Sri P.K. Devan a native of Wayanad district, is lecturer in sociology at NSS College, Pandalam. He has carried out studies among the tribal communities in Kerala and contributed articles on them in leading periodicals. At present he is pursing research under the UGC on the educational status of Paniya Tribals.
The most aboriginal part of the Dravidian culture now existing is the tribal folklore. Time has not much told upon the continuity of the folklore and hence it is rightly called the fossil of the Dravidian days of yore. Any definition on tribal folklore will be incomprehensive. What is known as tribal folklore today is an intricate combination of myths, life and indigenous knowledge. A symbiosis of man and nature is clearly manifested in tribal folklore.
'Tribal Folklore An Introduction' is an attempt to throw light into the culture and tradition of the 35 odd tribal sects living at different parts of Kerala. The author, P.K. Devan, has taken an earnest effort to offer a primary account of tribal folklore in five chapters. The sociological profile, myths, songs and dances, folk tales and artefacts of tribes are topics discussed by the author. It is presumed that this book will suffice the needs of a general reader who searches for some information regarding the tribes of Kerala.
The cultural evolution theory, formulated by Morgan, affected the pattern of thought all over the world and as a result the tribal society has been considered as primitive society. According to Morgan the evolution of culture is from savagery to the civilized through barbarism. Therefore the so-called primitive society, which makes use of limited technology compared to barbaric people, as well as civilized people was considered as primitive. Not only academics but the public also considered the tribal people uncultured and as a result they always looked them down.
In the present situation it is accepted that tribal culture is valid as any other culture. Their worldview, attitude towards eco-system, positive outlook towards life etc. are unique that they could live as part and parcel of the nature.
'Human being is the centre of all creations on earth and everything in this universe is created for him', is the idea propagated by Westerners. Cultural evolution theory propagated that civilized people (who own more technology) are on the top and the savage people the bottom. In such a situation the savage people who are basically tribal in character are considered uncultured. As they are near to nature, and without much interpolation, for the academics it was good data to formulate basic theories on human kind. For the last two-three centuries, tribal societies have been considered as mere data to analyse the living society who have all rights of a civilized society.
In a post-modern context this attitude has been changed. Ethnic groups get more consideration and their knowledge system and technology are considered equally important as that of the civilized society.
In this context the publication of tribal data as well as studies on that have implications in many respects; even though it is a tiny one. This work on tribal folklore consists of five chapters, viz., 1) Tribals in Kerala - A sociological profile, 2) Myths of origin of tribals, 3) Songs and dances, 4) Folktales of tribals and 5) Tribal artefacts.
There are nearly 35 tribal communities in the mountain belts of Kerala and each community is unique in all respects. Therefore it is very hard to generalise that the features of the varied cultures of different communities. However, in chapter one, "Tribals in Kerala - A sociological profile' the author tries to give an overall view of Kerala tribes .
According to levi Strauss, what science to modern man is myth to primitive society. Apart from this the worldview of the community is expressed through myths, especially of their origin. The chapter two is on 'Myths of Origin of Tribals. A few important origin myths are narrated in it.
As far as tribals are concerned, oral tradition predominantly exists in their culture to regulate the system of the social and political life of the people. Chapter Three deals with songs and dances of Tribal Communities. Original text of songs is quoted with English translation. It is a way to smell the original flavour of tribal songs. The following two chapters are on tribal tales and tribal artefacts respectively. Folklore is nothing but oral tradition, an old concept accepted by anthropologists. Today, folklore has become a serious discipline which can stand on its own feet and the definition of folklore also has been changed accordingly. Folklore is the study to understand a traditional group of people through its lore. The area of study is the lore of the folk and 'lore' consists of everything coming under traditional life. The author of this book accepted the old concept about folklore and as a result this book deals with only oral traditions of tribal people of Kerala. Any way, it is a good attempt to make known to the public about the tribal lore of Kerala. Publications are very rare in this area and therefore this book will serve as the secondary source to the academics who are interested in tribal culture of Kerala.
Kerala, the small state in the southern tip of the Indian Peninsula, is an easy winner owing to its great mind blowing landscape with lush green and vast expanses of coconut grown coastal areas. It is also a homeland of numerous colourful tribal communities. like non-tribals, our tribal brethren too are the bearers of lustrous folklore heritage. Even if folklore of Kerala tribes is rich and fascinating, only a small number of scholarly works with regard to this topic have come to light so far such as the works of Edgar Thurston and Dr. A. Aiyappan.
My contacts with the tribal people and the officials in Scheduled Tribe Development Department helped me shape and crystallize my thinking on the topic. This book flashes light upon the exuberant folklore literature of tribal people in Kerala. It is not an elaborate study touching all fields of tribal folklore. Though, I do hope that this work may generate an understanding among readers about the folklore of tribals.
I am extremely grateful to Sri. Jiji Thomson IAS, Principal Secretary, Information and Public Relations, Government of Kerala for publishing my text on Tribal Folklore. I also express my deep felt gratitude to Sri. M. Josephath, Deputy Director of Information & Public Relations Department without whose encouragement this book would not have come out.
I don't know how to express my extreme gratitude to Dr. Raghavan Payyanad, Professor and Head, Centre for Folklore Studies, University of Calicut for going through my manuscript and making necessary changes and modifications. I am also grateful to Sri. P.R. Roy, Editor of the Information and Public Relations Department, for his editorial output.
My thanks are also due to Sri. Perumpulickal Gopinathan Nair, NSS; Sri. Pandalam Sivankutty, Chairman, Pandalam NSS union; Prof. S.K. Vikraman Unnithan at N.S.S. College, Pandalam and Dr. K.C. Sreekumar, at M.G. College, Thiruvananthapuram and Sri. Johnson Tharakan, Kavalara, Thiruvananthapuram, for giving their valuable suggestions for this venture.
I also express my gratitude to Sri. K. Rajendran, Assistant Project Officer, ITDP, Kanjirappalli; Sri. B. Rajasekharan Nair and Sri. Sajith, Health Inspectors at Konni and Sri. Sethu, working at AHADS, Attappadi for extending their kind help during my field works in tribal areas. High sense of indebtedness to Suja, my wife, who helped me a lot in the completion of this book.
I also thank to Sri. V.S. Ramesh, Mananthavady and Sri. E.P. Vijayan, Panamaram in Wayanad for providing me the relevant photographs and Sri. Monu of Wintech Computers, Pandalam for helping me in the preparation of the pre-edited text.
Finally, I express my deep felt gratitude to all professionals in Public Relations Department, especially to T. Prasannan, Assistant Editor, K.P. Saritha, Assistant Information Officer and Deepak, Designer for their kind help in blossoming this venture.
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