Did you know that the ordinary bamboo is our life long companion right from birth until death?
I learnt the usefulness of bamboo when I visited JanapadaLoka some 40 kilometers away from Bangalore. There I heard this beautiful song “Biduru(bamboo)” from one of the guides. The song describes how bamboo is our life long companion. Starting from childhood it accompanies us in the form of swing, becomes a horse when we grow up, flute when we reach adulthood. It forms the pillars of the marriage mantap and accompanies the bride in to her new home in the form of jewelery boxes. During old age it becomes the walking stick and when we die it forms a part of our last rites. Truly moving isn’t it?
JanapadaLoka was an eye opener in every sense. Though it showcases the rural life of Karnataka, its message is relevant in the modern world in all aspects. Before you feel I am traversing in unknown territory let me give you a brief gist on JanapadaLoka.
Janapada Loka is a treasure house of folk culture of Karnataka showcasing folk art, culture and lifestyle of traditional Karnataka. Spread over 15 acres of land near Ramanagara it has been a cultural hub for the past 16 years. Founded by Shri Nage Gowda the place is a show window showcasing
- Lokamatha Mandira- a museum which displays the daily life of rural Karnataka
- Chitra Kuteera: a tribute to the founder Nage Gowda and a photography exhibition displaying the different folk forms of Karnataka.
- Loka Mahal: a two storied building displaying folk culture, yesteryear items, dolls, folk instruments etc.
- Shilpa Mahal: displaying stone figurines of 10th century.
- Dodda Manne: a workshop wherein you can see workers engaged in pottery.
- Open Air Theater: done in Greek style and which can seat about 1000 people at a time.
Description of the place:
One of the major attractions of this place was Divaru Mane (House of Divaru). Divaru is a caste found in Malnad (western and eastern parts of Western Ghats) districts of Shimoga and Kadur. They also call themselves Billavas in some places.
The house was efficient in every respect and took in to account the heavy rains of Malnad. Built of mud the house was very simple and compact. The house was neatly adorned with beautiful Rangoli drawings. To avoid moisture and insect attacks there were openings in the kitchen walls to store grains like Ragi, rice, bajra etc. This prevented ants and other insects from having a feast on them. There were also shelves and bamboo holding made at the top of the kitchen to hold cooked items and groceries.
To light up the mud house there were spaces craved on the walls to hold small diyas or lamps. Inside the house there was a small area to warm water for bath. Though the bathroom was outside the heating or the fire was lit from inside the house. The heated water in brass vessel was directly available at the bathroom. Quite innovative, don’t you think?
On the outside there were fishing and betel nut equipments hung. There were also tiny bells hung outside the house which were tied on the cattle when they were left in the forest to graze.
Loka Matha was equally revealing. It made me realize how complicated I had made my life with gadgets. There were nicely stitched Pooja trays, photos of goddess made in Ravi Verma style by early 20th century women on display. All were made from beads and pearls and beautifully done. Hmm… No Zee T.V serials for these women. Then there were various hand fans on display. Some of these fans could be moistened to give cool as well as scented air. What an idea, right? These fans called as Lvancha fans are available in the nearby shops in Ramnagar and Chanapatna.
Then there were fruits baskets, jewellery boxes, sieves, churners, mortars etc. There were also large granaries to hold grains. These granaries were sealed from above with cow dung and the grains were scooped from the bottom. A novel way to store grains for months together right?
Another useful device I saw there was a noodle press and a plank. Rice noodles were prepared by this press. Cooked rice was pressed by this tool and the noodles dropped out through the small sieves or holes at the bottom of this tool. The noodles were then relished with sweetened coconut milk. There was also a plank to prepare thin noodles for making sweet rice pudding.
Apart from these there were salt containers of wood, bamboo and ceramic used to store pickles, spices etc. These containers prevented salt from absorbing moisture and so were ideal for storing pickles and other items. There was also a portable wood stove carried by the travelers of olden days. They cooked their own food on the road and did not prefer to eat outside at all. Talk about discipline and being systematic!
Outside the LokaMatha there was a large corn grinder of stone which was operated with the help of Oxen or Buffalo to powder grains.
At the Loka Mahal there were all types of dolls on display. There were dolls used for Dasara festival, Garudi dolls brought out during fairs and festivals, MekkeKattte idols used in ghost worship in Kundapura etc. Toys of the olden days like chess, chanemane, and petlu were also on display.
For those of you who haven’t seen the “tala patra” or the pamphlets there is a display of 17th century Ramayana and Mahabharata(Kumar Vyasa’s works) in scrolls. These are called as Palmyra menus. To write on these palms a pen called Kantha was used which is also in display. In olden days such important documents were often rolled and stored in bamboo containers or Bidirande and hidden in bamboo lines of thatched roofs. Money was also hidden in such canes to avoid getting stolen. These can also be seen here.
Folk art too gets a mention in Loka Mahal. There are various Yakshagana art forms displayed here. The Thenkuthithittu, a south coastal Karnataka yakashagana dance form and Badagathittu north coastal Karnataka style are shown here. These both differ in their dance steps, costume design and have different styles of dancing.
Then there are masks. The Soma, both red and yellow with their entire attire is shown here. Somas are companions of village deities and these are worshipped in every village. Sacrifices are performed for Somas, boons granted and the dance of Somas continues throughout the night. There are also chau masks of North Eastern India which again is a performance of high jumps, violent movements and gigantic facial expressions.
Also shown here are certain tribes of Karnataka like Goravailya, Dasaiya etc. Their attire is truly stunning with shells and colorful patches in their costumes.
Numerous stringed and leather puppets are also shown here. The stringed puppets are manipulated with 4-5 strings tied behind the puppets. These are very flexible puppets.
Shadow or leather puppets on the other hand are flat figures cut out of leather. They are pressed against the screen and light source is placed behind them. The show begins with colorful shadows (created by light and figures) on the screen.
Some more things worthy of mention are red wasp’s nest on display which takes the wasp 2 years to build and water lamps which use water to cool the lamp to reduce the lamp’s oil consumption.
A truly mind boggling experience don’t you think?
Finally few stone figures of ShilpaMahal
With our culture being so rich don’t you think it is time we introduced this to our kids too. Let them too know about Yakshagana, puppetry shows and dolls. Introduce them to the rich heritage of Janapada culture and you will definitely have left our kids a valuable heritage.
So how to get there?
This place is 45 kilometers from Bangalore. Just travel on the Bangalore Mysore highway until you reach RamaNagar. After some time you will see the Janapada loka at the right side of road just next to Kamat LokaRuchi hotel.
Where to eat?
Try the famous Kamat hotel located close to the Janapada Loka. You are sure to enjoy the local delicacies that they dish out.