This August, Ashok visited a village called Raghatvir located at about 35km from the Surgana Taluka in Maharashtra. He spent time with some of the 13 self help groups that work under the Raghatvir Gram Panchayat. He learnt about the making and using of Mahua Dheeps wherein the mahua flowers are dried and compressed to make a crusty pellet, formed in quantities of 1, 5, 10 or 25 kilos. These pellets are often mixed with animal fodder to enhance their milk production or for good health.
Through August, Nikita spent a few more days at the Yellamma thanda which was alive and buzzing in preparation of the Teej festival celebrated by women there. She also visited the town of Devarkonda in the Nalgonda district, located at a distance of 60km from Hyderabad where she experienced a Banjara local market called Rangris and bought handicrafts such as the kodi, dandi and ghumgra. Later in the month she also had the opportunity to attend a tribal function at the DSS bhavan in Hyderabad, where students from Banjara communities were commemorated for their academic accomplishments.
Left: Lady preparing for Teej at Yellamma Thanda, Right: tribal function at DSS Bhavan
The leaf from the Mah tree which is then soaked in hot water and the tied together to make a plate.
Following up on his enquiry in August, Ashok spent more time over September documenting the therapeutic and economical applications of parts of the Mahua tree other than its flower. He met with Mr Murlidhar Dhoom in the Vadmal village of Maharashtra, who told him about the making of the Patrawali (a leaf plate made from Mahua tree leaves) and the use of the Mahua bark in making medicinal ash for healing wounds. The Patrawali is made by dipping the leaves in hot water and then stringing them together in a circular shape, while the medicinal ash is made by collecting Mahua bark wood before sunrise, and burning it on a cooking stove till disintegrated.
On the left is a leather bag from Dharavi while on the right is a leather bag from Gujarat.
In September, Nikitha looked at the leather industry through a crafts lens and documented a few of its traditional forms across western India. She found that the camel leather, used and embroidered on in Gujarat, was far superior in quality to that of Dharavi’s leather, which, despite being the largest leather market in the world, had to its merit only its affordable pricing. She found that the camel leather from Gujarat was not only extremely durable, but also had a high tensile strength making it very strong and supple, as well as a ten times higher density of fibres per cm sq that made it stiffer than other leathers.