Thursday, 10 May 2018

Ravindra Sharmaji - via Sunny Narang

A close friend of mine , an ecological-economist-philosopher told me today that Guruji Ravindra Sharma of Kala Ashram , Adilabad , Telangana , who passed away on 29th April , was a living example of a combination of Mahatma Gandhi and Tagore with a simplicity , humility and wisdom , of another level , a Rishi if you may .
That such a person lived with passion and purity , sharing deeply with whoever he could connect , his utmost truth in the "Flood of 20th Century Hyper-Consumerism" is a wonder .
So few people knew him outside of Hyderabad and Andhra Pradesh , such is the fate of true Indian genius , rooted in our soil and traditions .
Adilabad is a small town , with a population of less than 200,000 . But it came on the global map of alternative thought due to Guruji Ravindra Sharma .
Forest and Environment Minister , Telangana , Jogu Ramanna went to Guruji's cremation in Adilabad . Amid rich tributes paid by his admirers from all over India came the resolution to continue his work with the Ashram as the core. Other similar facilities elsewhere in the country would be the functional arms.
He was an unique combination of an anthropologist , artisan , spiritual practitioner , intellectual , artist , social activist , teacher , wanderer and many more things , completely absorbed in his study and experience of how traditional rural communities , the Jatis and Sampradayas of one region lived with each other , how they created a balance , how they went about their material production and cultural lives.
As the Hindu so-boringly writes "The artist-philosopher had lectured at many important fora across the country including the IITs. He had essentially harped on understanding the cohesion between various components of the rural communities with respect to economy and technologies."
Despite being all this Guruji had the Unbearable Lightness of Being and Humour , the mischievousness and twinkle in his eye , always laughing at the contradictions and the arrogance of the modern mind and its self-destructive pathways .
Once, Guruji when asked what he "does" said :
“I also one day realized that a pralay is round the corner. This time it is in the form of modern science and modern civilization. Everything will be swept away in this wave. And so I decided to collect seeds of our past, our samaaj, our ways of living before all of it becomes extinct. And that is just what I do."
Kanwarjit Nagi, an architect by profession and a close friend, once asked Guru ji of which seed he considers most important, the one seed which is probably most essential.
Aesthetic sense or in his words saundarya drishti is that seed. We seem to have lost a sense of what is beautiful and what is not. Saundarya drishti demonstrates our sense of self belief. Saudarya drishti is what makes a family achieve prosperity. Saundarya drishti is what turns a crowd into a samaaj.
There is no imagination of village life in the future of India. In all the plannings for future, the image is of a more urbanized India- better roads, taller buildings, electricity for all, percolation of electronic technology, high bandwidth, faster cars, factory schools etc.
There is no imagination of rural life. There is no imagination of ‘rurality’.
Guruji believed that the village is commonly called Gram.
The word comes from the sankrit root gru, from which also comes the word gruha- meaning a home. A gram is like a home. It has the same unity as of a family. In north India, another word popularly used is Dehaat, which comes from the word deh meaning body. Dehaat has the same unity as that of a body.
A village is therefore to be seen as a home or as one body.
A village- a place where there is aahar ki suraksha and kaam ka gaurav for all its inhabitants. Aahar ki suraksha when explained by him can be understood as secured livelihood, and kaam ka gaurav would indicate to respect given to means of livelihood.
Thus a village is an entity which provides a secured and respectful livelihood to all its inhabitants. These two requirements would form the base on which a village can have unity of a home.
Guru ji would describe how the Kumhaars (potters) would divide the rest of the village amongst themselves into market territories. Say, if there are four potter families residing in a village, they divide the rest of the village in four market territories, with an estimation of near equal earnings from each. This division is not eternal but usually for a period- one season or one year. This division is a prerogative of the four families.
After the end of the year, the territories are again shuffled or rotated amongst them. Once the division is made, no potter can encroach other potter’s territory. All the pot related requirements of that particular territory would be met by the particular family, and in return all the remuneration would be theirs.
This Guru ji calls as bandha hua bazaar or fixed market. In addition to this there is also a Khula bazaar or open market. These are usually the occasions of mela (village fair), haats, yatras etc. On these special occassions anyone was free to transact with anyone. While the bandha hua bazaar provides a secured livelihood, the khula bazaar provides the opportunity for extra earning. Such segregation of market territories and their timely rotation was done by community of every Jati.
Inside a bandha bazaar arrangement, the relation of the service provider with the families in that market territory is that of kaam wala and jajman.
Jajman means on whose behalf a yagya is done. All work is a Yagya, and is done on behalf of a Jajman (and not for oneself). A weaver in Chirala (Andhra Pradesh) once told Gandhi ji, that the best of the produce is for the other. If one starts consuming the best of one’s effort, it is the beginning of death of the profession.
Remunerations are usually through multiple currencies, and not only one. Dhan (money) is only one kind of remuneration. In addition to it, dhaanya (grains), cloth, cattle, goats, knowledge and return service (or product) are other forms of remunerating. One can remunerate through what he produces or does. There is a time deferment in remuneration. A service provided is not immediately remunerated, but is deferred for some time. This deferment can be for a season, or an appropriate moment in future. This time deferred remuneration, forms the bonding amongst village families.
Each one is indebted to each one, and therefore there is a strong feeling of krutagyata for each other. Unlike in the modern economic system, where every need is seem to be met by the supermarket and there is no visibility between the producer and consumer, in a village market, there exists a strong bonding between the two.
Some of the remunerations are private, while some are public in nature. There is a protocol associated with each remuneration. Public remunerations are to publically acknowledge the need and role of each profession (jaati) in the village.
Each Jati has 12 such occasions, called barah maan. From purohit to chandaal (morgue keeper), all enjoy barah maan. Festivals in the village, are occasions of public acknowledgement. Each festival involves greater and greater participation of various jatis.
A village should not be seen as a community. The central concern in a commune is equality. And an over emphasis on it, leads to uniformity. A village is a samaaj, where unequal rise together. People can live together and rise together while being unequal.
Or in other words, equality is seen in rising together. The rise is towards, as Guru ji would put it, an adhyatmik jeevan (a spiritual life). Equality is in terms of opportunity for everyone to move towards more and more adhyatmik way of living. Equality if to be seen, can only be seen in that realm, and not in material realm.
A grameen arthvyavastha (village economy) needs to be such, which ensures a secured and respectful livelihood for all, so that each one is nishchinta (assured) towards fulfilment of their material needs.
According to Guruji only when one is nishchinta, does one gets samajik. And only when one is samajik, can one get adhyatmik.
The principal characteristic of samaaj is that it provides all the necessary conditions for one to move from bhautik (material) realm to adhyatmik (spiritual) realm.
Jati is not merely a profession. A jaati should be seen as a knowledge system in itself, just as linguists see language. One of the mistakes of modern Indian outlook has been to translate jati as caste. A jati vyavastha is not merely division of labour. A village is not one big factory, where different jatis are just playing a cog.
Traditionally there have been three categories of work, called Kaaru Vritti, Varta Vritti and Bhiksha Vritti. In the first kind, a person puts his effort on inanimate objects like wood, mud, metal to manufacture an artefact.
All the artisans like kumhaar, lohar, sunar, charmkaar etc would constitute this group.
Varta vritti people are those who put their effort in managing and exchanging somebody else’s labour e.g. a baniya is one who trades the output of others labour. Shepherds, grazers and other people in animal husbandry are also in this category.
Their effort is to manage and exchange the output of the animal’s labour. Interestingly, even the farmers come in this category, who manage the labour of plants.
Both Kaaru Vritti and Varta Vritti people have something tangible to offer to their Jajman. And therefore their remuneration is well negotiated till a mutual agreement is reached.
On the other hand, Bhiksha vritti people offer nothing tangible (which can be measured, weighed, packed, compared and co-measured). Story tellers, teachers, medicine men, singers, artists (performing as well as non-performing), dispute resolvers etc constitute this category.
I met him in a Dastkar Mela in early 1990's , while he was mentoring tribal children of Adilabad to make terracotta painted plates and experimenting with traditional metal casting traditions.
He was part of a family of refugees from Punjab , now in Pakistan , who landed in Adilabad .
V. Veerabhadrudu a Tribal Wellfare Additional Director was preparing a book in 2010 , on the ‘creative thought' of Guruji Ravinder Sharma, founder of Adilabad's Kala Ashram.
Camping at the Ashram he was recording all that the latter had to say about different aspects of rural culture and life in the past and present.
“Guruji's averments are in the form of a seed that needs to be preserved in written form in the hope that somebody may develop these into a tree in future. There is much hope in his observations about the ideal kind of life,” had said Veerabhadrudu, Additional Director of Tribal Welfare, Hyderabad in an interview to Hindu then .
The officer had known Guruji for the last 18 years and attached much value to the values spoken of by the latter.
Guruji Ravinder Sharma has minutely studied the cohesion within communities and society for 40 years, especially during the 1960s and 1970s.
Ugadi Puraskaram for Kala Ashram Guruji in 2015 by the Telangana Government :
"People in Adilabad erupted in joy when the State government announced Ugadi Puraskaram for Kala Ashram founder Ravinder Sharma, popularly known as Guruji
Recipient of the Kala Ratna award from Andhra Pradesh Government in 2012, Guruji deserves the award under the category of Kala Ashram as the place which he established in 1979 eventually emerged as a prime destination for those seeking in depth knowledge about traditional societies.
He is a walking repository of knowledge on India’s traditional rural technologies, its social dynamics including the cohesion between different segments of the society, its economics, arts and culture, and speaks to audiences from across the country.
The 62-year-old trained sculptor, acquired immense knowledge about different aspects of rural life by moving and interacting mostly with the artisan communities in a radius of about 20 km around Adilabad town.
The Kala Ashram was actually established to serve as an asylum for destitute and ignored artisans but evolved in a knowledge centre in due course. It hosted some very important events connected with artisans like the Karigar Panchayat in 2008."…/guruji-ravind…/article23723494.ece…/all-set-for-m…/article17671026.ece…/Book-on-Kala-…/article16023068.ece…/rich-tributes…/article23838862.ece…/shri-ravindra-sharma…/

Sunny Narang updated his cover photo.
2 hrs
"At home, in his Kala Ashram, a refuge he created more than three decades ago for local practitioners, Guruji receives a constant stream of visitors of great diversity, ranging from bards and minstrels who come to store their scroll painting during their off season, to modern philosophers, architects and technologists who come to brainstorm and rejuvenate their minds. In his kitchen, potters and philosophers, bards and classical musicians, modern technologists and traditional metal casters sit down together for a humble meal and a chat.
Most take back a sense of belonging if not anything else, but after all, is that not what our search for an understanding of India is all about, how to belong and relate to each other as one society?
The Kala Ashram has been built in such a manner that its artisan living quarters and workshop can be converted to suit any community that arrives there to work. It also houses a museum, an open air theatre and several structures where baithaks take place regularly.
Guruji has dedicated a lifetime of effort in studying, understanding and supporting the role of the genealogists and community historians of the castes and tribes of Adilabad. He maintains a live museum where the story tellers and bards store their scroll paintings and use them when they need them. These communities are numerous in this region, as each caste and tribe, has one such “historian community” linked to them by patronage. He calls this group of communities the Bhiksha Vrutti.
The quiet and meditative atmosphere of Kala Ashram conceals the fervent intellectual and social churning that happens within it. Silently, at its own pace, the Ashram gathers people and practices, technologies and tools in its nurturing fold and waits for the storm to blow over. When India becomes ready for a new perspective on society building, Kala Ashram will still be waiting to share with us, its seeds of wisdom."

He says that the design of all material things was such that it evoked a certain quality in the mind of the user. The beauty and simple creativity that we see in everyday things in a village is not incidental. It is the same way in which every aspect of its, economy, (artha vyavastha) and its social relationships (saamaajikta) were designed.
The creative eye or soundarya drishti is still latent in this society and is waiting to be harnessed, says Guruji.
The modern Indian society lives on the fringe of such a grand social ecology of life and yet is oblivious to its own civilizational link to it.
In his lighter moments Guruji remarks that if we perhaps present of some aspects of this traditional society as a projected model for a sustainable future, instead of a legacy from a disappearing and what we consider as a “backward” past, it would perhaps have several more takers."

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