A Delicate Weave Jhini bini Chadariya, is a documentary that takes place in Kachchh in Gujarat, Western India. It follows four musical journeys that all affirm religious diversity, syncretism, love of the others, and love of each other in a country with religious politics that often divides communities.
These remarkable musicians and singers, drawing on the musical and poetic traditions of Saint Kabir of Benaras 1689-1752 and Shah Abdul Latif Bithai of Sindh 1689-1752, are a testimony to the fact that these oral traditions and compassion are being passed from generation to generation.
It can take many forms. A group of young men meet every night in Bhujodi (a village near Bhuj), to sing devotional songs. All of them are weavers and share a special bond to Kabir, who is also a weaver. Naranbhai, a carpet weaver by trade, is their mentor. He also teaches community archivists and spends his free time annotating and recording this collection of devotional music.
Delicate Folk Music Performances
Through their folk music performances, the women of Lakhpat (an ancient port near the border between India & Pakistan), subvert gender norms. They are the first women from Kachchh to perform publicly – and it has transformed their lives.
Noor Mohammad, a master flautist hailing from Bhuj, has been playing the double flute jodiyapawa for over 25 years. He has performed in India as well as overseas. In the hope of continuing this tradition, he has just started teaching his skills to three young people.
Jiant Khan, 60 years old, lives in the Banni grasslands. He meets people from far-flung villages every other week to sing the lyrics of the Sufi poet Shah Bhitai using the musical Waee form. This is a style that originated in the northwest of India and was performed with string instruments. Five years ago, only three Indians could sing this rare and ethereal form. Now there are eight.
These passionate musicians continue to weave this delicate web, dedicated to Naranbhai’s project of breaking down the wall walls built up by the politics of hatred and intolerance of current times.
Pastoralists Delicate Live In Harmony
Our team, from the School of Media and Cultural Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, has been making video documentaries of the music of pastoral community members, in the region of Kachchh, Gujarat, since 2008. Our three films as a result: Do Din Ka Mela A Two-Day Fair, So Heddan So Hoddan, (Like Here Like There), and A Delicate Weave.
In 2002, Gujarat saw ethnic violence against Muslim minorities in the state. More than 2000 people were kill in this incident. Kachchh, although a part Gujarat, was not affect by the violence. We were inspire by the socio-cultural fabric of Kachchh that makes it an island of peace in the sea of intolerance. So we began a process to document the Sufi traditions that are an integral part the lives of the pastoralists who live there.
The region is rich in nomadic pastoralism, and many communities have moved from Kachchh across the salt desert known to be the Great Rann Of Kachchhh to Sindh now in Pakistan with their cattle and camels in search for pastures. This was a tradition of rotational migration.
Over millenia, this movement resulted in strong kinships and trade ties among Hindu and Muslim pastoral or Maldhari communities of Kachchh and their counterparts in Sindh across the Rann Of Kachchh.
Their religious identities were not as clear and important in earlier times. These groups included nomadic people with their own beliefs and practices. There were strong fraternal relationships among different religious communities. Stories from folklore and mythology support these stories.
More Difficult Borders
These communities were forever change by the 1947 Partition in India. It emphasized distinct religious identities and made them more exclusive. The new border was a point of contention that created divisions that never existed. The Partition of India had a devastating effect on the lives of pastoralists. Who were force to live in newly imagined countries, where they continue to be restrict from their freedoms. The border became more porous after 1947. It was not until 1965 that it became more difficult to cross. After this conflict, the Rann became militarized.
The semi-nomadic pastoralism of the Maldharis is also at risk from hard borders that are fence off and fortified. These ways of life have been slowly and steadily destroyed over the past decades. By the state’s environmental policies and promotion of industrialisation. This has also led to the growth of eco-insensitive tourism. And the condescending and arrogant attitude of the bureaucracy towards these communities.