Richness of tribal culture

http://www.the-hindu.com/2001/01/16/stories/1316017c.htm
SOCIO-ECONOMIC CONDITIONS OF TRIBAL WOMEN IN SOUTH INDIA: Dr. D. Janaki; Dhana Publications, 924, 17th Main Road, Anna Nagar, Chennai-600040. Rs. 450.

THE STUDY of socio-economic conditions of South Indian tribal women claims to focus its attention on them. Investigation of society and gender leads to the discovery of tremendous cultural variations in the world. To study the status of tribal women in this dimension is indeed a mammoth task, considering the multiple nature and the myriad of facets of Indian culture.

The book consists of nine chapters. The first provides the introduction and the second deals with the definition and concept of the word ``tribe''. The third chapter delves into childbirth and female infanticide. Here various practices of rituals relating to childbirth are related in detail. With regard to female infanticide, mention is also made of States other than those of South India (e.g. Gujarat, Rajasthan and Orissa). Strange though it may seem, a passing reference to the practice of euthanasia by the Eskimos is also made.

The fourth chapter deals with education or the lack of it among the tribal people. It lists out various government plans for the education of tribal people with a list of suggestions for education in general. What is missing here is a thrust for female education, which is the focus of the book. The fifth describes the various marriage practices of the tribal people. Here too, details of tribes in Orissa and Madhya Pradesh are given.

The sixth chapter deals with the economic development. References to government plans and efforts are made here, along with a general statement about the various infrastructures available or not available to the tribal people. In chapter seven, ``Religion, rites and ceremonies'' the author explains in detail, all the aspects of the culture of the tribal people, including myth, magic and rituals, dance, songs, tattooing, art, ornaments, habitations, clothing, decoration, games, customs and manners and funerals, in that order. Chapter eight speaks of the status of tribal women and the next provides a brief sketch of tribal people in South India.

The author has made extensive studies about the tribal people of India. The facts are, however, strung like a medley of references and quotes, with little coherence or order. It would have been helpful to the reader if the various tribes had been presented in some order, either geographical or political, i.e., statewise. Several instances of repetition can be found, which could have been avoided.

The book makes interesting reading with many factual details. At places, however, contradictory statements are made. A subject- wise index would have made it easier to use the book as a reference, without which, it is by far too difficult to get at the facts in a selective manner.

GEORGINA PETER


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