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Volume 43 Number 4, June 1992

Volume 43 Number 4

Tribal Arts of Eastern India

A Tradition in Transformation
Saryu Doshi

Tribal Societies of India
Malti Nagar

North-East India
A.K. Das

Bengal
Sabita Ranjan Sarkar

Orissa
S.K. Mahapatra

Notes: The Pre-Mughal Painting Period: AD 1200–1500
Usha Bhatia

Notes: Preservation of Manuscripts
O.P. Agrawal

To Roshan Sabavala in Grateful Remembrance
Bhabha, Jamshed J.
Vol. 43 No. 4, June 1992, p. vi
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A Tradition in Transformation
Doshi, Saryu
Vol. 43 No. 4, June 1992, pp. 1-12 [Also in Tribal India: Ancestors, Gods, and Spirits edited by Saryu Doshi; Vol. 43 No. 4, June 1992; ISBN: 81-85026-18-1, pp. 1-12]

The imaginative faculties of tribals are rich and complex. They stem from a way of life which is circumscribed by religious beliefs and age-old traditions. Their myths and customs derive their validity as well as their vitality from a past stored in the collective subconscious of the community. Rites and rituals punctuate the transitions in an individual's life as he or she traverses from one phase to another. The world of ancestors, spirits, and divinities is also deeply revered and feared. The aesthetic faculty appears to be innate in the tribal and perhaps first manifested itself in a desire to decorate his own person and the world around him. In the last 200 years, if not more, tribal communities have had close interactions with the peasant population of rural India, causing influences to flow from one milieu to the other.

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Tribal Societies of India
Nagar, Malti
Vol. 43 No. 4, June 1992, pp. 13-22 [Also in Tribal India: Ancestors, Gods, and Spirits edited by Saryu Doshi; Vol. 43 No. 4, June 1992; ISBN: 81-85026-18-1, pp. 13-22]

About 60 million people of India belong to what are variously known as tribes, scheduled tribes, aborigines, and adivasis. A general definition of the term tribe refers to a non-industrialized society which occupies a homogeneous territory, speaks a common language, and believes in a common ancestry. Tribal communities are primitive only in respect of technology, economy, and material culture. The following subjects are discussed in the sections of this article: Distribution, Biological and Cultural Diversity, Historical Development, Acculturation, and Art.

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North-East India
Das, A.K.
Vol. 43 No. 4, June 1992, pp. 23-44 [Also in Tribal India: Ancestors, Gods, and Spirits edited by Saryu Doshi; Vol. 43 No. 4, June 1992; ISBN: 81-85026-18-1, pp. 23-44]

The most significant feature of the northeast region of India is its predominantly tribal population. There are approximately 75 distinct tribes including sub-tribes in this area. The tradition of wood carving was once intimately connected with the cult of head-hunting, mortuary rites, decoration of the morung (bachelor's dormitory), and feasts of merit. The social and religious context has exercised considerable influence on the content as well as the style of the wooden objects. Grave effigies as found among the Wancho and Konyak tribes are simplistic representations of human figures. Generally, an effigy is in the form of a wooden post, the upper portion of which bears a crudely painted human face, while the lower portion is marked by some anatomical details. Masks are also integral to the magico-religious practices prevalent in this region. Textile weaving is probably one of the more developed art-forms among the tribes of the northeast. The use of bright and striking colours as well as varieties of geometric patterns make the textiles quite distinctive. The patterns and colour compositions carry specific meanings and have symbolic value. Ornaments are not mere items of personal ornament but rather have social, religious, and political connotations.

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Bengal
Sarkar, Sabita Ranjan
Vol. 43 No. 4, June 1992, pp. 45-56 [Also in Tribal India: Ancestors, Gods, and Spirits edited by Saryu Doshi; Vol. 43 No. 4, June 1992; ISBN: 81-85026-18-1, pp. 45-56]

As many as 38 tribal communities inhabit Bengal. Based on several anthropological factors, the tribal communities of Bengal can be divided into 3 broad culture zones: Mongoloid tribal communities, the Garo, Mech, and Rabha who migrated from the nearby state of Assam, and the Dravidian tribal communities. Keeping in mind the three divisions, the article discusses the following art forms of the tribal communities of Bengal: wall-painting, scroll painting, jewellery, textiles, masks, wood carving, and terracottas.

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Orissa
Mahapatra, S.K.
Vol. 43 No. 4, June 1992, pp. 57-72 [Also in Tribal India: Ancestors, Gods, and Spirits edited by Saryu Doshi; Vol. 43 No. 4, June 1992; ISBN: 81-85026-18-1, pp. 57-72]

Orissa has 62 tribal communities. This region has remained fairly isolated from the sweep of invasions and imperial traditions, as a result of which cultural forms have remained relatively pure. Orissa's tribal art possesses certain characteristics that are common to almost all tribal art. It is functional and utilitarian, but also religious or ritualistic in nature.The article discusses sculpture, terracottas, metalware, votive objects, textiles, jewellery and ornamentation, and wall-paintings.

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Notes
Vol. 43 No. 4, June 1992, pp. 73-80

Continuing the series on painting, Usha Bhatia's note discusses the pre-Akbari period, which is essential to the understanding of the Mughal school. O.P. Agrawal, in his note, discusses agents of deterioration of manuscripts and also the techniques used in preservation of manuscripts.

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