Anarcho-environmentalism allegorised

The name Anaarkali in the present context has many meanings - Anaar symbolises the anarchism of the Bhils and kali which means flower bud in Hindi stands for their traditional environmentalism. Anaar in Hindi can also mean the fruit pomegranate which is said to be a panacea for many ills as in the Hindi idiom - "Ek anar sou bimar - One pomegranate for a hundred ill people"! - which describes a situation in which there is only one remedy available for giving to a hundred ill people and so the problem is who to give it to. Thus this name indicates that anarcho-environmentalism is the only cure for the many diseases of modern development! Similarly kali can also imply a budding anarcho-environmentalist movement. Finally according to a legend that is considered to be apocryphal by historians Anarkali was the lover of Prince Salim who was later to become the Mughal emperor Jehangir. Emperor Akbar did not approve of this romance of his son and ordered Anarkali to be bricked in alive into a wall in Lahore in Pakistan but she escaped. Allegorically this means that anarcho-environmentalists can succeed in bringing about the escape of humankind from the self-destructive love of modern development that it is enamoured of at the moment and they will do this by simultaneously supporting women's struggles for their rights.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Buddhists among the Bhils

One of the most fascinating tourist sites in western Madhya Pradesh is that of the Bagh caves situated in the foothills of the Vindhyas in Dhar district. These caves were excavated by Buddhist craftsmen from the sandstone rock outcrops on the banks of the Baghani river in what must have once been a densely forested area around the 5th century AD. The caves are quadrangular in shape and were "viharas" or monasteries with "chaityas" or prayer halls at the end. The picture below shows the front of the caves.
Like the more famous Ajanta caves in Maharashtra these caves too had wall painting in tempera depicting various aspects of the Buddha's life and times. The caves went into obscurity with the decay of Buddhism in India from the 8th century AD onwards and were only rediscovered later by the British. Such is the quality of these paintings that the great modern Indian painters like Nandalal Bose visited these caves to copy the paintings as part of their learning early in the twentieth century. One of these paintings is pictured below -
The rigours of time have taken their toll and so the Archaeological Survey of India has carefully removed the paintings from the walls of the caves and have hung them up in a museum constructed for the purpose nearby. The caves too have been shored up with pillars and the top of the hillock has been paved to prevent seepage of water which was threatening the existence of the caves.
The site is a very peaceful one with few visitors and it is an ideal place for meditation even today. It is indeed intriguing that all those centuries ago the Buddhist monks should have chosen such a place for their meditation among the Bhils who were hunter gatherers at that point of time and used to fiercely oppose others trespassing into their territories. The only thing in common between the two is their spartan lifestyles. The Buddhists must have been able to convince the Bhils to allow them to build such an elaborate monastery. Possibly there was an intuitive understanding among them that both were nature friendly!
Currently there are farms next to the caves being tilled by the Bhils who are oblivious to the Buddhist heritage of this site. Unfortunately both Buddhist and Bhil anarchism have become neglected worldviews today.


మంచి పుస్తకం said...

Dear Rahul,
Just went through your book 'Recovering the lost tongue'. Send me your e-mail and address, I want to send you two books by T Vijayendra,
In solidarity,
K. Suresh

Rahul Banerjee said...

The struggles of the Bhils are slowly making their mark. The Internet has provided a forum that would otherwise not have been available.