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Parampara of the indigenous is the future of humanity

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Tribes in their true sense were the makers of not only Bharatvarsha but a Vishwaguru that was Bharat.

Tribes were not just a group of people living in forests, in fact they were the ones balancing the whole cycle between human lifestyle and nature, from Ramayana to Arthashastra, we see mention of wealthy nature worshiping tribes who designed a whole ecosystem of sustainable polity (precisely democracy), economy based on merit and social composition based on justice.

The false notion of 500-year-old history about tribes being “uncivilized” has brought a curse on humanity. The western model of development led us to forget the rich cultural heritage of the recorded 16,500 years old history of Sanatan way of living.

‘Gond’, the natives in central India or as we call it a tribe, has derived its name from the “Gondwana land”.  Similarly most of the tribals in India trace their evolution to the oldest phase of human migration.

From the Changpas of Ladakh to Todas of Tamil Nadu, from Apatanis of Arunachal Pradesh to Bhils of Gujarat, all have one thread in common and that is human lives guided by nature’s priorities, if not for their ability to carry out scientific traditions in terms of agriculture to house building, we would have lost a sustainable method of achieving sustainable development.

The Raja Parba festival of Odisha celebrating menstrual cycle is yet another example of women being considered as ‘Devis’, thus gender equality came as a genetic consequence within us.

Records of tribal culture all around the world are now just records, tribals lost their life and land to the barbaric invaders.

If there’s anything that Bharat can give to the world, it is the values which we have inherited from our civilizational people that we call tribes. The values of human life and nature, of sustainable development and progress, the only way forward for humanity is the tribal way, the way of life where nature is centric to everything we do and thus minimizing our carbon footprint, which is the biggest dharma we are supposed to perform. For example, agroclimatic zones and agroforestry have been practiced for centuries on tribal lands. 

It is time that we adopt and go back to what can assure us a future, and one should realise that we are no one to ‘civilize’ those who nourished the oldest of the civilizations. 

However, the tribals have definitely been impacted negatively by the conquests they faced and there’s a long way to go for making them confident about their own identity.

The biggest challenges (as those prescribed in agenda 2030 by united nations) can be solved by learning from the rich cultural history of our tribes and inheriting the parampara of Bharatvarsha to reclaim the lost glory of the indigenous people of India. 

The ancient and eternal tribal practices, once classified as primitive, are being revisited for ensuring a sustainable and prosperous future ahead. The revival of these practices and aligning them with the future of the world will exude confidence in our indigenous people, thus, ensuring their empowerment.

Below are listed some of the tribal practices and what targets/goals they can address of the Sustainable Development Goals.

PracticesSDG addressed
  Apatani rice-fish cultivation: The Apatani tribe of Arunachal Pradesh simultaneously practice aquaculture with rice cultivation using organic fertilisation and bunds for irrigation. This ensures higher productivity, year-round employment for farmers and soil conservation.  SDG 2.4: Ensure sustainable food production systems and implement resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production, that help maintain ecosystems, that strengthen capacity for adaptation to climate change, extreme weather, drought, flooding and other disasters and that progressively improve land and soil quality   SDG 12.2: achieve the sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources   SDG 15.1: ensure the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems and their services, in particular forests, wetlands, mountains and drylands  
  Dhokra Metal Casting: Jharas of Raigarh, Malars of Sarguja, Swarnakaras of Tikamgarhare are the tribes engaged in the bronze casting art. The local artisans prepare their own tools for the said.    SDG 4.4:  substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship   SDG 4.7: ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development   SDG 8.6: substantially reduce the proportion of youth not in employment, education or training  
  Embroidery by Toda Women: The Toda women of the Nilgiri region of Souther India, including Tamil Nadu have evolved a very rich distinctive style of embroidery called pugar which means flower. Geometrical patterns are stitched on long shawls called poothkuli that are worn in Roman style by the menfolk. The designs are mostly symbolic ranging from floral motifs to animal and human figures    SDG 4.4:  substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship   SDG 4.7: ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development   SDG 5.5: Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life   SDG 8.6: substantially reduce the proportion of youth not in employment, education or training  
  Rajo Utsav: A 3-day festival celebrated on the basis of the belief that Mother Earth undergoes menstruation, was started a tribal festival and is now celebrated in entire Odisha. No agricultural activity is undertaken during this period and women are required to do no household work.    SDG 5.1: End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere   SDG 5.6: Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights
  Agaria Technique of Mining: The Agaria community of UP, Bihar, Odisha and MP, undertake iron ore processing in a low shaft furnace. The process involves use of charcoal instead of fossil fuels and does not involve indiscriminate deforestation unlike current mining methods    SDG 8.4: Improve global resource efficiency in consumption and production and endeavour to decouple economic growth from environmental degradation.   SDG 9.4: upgrade infrastructure and retrofit industries to make them sustainable, with increased resource-use efficiency and greater adoption of clean and environmentally sound technologies and industrial processes.   SDG 12.2: achieve the sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources   SDG 12.5: substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse   SDG 15.2: promote the implementation of sustainable management of all types of forests, halt deforestation, restore degraded forests and substantially increase afforestation and reforestation globally.  
  Traditional Green Buildings: The Gujjar community of Jammu & Kashmir use mud and stone with animal dung as plaster to construct their homes. These homes consisting of plinth and Dhajji Dewari are earthquake resilient coupled with low cost and energy efficient means of heating.  SDG 11.5: significantly reduce the number of deaths and the number of people affected and substantially decrease the direct economic losses relative to global gross domestic product caused by disasters, including water-related disasters, with a focus on protecting the poor and people in vulnerable situations   SDG 13.1: Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters
  Application of Clay: The Jawara tribe of Andaman and Nicobar apply clay over their body. Clay is known to remove toxins from the body, detoxifying the skin, treat poison ivy, treating diarrhea, protection from the sun, etc.    SDG 3.4: reduce by one third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being

Integral humanism, which forms the very basis of our eternal civilisation, has been instrumental in maintaining a harmonious cooperation between man and nature. Reexploring ourselves through the four purusharthas – dharma, artha, kama and moksha – will not just aid in achieving Agenda 2030 but lead us towards a greater public good of individual advancement and social welfare.

Authors:   Medhavi Yadav – interned with NHRC, ICCE, FORTIS  
Lipika Khatri – interned with Centre for WTO Studies, Indian Institute of Foreign Trade  
The authors are keen enthusiasts of Indology  
The authors are currently volunteering as teachers at SHAAN Foundation Libraries.

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