Folk traditions – what are we taking with us?

The research of the performing arts led to shocking revelations to me.  I found archaic, regressive, unjust, and painful traditions which started these performances. Especially in case of waghya-murali community.

The times and situations have changed, and hence the practices have also evolved, leaving the act of physical dance, music and lyrics and attire as mere images of the past frozen in time. I found that, waghya-murali was a practice similar to devadasi practice. People of this community were called to offer prayers and for worshipping rituals. There were instances where people resorted to prostitution as the alms from the worshipping rituals wouldn’t help them survive. This was a common practice resorted behind the doors. The study of videos of current worshipping rituals led me to a shock as the attire, dance performed during worshipping ritual was vulgar in nature. I was upset. I cried.  And for few days couldn’t understand why? I don’t think it is my place to have a value judgement on what happens today. But surely, I couldn’t help but watch my heart sink. I wonder the pain that I am feeling right now is for people in the present, past or just a remembrance of the abuse I have suffered. I cannot stand people being held (physically, emotionally, metaphorically) against their will.  

I thought I did not judge people. I thought practicing prostitution or watching/ participating in porn are okay as long as the people are willing and have a choice.  But it turns out that when it comes to me, I wouldn’t like to be associated with these. I want people to respect me, see me as an intelligent person. Hence, my first instinct was to choose the artform which are wittier and not which has visual aesthetic or have physical movements as their predominant factor.

On the other hand, when I was reading more about the people of waghya-murali community, I got to know that they were made waghya-murali against their wishes under the name of societal norms. When people accept their fate and make do of their situation, what exactly is the choice they are left with? To accept and live by the societal norms or not to accept and still be there?

“Is it really worth continuing, promoting, giving space in the present for such performances which stand for regressive and unjust practices and are mere images of the past?”

What meanings are we holding on to? What are we continuing?

I remember, when I was a kid in primary section, few of my classmates and juniors had performed a ‘waghya-murli’ dance. Now, when I think about it, I am taken aback. All the young who were performing and enjoying knew so little about the origins, people, and context. I really wonder if the young kids were educated about this, would they really then agree to dance? And even if they danced, with what sensibilities would they dance? Has the Art education reduced to only images? Are we as a society so at ease to look at only selected parts of history with which we are comfortable and pass these as images to the next generation?

What is art? What happens when it becomes static in time / space / ideation / philosophy? Does it remain art? Or does it become mere imitation? Can Imitation be considered as art? What does creativity mean? What does practice mean?

Waghya - Murali worship ritual as depicted in feature film 'Jogwa' -
Waghya - Murali dance as advertised on Youtube -
Waghya - Murali dance performed live -