Age-old tradition: Dying a slow death for want of support

No traditional or cultural event, whether it is a fair or journey of local deities on colourful chariots, is complete without the local folk musical instruments, which includes nagara, bells, singa or ransinga (horns) produced in both straight and curved styles, shankh, nad, beiunsuli, shehnai, nag pheni, thali ghada, karnal, kansi and dhol (drums).

However, village artisans are fighting for their survival as machine-made agricultural tools and implements have invaded the local markets. It has spelled doom for their age-old source of livelihood. Besides, they enjoy no government support.

According to a local artisan, who manufactures ornaments and musical instruments dedicated to local deities, the work of making instruments is no less than a meditation for them and it is the true form of obeisance to local Gods and Goddesses.

“When we design or manufacture ornaments or musical instrument for local deities, we observe fast and eat one meal in a day and the practice sometimes takes months together. The work is our obeisance to the deity and faith in the traditional values,” said Megh Singh, a 60-year-old artisan of Chauhari village of Bali Chowki area of Seraj segment.

Megh Singh said his ancestors taught him the art of manufacturing the God's instruments. He wished to die by performing his duty as musical instrument artisan.

He said designing of ornaments and masks for the local deities, was tough as compared to manufacturing musical instruments because designers have to stay on the temple campus for days together, observe fast and avoid meeting relatives or family members to concentrate on their work.

Many of the items produced by these local artisans are exquisite and lavish and testament to the aristocratic heritage of the hill state.

Megh Singh said the art of manufacturing musical instruments and ornaments dedicated to the local deities was vanishing due to two major reasons - The youth is not ready to adopt the tough profession of manufacturing musical instruments and ornaments and want mechanical changes whereas their traditional values does not allow the same and secondly the government doesn't seem to encourage the traditional art and style of manufacturing musical instruments and ornaments.

“Now I have turned 60 and encourage my son to adopt the profession. I met a number of people during my age who produced documentaries or news items and a number of government officials and politicians who appreciated our work and art and promised to help continue our traditional values, but no single step was taken.”

“If the youth denies to opt the traditional profession, than who will preserve our heritage and traditional values for which we are known and recognised in the whole world,” he said.

The craftsman said the government should devise some policy for them for their welfare. Most of the artisans engaged in the trade were poor, he added.


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