Reminding Forgotten Traditions of Cultures in Rural Telangana, India
In rural places, survival activities are ecological balances and have sustainability. Gradually life in a rural area shifted when media and technology influenced the rural cultures and rituals and some of them have disappeared. Cultural practice in rural settings has an inherent social component. For instance, people sit together in one place to make natural leaf plates while having a conversation. For them, the conversation was the main component of their productive work. Conversation has become one of the tools in rural places to make their social and emotional life effective. My project aims to remind forgotten cultures in rural Telangana to build intergenerational social relations and educate the community.
I used the forgotten tradition of “gift culture”, found in village marriages of Telangana State, India to create a social dialogue between two married couple/two people. In the villages of Telangana, newly married couples are presented with a unique gift. This gift challenges the couple because it is wrapped in many layers of newspapers and tied with cotton threads. This was an endurance performance for the couple, with a goal to break the threads with their fingers. Then the couple found a surprise gift inside, such as snacks. The meaning of this gift is sharing and caring and living together even through obstacles, hardships, and pain. I wanted to expand this forgotten traditional gift culture and open it up for wider audiences. I invited any two people and couples in the village Vellulla to open these gifts regardless of color, race, gender, and ethnicity. Every gift had a surprise inside. Both shared the gift equally. There are some instructions which helped participants to take part in the performance. In this way, this performative gift object opened social dialogue and built relations between married couple/two people. Ten gifts were placed at Prayogillu as part of the installation. At a time, there were 10 pairs of couples/two people who engaged in this performance to create social dialogue. This project funded as part of School of Education Summer Research-2022 by Global Engagement Office, University of Wisconsin-Madison, WI, USA.
Instructions to open the Gift:
The participants must be two people regardless of race, gender, color, and ethnicity.
The participating pair should engage equally in the performance to break the cotton threads.
The cotton threads should be broken by using fingers only.
Layer of newspapers should be removed by gradually breaking the cotton threads.
The surprise gift should be shared with each other equally.
In the end, removed newspaper layers and cotton threads should be placed in the dust bin.
Makka Gadaka (Coarse Corn Meals, Salt, & Water)-28th August, 2022
As part of "Remembering Forgotten Traditions of Culture in Telangana”, Prayogillu invited the local community to cook and eat together one of the staple foods of Telangana: “Makka Gadka" which is made out of coarse corn grits, salt, and water. It is plant-based and vegan. Local communities regardless of age and gender participated in this communal event to remember the forgotten nutritious food, Makka Gadaka. They engaged in conversation while they were cooking Gadaka. They ate Makka Gadaka with mango pickle and curd in "Istarlu" (handmade natural leaf). These handmade Istarlu (Natural Leaf Plates) address ecological balance and sustainability. Younger generations engaged with elderly people to learn this forgotten food dish. More than 90 people took part in this communal food event. Cooking started at 9 am on 28th August 2022, Sunday. This project created a positive and healthy social environment and educated the younger generation about forgotten cultures in rural Telangana. In this way, this project enabled positive social relations among various communities in the village.
Revisiting Pottery Wheel
This experiment was conducted as part of Prayogillu’s continuous experimental education through revisiting cultures/forgotten cultures in rural Telangana. It centered around how people learn critical engagement skills through playful/meaningful activities. In Vellulla village (where Prayogillu is located), there was no Kummari (potter) practicing the profession of making pots from clay. In my childhood, I observed Kaka (“Uncle”) when he was making various pots on a traditional wheel. Prayogillu intends to reintroduce the pottery wheel to the younger generation to experience how human labor is used to physically manifest creative and critical thinking. Prayogillu invited the potter from nearby village Metla Chittapur to demonstrate how to make pots from wet clay to intergenerational community members. Reintroducing the pottery wheel to the community is a way to educate the younger generation (who do not know about this traditional practice) about how traditional occupations are ecologically balanced because they relatively stable with the environment. Therefore, Prayogillu set up a permanent pottery wheel that is open for all to practice pottery.
Natural Food Plate Making
Natural leaf plates are made from the leaves of the Moduga “Flame of the Forest” tree (named so because of its bright orange flowers). The Moduga’s scientific name is Butea Monosperma. It is a medicinal plant that comes into season during the spring (February to June). This leaf plate will help for good digestion. The Moduga tree is called Palash in Sanskrit. This tree supports hundreds of birds in feeding, roosting, and nesting.
Villagers used these natural, biodegradable plates for social functions. In the modern age, plastic food plates replaced environmentally friendly food plates. Mostly senior citizens made natural plates in the villages. Nowadays, hand-based works disappeared. In the market, machine made plastic plates are available and relatively cheap. As part of Prayogillu’s experimental education through forgotten cultures, Prayogillu invited 30 young, middle age, and senior citizens to make natural leaf plates. The conversation was a instructional medium for senior citizen to educate children about how to make the subject and contemplate ecologically balanced cultural practices in the villages because they relatively stable with the environment. As a result, more than 70 plates were made by the community during this communal event. The next day, Prayogillu invited the local community to have lemon rice on these plates. It was an innovative way of educating techno-generational children a handmade craft that they did not know about before.
Rubbu Rolu (Traditional Grinding Stone)
Rubbu Rolu is an old method for grinding grains traditionally. Nowadays, rural communities go to factories to grind them through machinery. This process mitigated human labor. Prayogillu revisited Rubbu Rolu to educate the community on how human labor was the center of traditional grain grinding. During the grinding of grains, young children engaged with adults about the pros and cons of the Rubbu Rolu. Reintroduction of Rubbu Rolu to the Prayogillu community to contemplate human labor and intergenerational relationships through meaningful activity. Children got an insight to think about importance human labor and machinery in modern days and balance of them. Thirty-Forty children, adults, and senior citizens participated in the Rubbu Rolu program.