was 100% now it has come down 90%. They are promiscuous. A Baiga can marry more than one person. He will run away with his suitor from the village and he will tell him friends where he is going. He will then consummate his marriage. In the mean while the friends will create uproar and tell the other villagers where they are to be found. Then the girl and boy return and say they would like to get married. If he is already married and he is smitten by a girl or vice versa, the girl will straight enter the boy’s house. The first wife will beat up this new girl and she has to take the beating. The husbands will not a thing. This is their test. This is the custom.

Student:   Are there any sub castes in the Baigas?

Dr. Chaurasia: Agaria is the sub caste of Baiga. They are blacksmiths.

Student:   Do inter caste or inter tribe marriages happen?

Dr. Chaurasia: No. It is not allowed. A Pradhan will marry a Pradhan only. A Gor will marry a Gor only and a Baiga with a Baiga.

Student: What are their death rituals?

Dr. Chaurasia: They cremate the body.

Student: Do they treat River Narmada as God?

Dr. Chaurasia: They treat her like their ownmother. They have a Narmada Mai who is the goddess. We have seen how people are possessed by the spirits. Some of them are possessed by the spirit of the river itself.

 

“A man in love with his environment is the happiest man in the universe.”