Rathwa Documentation and Research Project
A team from the Vacha Museum at the Adivasi Academy in Tejgadh (Gujarat) researched and documented parts of the music and dance culture of the Rathwa Adivasi people and related cultures. The Bhasha Research initiated the project and Documentation Centre in Baroda, partly funded by the British Library Sound Archive, UK, (facilitated by World Music Curator Janet Topp Fargion) and conducted by the exhibition curator and filmmaker Rolf Killius from London.
Rathwa and Related Communities
"God gave us birth and we are all the same" (Rathwa elder from village Gunata) after a recording session.
The Rathwa Adivasi community inhabit mainly the Vadodara and Panchmahal districts of Gujarat. The community is closely related to the Bhilala Adivasi in Madhya Pradesh. Their language, Rathvi, is regarded as a dialect of Gujarati.
Rathwa believe in ancestor spirits and various community gods, but also respect Hindu gods and goddesses. They live in exogamous clans and their food staple is maize, but increasingly rice as well. They offer their field and crafts products on the weekly haats (markets) in all bigger villages and towns. Rathwa and related communities own a rich and diversified music and dance culture; most of the genres relate either to life-cycle or agricultural cycles. Special festivals are celebrated according to mainstream Hindu celebrations like Holi or Divali.
The ritualistic painting of pithora wall pictures - done in the main room of traditional Rathwa houses - stands at the core of their belief system. The details in the painting show ideas taking from the Rathwa creation myth as well as everyday life situations and objects.
The main part of the elaborate painting shows the marriage of the Rathwa's most revered gods Pithoro and Pithori. This is mostly depicted in the form of huge marriage processions modelled after a royal wedding (that is showing elephants, camel and horses). Pithoro or Baba Pithoro is supposed to protect the household and cattle. Often during a recovery after a serious illness of a family member a vow is taken, to paint a pithora painting and celebrate an elaborate ritual. Several lakhara (painters) paint, while the badwa, the Rathwa priest, directs and later interprets the details depicted on the wall painting. In this process the badwa falls in trance: Rathwa believe that in this moment god Pithoro enters his body and speaks to the community. After the ritual the family sacrifices a goat.