The third edition of ’Lokmanthan’ has just been celebrated in Guwahati, with the theme ‘Lokparampara’. The celebration highlighted Loksanskriti which has been flowing through hills and dales of North East along with the entire country. This colloquium has been designed as a composite whole with intellectual sessions, exhibitions, musical performances, and more. Intellectual Forum for North East is the local organiser of this event which was co-hosted by Assam Tourism Development Corporation.
‘Lokmanthan’, the churn of the nation, is a journey embarked upon by Prajna Pravah to seek cultural and traditional treasures hidden in various corners of our country. It is a national level colloquium which welcomes all ethnic groups and communities to share their traditional knowledge in various spheres that are embedded in their cultural practices. This churn or this attempt to connect intellectuals and practitioners working for the conservation of our cultural heritage has resulted in churning out the nectar from the knowledge base latent in our consciousness, both individual and collective. Prajna Pravah started the journey of Lokmanthan from Bhopal in 2016 and then in 2018 it was held in Ranchi. The third edition of ‘Lokmanthan’ was held at Srimanta Sankardeva Kalakshetra, Guwahati from September 21 to 24.
The lore of the lok, hitherto called as folklore, of this region called North East is characterised by certain features of its own. The assimilation and absorption of a sizable proportion of the tribal population
In this sojourn, ‘Lokmanthan’ has been able to evoke good public response. ‘Lokmanthan 2022’ with the intellectual churn of academic sessions, exhibition set-up and musical performances had experienced a unique celebration of the common thread of Sanatan Dharma. The inclusive nature of the region with the specific feature of seamlessly blending the shastriya with the lore of lok has reached a crescendo with the more than thousand enthusiastic delegates from twenty five States of Bharat. Delving into the intent entwined in the parampara of Lokmanthan, we get a picture of tireless effort of ‘nation first’ thinkers and practitioners striving in various spheres to preserve the inclusive tradition of Sanatan Dharma.
The third edition of ‘Lokmanthan’ started with the inaugural function of exhibitions and cultural evenings at Sankardeva Kalakshetra, Guwahati. It was inaugurated by Shri Bimal Bora, Minister of Industries, Commerce & Public Enterprises, and Cultural Affairs, Government of Assam, Maharaja Leishamba Sanajaoba, Member of Rajya Sabha and Tirthanka Das Kalita, Boudhik Pramukh, RSS.
On September 22, the formal inauguration of ‘Lokmanthan’ was done by Vice President of India, Shri Jagdeep Dhankhar, Prof Jagadish Mukhi, Governor of Assam & Nagaland and Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma, CM of Assam. Shri Dattatreya Hosabale, Sarkaryavah of RSS, Dr Manmohan Vaidya, Sah Sarkaryavah of RSS and Sunil Ambekar, Akhil Bharatiya Prachar Pramukh of RSS were also present in the ceremony as special invitees. The valedictory function on September 24 was graced by Shri Dattatreya Hosabale and Arif Mohammad Khan, Governor of Kerala. The churn began on September 22 after the inaugural ceremony. Padma recipient Shri Kapil Tiwari addressed the delegates with a keynote address titled Lokparampara in Srimanta Shankardeva International Auditorium. Several prominent personalities joined the academic brainstorming sessions like Padma Vibhushan recipient Dr Sonal Mansingh, Padma Shri recipient Prof Abhiraj Rajendra Mishra, Innovative Farmer, Padma Shri Girish Prabhune, Social Activist, Shri Sachchidanand Joshi, Member Secretary and the Executive and Academic Head of IGNCA, Dr Ranoj Pegu, Minister, Government of Assam, Shri Temjen Imna Along, Minister, Government of Nagaland, State President, BJP Nagaland, Mata Pavitranand, Mahamandleshwara of Kinnar Akhada and Juna Akhada.
The topics dealt with in the sessions were several aspects of knowledge as depicted in lokparampara like faith and science in lok traditions, genealogy writing, concept of shakti, dharmik yatra and annadaan, agriculture and food, education and storytelling, sanskaar and sense of kartavya, environment and biodiversity, and water conservation. The enriching academic presentations were delivered by several speakers including the ones above in both lecture and lecture-cum-demonstration mode.
The exhibition displayed at Lokmanthan 2022 has depicted the socio-cultural mosaic of North East attracting innumerable visitors. The display of a village with its centre and a market area showcasing the traditional way of life of various communities of Assam was highly appreciated. A prototype of the amphitheatre from Ahom times known as Rong Ghar housed a number of traditional tools and playthings used in the games and sports of various ethnic communities. Exhibits like polo from Manipur, Moh Juj or buffalo fight, musical instruments of several communities, etc attracted a lot of attention. There was a rich display of the freedom fighters from various tribes whose efforts contributed greatly in attaining freedom. Agricultural and fishing equipment, commonly used in the region, were on display. An exhibition showcasing mukha silpa or mask making tradition of Assam was also a major attracting feature. These masks are used for Bhaona performances during Raas Utsav. To depict Dasha Mahavidya and the Pancha Mahabhuta practised in Kamakhya temple, and the mystical practices of Mayong, a shed with the lateral facade of Maa Kamakhya temple was built attracting many participant delegates. A rich collection of textiles, bamboo and cane crafts, and terracotta were on display too. Marriage rituals of five communities from different parts of India were demonstrated too.
Several musical sessions enthralled the fully packed hall of audience on all the cultural evenings. The performers were from all North Eastern States performing the eclectic dance forms of the region like the Rikhampada dance from Arunachal Pradesh, Bihu Bardwisikhla, Hamjar, Domahi Kikang, Gumraag and Jhumur dances from Assam, Puig, Dhol Dholok Cholom and Thang-ta from Manipur, Wangala from Meghalaya, Cheraw from Mizoram, Thüvü Shele Pheta (Chakhesang Chicken Dance) from Nagaland, Singhi Chham from Sikkim and Hojagiri from Tripura, Lok Sangeet and Lok Nritta from Rajasthan, etc. The Northeast Drum Ensemble and Sattriya performances delighted the audience. Several popular performers with international repute like Kalpana Patwary, Tetseo Sisters, Mangka Laihui, Dikshu, Neel Akash, and Mayuri Dutta enthralled the audience with lok sangeet of the region. The intent of Lokmanthan attempting to connect intellectuals and practitioners working for the conservation of our cultural heritage seems fulfilled in the Guwahati edition. Lokmanthan in Guwahati carries tremendous significance as it has become the display ground of a unique amalgam of lok and shastriya- a feature common in this region but not so easily blended in many other parts of the country.
The third edition of Lokmanthan in Guwahati with delegates from twenty five States across the country is a saga of contact and togetherness. This was a rare opportunity for people to mingle and savour the Ishan flavour of amalgam and coexistence of the shastriya with the lok
The tangible and intangible heritage assets of a group of people or a society inherited from past generations is a major part of the study of folkloristics. The term ‘folk’ meaning a group of people belonging to a particular community is popularly referred to as ‘lok’ by scholars of indic studies as they tend to believe that the latter term is more inclusive in the context of Bharat. The States of Assam, Manipur, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Mizoram and Sikkim are the constituent units that make up North East. These States are a home to the people who speak languages belonging to five major language families. They are the Tibeto-Burman, Tai-Kadai, Indo-Iranian branch of Indo-European, the Dravadian, and the Austro-Asiatic. The linguistic identity of any ‘lok’ group is a prominent marker of their social and ethnic membership. The survival of these languages indicates the existence of a vibrant storehouse of human knowledge in different spheres. For instance, “many of these communities hold invaluable knowledge on the identification and the use of traditional medicine which have often proved to be effective in curing many diseases. Such knowledge is generally passed on orally from one generation to the other through the medium of the language they speak.”The preservation of their language would mean that the knowledge base latent in their cultures would be conserved. Preserving their way of life to a certain extent, if not all, would be a catalyst in blending the ethnic elements with the onslaughts of modernity.
The lore of the lok, hitherto called as folklore, of this region called North East is characterised by certain features of its own. The assimilation and absorption of a sizable proportion of the tribal population into the non-tribal fold was because of the process of Sanskritisation. This promoted a kind of “homogeneity in the midst of the apparent heterogeneity”. The population has a dominant presence of the Indo-Mongoloid element. The tribal population is scattered in both the hills and valleys and have assimilated throughout the ages with the fully sanskritised stocks of people, and in the process both the types have learned to coexist in harmony. The “Sanskritised Hindu communities of this region retain elements which according to orthodox standards are patently tribal.” Here we find considerable inter-caste mobility and even the orthodox Brahmins and Vaishnavites love to gorge on fish.
The line of demarcation of Lok versus Shastriya is very thin here. The belief system as shaped by Hinduism in this region is syncretic. Vaishnavism, Shaktism and Shaivism prevail here in different forms with many tribes having their own versions of Shiva and Parvati.
The musical parampara of this region is unique too. There is a strong presence of both Marga Sangit and Loukik Sangit in several States of the region. Scholars opine that the classical form of music prevalent in this region belongs to the Oudramagadhi style and their opinion is based on the view written in Natyashastra by Bharata in the second century. Scholars and practitioners are of the view that “raga” music peculiar to Assam was well established from the days of Srimanta Sankardeva, the fifteenth century Vaishnavite saint and social reformer. It is assumed that Srimanta Sankardeva gave a new lease of life to the traditional music system of Assam of that time and we find many references of how he developed the musical instruments from the ones that were in vogue among the lok. The third edition of Lokmanthan in Guwahati with delegates from twenty five States across the country is a saga of contact and togetherness. This was a rare opportunity for people to mingle and savour the Ishan flavour of amalgam and coexistence of the shastriya with the lok. Whether this flavour is disseminated through their discourse and demeanour or not is to be waited and watched.