The Spirit Of The Forest

Mah Fellowship 21-22: February-April Update

July 20, 2022
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February

In February, our fellow visited Maharashtra's villages in search of different ways to understand the long-existing tradition of drinking the Mahua drink.

Ashok Rathod carried out field explorations in Vadmal, a village in Nashik district of Maharashtra. Ashok interviewed Mr. Suresh Gawande, a resident of the village who practices, farming and cattle rearing as an occupation. Along with a small section of Mahua plantations, Mr. Ganwande also grows nachani (finger millet), rice, tur dal, and urad dal. Interestingly, Mr. Suresh mentions that the tradition of drinking Mahua in his family has been handed down generations. This home-prepared Mahua drink has become an essential part of their diurnal life and often accompanies his evening meal.

Suresh and his family having dinner in their kitchen space


The above images show the Mahua making process from separating and soaking them in different pots to bottling and having them ready for distribution.

March

In the month of March, Ashok met with Parshuram Hari Rathod, a 49-year-old resident of Karanjal Su in Surgana Taluka and documented traditional tribal weddings of his children. Parshuram is well-versed in Ayurveda and has an ayurvedic medicine business in Nashik city. He knows exactly how to use different plants and herbs. He uses the burnt bark of a Mahua tree to heal old wounds.

Parshuram lives between his village and Nashik city. In the village, Parshuram lives with his wife and three children- two sons and a daughter.  For the engagement, around 6 liters of Mahua liquor was ordered  a Dagunya village in Gujarat. For the wedding, over 200 liters of Mahua was consumed by the villagers. Ashok is still discovering the cultural and medical significance of Mahua, which is embedded in the traditions of numerous tribes in central India.

Sunil and Manisha pose in front of the Mahua tree

For the month of March, our colleague Nikita delved deeper into the production process, focusing on the embroidered aspect. The research focused on various forms of needlework and the techniques used to manufacture them. She attempted to distinguish between hand embroidery and machine embroidery in terms of the process, socio-cultural and religious significance, sentimental values, time of production, economics, and demand in various market platforms.

Flowers of the Mahua tree

The study showed a high demand for ethnic products while also questioning the manufacturing process. While having a machine embroidery line for mass production has numerous advantages, it diminishes the cultural relevance of handwork. Nikita will continue to experiment with diverse methods of production while trying to balance the traditional and modern approaches.

April

This month, our fellow researcher Ashok visited a little community in Surgana Taluka named Borigavtha. His research on Mauha production has taken him to many of Maharashtra's most isolated locations, allowing him to meet people from all walks of life who rely on the Mauha flowers. The narrative of Mahadu Fufane and his enormous family is one of a kind. Ashok spent a week with the family to learn about their way of life. Mahadu has customers from nearby villages such as Gondhalmal and his own Borigavtha. They come to Mahadu's residence to sample the liquor, and the business thrives on word of mouth. Mahadu's wife brews Mauha liquor at home and assists her husband with farm work.

Ashok spent time in Borigavtha learning about the process of producing Mauha liquor on such a local scale. Mahadu and his wife described how they employ jaggery in their liquor, as well as the ease with which they may obtain raw materials from neighboring markets and woodlands. Ashok has met with numerous small-scale home-based manufacturers during the last six months. Although the ingredients and supplements vary from one manufacturer to the next, the fundamental process remains the same.

Mahadu Fufane's house and their home setup of making Mauha liquor

Nikita's documentation journey continues, and the project is taking her to new and intriguing places in quest of additional Banjara community settlements where people still practice their traditional crafts. In April, she visited Yellamma Thanda, a small town in Hyderabad.

Nikita researched the village's demographics in order to comprehend the socioeconomic dynamics and how they affect the practice of Banjara craft. Yellamma Thanda women are also involved in other activities including farming, running small businesses, and serving as government officials. The community, nevertheless, has a rich cultural foundation. All of the festivals are celebrated collaboratively by the community, and women actively participate in the preparation and ceremonies. Nikita spoke with Kethavath Laxmi Bai, a Banjara embroidery designer who is at the vanguard of empowering women in Yellamma Thanda. Laxmi Bai provided a brief history of the village, the ways in which they conduct business, and the craft tradition, as well as her future aspirations for business expansion.

Laxmi Bai and some of the finest handicrafts from Yellamma Thanda

Do get in touch!

Please get in touch if you are interested in our project and would like to know more about it. We can also ship bottles of Mah to some destinations. Let us know if you would like to taste it! Mahua is not just a drink, it is an experience that connects you to the earth of the Indian forest. Every bottle carries a message.

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