Folklore and Folklife of Danuwars:
Exploration through Field Research
In the earlier issues of the Newsletter (volume 1, 2 and 3), we had reported our studies on Gandharva, Gopali and Aathpahariya Rai folk groups under the Folklore and Folklife Study Project. In the course of continuing the same project with Finnish support under local cooperation, now we have completed several works related to the study of the fourth folk group – the Danuwars. Therefore, the activities completed in connection with the field research of this folk group are going to be reported here. The topics that follow will describe the progress of the field study along with its achievements.
For the purpose of data collection from field, the preparatory works needed to be done included that of purchasing some equipments and preparing the research tools. Therefore, the equipments necessary for field research were purchased, including the memory cards, rewritable CDs, DVCs (digital video cassettes) etc. Moreover, field sheets, questionnaires and schedules were also prepared, prior to the beginning of the field-based activities.
To carry out the preliminary survey, the project team leader Prof. Tulasi Diwasa, with General Secretary Prof. Dr. C.M. Bandhu along with Mr. Omkareshwor Shrestha and Mr. Ajit Man Tamang had visited two locations of Kathmandu valley– Badikhel VDC for Pahari and Dukuchhap VDC for Danuwar folk group on 15th and 22nd June 2006 respectively. After the completion of preliminary survey in the two locations the office has decided to send the 4th group of researchers to study Danuwar folk group in Dukuchhap VDC, Lalitpur and sent on July 25, 2006 to the research area.
On the basis of pre-field report, Dukuchhap is located adjacent to Kathmandu city and 1312 meter above the sea level. According to the household survey conducted by the researchers, there are altogether 187 households of the Danuwar.
The population is 53,229 in the total (CBS 2001) and it constitutes 0.14 percentage of the total population. In Dukuchhap, there are 835. Besides, there are some Danuwar settled in other districts, namely, Udayapur (4019), Jhapa (1250), Morang (1095), Sindhupalchok (2739), Sarlahi (920), Rautahat (2345), Kabhre (4110), Dhading and Makawanpur including 62 districts of Nepal. However, our research is limited only to Danuwar living at Dukuchhap. Then, a team of researchers were appointed on the basis of agreements by the end of June 2006 and a memorandum of understanding was signed in the office.
A team of four researchers was appointed for Danuwar Study Project, agreement was made with them, and MOU and TOR were signed. The research team comprises these experts: 1. Mr. Omkareshwor Shrestha (team coordinator) 2. Mr. Ajit Man Tamang 3. Mr. Yadav Subedi and 4. Mr. Man Bahadur Shahu.
From July 17th to the 24th, the researchers practiced to operate the essential equipments and tools needed for data collection (digital-audio recording and video cameras). They also collected some reference materials related to the folk group and were involved in the orientation, whereby they were given the necessary guidelines for field work. Besides, an interaction programme was organized in the project office to share the experience between them and the earlier field researchers who had completed their field work. On behalf of the earlier research teams, Prof. Dr. C.M. Bandhu (Coordinator, first research group) and Mr. Tej Prakash Shrestha (Coordinator, second research group) shared their experiences of working in the field in course of data collection. The programme was organized in the presence of the project team leader Prof. Tulasi Diwasa, Prof. Dr. Abhi Subedi and Ms. Anu Karvinen, the Cultural Officer in the Embassy of Finland. Prof. Diwasa had also given the necessary guidelines for the researchers regarding the field study
Field Work in Dukuchhap and Adjacent Areas
Spending the period of 3 months (from July 26th to October 26th, 2007) in the settlement areas of the folk group in and around Dukuchhap VDC - Lalitpur district, the field researchers collected data on Danuwar folklore and folklife. The work of data collection was divided into four different areas of Danuwar folklore and folklife: 1) folk language and folk communication, 2) material folk culture and folk heritage, 3) folk literature and performing arts, and 3) socio-cultural folklife and folkways. Mr. Omkareshwor Shrestha (Team Coordinator), Mr. Ajit Man Tamang, Mr. Man Bahadur Shahu and Mr. Yadav Subedi had taken charge of collecting the relevant information in the four areas respectively.
During their stay in the field, the researchers had sent reports in the interval of every fortnight, mentioning their activities, collections and achievements, to the project office, Bhatbhateny, Kathmandu. They had collected the relevant information by visiting the key informants of the folk group, interviewing them and audio recording the speech, taking photographs, and video-recordings several aspects of their life, community, culture, language etc. They also used the field notes and questionnaires for the purpose of data collection. During their fieldwork, the researchers visited almost each and every corner of the folk group settlement area. The Danuwar people cooperated them a lot during their field visits and data collection.
On the 15th September 2006, Prof. Tulasi Diwasa, the project coordinator, Prof. Dr. Chudamani Bandhu, the Secretary General of the Society and Ms. Anu Karvinen, the Cultural Officer in the Embassy of Finland made a visit and inquired the achevievements and problems of the research and directed guidelines to the researchers. Prof. Diwasa along with the video-cameraman Siddhartha Kumar Shakya visited the field for the second time on 18th October 2006 and photographed and video recorded various aspects of the Danuwar folk group of Dukuchhap VDC in Lalitpur.
Problems and Rapport Building
Some of the community leaders in the folk group narrated their past experience with some experts who had visited the Danuwars' settlement areas, consulted them and collected some materials; but the Danuwars did not understood the purpose of such “studies”, since the experts never informed them about the research findings. Moreover, they even narrated the events of distrustful acts done by the experts earlier in the name of research – like taking valuable documents from the villagers but not returning them back. Mentioning such a context, several informants raised a doubt in the present research as well and questioned regarding what could be expected as the outcome of the research for their own benefit.
Realizing the need for raising the informants’ confidence in the field activities, the researchers convinced them by saying that they will disseminate the research findings among the people of the folk group.
In the last week of October 2007, the researchers came back to the project office after completing the work of data collection from the field, and submitted their field survey report. The information collected from the fieldwork is documented in the office, mostly in the form of digital audio/video recordings and photographs. Besides, some items representing Danuwar material folk culture, collected from the field research, are also preserved in the office. Now the researchers are transcribing, analyzing and interpreting the data, in order to prepare the detailed research report.
Collections and Achievements
The researchers have completed data collection by 26th October 2006 and now they are preparing their report. Covering the four main areas of folklore and folklife study, the work of data collection from the folk group has been divided among four researchers; and the progress in their work is reported here. They have brought some items representing the Danuwar material culture. These items include: Kuini (fishing net), Phurlung (fish storing basket), Cakati (round mat), Chokri (mat) etc.
The field researchers have completed video-recordings of the relevant information in altogether 22 DVC cassettes for 22 hours in total length. From their collection, altogether 5289 pictures and 42:48:21 hours’ long audio materials have been collected. In addition to, the project team leader Prof. Tulasi Diwasa and Cameraman Mr. Siddhartha K. Shakya have also video-recorded the relevant aspects of Danuwar folklore and folklife, with the length of 7 hours in total, 212 photographs and 31 minutes 39 seconds audio recordings.
The researchers have also made the folk group’s household survey, and brought the survey record to the project office.
The main collections from the field include the oral texts recorded from the informants in the form of interviews, songs, narratives, photos, and video records of the various aspects of Danuwar folklife.
The excerpt of the collections and the achievements of each of the individual researchers given below are based on their reports from the field available in the project office.
I. Folk Language and Folk Communication:
Mr. Omkareshwor Shrestha
Mr. Shrestha has taken 197 photos, and has audio-recorded oral texts having the total length of 3:25:42 hours so far. The collection includes the areas of communication, bilingualism, language attitudes, baby talks, dialect study, etc. From his collection, 910 namelores, 162 oral and written texts, 10 folk riddles, 63 proverbs/proverbial expressions, 1 joke, 11 nicknames, 2 special vocabulary items, 8 baby talks and 10 curses/taunts have been collected.
II. Material Folk Culture and Folk Heritage:
Mr. Yadav Subedi
Mr. Subedi has taken 696 photographs and has audio-recorded oral texts with the total length of 00:23:48 hours. The subject matter covered includes rites and rituals, folk medicine, dress and ornaments, handloom, folk architecture, festivals and foods, etc. From his collection, 2 agriculture practices, 4 folk rituals, 27 folk clothes, 19 folk weapons, 10 folk furniture items, 40 folk medicines, 28 folk ornaments, 101 oral and written texts have been documented.
III. Folk Literature and Performing Arts:
Mr. Ajit Man Tamang
Mr. Tamang has taken 2818 pictures, and has audio-recorded oral texts with the length of 37:39:58 hours in total. He has also produced a video record with the length of 20 hours. The collection includes folk songs, folktales, performing arts, narratives, myths, personal memories, music, musical instruments, etc. He has collected 19 folk narratives, 7 myths, 5 tales, 4 personal memories, 1 annotated joke, 12 folk songs, 3 seasonal/festival songs, 2 work songs, 3 religious songs, 4 folk dances, 3 children’s songs, 5 folk music, 2 musical instruments, 12 folk games and 7 folk legends etc.
IV. Socio-Cultural Folklife and Folkways:
Mr. Man Bahadur Shahu
Mr. Shahu has taken 1366 photographs, and has audio-recorded the oral texts with the length of 1:18:53 hours. The subject matter covered in the collection includes: source of income, method of harvesting, rites of the passage, division of labour, gender issues, decision making procedures, kinship system, religious beliefs, folk gods and goddesses, customs and livelihood etc. He has also video-recorded the relevant information with the total length of 1:30 hours.
Overall, the researchers have a wonderful experience of working in the field among Danuwars. Not only has the field research been successful in exploring several aspects of the folklore and folklife of this community, but it has also become a highly encouraging endeavour in increasing the awareness of the people of this folk group towards the preservation and promotion of several dimensions of their folklife, culture and language. The people of this folk group, influenced from our research activities, have become highly enthusiastic to initiate prorgramme for the upliftment of their community and for the promotion of their valuable folk cultural heritage. We have experienced that, if the awareness of the folk group is maintained in this way, no doubt, any folkloristic research will not simply remain the matter of expert’s task; instead, it will also be the part and parcel of the folk group’s life - which, in turn, will be more meaningful. We have learned this great lesson from our field-based activities among Danuwars, in which the people belonging to the folk group have cooperated with us as they are themselves the responsible persons to handle the research activities.
Despite some problems, the research team has accumulated very important materials during the three months at Dukuchhap. They came to know that the folklorists do not only go through the theories but also invest their expertise in a meaningful task of sharing with the indigenous folk group. The Danuwar folk group have contributed their helping hands during the field visit and they have had many opportunities to see, to entertain the social and cultural performances, and imprisoned them in digital camera and laptop computer.