This time around, Nazariya brings to you, the great Kaavi Wall Art. This unrevealed heritage of Goa is bound to leave you awestruck!

Kaavi Wall Art

Kaavi art on an old wall in Goa

Every time we think about Goa- the beautiful beaches, lingering seafood and a culturally diverse atmosphere are the chief thoughts that come to our mind. But Goa has so much more to offer. We hardly know about the rich heritage of Goa which now by hook or by crook is besieged for attention.

Kaavi art is what we are about to unleash. It’s one of the most sacred and oldest art forms of the Goan cultural heritage. Today on the verge of being a dying art form, Kaavi art is a form of painting in Konkan region in temples, houses, small shrines and walls of Roman Catholic Churches of Goa.

The term Kaav in Konkani refers to Indian red pigmentation which is the only color used in the art form which is obtained from the laterite soil. The specialty of the art form is its technique of the application of the murals on the wall: the reddish painting is artistically drawn against the white sandblasted background.

Kaavi Art Motif

The beautiful deep red colored motif of Kaavi Art

If you ponder over how the material is prepared then let me take you to the Goan beach and make you explore, how the snow-white lime is obtained by burning the sea shells and washed sand from river beds were mixed with jaggery and then is allowed to ferment for two weeks. This mixture is then effortlessly hand poured to obtain a homogenous substance which soon hardens and then is applied to the walls which enrich our eyes as Kaavi wall art!

The beauty of the art form has insisted it to spread its wings from Goa and expand its vistas to Maharashtra and Karnataka. But Goa being the origin of the art form has been deprived of Kaavi so far. Much of the works you will come across are mostly hundred years old and more maybe. Some are so old that they do not appear very presentable and the families who own the artwork have the lack of economic resources in order to restore the art. One problem faced in restoring this art in temples and houses is that we have no one practicing this art in Goa anymore. To perform Kaavi artisans need to import from Karnataka and Maharashtra.

Kaavi being an art form that can be composed as smoothly as butter and can also be so complex that it may require geometrical assistance. The architectural touch in Kaavi is commendable if you observe it so closely. If you let the ridges, platforms, and niches that are decorated with spirals, spades, semi-circles, and curves seep into you for a while and realize the architectural beauty in the two-dimensional art of Kaavi.

The following images depict the architectural attribute of Kaavi Art very precisely –

Kaavi art with architectural attributes

Kaavi art with architectural attributes

A pillar depicting extraordinary Kaavi Art

A pillar depicting extraordinary Kaavi Art

 

Kaavi can still be very well be seen at The Brahmini Maya Temple, Kshetrapal Temple in Agarvaddo, and Venkatesh and Parashuram in South Goa. However, inspite of its downfall the Goa Heritage Action Group has resolved to make the people and the government sit up and take notice in order to save Kaavi art from disappearing completely from Goa.

Since Goa is one of the highly admired tourist spots, the objective is to bring in the thought of people to see this thing of beauty and create more awareness. It will be a huge moment of loss if the art form is not preserved. Being at the stake of extinction Kaavi is not just an art form but a whole lot of perspective of knowledge, culture, belief, and stories of our ancestral history.

 It’s a call to preserve the intangible cultural heritage of one of the most exotic and popular travel destination of the world.  It’s the call to preserve Kaavi.


Before we understand the concept of Conservation of Indian Culture, it is important to conceive and contextualize the Indian Culture as a whole.  Indian culture is a way of life that encompasses all traditional religions, indigenous, and mainstreamed belief system and varying wisdom tradition as well.  Culture is so dynamic that it envelopes all the connotations of civilization and its time-line manifestations with scores of contours that celebrate life. That’s why Indian philosophy propounds “Vasudeva Kutumbakam” – the whole world is one family.

In this given background let us analyze all the elements in any given culture carry in its journey over several millennia.  Basically any culture has broadly eight major elements which we are going to touch upon now.  First, every culture has its root in its myth, cosmic concept, and  life context either carried through orality or scripted in textual tradition.   Secondly, there are sound, sacred words or silence created by utterance or through traditional instruments. Thirdly, every cultural phonetic has signs, symbols and symptoms soaked with creative manifestation.  Fourthly, there are rituals or themes to express the nuances of culture in particular to the occasions or broadly depicting symbolism of its entity.  Fifth element of culture is celebrating a time, creative showcasing and platform of  performance.  Sixth element is the aroma or fragrance of culture, which rents the ambiance as its own unique cultural expression.  Seventh element is lighting and enlightenment of its journey from darkness to light with the neo-wisdom.  The eighth element of culture is transmission of knowledge system, practices and belief system to the generation next.

It is perhaps pertinent to understand various nuances of Indian Culture and also its custodians and conservators while going through its various layers.

The oldest creative expressions are encoded on the walls of pre-historic rock shelter and foremost being Bhimbetka – the world heritage site which is well preserved by Government of India.  These shelters are around 40,000 years old where pre-historic men had frozen their time and life style on those walls.  They were hunter gatherers.  Motifs were human forms –  stick men, sometime dancing, hunting or even in group playing musical instruments.  We also find drawings of other era also superimposed upon earlier work showing their progress in time line.  But India has hundred of rock shelter sites right from Kumaon to Kerala from Arunachal Pradesh to Gujarat.  Much is to be mapped and declared protected sites otherwise we are losing out great cultural expressions as people today are making their rock pebbles for road construction.  There remnants of culture need to be preserved and studied with dating otherwise India would lose its first heritage record of culture forever.

In the rock art, creative expressions had shown us headgear and mask as an integral part of the then culture.    These elements one finds in traditional and aboriginal societies.  Mask dance got a sacred fabric to link this world and other world.  Mask of varied hues depicted their own myth and belief system.  The mask heritage remains in currency even today in the monastic tradition and in theatrical expressions.  I saw a mask of Central India, on its forehead a deer is drawn upon indicating the mind of the mask.  There were 14 healer masks in Sri Lankan culture which I saw.  There are masks prepared with varied material and used for secular to sacred purposes.  Mask and an expression with mask are part of the people’s cultural expressions in all societies and custodians remain the same people.  To conserve the mask heritage of India we need to understand the making of mask and its making rituals similarly their use in enactment be in Puruilia Mask or in Hemis monastery  need to be documented and curated for outreach of its essence by the very people themselves otherwise there marks will be meaningless wall hangings of urbanites who would refer them as “other culture” and keep them more as symbol than its functionality.

Indian cultural emblem lies in its vast orality.  Every clan, community, tribe has its own myth of creation, and all are linked with their very own geo specific sacred practices, celebrations and enactment.  The orality amongst traditional or tribal world is so huge that no scholar can ever be able to complete those documentations.  Yes, India has nine Crore Nomads and six Crore Adivasis who are well entrenched with their tradition and culture are living a marginalized life as they grew up in the deep woods spent their childhood within trees and rivulets.  They are children of forests, yet they have no tangible rights over those as they are thrown off from the forest itself.  Their faces are rustic with wrinkles of pain and pathos.  Yet, their eyes are strikingly sparking and they are outspoken with a touch of innocence.  If you talk to them you will find a votary of energy and unfathomable depth in their faith.  Nothing binds them more than their faith in themselves and the world unknown.

I recall in 2005 I met Rup Chand – a Bhil from Baki village of Maharashtra, who came to Delhi in an IGNCA’s meet on Nomad and Adivasis.  Before setting out for Delhi he visited village Goddess Devi Mongey and Dongria Dev, their family God.  Ceremoniously he offered a coconut as a normal practice, which he does every time he sets out on a journey beyond his village.  Rup Chand also quipped that after the convention he would again return to Devi Mongey before going home.  Such is depth of his faith.

In the same convention, I met an adivasi women from Gujarat who was well equipped with oral tradition of medicinal plant and healing systems but today she cannot  use them as forest are not her own anymore.  She narrated that her son developed acute pain in his stomach but she could not gain access to Angreji medicine nor could she use her own knowledge because she has no rights over the forest any more.  So she waited for the evening then clandestinely entered the jungle and brought some roots of plant to cure her son.

To a Forest Officer some nomad asked, “Sahab you cannot venture into the forest alone as you do not know the paths and you do not know the name of plants and still you say the jungle belongs to you”.  These are no mere words and much meaningful to those who lost their own right from the “space” they grew with.  In the term of cultural conservation these become riders that whose culture we are talking about who are the conservators! This is the time to re-think that all culture of all the people does need their own “right of space” to culture knowledge and celebrate the same unlike the fate of identity-less “Ghumantu Jati”.  Is someone listening?

Orality of these tribes and nomads be written and their healing knowledge and botanical understanding should become library for the Modern University of Education such is the importance of these people who are carrying a culture in their isolation yet quite rooted to their faith.

These reminds me of traditional healers right from Buddhist Monastery to the adivasis, or Vaid in rural area who do have an unique understanding about the plants, roots and shrubs if these are documented and recorded the great oral knowledge of vegetation and healing can become a huge cultural statements and patenting of these can challenge any knowledge system anywhere worldwide.  The custodian of this culture needs to be nurtured to conserve it for posterity.

On the score of nature, the Lai Haroba – celebration of creation in Manipur’s traditional society, tell us how nature and green vegetation are integral part of human kind.  For millennia they dance and celebrate the growth of woods which is their life line beyond the cosmic egg, water on thread ritual of Lai Haroba.

Dance, theatrics is part of great Indian cultural tradition dating to the age of pre-historic rock shelters.  Folklore and dance manifested in sacred space and today these got manifested in public space creating wider participating audience.  However, the classical temple dance forms like Teyyam to Kuchipudi, Bharatnatyam, Gotipua etc. got the public space through Guru Shishya Parampara so was the case of Musical Gharana who got urbanite recognition.  Yet, celebration rhythm of community at the grass root level committed to flourish in its space ventilating their own ethos, culture and rhythm.  And none could derecognize this cultural continuum no matter whatever threat is posed by “Other” culture.

After the pre-historic Rock the next punctuation was Indus Valley civilization where Mother Goddess and fertility worship, elaborate burial ritual, linga, multiple toy images.  Cosmetics even lip colour all if enjoined and understood then one realize that cultural statement was huge that shaped  a cultural identity, left to be manifested thereafter forever as Indian culture.

However, modern knowledge of Indo-Aryan religio culture is based on Vedic literature created between C.2000-600 BC.  Thus we understand that the term “Veda” is broadly used and means no single literature.  There are four primary Vedas viz. Rig Veda, Samaveda, Yajurveda and Atharvaveda.  These Vedas are further discussed in Samhita.

The word Vid (to know) is the Sanskrit root word of Veda which means knowledge.  It is said that the Vedas were not created by men but it is part of the human journey.  It is eternal in concept and functional spirit.

The Rig Veda is said to be the oldest of the sacred traditional Indian scriptures consisting of 1017 or 1028 hyms which have been further divided into 10 chapters.  It gives us an insight into the social economical, political and religious life of the people of that period.

Four Vedas were discussed in Upa-Vedas and Vedangas that has four more streams of discussion that took place in Samhitas, Brahamanas, Aranayakas and Upanishads.  Again from Upa-Veda Darsana of six school emerged those were Nyaya, Vireseka, Sankhya, Yoga Purva Mimansa and Uttar Mimansa Darsana.

Thenafter Sutras came in terms of manual instructions in 7th to 2nd century.  After Sutra two epic came Ramayana and Mahabharata.  That contributed towards creation of Dharmashastras, Bhagavatam and Purana in a descending time line.  This is the short overview of oral tradition that was textualized over the time.

These are several hundred thousand manuscripts available in Mathas, Monasteries, Libraries and in private collections.  These were written in variety of scripts from Adi-Grantha to Newari, from Sharda to Kharoshti.  The huge variety of manuscripts are housed in Calcutta Manuscript Library and Asiatic Society, Guwahati University Library, Kamarupa Anusandhan Samiti and Narayani Handiqui` Historical Institute.  In South India Government Oriental Manuscript Library Chennai, Oriental Research Institute, Mysore and many such Heritage Libraries which holds the manuscript treasure trove.

However, culturally speaking there are only few scholars left who know the ancient script and their number is diminishing fast.  If this goes on we will not be able to read all cultural traits of historical past some 100 years now.  Here custodian of knowledge and Government should immediately step in to propagate   this script learning at school and college level  with special incentives.  These be part of credit programmes of Universities for students of all streams.  If this is not vitalized then generation hereafter will be left unexpressed to the original content any more.  Here comes the role of cultural conservation.

The Vedas are also known as Shruti which means one hears and then memorize and transmits it verbally to the next generation for further retention and dissemination.  Historian V.D.Mahajan, wrote “The Purity of the Vedic Texts was maintained as they were considered sacred…  moreover hyms were memorized without being understood and when the people did not know their meaning, there were lesser chances of their being changed by substitution of new words or versus.

Ministry of Culture has stepped in to preserve this extensive documentation of various Gurukul Jaiminiya Sakha, Ranayina Shakha of Samaveda and Samaka and Paippalada Shakha of Atharvaveda and the same has received by UNESCO as world heritage.  Today, these schools or Gurukul are being nurtured for fresh lease of life.  However, unless sustainability is not worked out for all its practitioners it will not survive the time as quick money, plastic currency, corporate oriented mind sets are taking away those minds who would love to preserve these culture.

Similarly, the Panchang Mathematicians, whom I met in Varanasi, do culture huge orality that predicts the movement of stars, planes and its impact on life in great futuristic perspective.  These are unique of India but surviving in isolation more as a passion than as a profession.

I met an octogenarian farmer in Robert Ganj near Varanasi, who could read the sky and tell what to sow and when to reap looking at stars.  These star gazers in naked eye could predict which modern science cannot.  Similarly from agrarian world if we move to fishing world where elders can read on which kind of tide what are the types of fish would come on the top what will be weather and how storm can be pre-identified.  In peninsular India right from the Orissa to

Andhra, Tamil Nadu and Kerala we find these cultural scientists in the grab of fishermen.  They are custodians of the unique culture.

On the score of fragrance we find Kanauj still follows the ancient culture of aroma making in the context of process and content which also has huge ancient orality of bygone era in terms of proportion, process and final output for varied usages.

In pre-independence era Indian got united through culture cutting across the line of caste, creed and religion.  It was time of functional secularism.  But secularism what we imbibed in free India created more divide than the bridge.  Such is impact of looking at culture within the spectrum of time.

Festivals, festivities and celebration through become cosmetic when we showcase our tradition on republic day or for the occasion of say Commonwealth Games which left world with an awe yet the people whose tradition got showcased took the back seat.  Nevertheless sports remain the vital aspect of culture especially the martial sports.  Gatka of Punjab, Kalaripayattu of Kerala or Thang-ta of Manipur reminds us that the final custodian of culture remain the people themselves and nurturing by Government do help to sustain and showcase but it is  the self pride of culture that make the culture thriving.

This is the time to realize culture we don’t need historian to interpret as a work of art of Jamini Roy or Tagore’s sketches out of old poem manuscripts.  For a commoner heritage, culture are part of the contemporary history rendered, listened, felt touched by every man.  The creators of past and heritage we see are integral part of history in the now.  From archaic building of Mumbai, the streets  of Chandni Chawk, from traditional Worli paintings to Bastar images to Madhubani or for that matter putting tilaks on the forehead be it Urdhapundra, Tripundra or Gopi Chandran, or the Gharana music to the tanpura players on the streets of Jodhpur or Baul Singers in train to Shantiniketan or Char Byate of Tonk by the descendents of Afghan, Rohila warriors sing the martial song with Islamic flair are part of cultural heritage we live by and live in.

Its matter of self pride all the cultures are sustained nurtured and preserved by the custodian themselves with little or no help.  In all the era neo culture evolved and “others” culture to cast influence but could not really dislodge the cultural sentiments that is imbibed in the mind, sound, aroma and myth of the people.  Revitalization of culture is always important by a positive intervention by the Government but commodification of culture by outsiders of the society who claim to be curators do poses a threat.

India has huge literary tradition; some 13  languages are being published.  However, there are several unwritten languages wherein the literary tradition survives in orality.  This resource of wisdom tradition through literary work, poetry etc. need to be preserved and here Governmental intervention in terms of facilitation of publications and transmissions need to be addressed with huge involvement of custodian of this tradition especially people of indigenous groups and tribes.

If people are encouraged to write their own history and nurture their own orality of wisdom tradition and Government can provide a platform for those creative celebrations by mainstreaming culture through the academics of schools and Universities then Culture will sustain and evolve to be current in all the time to come.  But cultural connoisseur should keep in mind culture manifests and evolve in time line and changes will always visit and no culture survives if those are compartmentalized and seen as unchangeable frozen world.  So keep the windows open and enjoy the cultural fabric of India for all the time to come.

E.mail: dr_gautamchatterjee@rediffmail.com

website: www.ibiblio.org/gautam/index.html