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World View of a Tribe

Part – 1

Dr. HCB with Halakki Tribals

In a broad sense worldview can be defined as “totality of our ways of understanding and conceptualizing the world around us.” Many have interpreted this concept on this common sense. But I would like to differ with them and with their understanding that entire belief of the people would constitute worldview. For me if it is so, it is better to call it as their folklore. I am using the concept of worldview in a very definite way. In my view the special and unique beliefs of a community and the creativity that stems out of them constitute the essence of a worldview. To be more precise the understanding of a community of its surrounding world and the values that have survived over a long period are its world view. I also take all efforts of the tribes to protect their original values and life systems, in the midst of the pressures of modernity, as a part of their worldview. In the process of negotiating with the new the tribes have not lost their own original thinking, rather they try to assimilate the new within the structures of the old. The worldview is not just confined to its conceptualization of cosmos, but it is more than that, it also includes their knowledge system and tradition based on their historically formed life experiences. It is a discourse created out of its continuous engagements with the world around them. It is an eternal negotiation with nature as well as with the life from time immemorial. With this definition of world view we shall move on to examine the formation of this category with the halakki vokkaligas by probing various facets of their life such as status of women, puranas, rituals, the gods, creation and destruction and panchayat governance.

Although earlier Malinowski, Durkheirn and Levi Strauss had done some study on this category it was Robert Redfield who actually pioneered the concept of world view. Redfield has analyzed this concept in many of his works. He also referred to little and great traditions with the assumption that the two spaces belong to qualitatively different two cultural worlds. Redfield has not given due importance to a very important phenomenon of tribal worldview that is their conception of beauty.

Tribals live in natural setting where beauty emerges. Beauty concept cannot be ignored and hence merits encouragement in each generation. And the beauty thus enriched by the tribals should not be spoiled. Beauty should in fact be the ultimate winner. Verrier Elvin in his works indirectly suggests us to take into account of the concept of beauty while debating the world view of the tribes. With this understanding of world view an attempt is made here to interpret the world views of halakki vokaligas.

I don’t think it is out of context here to give some details on the broader socio-economic context in which the tribe exists. Uttara Kannada is one of the districts of coastal Karnataka. Intact at the northern tip of the district the Western Ghats come very close to the sea. It is endowed with a long coastline and a deep intense forest. This location has enhanced the natural beauty of the district. Big mountain cliffs, varied flora and fauna and a few rivers and brooks running throughout the expanse have enriched the land. No wonder that the culture of the people of this region is also unique. Diverse local cultures have also integrated into a veritable homogeneity. Halakki vokkaligas are found more in numbers in areas like karvar, Kumta, Ankola and Honnawar taluks of the district. They are also found in the valleys and on the sparsely populated platues. The population of tribes is around 11000. By retaining their unique identity they have integrated with the traditional communities of the districts. Despite large scale trade and commerce along the stretch of national highways and sea roots this tribe has managed to retain its uniqueness amidst diverse modernity.

            A well-organized social order and traditional panchayat systems have sustained the internal cohesiveness of the tribe over the centuries. Infact the traditional panchayat system is surviving in the midst of modern local governance. The fact that the modern district, taluk and their panchayat systems have also entered into the lives of these people and are making some dent in their social order is a different story. The old practicd of mapping their community on the basis of settlement still persists. Identifying thickly populated regions and giving them appropriate names and each family is to be identified with one of them is the practice. Even now their religious transactions are restricted to these 7 regions such as Kadavada Seeme, Ankole Seeme, Nusikote Seeme and so on.

Watch out for part – 2 to get more insight into their culture

Dr. H.C. Boralingiah
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