'Fists', 'Fests' and 'Freedom': Dalit and Adivasi Cultural Festival Entices People and Enlighten them
Monday, Sep 30, 2019

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'Fists', 'Fests' and 'Freedom': Dalit and Adivasi Cultural Festival Entices People and Enlighten them to Raise Questions on Injustice Meted Out to the Marginalised Communities in India.

The Festival Arts and Culture of the Dalits and Adivasis in the Church of South India (CSI), which has been organised by the Dalit and Adivasi Concerns Department of the CSI Synod at CSI LITE Auditorium in Chennai on the 27th September 2019- the CSI Formation Day, enticed the audience and encouraged them to rethink the popular notion of s of ‘high culture’ and ‘low culture’. The Programme, which was filled with enthusiasm and coloured with percussions and dances, began outside of the Auditorium with a bang while the Officers of the CSI Synod, the Bishop in Madras Diocese, and the officers of the Madras Diocese were received inside by the teams of Parai by the Pastors of the Madras Diocese and Sinkari Melam from Kerala.

The event officially got underway with the opening prayer by the Rt. Rev. Vadapalli Prasada Rao; Deputy Moderator, CSI. Karakaattam by the artists from Madras Diocese was a befitting display to begin the performances on the stage. In the Welcome Speech, Rev. Sunil Raj Philip; Director, CSI Dalit and Adivasi Concerns, told that this programme is an eye-opener for the CSI Church, which is a predominantly Dalit and Adivasi Church, to take up the social issues related with these marginalised and oppressed communities. In the brief Presidential Address Rt. Rev. J. George Stephen; Convener, CSI Dalit & Adivasi Concerns, expressed his gratitude to the dioceses who have sent the teams to perform in the festival.

Thappattam by the Madurai Diocese and Silambattam by the Trichy Tanjore Diocese followed the Presidential Address. In the Address of the General Secretary, Rev. Dr. Daniel Rathnakara Sadananda reiterated the need of upholding the cultural traditions and art forms of the people from the margins because they have the elements of the lives of the people. Rev. Dr. Sadananda release the new App of the CSI Common Worship Book and presented it to the public. There was a dance “Onna Irukka Venum” by the Tirunelveli Diocese before the Prize Distribution Scripture Knowledge Exam. After that Baduga Dance was presented by the school children from the Malabar Diocese and Primary Tribal Dance by the Krishna Godavari Diocese. Adv. Robert Bruce; Hon. Treasurer, CSI, addressed the gathering and encouraged the dioceses to do similar programmes at the local levels.

Trichy Tanjore Diocese presented Jimmulah Melam followed by a Banjara Dance by the Dornakal Diocese.

Tirunelveli Diocese came up with another dance “Sami pothuvana sami Dance” followed by an Adivasi Dance by the Malabar Diocese. Madurai Diocese performed Oyil Attam Trichy Tanjore Diocese

Presented “Man kombbu dance”. A team of youngsters presented a Choreography. Sinkari Melam was performed once again on the stage.

Earlier, the officers and the directors of the CSI Synod were honoured by the Madras Diocesan officials. The synod officers and the Director of the Department of Dalit & Adivasi Concerns expressed their gratitude for hosting the festival at the LITE Auditorium.

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You may get more inputs about the concept of the programme below:
Dalits and Adivasis are the people in India who have been oppressed and marginalised through the millennia under the heinous structure of casteism. They were made slaves and they were freed from slavery only a century back. Unfortunately, in many parts of India, they have been subjugated by the bonded labour even in the 21st century. These people of the land are put into a similar situation as the Israelites. Israelites sing, “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps” (Psalm 137: 1, 2). In a similar situation, when the people of the land were alienated, subjugated and oppressed within their own land, the Dalits and Adivasis were forced to keep their cultural heritage and artistic skills hidden. The rulers proclaimed that their culture is higher and their traditions are bigger. But, the Dalits and Adivasis were successful in passing on their cultural traditions, even though these cultures and traditions are looked down upon as ‘little traditions’. By strengthening the oral traditions and creating music, dance and drama from the real-life situations of local customs, rites, rituals, dialects etc., the Dalit and Adivasi culture and art forms surpassed the oppressions through the centuries.

These forms of music and arts have been used as a tool of resistance to caste-based discrimination and oppression too. The oral traditions of the Dalits and Adivasis are filled with the stories of the resistance of their ancestors and the agony and struggles they had to go through, which give new visions and esteem for the newer generations. Hence, this tradition of culture and art of these oppressed communities are actually tools for them to intervene in the socio-political framework of India with a specific focus on equality and justice.

This celebration of the art and culture of the Dalits and Adivasis can be a political statement too against the empire of casteism and inequality. Thus the ‘Fists’ of resistance, the mood of ‘Fests’ (Festival) and ‘Freedom’ envisioned for the oppressed communities amalgamate in this project.

Aims and Objectives
• Making a progressive socio-political statement by presenting the ‘little traditions’ of the Dalits and Adivasis
• Encouraging the art and cultural forms of the South Indian Dalit and Adivasis by providing a larger audience.
• Exploring the possibilities of the better practical amalgamation of Dalit and Adivasi art forms in the worship and liturgy.
• Consultation on the interconnectedness of Dalit and Adivasi art forms and the resistance of the marginalized communities against casteist discriminations.
• Setting the agenda for the justice concerns of Dalits and Adivasis to be noticed by the concerned governments.

Rev. Sunil Raj Philip
Dalit & Adivasi Concerns Department,
CSI Synod. 

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