It is often said Chhattisgarh lives in two eras—modern and traditional. The North and the South of the State are dominated by indigenous groups who preserve their culture fiercely, and the fast developing Central plains.
To give a glimpse into lives of the tribal communities of Bastar, Southern part of the State, and Surguja, the northern part, the Chhattisgarh government has created an open air museum in the heart of Naya Raipur.
Purkhauti Muktangan, a creation of artisans portraying the cultural heritage of Chhattisgarh, has become a centre of attraction for the locals, particularly the youth, with hundreds visiting the place every day.
Visitors are greeted to a huge entrance Singh Dewdi—a replica of the Jagdalpur palace– leading to Maria Path depicting the rich tribal art and culture. There is an ornamental Chhattisgarh Park and an entertainment park dotted with statues of freedom fighters.
Once completed, the museum will have two distinct parts depicting the rich richness of Bastar and Surguja regions. Purkhauti also has space for a workshop for demonstrations of living traditional knowledge system of the State.
The exhibits created so far include a traditional dwelling of Rajwar community of Surguja with clay walls painted in bright colours. The boundary wall of the museum depicts local and traditional myths.
“We are in the process of developing Aamcho Bastar (Our Bastar) to showcase the cultural heritage of tribal communities. Aamcho Bastar is being developed to display the glimpses from the life-style of the tribes of Bastar– the region known for its indigenous groups people and culture, not just only in India, but also throughout the world,’’ says Ms Niharika Barik Singh, Secretary, Department of Culture.
Till a few years back, Bastar district was larger than Kerala in area, but now it has been divided into seven administrative districts — Bastar, North Bastar (Kanker), Kondagaon, Sukma, Bijapur, South Bastar (Dantewada) and Narnyanpur. This division has been done more for better administration, otherwise as far as the cultural spectrum is concerned, Bastar still remains a singular cultural region.
Aamcho Bastar is being developed with the co-curation of the tribal and folk artisans of region. In the first phase, nearly one and a half dozen exhibits have been created including those of archaeological importance. Traditional tribal dwellings, youth houses, and tribal shrines exhibiting the traditional and cultural patterns of the folk and tribal communities of Bastar give a real life experience of the tribal living.
The world’s longest celebrations of Bastar Dussehra – spread over 75 days–has also been created, with the area landscaped by baked clay tiles made by the traditional potters of the region.
“We want to develop Muktangan as an important tourist destination in the coming years,’’ Ms Singh says adding that this would not only help to keep the tribal art and craft alive but also promote it.
All the exhibits put up at the museum have been prepared on the basis of the myths, epics, traditional folk-history and knowledge-system as known and expressed by the respective folk and tribal artisans who have created these.
Of particular interest at the museum are Ghotul – Maria youth house—where young girls and boys informally received knowledge on economic, social and cultural life. This is particularly common among the Maria tribes in Kondagaon and Narayanpur districts of Bastar region. Ghotul is also used as a place for night stay.
The Ghotul has also promoted the artistic creativity of the Maria artists and artisans. There are two rooms and one veranda in this structure, which is made of wooden pillars. The roof is of the clay tiles. Gedi dance stilts and musical instruments used by the inmates have also been displayed at their respective places.
The Bastar Dussehra festival is one of the finest examples of the mutual affection and collaboration between the king of Bastar and his subjects. The kings have attached the local people from various parts belonging to different social communities of this area with this festival, basically a ritual devoted to the Bastar royal family’s deity, Danteshwari.
This festival is believed to be festival running for 75 days –longest duration anywhere known in the world. This festival is not only famous as a festival of the king, but also as the festival of entire Bastar region. Various rituals of Bastar Dashahara have been displayed at the museum by artisans from Kondagaon as per the folk beliefs and myths known to them, and to their other community members.
The annual budget for the years 2015-16 & 2016-17 was Rs. 3.25 crore that was increased to Rs 5.10 crore in the current financial year.
The Department of Culture is now focussing on the northern part of Chhattisgarh known as a Surguja region. Surguja has five districts — Surguja, Koria, Balrampur, Surajpur and Jashpur. These districts are famous for their tribal culture, heritage, forests, high lands and various festivals. The replica and models are prepared by the artisans from these regions which ensures that the money goes to them.
Uraon, Pando, Korwa, Kudukh, Majhwar, Birhora are some of the primitive tribe of Surguja. They live in the forest and high land villages of the district. Rajwar and Kanwar are famous for their terracotta craft.
They decorate their houses with different kind of terracotta work such as decorated frame work and terracotta figurine of animal and birds in their residents.