The year 2015 witnessed a series of defining measures aimed at resuscitating the art and cultural heritage of Uttarakhand. Some of the steps included a major thrust to regional cuisines of the Himalayan state, state-patronage to aipan (a Kumaoni folk art) and provision of scholarships and free musical instruments to grassroots artistes and those pursuing research on the intangible heritage forms. However, some important steps - like introducing the fast-fading regional languages in the curriculum of state-run schools - continued to evade the hill state.
In January this year, chief minister Harish Rawat directed officials to ensure that traditional cuisines of Uttarakhand - like kaaphuli, phaanu and jhangore ki kheer - are served in the state-run tourist guesthouses (there are over 130 of them). “The move would also augment employment opportunities and hill economy in the long run,” said state tourism minister Dinesh Dhaney. The initiative was later extended to Uttarakhand Niwas - the state’s official guesthouse located in New Delhi - which started serving the hill cuisines from August onwards.
The state government in September said that folk instruments will be provided free of cost to the impoverished traditional musicians of Uttarakhand. As a part of the scheme, folk instruments like dhol-damau, mashakbean, ransingha, turahi and nagada among others are being provided to solo artistes whose income is not more than R 2000 per month, said Beena Bhatt, director of culture department.
After a long wait of over 15 years, the government in February formed a committee to finalise a ‘state song’ (rajyageet) to act as its musical identity across the country. After studying over 200 entries, the committee locked the lyrics in November. “The song will soon be made public after the chief minister’s approval,” senior Uttarakhandi litterateur and committee chairperson Lakshman Singh ‘Batrohi’ said. The song comprises words ascribing to several symbols, folklores, legends, customs, mythological beliefs and traditions related to the state.
Aipan folk art
Aipan - a traditional art form of the Kumaon region that involves painting of red-white patterns in households using natural materials - got a major state patronage this year with CM Rawat making it mandatory for all government offices to display aipan paintings on their premises.
During its assembly session held in Gairsain (Chamoli district) in November, the government announced a budget of `1 crore exclusively for providing assistance to artistes and research scholars engaged in researching/documenting the intangible cultural art forms of the state like Parvatiya Ramlila, Pahadi Holi, Jaagar, Ramman and the art of narrating folk legends among others. Earlier in October, the government also declared that incentives of up to Rs 1 lakh will be provided to Parvatiya Ramlilas.
While a slew of initiatives were launched this year, activists pointed out that one of the most important steps - that of introducing curriculum of regional languages in the state-run schools - continued to evade the state even more than 15 years after its formation. Dehradun-based cultural activist Pradeep Bhandari called for “effective implementation” of the schemes that were launched this year.