Previous Research

Smelting Songs from Central India: the Agaria

The Agaria are another group of tribal iron-smelters residing in the forested Central Indian highlands. Mythologically, the Agaria trace their origin from the “twelve Asur brothers” the sons of Sabar Sai, their ancestral deity. Like the Asur of Jharkhand, the Agaria worship Lohasur (God of Iron [ore]), Agyasur (God of Fire), and Koelasur (God of Charcoal).  Their mythology recounts the same tragic tale of the destruction of Lohripur, an iron fortress, ruled by the mythological king Logundi Raja where the “twelve Asur brothers” smelted iron and lived in prosperity*.

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Smelting Songs from Central India: the Asurs

Songs and verses are predominantly used by traditional craft-communities to store and perpetuate important social and technological information. These simple and easy-to-memorize songs are often employed as learning tools to teach crucial technical and cultural aspects of the craft to an apprentice. The songs and verses often outlive the craft in the individual or collective memory of the members of the craft-community and provide a critical entry point for the anthropologists attempting to understand the socio-cultural and technical aspects of past craft-production.

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Rice Beer, Wedding & Other Tidings

Prior to my arrival at Sakhuapani, the  only sources of information about the Asur indigenous community of Netarhat that I could access were marginal mentions by British colonial surveyor-turned-anthropologists, Elwin’s (1942) seminal research on the the Agaria (another indigenous iron-smelting community of central India) and K.K. Leuva’s amateur work on the Asurs. Most of this literature take a purely Orientalist stance and depict the Asurs as a backward, illiterate, lazy, alcoholic community urgently needing emancipation through the Word of The Lord and modern education. A rapid decline of traditional iron-smelting and recent insurgency issues that I described earlier, had pushed the knowledge about this small community to the margins. They only survive as dreadful people in tribal myth, chastised by Singbonga, the Munda Sun God, and at the center of government’s suspicion for abetting Maoist insurgents.

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