Maharashtra’s fast vanishing traditions

Street singers, fortune tellers, dramatic performers, the Potraj, Vasudev, Gondhali and Kudmude Joshi communities were once a vital part of the cultural and devotional life of Maharashtra. 

The state of Maharashtra is home to a rich spectrum of heritage and an intriguing diversity of culture. But owing to the two decades of opening up to global markets and a dizzyingly rapid transformation of lifestyles, these once hallowed, ancient traditions are vanishing before our very eyes. The breakneck pace of all-out urbanisation has taken its toll on traditional professions, ethnic groups, tribes and their culture. They have had to forsake their cherished ways of life, unique and colourful means of making a living, and have fallen on hard times, ekeing out a precarious, hand-to-mouth existence and even needing or depending on charity to get by.

The Waghya Murali, Potraj, Vasudev and Gondhali communities have managed to keep alive their unique cultures and vibrant art, enriching the cultural tapestry of Maharashtra with their engaging traditions. But neither the government nor any concerned organisation or institution has done much to ensure the continuation of these communities’ culture and tradition, even as they have faded into an obscurity that verges on the brink of extinction.

Faced with the everyday reality of procuring the basic needs of food, shelter and education for their children, the members of these communities have been forced to abandon their beloved traditions. They would rather have their young ones going to schools, colleges in ensuring upwardly mobile job and career prospects, than to groom them in what seems like outmoded, redundant traditions. All that is very well, but don’t we as society have a responsibility to ensure the preservation of such unique, rich and vibrant cultures?

The Golden Sparrow tracked down members of these now rather obscure communities to gauge just how they think and feel.

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