A Festival of Tribal Traditional Craft and Culture in India

Aadi-Mahotsav, a three-day festival ⓒ Lokesh Paliwal

India has been known for centuries for its living heritage, tradition, and culture. The Rajasthan region is especially famous for its rich tribal tradition and craftsmanship. Different tribal groups have carried these traditions on since ancient times as the living heritage of the region. This practice is exemplified by the Aadi-Mahotsav, a three-day festival, which was most recently held in Udaipur from June 14 to 16, 2019. The festival demonstrates a discourse between the region’s tribal artists and the urban population in this cultural jamboree. The festival has earned a special importance in the conservation, exposure, and promotion of tribal traditions. 

Aadi-Mahotsav is held by Tribal Area Development (TAD) and the Tribal Research Institute (TRI) in partnership with Bhartiya Lok Kala Mandal, Udaipur. The Aadi-Mahotsav starts in Udaipur, Rajasthan, on the second Friday of June and lasts for three days. The festival participants are children from tribal schools governed and run by TAD, tribal artists, craftsmen, musicians, singers, and other carriers of the intangible cultural heritage of Mewar, India, and other nearby villages.

The festival attracts all kinds of visitors: urban and rural residents, tourists, and collectors, representatives of businesses and cultural organizations, and so on. The festival traditionally opens with a sober procession of all the tribal artists, craftsmen, and participants of the festival in their traditional costumes. The participating artists welcome the distinguished guests at Bhartiya Lok Kala Mandal, the festival venue in Udaipur. More than 400 artisans, craftspeople, and experts from different districts of Rajasthan participated in the festival. 

Tribal artists and students from tribal schools performed each day in the evening programs, while craftspeople, painters, and traditional healers displayed their tribal and rural products in the craft fair. Various conferences and workshops took place during the festival. These included a conference on arts and crafts for livelihood, as well as demonstrations of traditions, customs, and folk dances within the program framework. In addition, exhibitions and competitions for students like a talent hunt were included. 

At the conferences and roundtables, participants and subject experts discussed the issues related to the current state of tribal culture in the region and in India more widely. Topics included the preservation of intangible cultural heritage, intellectual property rights, regional cooperation in developing the craft market, and cultural and rural tourism. During the festival, the Tribal Co-Operative Marketing Development Federation of India (TRIFED), an organization under the administrative control of the Indian government’s Ministry of Tribal Affairs, opened a permanent store at Lok Kala Mandal to promote and market tribal/rural traditional produce. 

Aadi-Mahotsav, which demonstrates the idea of cultural and economic cooperation and harmony, contributes not only to developing tribal traditions, and the cultural and ecological tourism industry in the region but also to helping the tribal population to take active participation in the socio-economic development of India.