Groves, which are being worshipped since times immemorial are a cluster of trees where gods, goddesses, spirits are believed to reside. No one really knows for sure when and how humanity embarked on the veneration of trees and groves. The sacred groves are significant spots of biodiversity too are a priceless heritage of our nation that should be preserved for posterity.
Nabapatrika was a popular ancient ritual performed by the peasants/farmers worshipping Mother Nature for rich and bountiful harvest. With the popularity of the Durga Puja, this ritual was assimilated in the festivities. This important ritual of Durga Puja is an example of inclusiveness — harmonious synthesis of Vedic and ancient non-Vedic rituals. As we cry for climate change and environment, here is the highest form of regard for the environment where goddess Durga is symbolized by the Banana Plant and the important plants and trees are worshiped for the preservation instead of devastation.
Hidden from the world’s eye in between Bhutan, Bangladesh, China, and Myanmar, the North Eastern region of India seems detached from the rest of the nation — even on the map. Inside the deep jungles of Mizoram, just two to three hours from the state capital Aizawl, the local Mizo community practices a unique tradition: nghah loh dawr or shops without shopkeepers. The people of Mizoram are true role-models for us to be inspired from. We should all aspire to reach their collective sense of honesty and integrity.
Kolkata’s Durga Puja is India’s official nomination for the 2020 edition of the UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage list. Durga Puja is not only a religious festival, it is the most significant socio-cultural event in Bengal. Though predominantly originated in the Hindu ritual and legends, the Durga Puja celebration cross cuts the communal divide in many of its attributes. It is an epitome of harmony across caste, class, creed and religion.
The Kumbh Mela — the largest congregation in the world — sees world gathering of saints, pilgrims, devotees to take holy dips in the sacred confluence of the Ganga, the Yamuna, and the mystical Saraswati. Bathing in these rivers is thought to cleanse and purify ones’ soul of all sins. Recognized by UNESCO as India’s ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity’, Kumbh Mela never ceases to amaze and its amazement is always felt in the grandeur of it being the largest religious-cultural festival in the world.
The act of ritual is a common thread that has linked humanity throughout the ages, regardless of ethnicity, culture or religion. Through ritual we build families and community, we make transitions and mark important events in our lives, we express ourselves in joy and sorrow, and perhaps, most importantly, we create and sustain identity. Our ancient ancestors used the bond of ritual to create ties of kinship necessary for survival in a world rife with dangers.
Shahbandar café is one of Baghdad’s few remaining traditional cultural cafés. Since opening its doors, Shahbandar café had become a hub of Baghdad’s intellectual life, drawing poets and politicians to its wooden benches and photo-lined walls. The café still stands, a testament to the resilience of the country and the capital, Baghdad, even if so much has happened here. From British rule to modern-day Iraq, Shahbandar has lived through the birth of a nation, the toppling of its monarchy, decades of domination by Saddam Hussein, the drama of the US-led invasion and the bloody chaos that followed.
Megalithic monuments are among the earliest and most permanent of archaeological structures, and so many of them were used, or more properly, have been used and reused for thousands of years. Their original intent is likely lost to the ages, but they may have had multiple functions as they were used by different cultural groups over the centuries and millennia.
Tribal wall painting is an age-old tradition. The personal experiences of the artists and their interactions with the nature are the biggest influence in these art forms. Khovar art was traditionally for decorating the marriage chamber of the bride and groom, and it usually depicts the animals and plants of neighbouring forests and valleys.
I was travelling to Ranchi from Kolkata. I saw traditional Bengali masks were being displayed at the departure terminal of the Kolkata airport. It’s a nice way to promote the ancient craft of mask-making in Bengal. Throughout the world, masks are used for their expressive power as a feature of masked performance — both ritually and in various theatre traditions.