I am a big fan of quick getaways. They not only help in exploring new places, but also helps loosening up the stress knot that has become a permanent member of my shoulder blades. This time it was more of a daytime village camping, with a more focussed approach towards my interest in art and culture. I have been very obsessed with the whole Warli Arts for more than 2 years, and I finally found the opportunity to put my obsession to rest. I can give full credits to this obsessive endeavor of mine to Grassroutes Journeys who have started this noble task of providing authentic, rustic rural experience to the city dwellers, with the aim or increasing livelihood for the villagers and keeping traditions and cultures of forgotten tribes alive. If you are thinking that you are left floundering in some unknown place, then you are mistaken. To ensure comfort, Grassroutes provides you with facilitators who have been part of their team for a long duration and are aware of the local language, in case you need a translator.
Valwanda is located in the tehsil of Jawhar in the district of Thane, Maharashtra. The uniqueness of the name is not only confounding when it comes to pronounciation and locating it, but also represents the native of the village – the Warli tribe. The closest railway station for those residing in Mumbai is Thane. Hop on to one of the local buses (the bus stand is located right next to Thane railway station) which will drop you at Valwanda, 3 hours later. It is better to start your journey early; we coordinated with our facilitator to board the bus at 7 AM so that we can reach Valwanda by 10 AM. Or you can board the bus from Borivali at 6.30 AM, which will drop you to your destination by 9.30 AM. Vapi railway station, located 68 kms from Valwanda, is another option for those travelling from Daman or Gujarat.
The Bosco Samajik Vikas Sanstha is a NGO that works closely with tribal and rural communities across the entire Thane district. The office premise served as the main campsite. You can see recent improvements that are being made for the welfare of the villagers just by the presence of a well-equipped sanitary facilities.
The proud heritage of the Warli tribe can be easily witnessed with displays of warli art in various forms, along with a display showcasing various herbs and spices that are used by the natives.
Following a brief introduction detailing the activities of the NGO, we were invited to the house of one of the locales for a beautiful home-cooked traditional Maharashtraian breakfast (kanda-poha).The warm welcome and hospitality is something that I never thought I will foresee in an Indian house who hasn’t actually pre-planned an invitation. The house is built in the format of a small 1 bedroom-hall-kitchen. The floor, as informed to us, was layered with cow dung. This ensured less after-meal clean up and also acted as an anti-bacterial surface. Interesting isn’t it? The kids definitely kept wrinkling their tiny noses, but that didn’t stop them from digging into the delicious meal.
A hearty meal should always be followed with a leisurely walk. A complete walk through the village was exactly what we needed. Each step revealed a peace and ease that is rarely seen or experienced in a city. The group that I have traveled with kept me occupied with a liveliness. Since all of them were part of a teaching community, the conversation usually revolved around their experience kids, while handling 5 mischievous kids.
Once the guided tour was over, we were taken to a house where facilities are provided to participate in daily agricultural practices like threshing and winnowing. It was indeed a memorable experience, not only for the adults but also for the children. It is not easy as it looks and I think I toned down some of the flabby arms 😀
The Warli tribe does not believe in the traditional concept of idol worship; instead they believe in the power and gift of nature. It is a belief that translates not only into their lifestyle, but also into their art and culture. However, due to financial constraints, many inhabitants of Valwanda are moving further away from traditions and heritage. As a result, Warli art is becoming a lost tradition, practiced only by those who have followed the path of their ancestors. Warli artist Dinesh Rao began his art work-shop on the famed art form with the help of a translator.
The beauty of this art form is that it is extremely minimalist and is solely based three principal figures – circles, triangles and lines. His effortless drawings were a vivid representation of the daily life of the Warlis. For those who are interested and are artistically challenged, one can buy his work at the end of the work shop. This was my first time in indulging in buying art, and that too at a steal price.
A tip for those who are indulging in a spending spree – Go for a peacock painting. Not only does it look gorgeous on a display but these are one of the most rarest form of Warli paintings, and are often hard to find.
A small trekking excursion is organised at the of the day to a nearby lake. Well, technically, it is not much of a lake but an emabarkment made by the Bosco Sanstha to ensure availability of water.
The day finally geared up for the famous Tarpa dance. Tarpa or pavri is phalic-shaped wind instrument made from hollowed bottle gourd and bamboo sticks and requires a lot of lung power to create music.
Traditionally, the Tarpa dance is performed as soon as new grains are brought into the village after threshing. Young giels and boys alternate themselves to form a semi circle by holding each other’s waist as the Tarpa player begns his rhythm. The dancer at the lead of the circle has a staff that he uses to lead while tapping it rhythmically as the pace changes from slow to fast, and clockwise to anti- clockwise. It was a bit disappointing since I was hoping to see the dance to be played out in full traditional glory. Here are some videos that you can check out, including yours truly and her fast moves 😉
- You might be a city dweller at heart like me, but try to wear comfortable clothes. I decided to stick with a simple cotton shirt and denims. It is not only great for the heat but also easy to wash.
- Carry sunscreen and shades.
- Mosquito repellents are advised, but I really didn’t require it.
- In case you require any medicines, better carry it in person. There are not much facilities provided in the village to buy any such things.
- Carry plenty of water. Hydration is imperative no matter where you are!!
For some more rural setbacks of mine, check this out too: